What’s the matter with Aussie films?

This week I asked myself, when was the last time I went to the cinema to watch an authentically Aussie film? It took me a while, to think back to my viewing of the 2012 release of ‘The Sapphires’ but apart from that, I personally haven’t paid much attention to the Australian film industry. And this got me thinking, why not? Speaking to my friends, I realised I was not alone in this.  Now, I’m not against Australian films, I actually become quite proud of the popular Aussie productions that do well on our shores and overseas. However, for me, thinking about why me and my peers have not paid much attention to our local films made me realise that Aussie film makers would be thinking the same thing. However, instead of jumping to conclusions, blaming the on-line movie piracy trend, it’s time to look a little deeper into the reasons behind this.

Before proposing any kind of research, it’s good practice to figure out what is already known about the issue.  According to Screen Australia, in 2013, 26 Australian films were released. A fair number, but in comparison to the 184 from Hollywood released that same year, perhaps it is a matter of Australian films being overpowered by the big blockbusters from the US. Not to mention, the sheer number of films stemming from the Bollywood and Nollywood genres.

Now it’s not solely about the number of films the Australian industry can release, after all, if a good film is a good film people should want to see it. And that’s exactly what’s required, in order to succeed, Australian movie producers have to give the audience what they want!

in 2012 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that despite attempts in Australian films to appeal to their home-grown audiences, they often fall short and receive cringe-worthy reactions. David Dale writes, this is due to storylines which lack sophistication and choose to centre around characters such as ‘hornbags’ Kath and Kim in their 2012 cinema release of ‘Kath and Kimderella‘ or the likes of ‘bogan’ Shazza Jones from ‘Housos vs Authority.‘ Dale suggests our less than enthusiastic responses to such films is demonstrative of a cultural cringe, “the tendency of Australians to be embarrassed by their own artistic endeavours, and to feel that any work by Americans and Britishers is automatically superior…”(Dale, 2012).

When considering this term I thought about other Australian films which have succeeded both nationally and internationally. What made these movies different? Perhaps this holds the key to making the Australian film market more successful as a whole. The first that comes to mind, which I did only just watch over the weekend, is ‘The LEGO Movie’! While directed by Americans Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, this film was animated by Animal Logic Studios in Sydney over a 28 month period. The films success saw it take out $442 million worldwide since it’s release and Aussie movie-makers are there to appreciate and thank.

When Australian made films assume the same status as big Hollywood productions, they’re likely to be received well. As demonstrated through the release of other successful films including ‘Happy Feet’, ‘Crocodile Dundee’, ‘Australia’ and ‘Babe’ (Dale, 2012). In order to provide more evidence to Australian movie executives for this hypothesis, it is important to look deeply at the audiences’ opinions. Qualitative research practice works well here in order to avoid conceptualising the audience as simply a set of figures. We want to know what they’re really thinking.

If I were to hypothetically carry out this research, I would select approximately 4 movie trailers of recent Australian-made films, of which there will be a mix between the styles reminiscent of Hollywood and the more ‘Australian’ films. These would be shown to a sample group of 25 Australian participants, who will be asked, after viewing, which film they would prefer to watch and why. These interviews used in association with quantitative results would provide insight into the reasons behind why certain types of Australian films succeed and others flop. Allowing myself as the researcher as well as Australian film makers to avoid jumping to conclusions. While this research method is rather simplistic I would have to pay careful attention to the place where participants are from as well as their own cultural preferences because their opinions and preferance are all affected by location, time and place.

Audience research is paramount to provide understanding of what your audience wants as well as validation for why stakeholder’s, such as Australian Movie makers should continue their work.

Thanks for reading,

Jasmine

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4 thoughts on “What’s the matter with Aussie films?

  1. Great read! I referenced The Sapphires as well as the last Australian movie actually doing well. It was also interesting looking around on the Screen Australia site and seeing the box office earnings and seeing how much of a share that at actually had in the box office.

  2. Jasmine,

    You have given an informed response to this week’s topic. The mention of a cultural cringe really had me agreeing. It’s so true and this was certainly evident in my class’ discussion about our perception of Australian films. Also, i thought your qualitative research idea was good and would be successful if put into practice. I enjoyed your blog.

    Daniel

    • Thanks Daniel! I think its so funny how Aussie’s perception of an Aussie film is those cringe-worthy ones. I was surprised myself to find out Australia was responsible for such an international box office hit like the LEGO movie.

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