November 22, 2003


Most Australian films are at least partially funded by the government. They are also mostly trash, and barely anybody watches them. Check Guy Rundle’s solution:

The most radical and effective response to this would be to vastly increase the number of films which are 100 per cent funded by the government.

Our creative classes apparently aren’t so creative when it comes to raising dollars. As well, Guy claims that “what we really need is a sort of government film studio”. Hey, film boy? You want to make pictures, you do it with your own damn money, OK? Either that or broaden your funding idea; give me a chunk of your wages to run this website. Why should movies be the sole medium for tax mooching? Why should filmmakers get a single cent of someone else's earnings?

Posted by Tim Blair at November 22, 2003 12:34 AM

I'm surprised that he would want government money, given all those gratuitious highway safety messages your film bureau forced into Mad Max.

Posted by: Andrew at November 22, 2003 at 12:57 AM

"what we really need is a sort of government film studio, which produces ultra-low-budget films"

Posted by: roop at November 22, 2003 at 01:01 AM

I assume your point, Roop, is that a goverment film studio that only produces low-budget films is kind of OK, or at least not as bad as a government film studio that produces big-budget films.

My point is that any government film studio is wrong.

Also, last word.

Posted by: tim at November 22, 2003 at 01:43 AM

actually, my beef was that you made it seem as if rundle was advocating even more money for what has lately become possibly the least creative film industry in the world, when he was merely suggesting the government be more circumspect in its film-funding decisions. which is a slightly different thing.

i make no point of my own, except to say that this dude has some appalling taste in music.

Posted by: roop at November 22, 2003 at 02:24 AM

Whoa, pal! Last word! LAST WORD!

Posted by: tim at November 22, 2003 at 02:41 AM

If there ever were an argument for developing Australia's film industry on the taxpayer dime (or whatever form of seashell or wallaby dropping you people use for money), surely by this point, a year in which the Oscar race is coming down to the New Zealand fantasy picture versus the Australian naval adventure versus the Civil War picture starring the Australian babe, we can call it a success-- and finished.

Posted by: Mike G at November 22, 2003 at 03:07 AM

Mike G.: Totally irrelevant, as these are examples of 1) talented people who are 2) acting in or producing movies large numbers of people want to see. The objects of Rundle's largesse are talentless people churning out movies nobody wants to see. Clear now? :)

Posted by: F451 at November 22, 2003 at 05:12 AM

How about a compromise?

Given the too-fucking-excellent-for-words, ultra-creamy superbness and commercial success of Mad Max, Breaker Morant, and Gallipoli, how about reserving gov't funding for war movies and car-centered action flicks? Not being an Aussie taxpayer, this seems like a fine solution to me.

BTW, I was quite psyched that we finally got the original version of Mad Max here in the States. It was unwatchable in its original theatrical and video version - the retarded distributor had the Aussie actors overdubbed with crappy American voice-over actors.

Posted by: Dave S. at November 22, 2003 at 08:44 AM

Um, F451, last time I checked I was in total agreement with your point, so not sure why you felt compelled to make it as if it were a counterargument.

I really like Dave S.'s idea of only funding historical war dramas and road warrior movies. Incidentally, I remember when I saw one of the first Australian films to make it in America, probably My Brilliant Career, and the credits said something like "Partially funded by the Victorian Film Commission" and one of my friends said scornfully, "Can you believe they have a commission devoted to only funding Victorian costume pictures?"

Posted by: Mike G at November 22, 2003 at 09:06 AM

Or the sake of a counterpoint,(because I personally believe Gov. Funded any damn thing that can be done in the private sector an absolute evil) I did enjoy Mad Max and Gallipoli. Haven't seen Breaker Morant - Is it worth a look, or is it suitable for curing insomnia?

Posted by: papertiger at November 22, 2003 at 09:26 AM

What happened to my F? That was supposed to read FOR the sake of counterpoint.

Posted by: papertiger at November 22, 2003 at 09:30 AM

er., just thought i'd remind you that LOTR was part funded by a NZ$200m plus taxbreak here

yup the shaky isles felt the need to support struggling artists like New Line!

Posted by: gazza at November 22, 2003 at 09:38 AM

Breaker Morant - the Bible (AKA, "Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide") gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Courtroom drama set in the Boer War with flashbacks to the action in question.

Key lines -

"We tried them under Rule .303!"

"Shoot straight, you bastards, don't make a mess of it."

