To start off, how many Australian films do you think you’ve seen? You can find out the exact number through this link.
The problem facing the Australian Film Industry of late is the same problem facing the entire film industry: there is a shift in how people access media content. Where once the cinema was the main avenue to witness culture and ideas through film, there is now an overwhelming amount of access to content online, bypassing the novelty of the cinema experience. To maintain a form of revenue, film industries such as Hollywood work on a ‘blockbuster model‘, which involves reproducing previously successful plots over and over again. Yet what’s strange is that Australian films that follow the same ‘blockbuster model’ format simply aren’t able to reach audiences in the same way. An example of this would be Hollywood’s biggest blockbuster film this year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, grossing over $250 million, while Australia’s biggest box office hit was The Rover at $540, 000.
So what is it about Australian films that are causing this gap? There are a number of factors: Screen Australia, who fund most Australian films are having their budget cut in half, international film industries are not utilising Australia to produce their films simply as it is too expensive for them, Australian films aren’t being marketed and franchised at the same scale as international film industries and audiences seem to be uninterested in watching an ‘Australian story’ (ABC News, 2011; Hollingsworth, 2013; Screen Australia; Viner, 2014).
But all is not lost, Screen Australia has released an article stating that the future of the Australian film industry lies in a new model that has spawned from online access to media content: crowdfunding. As audiences have become more active in their consuming, they have become a supportive role for the production of films. A qualitative research report on Australian audiences may also give Australian Film producers greater insight into how they can once again be strong contenders in the film industry.
A qualitative research project that may help investigate why Australian films aren’t being received on the same scale as Hollywood films would be to organise a focus group of people from varying demographics. I think a focus group would be the most effective form of qualitative research as Australian film isn’t an area the general public would be familiar with discussing in detail. In a group, people can bounce off each others’ ideas and hopefully generate a detailed discussion on their views of the Australian Film Industry.
The following questions are examples of what I would ask a focus group:
-Do you watch movies? How often?
-What is the main avenue you use to access films? Cinemas? Online?
-Do you look for specific genres/ actors/ cultural aspects in the films you consume? Why?
-Do you see Australian films in a different way to other Western films? Does this affect your decision to watch certain films and not watch others?
-What do you identify as an Australian film? Do you think this identification helps or hinders the image of Australian films?
-Have you heard of the following films: ‘These Final Hours‘, ‘Felony‘, ‘52 Tuesdays‘ ? If so, how? If not, think: how you find out about upcoming films and what types of films do you generally see advertised?
-If you could access Australian films online, would you?
The shift of accessing media content to an online sphere is one I think Australian filmmakers should jump on. As brought up in the Screen Australia article on audiences, online culture has changed the way films are able to be produced, with crowdsourcing as a great platform to kickstart your film. If Australian filmmakers get on board with this shift, accessing audiences may become a broader possibility and the future of Australian cinema may have a chance to thrive once again.
ABC News (2011). Australian film industry in crisis. Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVefHsb8Vgc
Elberse, A (2013). Why Hollywood Is Caught in the Blockbuster Trap — and Won’t Break Free Anytime Soon, Vulture. Available at: http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/why-hollywood-is-caught-in-the-blockbuster-trap.html
Hollingsworth, E (2013). Oscar has a lesson for Australian film. The Drum. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-25/ewen-oscars/4537642
Screen Australia. BEYOND THE BOX OFFICE: UNDERSTANDING AUDIENCES IN A MULTI-SCREEN WORLD. Screen Australia. Available at: http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/beyond_box_office.aspx
Viner, K (2014). Screen Australia faces 50% funding cut and merger, under audit proposal. The Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/01/screen-australia-faces-50-funding-cut-and-merger-under-commission-proposal