Tag Archives: Screen Australia

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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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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Body Without Organs Part 2

Thunderous Objections Continue

You know a document has hit some kind of mark if the people against it are lining up to make their views heard. One gets the feeling the journalists covering this document were all pretty aghast at what was being presented, straight-faced and brazen, to a greatly sceptical audience.

Peter Martin slammed it saying the underlying assumption is that the only way Australia can get back to surplus was through cuts while leaving the current tax system untouched, while it even answered questions it was not asked like drastically cutting the minimum wage.

Michael Pascoe was just as pointed describing its approach as “casual brutality”. He also pointed out the notion that if the states ought to compete with one another, it would result in putting the states falling behind now in a worse position, not better; and that those states would end up having to pay more. Australia is – last we checked – still a ‘commonwealth’ and not a ‘competition of states’.

Steve Keen was more in a demolition derby mood as he pointed out the fundamental stupidity of Australia worrying about getting back to a surplus now, given the context of the world economy. The fundamental assumptions underlying the very exercise seems to be dodgy, while the preconceptions going in were just as misguided.

I know from Pleiades that the AFR s not happy either calling it ‘illogical hostility’ and decidedly critical of the notion of abolishing key industry support programs. The AFR is also reporting that customers are taking action, protesting the four major banks for their support of fossil fuel investments. Some of these are major funds looking to allocate funds to companies and projects that are genuinely eco friendly. The Federal Government is flying into a storm with its contrarian position on Climate Change, and its stated desire to shut down all these green initiatives.

Basically there has been a loud chorus of boos from the press gallery, which probably doesn’t mean much to the man in the high office.  But it’s interesting to note some of this is spreading out to the world and will have consequences for Australia’s economy. If you look at the document it appears it is not that different to the sort of position statement that might come from the US Tea Party, and it would certainly be interesting to see how this document looks when lined up with the Tea Party’s position statement. After all, as Michael Pascoe points out, it appears Tony Abbott really wants to turn Australia in to a facsimile of America.

Gen-X Will Retire At 70

In amidst all the brouhaha about the Commission of Audit and its audaciously hostile report, was the gem that Joe Hockey announced that the pension eligibility will be raised to 70.

The line he drew in the sand?People born after 1965. That’s pretty much saying Gen-X onwards. I was going to lambast him for being born in 1964, but it turns out he was born 1965. So if you’re an old school mate of Joe’s you can thank him for that gift. He’ll be drawing on his generous Parliamentarian superannuation as soon as he leaves Parliament while some of his mates might never reach the age of drawing a pension. If there is such a thing as poetic injustice, it might just be in there somewhere.

If you thought demographics was crap, and that distinctions like Baby Boomers and Generation X and Generation Y and Millennials were just marketing brackets then the line in the sand drawn by the Treasurer might just give you pause. I’ve pointed out before that Generation-X were the first to get hit with HECS after the Baby Boomer generation went by on free Tertiary Education. It’s really no mistake that the boom is falling on the queue just in front of Generation X, because the Baby Boomers are fitting up the social cost of their lives and their education and their retirement on to Generation X.

I don’t know if this is going to work. 2035 is 21 years away, and there’s a lot of politics to be played out between then and now. It’s long enough for another generation to grow into maturity and look at all the social costs being passed on to the latter generations and tip the balance the other way. I’ve pointed this out before but the ALP is already coming into the next Federal election with a front bench dominated by Generation X, headed up by Bill Shorten. The script might be written, but this movie is far from shot, cut and mixed. 🙂

Oh, Let’s Cut All of It!

One of things that got put on the table for cuts was Screen Australia. Naturally there was an outcry from the usual voices.

“Culturally it would put us back in the stone age,” said John L Simpson, producer and founder of the film distribution company Titan View of the Commission of Audit’s recommendation. “I thought that Australians had got over the cultural cringe, the idea that the only culture engaging with is the culture imported into this country, but that’s what’s going to happen. We’ll be a cultural backwater if we don’t invest.”

“It would have a devastating effect on the Australian film industry,” said film producer and director Sophie Hyde. “It’s already a very underfunded industry. We do so much with the small amount that we get, but I think that would effectively decapitate it.”

