Category Archives: Film

Coming Out Of Hibernation

Salman Rushdie Speaks At Opera House

It’s not everyday you get to see and hear Salman Rushdie speak live, so I went along to the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. I’m not so convinced these ideas at the festival are so dangerous – they seem more like ideas that would make great clickbait on Facebook, but I’m not really certain they’re so damn dangerous. Mr. Rushdie was speaking to the notion whether Television was the New Novel. He spoke at great length of his experience in development hell for 18months but said “No, it’s not.”

The conversation could have been more interesting but the panel seemed to favour talking about the process whereby television writers are commissioned to write scripts and whether novelists were good at adapting to that challenge or not. Mr. Rushdie indicated he was surprised to find he was more resistant to it than he initially thought. Hardly earth-shattering. I could’ve told him that at the front end before he went into development hell.

He did say a couple of interesting things. One of them was that the bigger a TV series gets, the less likely it would end on a satisfying note. All such series should be finished with a comma and not a full stop, was his observation. The other notable tidbit was that novel writing is entirely processed internally, but script writing for television drags that process out into the open so that it can be shared with other parties. That much is true.

He also told a joke featuring two goats.

Short Film Screening

I attended the screening of a short film up at the Chauvel tonight. My good friend Guillermo managed to finish the film we shot last year. All I did was sound record it, but it was kind of gratifying to see my name in the credits. I hadn’t seen that in a few years.

Anyway, the DOP and I got into a conversation with one of the producers about film funding in this country and I was surprised to find that there is a widespread belief that the funding system in this country is rigged so the same people keep getting grants, and that the better thing would be to stop the government doing direct funding and go back to a 10BA tax driven thing. Everybody’s thinking it. The system is rigged, and it’s part of the problem and not the solution. The belief is so widespread that nobody trusts the government to do the right thing. Now, this is just film making – not medical or legal policy. However, if the government was to screw up the medical and legal industries like they have screwed up the film industry, there would be picket lines and molotov cocktails on our streets. The fact that it doesn’t happen is merely a reflection of how dejected the film industry is about how the government keeps working to make the business smaller in this country – even if it is inadvertent – and how small the business has become.

I’m just reporting this here because others in the business would want to know. And yes, it is always a bitch-fest when filmies get together.

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Robin Williams Is Dead, Alas

RIP Robin Williams 1951-2014

You don’t really expect the mighty to die by an illness anymore than you expect a comedian to die of depression. It’s a strange thing how we might picture how the end arrives for people; except with Robin Williams you always suspected the depth of despair at the heart of his being to be like a big dark hole to the centre of the world. The nervous energy and and the stream-of–alien consciousness comedy babble that issued forth was otherworldly to say the least. It is no surprise that his breakthrough role was as Mork, a space alien in  the sitcom ‘Mork and Mindy’.

For years he was with light comedies where he encapsulated the anxiety and trepidation of being a hapless human being. Whether they were inspiring teachers or lost boys grown old, parents by accident or parents with a willful bent, he played characters with the sort of commitment that almost made you wince with discomfort. We would ask ourselves, just how much pain was the comic facade hiding?

There were so many dimensions to Robin Williams as an actor it made you wonder how he kept all those aspects in check. Perhaps the sad demise tells us that he couldn’t. It is reported that he was teetotal for a long time until he found himself on set in Alaska. The movie they would be talking about would be ‘Insomnia’ where he starred opposite Al Pacino, playing a psychokiller. You could just see how he might have slipped back into the twilight of his alcoholism on set in a land where the sun doesn’t set, far away from home on his own, playing opposite the doyen of method acting, while trying to hone in on an evil character that works in isolation. The film was a rare odd note in his catalogue of films – rare because he played the bad guy but also he played a character that didn’t resonate with the natural Williams style, thus cutting himself off from his own strengths. It was intense but off-kilter in an uncomfortable way, as if he had lost direction and so decided to do something totally different and self-destructive in order to find something new.

As an actor he had phenomenal gusto and neurotic energy as well as a teary-eyed sentimentalist bludgeon that sat badly with some critics. His standup routines appearances were legendary, while he remained a difficult interviewee to watch. If you are a public person, then the oeuvre you leave behind is essentially the summation of your career; and in his case it was a magnificent career in movies. His work remain as a testament to the complexity of the man as well as the dexterity in his craft.

It is so tremendously sad to find that he was indeed a clown that lived in the shadow of depression that led to his demise. He will be missed greatly by so many of us who were entertained by him.

