“Andrew Pike, Award-winning Producer, Director, Distributor, Historian and Scholar, has been pondering various matters about the current state of the Australian cinema as provoked by some recent Film Alert items about the best ever Australian films below. 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?