Robert Connolly, a filmmaker and former board member of Screen Australia described the recommendation as “catastrophic”. He said that Screen Australia receives around $100m a year and has funded some of the most successful homegrown television of recent times. On 9 February, he said, “there was the INXS biopic and the Schappelle Corby one and there were almost five million Australians watching drama that Screen Australia had invested in.

You mean it would upset your gravy train perhaps?.

The people most vocal about it are the people who have received the most support from the funding bodies over their careers. Honestly I’d like to see all of it abolished just to see what would happen. I’ve got no love for film making in Australia any more, so I really don’t care if it goes to the dogs. Heck, if I can’t have it, let them not have it, is how I feel. Screw the bastards with their mouths firmly attached to the government teat and above all, screw the film bureaucrats. They can go find a job in another industry and work until they’re 70.

Yeah, don’t cut it in half, cut the whole damn lot.

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News That’s Fit To Punt – 28/Oct/2013

Foreign Misadventures

The worst aspect of Tony Abbott might not be his stupidity but his inability to represent all of Australia. You expect the Prime Minister of Australia to front for the whole nation when he speaks to foreign media, but not Tony Abbott. He can’t resist the urge to put the boot in to his domestic opposition. Here’s the offending bit in the Washington Post:

Labor wanted a national broadband network?

It’s a government-owned telecommunications infrastructure monopoly, which was proceeding at a scandalous rate without producing any commensurate outcomes. We are changing the objective from fiber to every premise in the country to fiber to distribution points, and then we will use the existing infrastructure to take the broadband to individual premises.

Is that cheaper and more efficient?

Vastly.

But Labor wanted to extend fiber to every household?

Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government.

So you believe the former government was doing a lot of things that were bad for the country?

I thought it was the most incompetent and untrustworthy government in modern Australian history.

Be more specific.

They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power.  It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.

Where does one begin with how this interview exchange is so wrong-headed. You all know how I feel about the NBN, so it surprises me none that Tony Abbott is trying to paint the NBN as evidence of how the ALP were “wacko”. No evidence, just a straight up assertion as if its some kind of self-evident thing when the opposite is clearly true. This is followed up with this sloganeering assertion that the former ALP government were somehow lying incompetents. No evidence. So when he gets pressed on the points, he makes a whole bunch of blank assertions – none of which are factual – and finishes off with another crappy assertion that I’d like to see tested at the ballot soon.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think this “throw the other party under the bus at every opportunity” style of conduct really is becoming of a Prime Minister. It’s the dead opposite of what he’s supposed to be doing when he is representing our polity. Regardless of our differences in our nation, when he’s talking representing Australia, he’s supposed to have the common decency to be speaking for the whole nation. Not just for the people that voted for him.

That Tony Abbott was given to talking out of his hat was a known quotient. What was not really understood was how he would use such an interview to keep playing these domestic politics. This has surprised quite a number of people.

Norman Ornstein, an author and political scientist with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said he ”winced” when he read the interview in which Mr Abbott put the boot into the Rudd-Gillard government in unusually strong language for a foreign interview.

”It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad,” Dr Ornstein said. ”It certainly can’t help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party, government and – at least implicitly – leader, with whom Obama has worked so closely.

”Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.”

Politicians around the world typically refrain from engaging in fierce domestic political argument when they are speaking to an overseas audience.

It’s a worry he’s gallavanting around the globe like this. Which reminds me of something I learnt way back when: The number one rule after a bad shoot is that you never bad mouth your own production. It might have been hell to work with so-and-so, but if you ever find yourself in front of a camera or a ape recorder, you’re supposed to say, “It was great. It was fantastic working with So-and-so.”

Grin and bear it for the production so that it has some shot of surviving the market place.That’s the golden rule.

Tony Abbott should have grinned and beared it and said, “Hey, the NBN was an adventurous idea in its time but we’re trying to be more pragmatic.”  Instead he threw the ALP under the bus and made Australia look foolish. I guess you send an idiot to to do a job, you get idiotic results.

While I’m on this one, Pleiades sent me an article, presumably from Crikey which went through the ways in which Tony Abbott flubbed Australia’s position with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Indonesia:

According to sources close to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) is less than impressed with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. It is said this view was formed before the election, when Abbott, Bishop and now Immigration Minister Scott Morrison talked loud and long about turning around refugee boats and sending them back to Indonesia.

