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Friday, 27 February 2015

Film Alert 2015 Number Three - Australian Films Discussion, Sydney Screenings, FCCA Awards Night, Orson Welles and more


Hello Everyone

The last Film Alert drew attention to a few things related to the history, both cultural and economic, of the Australian film industry. There was Margaret Pomeranz’s selection of  the ten best Australian films ever made and some pointers to a serious piece of academic  about the audience for Australian cinema. It brought some responses which I’m pleased to publish. It also caused me to start publishing on the the Film Alert blog lists of the Best Ever Australian Films submitted randomly by friends and acquaintances from all over. Anyone who wants to send in a list (minimum ten but no maximum, shorts and docos may be included) will have it posted forthwith.
So, first, Andrew Pike, Award-winning Producer, Director, Distributor, Historian and Scholar, has been pondering the various matters raised about the current state of the Australian cinema. Here are his thoughts.

I often feel I should engage in more debate about the Australian film industry but never get to do it.  Partly because it is a dispiriting scene, with deckchairs constantly being shuffled,  and partly because I feel completely marginalised by the key players, as though an independent distributor (let alone a small outfit in Canberra) could have anything worthwhile to say.  In the end, I usually decide to keep working away doing my own thing, like a Ronin should, and ignore the rest.
But a few points can perhaps be made:

 1.  I think the narrow frame of reference of lists such as Margaret's has to be sheeted home to the failure over many years of the NFSA to make Australian film heritage visible and available.  I have faith that at last this failure is being addressed and will be remedied.
2.  I firmly believe that no solution to the economic well-being of the film industry can ever be achieved until "fair and equitable" terms and conditions can be negotiated with the major exhibitors and distributors.  Until that day, which may never come, since few people are brave enough to tackle the problem, let alone even talk about it publicly, the only solution is a strong and resilient independent sector, especially the "art house" component where risks will more readily be taken.  And the indie "art house" cinema sector has been slowly but steadily disappearing.

 3.  I get very impatient with all of the agonised analyses of what is wrong with the industry and with Australian scripts and Australian writers, when the fact remains that often extremely bad American films get major releases here.  Refer to point 2 above.  In addition, instead of analysing what people think is wrong with the industry, why not analyse the occasions when Australian films HAVE actually work at the box-office - has anyone really studied why RED DOG worked, or looked closely at the marketing campaigns for MURIEL'S WEDDING, or MAO'S LAST DANCER, or KENNY, or for that matter any of the ones that Ronin was involved in a long time ago.   It seems that the successes are usually seen as blips on the radar, exceptions to the rule, and so not worthy of investigation.  In the end, despite the analyses of the failures, does everyone subconsciously believe that to succeed you need luck, pure and simple luck? 
Andrew

Film Impact Ratings – Measuring the Success of Australian Films This matter is a little more esoteric than Andrew’s cri de coeur. As mentioned previously, one of the great and ongoing debates about Australian film concerns the extent of the domestic audience for our feature film production. Consideration of the issue is inevitably bound up with thoughts about the type of films we make and the policy settings for Government assistance and subsidy. I referred to a recent paper titled Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance. The paper can be found online here.

 Bruce Hodsdon has now produced a short note which commences by noting that the  Film Impact Rating (FIR) devised and explained in the academic paper authored by Deb Verhoven, Alwyn Davidson and Bronwyn Coate, is an important step in freeing Oz films from the straitjacket of domestic theatrical box office returns as the singular measure of success, something Screen Australia (SA) partially attempted, in 2011 with its report Beyond the Box Office which incorporated “the shift of media consumption from the large to the small screen”. As the FIR paper points out, unfortunately SA did not make “the underlying data and the specific calculations used to estimate between the large and the small screen viewership...available for external assessment”. The FIR paper, in contrast, is intended to open up its analysis to scrutiny by providing information, on the path it has followed, to public scrutiny, supplemented with a specific invitation for feedback.

The complete note can be found  online at the Film Alert website and you can find it on the Film Alert website here . Any comments received will be passed on and published next time.