Posted by: Dave S. at November 22, 2003 at 09:39 AM

I dunno, gazza, it seems that NZ's funding of LOTR, a blockbuster film, lends support to the "govt should fund action/adventure films" solution posted above.

Hey, all week I have been tormented by fantasies of how the movie could have turned out -- for instance, it could have been filmed by that guy that does all the naked junkie kids films -- Ken something? Just think: naked hobbits, dwarves, and orcs shot in grainy 8-millimeter, Frodo mainlining... Aragorn and Arwen... no, I can't go on.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 22, 2003 at 10:03 AM

Or, Andrea, it could be have been filmed by that guy who makes the movies about lecherous mainling Muppets and chopping through a houseful of zombies with a lawnmower and cannibal creatures from outer space-- oh wait, it was.

Posted by: Mike G at November 22, 2003 at 10:07 AM

What's your point, Mike?

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 22, 2003 at 10:21 AM

I actually make films, video clips and commercials, no feature yet but we're working up to it. We've only been directing for a year but we're doing really well. And without government subsidy!? How is that possible??

Well, we get money from the traditional sources- people who want to pay us to make something. If we want to do cool stuff we have to more or less finance it ourselves off the back of the crappy but profitable stuff we do, like cerial commercials.

In other words, our 'art' has to pay for itself, and hard thought the struggle is, it's very satisfying to know we never took a government cent. (We return the favour by trying to figure ways of avoiding tax).

These spongers can go fuck themselves. Most of these film producers have multiple properties and houses, if they wanted to leverage that they could easyly raise a few million dollars to finance a low budget film, think they'll do that? You are fucking dreaming. They know the self-indulgent crap they turn out won't make money, let the taxpayer pick up the tab, no way they're losing THEIR houses. The way they see it, it's everyone elses patriotic duty.

Go broke, you scum.

Posted by: Amos at November 22, 2003 at 11:39 AM

uh... that your description of Larry Clark making the film (Ken Park is his movie's name, not his) isn't as far from Peter Jackson's early work as you think (except in Meet the Feebles it's Muppets, not moppets, who shoot up and screw around).

What is this, the irony-impaired zone tonight or what? Sheesh!

Posted by: Mike G at November 22, 2003 at 11:56 AM

Funny, I was wondering the same thing about you. I guess I'm glad I didn't mention my idea of Lord of the Rings as directed by Ingmar Bergman. ("Hour of the Orc." Starring Liv Ullman as Galadriel and Max von Sydow as Gollum.) You'd probably have said something about how at least Ingmar Bergman was a real Nordic-type person & could probably get into the heads of Tolkien's characters better.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 22, 2003 at 01:04 PM

hell, building on the smashing success of their adaptation of "wuthering heights' i'd like to see python do a semaphore LoTR. now that would be worthy of govt funding.

Posted by: Mr. Bingley at November 22, 2003 at 01:24 PM

Well said, Amos! You are the kind of film-maker I can respect. Good luck with your tax minimisation (that sounds a whole shitload better than "avoidance", by the way)!

How many times over the last few weeks have you heard some of these "protected species" Yartz types - especially film and television drama producers - claim that "Australian identity and culture is on the line" with the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated?

I mean, how ponderously self-important can these deadbeats be about the peurile crap they produce? WTF have Australian movies got to do with Australian culture anyway? Say an average Australian is relatively keen on the cinema and goes to a movie every second weekend. That's about 25 movies a year. Maybe 5 of them will be Australian movies. Something tells me our culture has a firmer foundation than that - Austrlain movies could disappear completely and it would make no fucking difference whatsoever.

As for the fluff we produce for television, Idol or a local comedy are more likely to hit the spot for the kind of mental unwinding that is the real reason why most people watch "entertainment" television.

Austalian culture does NOT depend on the heavy-handed protection of local film and television production. It is deeply rooted in things beyond Australia anyway - Western civilisation, healthy borrowings from other cultural traditions from around the world, and our English language inheretance for a start. To the extent that we have a uniquely Australian vernacular tradition (and we do!) it is an easy-going, hedonistic, sports-loving, agnostic, egalitarian, physical and sensuous culture. It has fuck-all to do with the Yartz, if the truth be told. If anything. it gives the Yartz short shrift and tends to look upon its practitioners as unbearable wankers in the process of disappearing up their own arseholes. I bow before the wisdom of the masses on that one!

So the next time you hear a film or television "artiste" moaning on about how Australian culture will be destroyed if their crappy work ceases to be the beneficiary of a government-enforced quota, it is worth reflecting on what Australian culture really is - something we define in our workplaces and homes between ourselves every day. Just how fucking vulnerable is it, anyway? Bulletproof, I reckon.