The rumour was confirmed when Abbott turned up late for two important gatherings at APEC where SBY was in the chair, and in case there are some who would to contest this, when the egos of heads of state are on the line the attendance at all meetings of conferences such as APEC are important.

Politicians and other public figures do not live in a vacuum; whatever is said domestically about another government will be reported, with comment, to that government by its embassy, and additionally its foreign ministry will pick up the remarks from wire service reports.

It is a measure of the lack of sophistication and parochial outlook of Abbott and the government he leads that there is an apparent failure to understand the way the world works.

So far, he’s been quite adept at making an ass out of himself on the international stage. In that way he is exactly like his mentor John Howard, a man you’d be embarrassed to show anywhere on the planet.

Screen Australia Still Sucks

This one comes from Monologan.

I must confess, I’ve been feeling uneasy about Screen Australia for some time now.

I’ve never been able to shake the impression that the whole thing is something of a club. When announcements come through of the latest beneficiaries of the millions of taxpayer dollars that go into feature and television production, the same names tend to pop up again and again. Even if their films lose money at the box office again and again.

And in part, I’m uneasy because I feel conflicted about whether those millions of dollars should be spent at all, when they as often as not appear to be used to prop up a local film industry incapable of standing on its own feet, rather than in primarily funding the telling Australian stories. The decision to pour millions of dollars into the quintessentially American story The Great Gatsby is a good recent example. If the car industry no longer needs propping up, why should the production sector? But that’s a debate for another day.

The reason for writing this now though is the fact that it emerged last week that Screen Australia had ponied up $50k to get The Conversation writing about the screen industry more regularly.

I say emerged, because normally, Screen Australia holds a board meeting, then issues press releases about the projects it intends to fund.

The trick is that the guy writing this runs Encore magazine:

I’m heartened that Screen Australia now recognises that “arts journalism is under pressure”. Based on our previous experience, Screen Australia doesn’t spend its “sponsorship” money easily. In the four years or so we’ve owned Encore – which is the oldest title of its type with a three decade heritage in the production sector – our sales team have never been successful in persuading them to spend a single dollar on sponsorship or marketing – and indeed they never once put out a brief. A cynic might say that they don’t like some of the things we’ve written so it was never going to happen anyway. But there again, perhaps our sales director, otherwise excellent at his job, just had a series of off days on the five or six occasions he went in to see them. Either way, having closed the loss making print edition last year, I can’t help ruminate on what a difference $50k would have made to the title.

But I can’t help thinking that the explanation is more likely to be that Screen Australia took a liking to the cut of The Conversation’s jib, and decided to find a way of helping it out. If you’re wealthy like Global Mail’s funder Graeme Woods or are a business with a budget for this sort of thing like CommBank, that’s fair enough. But if you’re a public body, you have a duty to do these things in a fair and above board way, no matter how worthy the recipient.

I think The Conversation deserves the money. I just don’t think that Screen Australia can justify how it made the decision.

If you don’t want people to think you’re a club, then don’t act like one.

So, yes. It does look like a club, and it’s pretty friggin’ awful.

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I Get Asked What I Think Sometimes…

12.8 million For Hugh, Nothing For You

The news this week for film industry types is that Hugh Jackman is going to bring his next Wolverine production back to Sydney. Because the degree of my jadedness – my ad-jade-ment if you will – is at such proportions, I thought I’d just not comment on it until Pleiades brought this little thing to my attention:

You’d have thought that riches to rags story had taught Australian politicians that dumb subsidies don’t work and may have actually damaged the local film industry more than it helped.

Unfortunately not.

Last week the Australian federal government announced $13 million in support for production of Wolverine. The prime minister’s office gushed:

“To attract The Wolverine to Australia, the Gillard government granted the producers a one-off payment of $12.8 million which will result in over $80 million of investment in Australia and create more than 2000 jobs.

“The payment effectively provided The Wolverine a one-off investment package equivalent to an increase in the existing location offset to 30 per cent.

“Without this effective tax offset incentive, the producers of The Wolverine would not have chosen Australia as the location.”

“That’s just the nature of this government,” thundered Pleiades. “It’s all about bribing people. It’s corruption and bribery that’s marked this government.”