 Film School Confidential AFTRS at the EQ in Sydney’s Moore Park is beginning a fortnightly series of free film screenings with intro’s by critics and film-makers to take place on Wednesdays from March 11. The advance blurb I have been sent says the series will showcase important, sometimes eccentric and always under-exposed films – the kind of work that quite unexpectedly changes your life at film school.  Leading figures in Australian film and television culture will share their passions and try to evoke the exhilaration, shock and mystery of a first encounter with radical innovation. The first film is La Quattro Volte (2010), directed by Michelangelo Frammartino  It was filmed in a village in Calabria, Italy. The director says that he has provided the audience with "a pleasant surprise: the animal, vegetable and mineral realms are granted as much dignity as the human one". There's no dialogue, no music – and no Mafia – in this remarkable Italian film.  The screening will be hosted by AFI Award winning producer John Maynard who has been a producer and distributor in Australia and New Zealand for more than 35 years. He is the Founding Director of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Zealand and the first Director of the Len Lye Foundation. The screening begins at 6.00 pm. There should be something about the series on the aftrs website soon.

 The pecking order Arts Minister George Brandis, has announced some grants to various arts organisations “to strengthen international ties” The Government will provide a total of $470,000 to The Australian Ballet, The West Australian Symphony Orchestra, The Australian World Orchestra and the National Film and Sound Archive for international projects. Funding of $150,000 will go to The Australian Ballet for its 2015 China tour. The Australian World Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Zubin Mehta will receive $250,000 to assist its tour of Indian capitals Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi in October 2015. The West Australian Symphony Orchestra will receive $50,000 to develop a 'Symphony Cultural Bridge' between the China Philharmonic Orchestra and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Finally, last and least, the National Film and Sound Archive will host a workshop following the Annual Congress of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) with a grant of $20,000. FIAF is the peak international body for the preservation of film heritage, and the grant will facilitate presentations from international experts in a two-day workshop on digitising audio-visual collections.

Film Critics Circle Awards Night – Reminder and Invitation to all

The Annual Critics Awards for Australian Films of 2014 will take place on

Tuesday 10th March 2015 - 6.30pm for 7pm at Paddington/Woollahra RSL Oxford Street, Paddington Opposite Paddington Town Hall

Bookings via Email: FilmCriticsAust@bigpond.com

Pay at Door: Please Note Cash only No Credit Card facilities

Cost Per Head: $15.00Members of Industry Guilds: $10.00 Light Supper/Finger Food included.

( And in case you thought all this was happens by sleight of hand, the FCCA Awards receive sponsorship and other assistance from FOXTEL, UNIVERSAL PICTURES, ACS, KARMEE COFFEE, AUSTRALIAN  WRITERS IN PRINT, CURRENCY PRESS & FILMINK)

 Future Feminist Archive Symposium, Friday 6 March 10am-5pm

Women’s Gaze and the Feminist Film Archive, Panel 1.30pm-3pm

There doesn’t seem to be a website about this event so I’m reduced to reproducing a large chunk of stuff that could otherwise be linked to. Filmmakers Martha Ansara, Margot Nash and Jeni Thornley return to their feminist origins and discuss some of the groundbreaking films they produced in the 1970s. Individual presentations will include clips from Film For Discussion (Martha Ansara with the Sydney Women’s Film Group 1973), We Aim To Please (Robin Laurie and Margot Nash 1976) and Maidens (Jeni Thornley 1978).

Joining them is emerging filmmaker, Natalie Krikowa, who suggests that these pioneering women laid the foundations upon which a new generation of feminist filmmakers, like her, now stand. Other key films from the period - My Survival as an Aboriginal (Essie Coffey 1978), Size 10 (Sarah Gibson and Susan Lambert 1978) and For Love or Money (Megan McMurchy, Margot Nash, Margot Oliver and Jeni Thornley 1983) will also be discussed.

The panel highlights the importance of recognising Australian women’s film history by working towards the creation of a digital-online space, providing scholars and film-arts-media related organisations with an invaluable research and study tool. Film scholar Sarah Attfield will chair the session. Co-ordinator and contact: Sarah Attfield (m) 0430134828 Sarah.Attfield@uts.edu.au

Oscar and After To cheer all the cinephiles up here’s a link to some new research on yet another Orson Welles project that went nowhere. Orson Welles. It’s written by Australian scholar Matthew Asprey Gear and appears in Gary Morris’s ever- interesting online Bright Lights Film Journal . And for a hint of nostalgia about what the Oscar ceremony used to be like go here and here .

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