Bad Governance In Film Bureaucracies

$45,000 Farewell Party? Sure Why Not?

Today’s entry also owes to Pleiades sending something in.

When Film Victoria boss Sandra Sdraulig left the funding agency after nearly a decade in the job, Film Victoria’s board decided to throw her a farewell party. Some very nice printed invitations were sent out to 280 guests, and a venue for the swanky cocktail party was duly booked. Melbourne caterers Damn Fine Food provided the canapes and drinks, and a special $10,000 DVD tribute was shot and produced for the occasion. There were even some nice-smelling toiletries from hipster favourites Aesop.

All up, Film Victoria dropped a cool $45,000 on the event.

Thank goodness it wasn’t NSW, but in the broader scheme of things, it’s all too typical of film bureaucrats. The article goes on to say this:

So what, you’re probably asking? There’s nothing particularly new about bureaucrats living high on the public purse.

But Film Victoria’s party is worth discussing, if only because the funding available to ordinary filmmakers is so small and difficult to access. It also tells us something about the different cultures at the top of Australia’s arts funding agencies, compared to the struggles down at the grassroots.

The truth is that in many parts of the arts, top public servants in funding agencies have almost nothing in common with the penurious artists they represent, effectively occupying a kind of salaried aristocracy in which they enjoy the kind of wages and conditions struggling freelancers can only dream about.

Sdraulig was getting paid upwards of $220,000 a year when she left, according to Film Victoria’s most recent annual report. In contrast, the most recent Australia Council report into artists’ incomes released by Macquarie University Professor David Throsby tells us that more than half of Australia’s artists earn less than $10,000 a year from their practice.

But the Sandra Sdrauligs of this world don’t often mix with the lumpenproletariat of the creative classes. Instead, their privileged position gives them access to wealth and power through the kind of glamor that the screen industry can bestow. And, because of the unique position of power they occupy, few will publicly speak out.

Which is roughly about what I’ve been blogging here for a couple of years. These days I’ve lost the energy to blog about the Australian film industry and its parlous state, but occasionally something comes along that is emblematic of the problems inherent in the system. Think of all that government money wasted each year on making films nobody wants to see – or get spent on parties nobody cares about for people who earn too much for doing so little of worth. It’s like some Kafka short story, only, it’s for real.

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