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‘X-Men: Days Of Future Past’

1.7 Gigawatts And It’s Back to …1973!

The X-men franchise is getting on a bit. It’s always been pretty good,what with the original crew headed up by Hugh Jackman bearing the standard. Some of the entries across the 7 or so films have been less interesting than the others, but overall, the X-men movies are the movies that keep delivering for Fox.

Spoiler alert. Don’t proceed if spoilers would ruin it for you.

What’s Good About It

1973. Come on, you thought I wouldn’t say so? It’s a little bit like ‘X-men does American Hustle’. It even features Jennifer Lawrence who was quite convincing as a denizen of the 1970s in ‘American Hustle’. The scenes of a very hairy Wolverine and Charles Xavier driving around in a Cadillac and wearing brown leather jackets, sporting sideburns was quite fitting. The mimesis of the film is Part ‘French Connection’, part ‘Twelve Monkeys’, part ‘Dick’, but also part ret-conning the ‘X-men First Class’ movie on to the older X-men movies, this one has some interesting moments of character interplay. And really, it helps a comic book movie greatly if the characters give you something more than just smashing through stuff.

What’s Bad About It

I’m not sure the movie makes sense by its own logic. There’s something of the story that leaves you a bit miffed when at the climax the bad future fades and disappears. Only Wolverine and Charles Xavier know what happened but there’s no real objective evidence for it having happened. In that sense it shares the problems of “it was all a bad dream” ending.

What’s Interesting About It

I undersold this movie in the introduction above. It’s actually a great sentimental movie, pulsing with the love for these characters. It’s downright melodrama, but there’s enough of an edge to it to let you forget how melodramatic the story is. The best bits of the film are things like the scene where Wolverine makes the young Charles promise he will put together the X-men and find Jane Gray, Scott and Storm. If we didn’t know how important that was – having seen the  earlier films – then how could we ever weigh up the importance of Wolverine’s plea?

Some people won’t like the sentimentalism of this nature, but after 6 other X-men movies it seems acceptable to have one rendition where everybody is being brought together for great stakes, and for once we get to see past the comic book superhero facade. It’s interesting that after 5 films and 1 cameo, Hugh Jackman is exerting such moral authority with his Wolverine character. It’s interesting when the young and old Charles Xavier talk. It’s interesting when Magneto takes matters into his own hands twice, once as an old man and once as a young man and each time he fails.

The Suffering Of Magneto

Magneto is actually the emblematic character in the X-men movies. The whole cycle of movies started way back when with a beginning rooted in Auschwitz, where we first saw the mutant powers of a Jewish boy who could magnetically manipulate metals, remotely. Having survived the Holocaust, Magneto is hyper-motivated not to suffer the same fate of being on the end of an extermination campaign just because he is a mutant.

Effectively he is facing a pogrom for the second time in his life when the film starts, so in some ways his determination to fight for his cause is far more understandable. As villains go, Magneto’s motivation is possibly the most sympathetic. The irony is that he himself is some kind of Nietstzchean superman, so when he decides to take matters into his own hands, he has essentially given in to the inner fascist implanted into him in his childhood. It’s totally tragic, because it’s almost the moral mirror image of ‘Schindler’s List’ – to survive, he thinks he has to put together a list of people who have to die.

As with all the installments, it is Charles Xavier who has to appeal to his compassion and sense of justness to rein in the runaway fury, but no matter how many times I go back to these X-men movies I can’t but help think that may be Charles is fundamentally wrong about the universe he inhabits. If there were mutants with such powers, there may well be a struggle for survival and Magneto would be entirely justified in being as radical as he is. It’s a scary thought that puts me in the shoes of Peter Dinklage’s character Bolivar Trask. It’s actually quite uncomfortable to watch at times.

Tolerance And Takei

On a tangential note, the film has had mixed press about its racial politics. The film kicks off with a multi-cultural, multi-racial bunch of mutants in the future, but they give way to the same old heroic white people in the middle where it counts. I get the criticism for this sort of critique but on another level, it’s not like it’s the only film that’s guilty of populating the important story arc with heroic white people. It’s probably some progress Hollywood wants to do things this way than not at all.

Importantly, the film references the original series of Star Trek, which must have been the grand-daddy of all tolerance texts in the history of American screen culture. We see Captain Kirk babbling on about a time travel scenario, and it cuts to George Takei as Mr. Sulu. Mr. Sulu and Lt. Uhura broke huge ground for non-white actors, and consequently the position on tolerance in American society itself. Not only has George Takei stood up for the Asian community, he’s been a vocal activist for the LGBT cause, so it’s very evocative to see the ‘Star Trek’ cuts in this film, and reflect on the distance traveled since 1973.