I’m inclined to believe it’s true. What’s truly spectacular about this account is that 12.8million can buy you a lot of things in the film industry: development, advertising support, distribution support, publicity. Instead, Julia Gillard’s government has chosen to hand this over to a Hollywood production on the grounds that it’s going to be shot in Australia. Heck, there are any number of good film scripts out there to be made for a flat 12.8million. When you consider that the annual budget at AFTRS used to be 9million p.a. (I think it might even be less now), you think “wow, they really don’t care about the front end of the industry, they only care about the rear end.”

They could have done a lot more things with that money that actually helped.

All this is to say that it is incredibly dubious as to what merit there is in throwing this money at Hugh Jackman’s production which is already funded out of the Hollywood machine. Now, I’m not taking anything away from Hugh Jackman who is able to do so, but you have to seriously question the ALP government where they really stand with regards to the rest of the Australian film industry. It’s nice that some of the crew and special effects houses and post-production houses will get some business coming through, but when it’s done, it’s going to be the breadline for most of those people again. The ALP government can’t be buying temporary jobs like that, they should be trying to re-establish the industry as a industry instead of this public-money-consuming sheltered workshop – assuming they’re serious.

Which, they’re not. So why am I bothering with this today? Oh yes, I got asked what I thought.

More On The Sheltered Workshop Thing

Here’s a more detailed account of what they think they’re doing.

Hugh Jackman is returning to Australia to make The Wolverine, his sixth outing as the Marvel character, thanks to a $12.8 million federal government subsidy.

And while billed as a “one-off”, the local film industry has its fingers crossed that the near-doubling of the standard assistance for a big-budget foreign production is a sign of things to come in next month’s budget.

The Wolverine is set in Japan but will be shot at Fox Studios in Sydney between July and December. Hugh Jackman will star and produce. “It’s so great to bring these big movies down there, to keep people working,” Jackman told the Today program from London, where he is filming Les Miserables for Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech). “I just have to say thanks to Prime Minister Gillard, she was instrumental with this.”

Yikes. Sounds awful already. Set in Japan but shot in Sydney sounds a bit like the Last Samurai which was set in Japan but shot in NZ. Nothing wrong with that, just that it looked really weird in many parts. I’m resigned to there being an alternative universe where there is a Japan that is totally on another planet with totally weird things going on. Even so… let that slide for now.

The patent myth – and outright wishful thinking on the part of SPAA – is that this is going to lead to there being more direct input from the Federal government to lure productions to Australia so that they hire Australian crew and talent. The other patent myth is that once this Wolverine Production starts or finishes in Australia that it’s going to open the flood gates for more productions to come back through the Fox lot that is mostly sitting dormant right now, thanks to the high Aussie Dollar. When you choose to look at the funding through these two rose tinted glasses, then sure, this $12.8million seems like chump change. But as with the generous amount of government money dropped on Baz Luhrman’s ‘Australia’ , there’s nothing that strengthens the industry, nothing that gives it an ongoing mechanism for growth, nothing that allows for the Australian industry itself to grow unless you define the Australian Film Industry as a service industry for Hollywood in which case why are we doing this?

Haven’t we been here before with Baz Luhrman’s number?

The point is, it’s not even good policy to be throwing money at a Hollywood production, just so it comes here to shoot. If they don’t come of their own accord, it’s proof positive that our service part of the film industry isn’t competitive enough. We’re either going to be competitive on the world market on our own merits or not. The producers hoping the government’s going to make a habit of funding these things are uncompetitive swill, sucking on the government teat wanting more. I’m sorry but years and years of public funding has reduced our film industry to these kinds of producers getting the loudest voices.

On a personal note, I struggled greatly to convince the production for Kamui Gaiden to come here when their main objection was cost – and that was when the Australian Dollar was only 70yen. Had somebody handed even 5million on a platter, it probably would have happened here or NZ instead of Okinawa; but nobody was there to do it because it was during the time the FFC was being rolled into Screen Australia, just before the GFC hit. (And really, it was probably the natural course of things that it didn’t happen that way, which was not only my loss but arguably Australia’s film industry’s lost opportunity.) Still, that was the last straw for me.

It goes back to the problem that the people who want the industry don’t know what they’re getting; the people in the industry don’t know what market they’re operating in; and the world really doesn’t like in-between-ers, which is exactly what our film industry is.

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Sleeping Audience, Angry Critics

A Typical Australian Film

I won’t judge the film sight-unseen, but ‘Sleeping Beauty’ beauty sounds like it’s quite a difficult film to watch.

