Mason: 7/10 for Australian cinema
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason has talked up the Oz film industry’s performance at home and internationally.
Pointing to the local box-office results of The Railway Man, Wolf Creek 2 and Tracks and the festival prizes and acclaim for 52 Tuesdays, The Babadook and The Infinite Man, Mason said, “That’s not a bad start to the year.”
Just six months after taking the reins, Mason said he had cut the average time for the funding approvals process by one-third and he is determined to reduce it even further.
He was talking on Thursday in a live video chat with Mumbrella. Asked on social media how he would mark the health of the Oz film industry this year out of 10, he said 7.
Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes asked about a perception there is an “elite club” of filmmakers whose projects get favoured treatment from the agency.
“That is largely a misperception,” said Mason. “We are trying to help a range of people.” In the past year two-thirds of the projects funded by Screen Australia were for first-time filmmakers and the agency also supported people who were making their second or third films. "When you are investing a serious amount of money you do need continuity," he observed.
He spoke of Screen Australia’s remit to “build an industry that can work towards sustaining itself.”
Asked to nominate the best thing about the screen industry, he cited the wealth of talent across all segments of the creative industry. But he said that was also a downside, noting so many people work in the industry that “they can’t all be supported by an agency like us or the ABC."
He urged filmmakers to focus more on audiences and to develop more revenue streams internationally. “It is incredibly rare [to see projects] make money,” he said.
On the approvals process he said, "We should give people a steer very early on, in a matter of weeks, as to whether or not we see potential in their projects. I would hope to halve the time."
He noted The Railway Man has grossed more than $7 million in Oz, Wolf Creek 2 has made nearly $4.7 million and Tracks has reached $2 million entering its fourth week.