“Dickie’s Such An Asshole”

Inevitably, the film features a fictional Richard Nixon. This portrayal of Nixon doesn’t have the punch of other portrayals; he’s barely there. The gag of the tape recorder in the drawer getting turned off was funny, but otherwise it was a very odd portrait of Nixon, largely untainted by Watergate. I guess we need to be tolerant of a President in history full of interesting foibles too.

The more interesting aspect of going back to 1973 probably is the fact that the last years of the Nixon administration were the years in which faith in the American government was destroyed. not only did America lose the Vietnam war – which is of course touched upon in the story of this film, Nixon ending the gold standard essentially cut the world’s currencies adrift, and with it unleashed a multitude of valuation and therefore moral relativism. Part of the reason why the 70s hangs so heavy over this film as well as ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’ has its roots in the disintegrating trust in the public institutions that ensued.

The end of the monolithic government started with Richard Nixon and Watergate and really has culminated with Wikileaks and Snowden-in-exile. Is this all Nixon’s fault? Most definitely not, but it is an interesting thing to see both Captain America and X-men round in on the Nixon administration as a cornerstone of its re-tellings of history. In that sense, it has a great deal in common with ‘The Watchmen’ where the reign of Nixon’s Presidency does not end and goes into the 1980s. On one level, it arguably did.

 

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’47 Ronin’

As You’ve Never Experienced Before

Every few years the Japanese film industry fishes up a new rendition of the Forty-seven Ronin story. They do it because it sells. The most performed Kabuki is ‘Chuhshungura’, based on the Forty-seen Ronin and their revenge upon Kohzukenosuke Kira. I think I’ve watched upwards of 5 iterations of this story across movies TV series and even listened to a radio play. I may have even played a role on a school play where I was one of the guys holding back Lord Asano who tried to cut down the insolent Kira in the The Great Corridor of Pines of Edo Castle.

So not only is this story steeped in history, the fictional representation is steeped in its own history. Because we know the facts so well, we know who the 47 were, how they came to be the members of the revenge party, what they said when they committed ritual harakiri and where they are buried. I’ve even made my little pilgrimage to Sengakuji where their tombstones line up, and there’s even a museum there of the equipment they used on the night of the  revenge.

This movie allegedly draws inspiration from those events, but you sure coulda’ fooled me!

What’s Good About It

Maybe it’ a good thing that even a garbled version of this story gets out to the west. Rinko Kikuchi makes for a very fetching dragon.

The usual gripes aside, it’s nice to see that the cast of Japanese people are played by Japanese people. Even with the heavy accents, at least they get the mannerisms and body language and manners right. This is in stark contrast to ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ which had all the production design down but the main actors were natively Chinese, and so there was a massive dissonance with the body language and mannerism that made it really hard to watch. This film is the opposite. Surrounding the actors being convincingly Japanese is a production designed sword-and-sorcery Japan that is completely  bizzarro-world. Forget Keanu Reeves and his character, the ‘Japan’ in this film is completely out of this world.

What’s Bad About It

It’s pretty mind-warping, so it took about 20minutes for me to get used to the mimesis and vernacular of this film. The obvious difficulty of inserting a character Keanu Reeves can play into the ranks of the 47 presents the script with an inordinate amount of credibility issues. Call it the dances-with-wolves problem where you can’t sell a story about an exotic culture unless the main character is  white dude and he’s really good at what the other non-white dudes do because he’s either super-talented or he’s the chosen one.

Yeah, I know it’s a marketing problem.

Yeah, if people really wanted to know the original story they can watch one of the many historically accurate renditions with subtitles, straight from Japan. This is meant to be a sword-and-sorcery, dungeons-and-dragons sort of take on the story.

But it’s just *bad* BAD bad. B-a-a-a-a-a-ad to the bone.

What’s Interesting About It

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t give two hoots about historic or geographical or cultural accuracy. Amazing!

It gives me immense insight into how Greeks must feel when they watch ‘Clash of the Titans’, ‘Wrath of the Titans’, ‘Troy’; or how Jewish people might feel when a hyper-Nordic Jesus goes around doing his Jesus thing in your average Hollywood film. There’s odd, there’s wrong, and then there’s Hollywood, which is odd and wrong in a league of its own.