Here’s an early report from Cannes.

Watched by a capacity audience on the opening night, the work of first-time director and novelist Julia Leigh left some viewers speechless with its graphic look at the sordid sex life of young high-class escort, Sara, played by Australian Emily Browning.

Between her university studies, various casual jobs and bizarre friendship with a suicidal drug addict, Sara, the working name of the ice-cold Lucy, is put to sleep for “erotic” sessions with wealthy old men.

The audience hurried out of Wednesday’s screening, many lost for words.

“It’s Eyes Wide Shut without the engagement,” one woman said as she left.

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney was among the first to post a review of the film, labelling it “psychosexual twaddle”.

“[It] will no doubt have its admirers, [but] it seems a long shot to attract a significant following or herald the arrival of a director to watch,” he writes.

Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone said the film was dull and anything but erotic. “The best thing about the film is how disturbing it is. The film’s biggest problem is how boring it is,” she writes on The Wrap website.

“Yes, even with a pretty, naked girl, full-frontal male nudity, prostitution, drugs and casual sex, Sleeping Beauty turns out to be very slow and a little dull.”

I don’t know what it’s about. I don’t really want to know now that I’ve read the article. It’s just a little too predictable that Julia Leigh, novelist and first time director, turned in a film that really doesn’t work for the audience. We’ve been getting PR spills for weeks now on this film, as if it was going to be the next great thing; that it’s going to Cannes, that it’s going to put a new exciting director on the map of Australian cinema; but really, the cat is out of the bag.

It’s not winning audiences, it’s alienating them.

Screen Australia is going to wash their hands and run like hell as it always does. People will be asking how come this film got made on public monies? They’d be right to ask; and the answer is because it’s exactly the kind of film Screen Australia are looking for. Yep, you go, guys, you winners, you. LOL. Fuck me dead.

I feel like David St Hubbins in ‘This is Spinal Tap’ yelling during a performance of ‘Jazz Odyssey’ – to the crowd who presumably came to see a puppet show – “On bass, Derek Smalls. He wrote this.”

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Australian Content

No Explaining This One Away

Baz Luhrmann’s going to bring his Great Gatsby production to Sydney. Strikes me that he’s missed the point already, but be that as it may he’s bringing it down under, and he’s going to qualify for the 40% producer’s off-set. Predictably, this has set off a bit of a row.

The Warner Bros-backed film is believed to be eligible for a producer offset allowing filmmakers to claim back 40 per cent of qualifying expenditure from the Tax Office. Neither Luhrmann nor Screen Australia would confirm the film had the offset, which would mean Warner Bros would get a $120 million movie for less than $80 million.

Australian producers say they are not angry about Gatsby; they are angry that other films that met similar criteria had been rejected.

There have been claims of inconsistent decisions by Screen Australia on television projects, and several companies have or are planning to appeal.

Beyond International’s fifth series of the documentary Taboo, about faith healing, was produced and filmed in Australia and employed Australian producers, directors and writers, with most of budget spent here, said its chief executive, Mikael Borglund. But it failed to get the offset, partly because it had little Australian content. An appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal failed.

Mr Borglund said that made no sense in light of the other Beyond projects that had received the offset.

”We just think that the same assessment tests and criteria should be applied by Screen Australia to our projects as those films that are produced with Warner Bros, Universal or Fox,” he said. ”With Gatsby, it is set in New York in the 1920s. So how could you argue it has significant Australian content?”

Indeed-a-mundo. Pray tell, right?

Anyway, the same article goes on to report Screen Australia’s response as:

Some applications might be rejected because they are more suited to the 15 per cent location offset, said Screen Australia’s chief operating officer, Fiona Cameron. ”Our role is to differentiate between the location offset and the producer offset.”

Which is a total non-sequitur response to the question at hand: how can Screen Australia reject other Australian productions, only to hand out the welcome mat and the 40% off-set to a Warner Brothers picture just because it’s Baz Luhrmann’s production? And the answer is of course, it can’t explain how that happened – hence the very strange, borderline idiotic non-sequitur.

I dunno. Sometimes the emperor has no clothes and knows it, and still just doesn’t give a shit. I was talking to some people just today, and came up with the metaphor that the Australian arts industries as a whole is a flee on the back of a dog, riding a ute called the mining industry. That’s us.

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