Call to arms to support the screen industry

Phillip Adams today called on filmmakers, writers, painters and other creative types to rally to support the Australian film industry.

Delivering the Hector Crawford Memorial lecture, the ABC radio broadcaster and columnist for The Australian declared the industry’s advocates must not be “fooled into collaborating with the bureaucracies by arguing in their terms.”

A former producer and chairman of the Australian Film Commission and the AFI, Adams told the Screen Forever conference, “It is time to form another Team Australia. Based not on dog whistle calls to bigotry but on expressing the sort of cultural and political idealism that was so exhilarating in the glory days of Whitlam.

“It is time to call upon the pantheon of Australia’s creative producers, filmmakers, writers, painters, pundits, public intellectuals and sympathetic pollies – anyone and everyone who can be recruited to the cause.”

Adams recalled that the campaigns to properly finance and support Australian screen content in the 1960s and 70s succeeded not because of economic arguments but by stressing the need to see and hear Australia’s voices, tell our history and celebrate our heroes.

“It was never an argument about an industry as such – and support for industries, these days, don’t go down too well,” he said. “Ask far more significant operations like the auto industry. If Canberra will cop the political pain and close them down they’re hardly likely to lose much sleep over the complaints of local film producers.

“The film industry exists because government called it into being, persuaded by patriotic arguments. Lose the support of the Australian government and this whole enterprise vanishes, like picnickers at Hanging Rock, and we revert to the cinematic terra nullius of the 1950s and 60s.

“If you are to win or regain support from government – and it matters little what brand of government you’re dealing with these days – the only weapon you have has Australia written on the blade. It is still the most powerful word, whether used as noun or adjective. “

“It’s what saves the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the constant assaults of The Australian newspaper. It is what draws attention and funding to Australian Opera, Australian Ballet and pretty much anything else with Australia in its name.”

Adams’ producing credits include The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Don’s Party, The Getting of Wisdom and Abra Cadabra, and he was EP on Lonely Hearts and We of the Never Never.

Having closed his production company and resigned from committees 10 or 15 years ago, he said he reluctantly agreed to speak at Screen Forever.

“Our film industry was created with government largesse in the early 1970s. And I’m sure that Hector Crawford would agree with me when I state the bleeding obvious and say it cannot live without it,” he concluded.

  1. Phillip Adams makes great sense but unfortunately it is the Screen Producer’s Association itself which helped create the current situation by supporting the Producer Offset legislation where Hollywood films such as The Great Gatsby, Gods of Egypt and many more were suddenly “Australian films”. Real Australian stories have never been harder to finance while Hollywood has put its nose in the subsidy trough. The Coalition who introduced this legislation has been conned by the language of film sustainability and producer enterprise. Australian film is and always was a cultural enterprise and never a manufacturing model. Sadly the Coalition will not listen to Phillip Adams because of his politics however he is right on this one in both economic and cultural terms. An independent inquiry into just where the Producer Offset is going, its rationale and its efficiency is overdue. It is the conversation the industry never had before the Producer Offset was introduced.

  2. Every Australian film that is not made is another piece of the Australian culture that is lost. Unfortunately you need money to make films, so we can’t ignore the economic models and government support. The system that worked best was 10BA through the 80s. This was a high level of government support but it also gave filmmakers the creative freedom they need to take risks and attract private investment. Bring back 10BA!

  3. Supply and demand is all that counts. Patriotism died long ago. One may be proudly Australian, drive a Japanese car, wear a Swiss watch, thongs made in Fiji, a hat made in Thailand, a shirt made in China and watch only foreign films with subtitles on SBS while reading only American Westerns. No one cares where a film comes from today.

  4. Eddie is right, Phillip is right and Graham has a point re patriotism. However……Let’s cut to the chase.
    Australians do like Austalian stories, TV has proven that. We will watch home grown stories on TV.Check the ratings.
    Why won’t we go to the cinema to watch an Australian movie? We will, if the movie is unique. In recent times their were linees to seee THE SAPHIRES & RED DOG and before that THE CASTLE, MURIELS, CROCODILE DUNDEE,BALLROOM,PRISCILLA etc. etc.
    Lets take a reality check.
    We produce around 30 movies a year, not all will ‘connect’. The Americans produce 2000 movies a year, 90% don’t connect.
    Times are changing, we need to keep up with technology, NETFLIX – P.P.V -V.O.D is the way to go.
    The punters will rent OZ movies on line, so its up to Screen OZ to get with the times. Eliminate the ‘Offset’ for NON OZ films & eliminate the must be played in a Cinema part of the equation, the producers can use the ‘P & A’ effectively in ON LINE & SOCIAL MEDIA promotion……As that’s where the market is in 2014…..And yes, lets continue to produce those wonderfull unique OZ movies.

  5. Outside India and China and maybe France only South Korea holds its own against Hollywood. We do need to include Australian TV drama in the debate.

  6. Is it important that we have an Australian film industry?

    Would it really matter if the federal and state governments stopped subsidizing the development and production of Australian screen content and allowed the ‘industry’ to die a natural death, as is the case with other inefficient industries?

    The word ‘industry’ is problematic – conjuring up as it does a product for which there are identifiable consumers and from which a profit is expected to accrue. Very few Australian films make a financial return on the investment in them – the Australian tax-payer being a major investor. To pretend that it will ever be otherwise is to delude ourselves. It is a delusion that leads to the wrong questions being asked.

    Imagine if we referred to ‘the Australian ballet industry’, the Australian Opera industry’, the ‘Sydney symphony orchestra industry’, ‘the poetry industry’ and so on. As industries they are all abject failures so why do we bother to subsidize them?

    Drop ‘industry’ and think only in terms of ‘Australian film’ or ‘Australian screen content’ and the questions become both more interesting and more pertinent.

    It can, at times, be useful to look back to where our current ‘industry’ began and the reasons why political parties on both sides of the political divide felt that Australian film was important.

    As far back as 1963 the Senate Select Committee Report on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for television felt that there was:

    “a responsibility to protect an industry with a strong cultural element.”

    In the late 60’s and early 70’s the various bodies involved in providing the industry with a philosophical base stressed that:

    “The industry (should be) pre-eminently Australian in character, not dominated by other cultures; that government sponsorship would support ‘film and television projects of quality’ and produce ‘distinctively Australian’ films that would ‘provide the Australian people with a national voice and a record of their way of life.”

    Are ‘distinctively Australian films’ necessary in the global digital world we now live in; a world in which most screen content is not shot on film and in which a 3 minute low (or no) budget You Tube clip can reach a larger audience in a week than all Australian films, combined, can in a year?

    The rest of this opinion piece can be found at:

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