Yeah, I knew I’d feel that going in, but still, it never hurts to spell out the things that bother you, and what exactly this all means.

Playing Oishi

In the tradition of Kabuki, the guy who plays Yoshio Kuranosuke Oishi has got the leading role. It’s the role where the star gets to do his thing; it’s the guy audiences have always flocked to see. So casting Hiroyuki Sanada for Oishi is actually quite classy. Of course, the Oishi in this film is given to rigid formulaic observances, indecision and prevarication, doubts and despair, living down to the stereotypes of a dutiful samurai held by Hollywood, and necessarily possesses an irrational faith in Keanu Reeves as if he knows that Keanu Reeves must be the chosen one to lead his sad lot to glory. Hamlet never suffers this badly.

This is indeed a different Oishi to the one we’ve come to love. The traditional Oishi is wise, patient, subtle, clever with the subterfuge, formidable with his resolve, never lost faith in his mission, carefully figured out who amongst the 200 or so Ronin from Ako, actually had the fortitude to go through with the deed and was meticulous in his planning. Instead, this Oishi is bumbling from moment to moment, making up his plans as he goes along, very much a victim of circumstance and hardly a navigator of his destiny.

It did remind me of the line, “our deeds will echo through time” from ‘Gladiator’. It’s true enough for Oishi and his cohorts – but sometimes the echo chamber is broken and the signal you get is really distorted. I wondered how Sanada kept a straight face through the entire venture (ordeal?). I guess it’s what you call professionalism. Sanada is an interesting actor. He’s invoking the name of Yukimura Sanada with his stage name.

What Are They Wearing?

I know I’m repeating myself but… what the hell was the wardrobe design doing in this film?

Lost in Asia

Keanu Reeves is in a strange career limbo where he is marketed heavily to Asia than he is back in the west. it is as if the Matrix persona of Neo has propelled him into a latter day Chuck Norris who may one day recover his standing in the west. He was in ‘The Man of Taichi’ playing a martial arts nut and evil head honcho in his directorial debut. Combined with this fiasco of a film, he seems he’s totally on the outer. The post-Matrix years have not been great for Keanu. I liked his crooked cop in ‘Street Kings’ and his turn in ‘Constantine’ was sort of interesting but not quite. But then it’s a rare script that can turn his wooden brand of acting into a credible characteriation. He may be lost in Asia for many more years to come. Or maybe this movie has completely sunk him as an action lead actor who can carry a film. He really should consider appearing in a Woody Allen movie.

 

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Slack

I’ve Been Slack, Yeah

The writers’ guild called me on my mobile today wondering if it was their administrative error or my lapse that I hadn’t paid for my membership this year. I told the lady it was a bit of both – that I decided to let the thing slide while I thought about it. She asked what I had to think about and so I asked her if she wanted the short version or the long version. She said I should try the short one first.

The short version is that I made all of $1000.00 writing a draft for a screenplay this year. This $1000.00 is an advance against if-and-when the film gets up. The rest will be paid if and when the film gets up. Out of which if I paid my GST, and then full guild membership, I’d be left with about $550. Which makes me wonder why I’m handing over so much for my only writing income. Especially when they did nothing to help me negotiate my contract. I wouldn’t have and couldn’t have called upon them because their standard contract would have been laughed out of the room.

Besides which, the producer was my friend from Film School. I had to help him get the script sorted before he footed a bill to fly to Cannes to try and raise finance, another process in which the guild would prove utterly useless. Thus, it’s really hard to justify the guild membership when there’s so little to show for it; and a bunch of workshops and discussion groups and a newsletter and a glossy book each year where screenwriters get interviewed about writing… simply isn’t much value. For that money I could head to the pub and hang out with people of my choosing, and the ensuing conversation might actually be more interesting.

The industry has changed greatly. It’s not the bustling hive it once was where development led to things. Only a handful of films get made – and none of them get made without the government funding production costs. It’s really hard to conceive of a guild in the context of an industry that’s only there as an extension of the government.

I then asked her if she wanted the long version and she declined. I can’t say I blame her much. I told her it’s not something I hold the guild responsible for, but really it couldn’t be just me, and the industry couldn’t be supporting so many writers to call the writers guild a guild. And hence I told her I was thinking whether I should stump up the money for the membership or just spend it on my dentist – which, would have literally palatable results compared to a membership in a clan of writers equally hungry, disenfranchised, and broke as I.

