Well, that’s a wrap on 2021. Remember when we all thought the world was going to return to normal this year?
Not quite huh? No doubt at this point we’re all looking forward to a little break and cheer.
We here at team IF will be taking a holiday hiatus, and we’ll return to bringing you the latest industry news January 12, 2022.
To tide you over in the meantime, we’re gifting you the most recent edition of our magazine, including our incredible list of Rising Talent for 2022. Our fabulous cover stars are all people we think you’re going to hear more of in the future! They’re people who are shaking things up, telling different stories, have new and exciting creative vision or are, perhaps most importantly of all, putting in the damn work.
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In this annual sign-off, I always try to sum up the year, though this one is harder than most.
In the early months, it felt like we were riding a wave of optimism, with COVID almost in our rearview.
There was an incredible international production boom sweeping our shores, partly thanks to our biggest names coming home again. Australian films like The Dry, Penguin Bloom and High Ground dominated the box office. The industry also scored major policy wins, like the Federal Government walking back a decision to harmonise the Producer Offset, retaining a 40 per cent rebate for theatrical features.
In the face of that unprecedented level of production – Screen Australia tallied that drama alone spent a record $1.9 billion across 2020/21 – there were serious conversations to be had about the industry’s infrastructure and skills capacity.
However, these are in some ways good conversations to be having. Better to have more production than less, and growth begets growth. I’m being facetious, but at one point, it felt like a new studio was being announced every week. There were impressive industry initiatives to upskill new, emerging and mid-career practitioners, and more established players were able to take the next steps in their careers.
Then halfway through the year, as we all know, the Delta outbreak, combined with a slow vaccine rollout, put the brakes on.
The already beleaguered distribution and exhibition sector faced yet more cinema closures in the country’s largest markets. Festivals had to pivot once again, with MIFF forced mostly virtual and Sydney Film Festival pausing until November. Production continued, but border closures and COVID-related costs continued to make producers’ jobs tricky. Netflix’s Extraction sequel relocated to Europe, and Russell Crowe’s Poker Face shutdown due to a positive case. HBO’s Days of Abandonment, due to shoot in Sydney, was well, abandoned.
Yet as we stare down the end of the year, I feel there is some optimism again – Omicron willing, of course. Cinemas are back open, and while the market isn’t back to full health yet, Spider-Man: No Way Home just made an absolute motza on its opening weekend. In the final sitting week of the year, the government passed the 30 per cent Producer Offset for non-feature length content, and to industry applause, was forced to wind back its controversial plan to raise the QAPE threshold and scrap the Gallipoli clause. In recent weeks, the sector’s achievements have been celebrated across many awards. Red carpets may now feature masks, but it feels like we’re back to some sort of normal.
And 2022 brings promise. There is so much local content hitting screens over just the next two months, from Shane, Love Me, The Tourist, Wolf Like Me, the second season of Bump, the third season of Five Bedrooms, Gold, Loveland, Wyrmwood: Apocalypse and Falling for Figaro. Goran Stolevski’s debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone, will carry the flag in Sundance, alongside VR work Gondwana and Nash Edgerton short, Shark. Later in the year, we’ll finally get Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson, Baz’s Elvis, and much more. Queensland will play home to epic Disney+ series Nautilus, and Michael Gracey will return home to shoot Robbie Williams biopic, Better Man in Melbourne.
Going forward, there are big questions about how Australian films get enough screens and marketing behind them to find a theatrical audience. There are also still questions about local content regulation for streaming services, the future of kids television, and how we continue to ensure a solid pipeline of work across the ecosystem of production. Further, our friend the virus isn’t going anywhere yet (unfortunately).
One guarantee, love us or hate us: We’ll be here reporting on it. Hopefully, we might even see you somewhere in person next year.
Thank you everyone – our readers, advertisers and contributors – for your ongoing support for our humble publication. It’s our joy to bring it to you.
Have a safe and happy holiday.
Jackie Keast, Sean Slatter, Cameron Boon, Hannah McMahon and Mark Kuban.