Saturday 12 September 2015

Inside the Tent - Metro Screen to fold after Screen Australia pulls the pin

Maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Those inside the tent decide the fate of those outside: ....we will decide who comes here and....etc... and that decision never involves a good hard look at just what is being done inside that warm tent. No doubt Screen Australia has all sorts of reasons for closing down Metro Screen by the simple expedient of knocking off a paltry annual subvention. Needless to say it wont debate this in public and the victim itself, stoic and proud of what it’s done over thirty years, cops it sweet and resists any volcanic eruptive response of the kind that would at least make it feel good. The Medici class of bureaucrats making life and death decisions on the fate of the poor, bewildered and helpless rolls on. (George Brandis is in fact creating a whole new group of them to hand out money to opera, ballet and theatre companies according to George’s own personal tastes and whims. Some serious money, $100million + is involved in that exercise, but I would not expect Metro Screen to scramble back in through that door.)

On the Australian Cinema Facebook page, I posted a comparison no doubt thought of as quite unwarranted by those identified if not named that went thus. “Screen Australia has made this decision - We will end Metro Screen and we will keep our own Strategy and Communications team going. This consists of a Senior Manager, (Strategy and Communications), a Manager,(Research), a Senior Policy Advisor, an Information Analyst, a Research Analyst, two Researchers, a Strategy Analyst, an Events & Team Co-ordinator, a Communications Manager, a Communications Co-ordinator (Publishing), a Communications Co-ordinator (Production), a Communications Co-ordinator (Industry) and a Communications Support Officer. By my estimate an annnual cost about $1.5m per annum tied up there alone. Those are interesting priorities.”

My point being that no matter what work Screen Australia may do as part of its Strategy and Communications, (happy to be informed about any recent examples) none of those people are film-makers or have anything to do with making films or teaching the making of films. I suspect they and their work is entirely superfluous to anything that happens with Australian film-making and developing Australian film-makers but I am happy to have a case argued. But I should remind you, if indeed you need reminding, it was from the Strategy and Communications Team at Screen Australia that the news was put about only a month or two ago that Screen Australia has started a “scoping study to figure out new approaches to building pride in Australian films.”  This has been commenced by hiring a PR firm, no doubt at a cost far in excess of the annual subvention to Metro Screen, because “The workshopping of ideas is a tacit recognition that the Australian cinema ‘brand’ was tarnished last year by a string of films that underperformed at the B.O., reflected in the lowly market share of 2.43 per cent.”  The agency, For the People, has been hired to consult with a variety of industry stakeholders on ideas to develop a more engaged market for Australian films.”  So there you go. The volunteers and battlers at Metro Screen are out and the PR firm is in. As I may be a mean comparison.......

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