She said she would relay back to management my concerns. I have no idea how ‘management’ is going to respond to my feedback. I doubt they would have anything to say. I’m not expecting anything, but at least they got a piece of my fucking mind.

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The Schadenfreude Budget

Nothing To Delight In But Pain Of Others

This is going to be a mean budget. I was talking about it today with some people and they were saying yes, it’s going to hurt but that they hope it hurts other people too. Like Liberal voters who thought voting for Tony Abbott was such a good idea. If you’re a left-leaning voter, this budget promises to be a pile of misery heaped upon with fear-and-loathing sauce. The only sweetness will be the bitter-sweet Schadenfreude of seeing others suffer.

In my case, I’m hoping for a big scythe like the one carried by death to hack a swathe through Screen Australia, which may or may not according to leaked information, get rolled into one entity with the Australia Council. That would be cool to seethe perennial same people who always get the funding, go without for once. Screen Australia’s a bit of a bug bear because they keep funding the same people and they keep rewriting the rules so nobody else gets a look in for funding. In other words, it’s more a rort and a slush fund than a proper funding body these days so… heck Joe Hockey, cut away with impunity. I’d rather see it get the full-arse chop than a half-arsed trim. I really would enjoy those people “having to look for a job in the real world”. Screw them.

On a more general scale, you ave to think that Abbott and company are going to make the kinds of cuts that the ALP could not. This would be true, particularly in health and welfare. And while the rhetoric is that this targets the weakest in our society, I think we’ve all seen a few cases that have made us do a double-take. If you think about it, 6million people are on some kind of Centrelink payment. Then, Julia Gillard’s government added Family Tax Benefit B as a bribe to lather through the Carbon Price. It was classic ‘Keep it Greasy So It Goes Down Easy’. As a single person who got nada out of that deal because I have a job – even though I’m in the “low income bracket” according to the tax office – it sure wasn’t a break that was headed my way.  So, I wouldn’t miss Family Tax Benefit B disappearing. heck, cut away, I say.

Be that as it may, there are plenty of things that piss me off  that are mooted in this budget. The wholesale destruction of environmental agencies and science and technology funding seems beyond the pail. I’m just hoping if the cuts hurt everybody enough they’ll be motivated at the next election to vote these bums out.

Retiring At Seventy

I didn’t know this until the good folks on Insiders pointed it out but 70years old is going to be oldest retirement age in the OECD nations. Most nations are topping out at 67 or 68. The average life expectancy in Australia is currently 81.85 so assuming that goes up a little bit until 2035, one would think the government is hoping to keep the lid on the retirement years at about 15.

The budget is talking about offering $10,000 incentives to hire people over 50. Right now, people over 50 are Baby Boomers. I can’t imagine the government could fund such a policy forever into the future, given the logic of how little tax they could get back from such a worker, so once again we see the government trying to feather the nests of the Baby Boomers, just to get this idea over the line.

I keep trying to imagine myself at say, 65 going for a job interview to find work that will take me up to 70. I keep wondering what that job might be and whether there would be a 10k incentive to hire me then (or if that 10k would be worth anything in that future). Having spoken to a number of my fellow Gen-Xers the feeling is “fuck off, we’re going for a revolution!” You get the feeling that the inter-generational conflict is going to heat up from here on in. The Treasurer sure lit a fire there.

We’re Dumb Ignorant And Uncultured, But We Can Build Roads

The carrot dangled in front of Australia for all this budget pain is that the Federal Government will spend 40 billion on roads for the next 4 years. This is going to be matched by 42 billion from State governments and the private sector. 82billion over 4years is a lot of road building. And the look of smug satisfaction as they’ve been leaking this bit has been a bit much.

Most countries that try to stimulate their economy by general construction end up building white elephants. This is true of Asian countries and European countries. Bridges to nowhere and ghost cities of apartments with nobody living in them happen exactly because a government thinks a general construction spending spree will stimulate the economy. It would have in the 1950s but clearly in an age when GM, Ford and Toyota are closing up factories, we’re entering a post-industrial phase of the economy, like it or not. If you are going to build 82 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure, are roads really where you want to put your money?

Keep in mind that this is the same luddite government that wants to dumb down and dismantle the NBN, another infrastructure project that might be more appropriate for our stage of development.

It’s also 82 billion that’s not going into education and training because this government wants to get out of tertiary education altogether and make it completely user-pay. It’s 82billion that’s not going towards building a metro in our major cities, and it’s definitely not going towards an inter-city bullet train. What it is, is a decidedly backward looking commitment to build more of the same on the assumption that Australia’s economic needs are going to be roughly the same as they were in the 1950s and1960s under Menzies. It’s willfully stupid because clearly “more roads” is not what Australian needs more of over the other options that do not even get a look in.

