Japanese Film Festival 2010
For some crazy reason, the good folks at Japan Foundation asked me to MC the opening reception for this year’s Japanese Film Festival. This year’s special guests were Tadao Sato, Tsutomu Abe and Shigeki Chiba. I had a few choice words to say about cinema in general but also got to put the boot into the state of the Australian Film Industry.
I also sat in as interpreter for the panel discussion for film students whereupon somebody asked what Australian Film can do to change things from its current plight. Tadao Sato praised Australian Cinema ans then said, “Stop being subcontractors for Hollywood and make your own films.” It drew a rapturous applause.
I hadn’t been inside the new AFTRS digs down in the Entertainment Quarter. The special guests were invited to inspect the school so I went along as their interpreter for that one as well. It’s so strange how they managed to bring across the musty, angst-ridden, repressed-violent-anger vibe into the new building. As far as vibe goes, it clearly was a case of “different building, same old shit.”
Behind the counter at the reception was Cathy who went through with me back in the early 90s. She said she was now studying Egyptology and had left Sound behind. She also said it’s just not as good as it used to be for students and that perhaps we went through at a really good time.
Turns out they’ve axed the 2 year Masters allegedly because it takes them out of the industry too long. Umm, what industry?
Anyway, the tour showed that they still had state of the art gear and all the whistles and bells, but basically they’d gotten rid of their Masters course and replaced them with 1 year professional Graduate Diplomas, and a 1 year Foundation course for young people. In other words, AFTRS had completely given up on its original mission. The amazing thing was nobody seemed to have noticed or said anything.
Maybe it’s a good thing. I’d been saying for some years that the day when AFTRS could be that premier institution was long in the past, given the parlous state of the industry. I guess if Cathy’s at the reception desk – and she was as die-hard as anybody for the biz – then what chance is there really?
Still Get No Fucking Respect
In the AFTRS library, they had a shelf of graduate works on video. My guests pulled out my graduating year’s tape and asked which one was mine.
Sure enough ‘Wired and Running’ was on it, but it was listed as a 16mm production. Um, no, it was 35mm. I can’t believe it. After all these years, they’re still trying to belittle my tiny bit of accomplishment at the school. Worse still, it had been mislabeled ALL these intervening years. I can just hear them saying, “oh it’s no great consequence.”
Well, here’s the thing. 2 things you should never let people screw you with is your payment and your credit. They’ve been fucking with my credit for years and years and years.
‘Wired and Running’ was 35mm. We busted a gut to do it in 35mm. You did your best to stop us. It was 35mm!!! Get that right, you assholes!
As I left I told Cathy, “I’m still angry. I can’t forgive this school. I just can’t. After all these years, they still disrespect me. Why the hell should I go out there and say nice things about this place?”
A Film School In Japan Handing out Degrees
I got my BA from AFTRS. I didn’t go there to get one. I went there for what they had in gear and the opportunities to make things. The irony is that after I left, they felt compelled to turn that 3 year BA program into a 2 year Masters. Shigeki Chiba from Japan was so impressed with the tertiary qualification aspect of it, he and Tadao Sato lobbied the Japanese Academy of Moving Images to be able to hand out tertiary degrees. Therefore it is ironic that AFTRS has backed away from their big courses.
The Ministry of Arts & Sciences in Japan grilled the pair Mr Sato and Mr. Chiba when they made their submission to make their school a tertiary academic body. One even went as far as to say, “we hope you don’t lose something essential and good by becoming just another tertiary institution.”
It’s unlikely to be the case. They actually have a thriving industry over there. What killed AFTRS’s own flagship program was how disproportionate it was with the negligible growth rate of the Australian Film Industry.