And this is before we even look at the problems of petroleum as fuel for cars, and the economics of crude oil going into the future where we’re spending increasingly greater amounts of money to extract the same amount of crude oil. When we cease to be able to afford the oil, we’ll cease driving our petroleum-engined cars. When that happens you wonder what good these 82billion dollars’ worth of roads are going to be for an economy moving away from moving things around on the back of the petrochemical industry. Nobody in government has even looked at the ramification of higher energy costs on this economy and whether it is a smart move to put all our baskets into roads in anticipation of even greater road transportation. Even with a multiplier effect, this 82billion is going to be money badly spent.

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How Did We Get Here?

Vicariously, Cannes

It’s a weird sort of thing, but I have a project headed for Cannes to look for financing this year. It doesn’t happen every year and it’s been a while since I’ve had a script doing the rounds so it feels strange. The producer-director is an Australian citizen, a fellow graduate from AFTRS but he is a migrant from Lithuania, way back when it was a communist satellite state. He is, however, also a member of the European Film Academy. He’s somebody in Europe, as opposed to a struggling borderline unemployable middle aged person back here in Australia; and this owes no small thanks to the complete retreat of the Australian government from supporting the Australian Film Industry.

We have approached Screen Australia for support but the answer we got was that the project was not going to be Australian content so we had no chance of getting any such support. We pointed out that ‘The Great Gatsby’ was hardly Australian content but received millions in investment from  Screen Australia, all on the back of its creatives being Australian and it being shot in New South Wales. The answer we got was “that was Baz and his team. You’re not Baz.”

In other words, Screen Australia supports only that which is already successful and doesn’t need support. No surprises there. Who wants risks in the film industry? Crazier still, the institutional narrowness of having such a selection ‘criterion’ – while well known and understandable – can be a big filter that weeds out successful projects. It seems to be the negative imprint that matches the tremendously unsuccessful commerce that is the Australian Film Industry. Honestly, on some simple level my producer-director ought to be getting more support than he is, just as other producers I’ve worked with ought to have received more support, from their own government agency.

Frankly, it’s a disgrace.

I’ve been wondering about how things came to this path for him and I. Obviously, I am neither European or the sort of screenwriter that aspires to the kinds of art house fare that is being planned with this project, but it still seems to me quite absurd that people properly credentialed as  Australian film makers should have to go look for funding overseas. I will point out that this is the third project in my life that the principal money would have to come from overseas before an Australian bodies would look to support it.

This is my blog, so I’m just registering my bubbling discontent right here. But really, I ought to be happy that my producer-director has hocked his whole life to get to Cannes on his own to look for funding. No? Instead, all I feel is a desire to kick Screen Australia in he crotch.

I guess if my producer-director does get his film up on the back of his trip to Cannes, that would be a kick in the crotch enough.

AUD At US 90c

As David Byrne famously sang “How did I get here?” Here’s a random bit of information. Fox Studios in Sydney still has 22years left on its 40 year lease. For the last 18years it has been going, the second half has been marred by the high Australian dollar. In other words, the service subsector of the Australian Film Industry that faced America, has been knocked out by the mining boom and the subsequent high Australian Dollar. Screen Australia had to pay Baz Luhrman to shoot in Fox Studios in Sydney. The structure of investment right there is “good money after bad”, without even getting into the quality of the project or the returns. In fact Julia Gillard as Prime Minister put money into ‘The Wolverine’ from her office to secure the shoot in Australia.

The irony might be compounded by the fact that the NSW Government gave 20th Century Fox a very favourable deal in that 40yar lease in the hopes that it would lead to a constant churn of projects at the Fox lot in the middle of Sydney, transforming the service sector and infrastructure. Back then, nobody thought the Australian Dollar would rise to parity or that it would stay over US 90cents for so long. The back of the envelope calculations that made it competitive and viable had the Australian Dollar between US45c and 55c.

It’s easy to see that one of the most well equipped studios in the Southern Hemisphere is actually a bit of a white elephant infrastructure; a bit like an expensive Rolls Royce that only gets taken out on a rare Sunday. The Australian Film Industry’s service subsector servicing Hollywood will not get viable again until the Australian Dollar practically halves in buying power again. There’s really no other solution to the structural problem there.

 

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