The simple answer to those whinging bastards is "FFS make something we want to watch and we will watch it". Continue making boring and/or sanctimonius crap and, with a bit of luck, you will get the fate you deserve.


Posted by: Bob Bunnett at November 22, 2003 at 02:31 PM

I would have said nothing of the sort, Andrea, and I have no idea why you're trying to pick a fight with me with film allusions that don't seem to quite be jokes, but... whatever.

Posted by: Mike G at November 22, 2003 at 02:50 PM

How about this -- we fund our our cinema if you fund your illegal, ooooiiiillll-grubbing Zionist wars, you chickenhawk, lunch-eating nazi-spawn!

Posted by: Miranda "Lunch Boy" von Fisk en Pilger at November 22, 2003 at 03:06 PM

Minimisation, that's what I meant.

Filmmaking is storytelling and nothing else. Those who forget that are no film makers. Tell boring stories, why should anyone want to listen? People love good stories, look how massivly profitable and successful those are. Can't make money telling stories? Come up with better ones or shut up.

Our cultural 'elite' seems to think the purpose of storytelling is to lecture the proles on what bad people they are, and they should be billed for the service.

Film making is currently undergoing a technological revolution. Soon the new HD digital cameras will be on the scene. High speed HD editng boards for Macs will be out, costing less than 4 grand aussi. You can do ANY, I mean ANY post production on home PCs, from high color def compositing to Jurasic park-style dinosaurs. All you need is the skills, the ideas, and the ability to work like a dog for 13 hours a day. Anyone can make a Blair Witch, or a Resevoir Dogs, or a Peter Jackson style zombie movie. (though not everyone should, that queensland "Undead" movie sucked ass)

What's holding them back? Oh boohoo! The government didn't send us our check. Screw 'em.

Posted by: Amos at November 22, 2003 at 03:22 PM

What if the Australian government decided that it would subsidize both Australian and American films?

That'd be good news for those who like American films, and for those who want to protect Australian "culture" would be happy - it's a win-win!

Well, except for those who think government funding of films is an evil in and of itself, unrelated to the free trade agreement.

Does ABC/SBS commissioning of programs come into this category? Given the bagging of "Marking Time", I suppose so.

Posted by: Andjam at November 22, 2003 at 05:57 PM

Apropos of gov't funding for organisations producing stuff that a lot of taxpayers don't care about: should the Australian Institute of Sport be taxpayer funded? A lot of taxpayers don't give a stuff about sport full stop, let alone whether or not Australia brings home a gold medal in archery. Discuss!

Posted by: Joe at November 22, 2003 at 06:15 PM

After such a success with the ABC I don't see why the government shouldn't have it's own film production company. After all, it's not like we want to see all those privately funded lefty movies.

Posted by: random at November 22, 2003 at 07:32 PM

What was the name of that Peter Jackson movie about the zombies from space? I loved it--funniest movie ever--but damn, distributors give different names to imported films and I can't find it!

Posted by: ushie at November 23, 2003 at 02:13 AM

That would be "Deadalive," aka "Braindead." Searching at brought up this info.

And apologies to Mike G., but I thought you were picking a fight with me. See, my point was to make fun of "arty" directors' film styles, and the idea that these directors somehow deserved government funding because the movie-going crowd won't go see their (often) boring films enough to make them a decent living. Then you popped in with the apparent slur against Jackson's previous oeuvre (like "Deadalive") and I thought "Here we are, in for another round of dreary one-upmanship and 'LOTR sucked donkeyballs' pointlessness." Did I also forget to mention that I have been getting it from the other side -- the Tolkien purists who think Jackson "failed" because he didn't make a film totally faithful to every word in the book? Anyway, you unwittingly jumped on my last nerve.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 23, 2003 at 03:27 AM

Atually no, that movie was Bad Taste, the one about alien zombies harvesting humans for food.

Braindead was his second zombie splatterfest.

Posted by: Amos at November 23, 2003 at 01:10 PM

Thank you, Amos. I didn't even notice that one in the list on IMDB. I haven't seen either film -- I am not an afficionado of zombie films -- so I can't vouch as to their quality.

By the way, I am sure you have noticed that your comment is missing something. I removed the "critique" you left of LOTR, since it was juvenile and pointless. I figure that you are still miffed that I removed the very same brainless, crass, infantile comment from my blog some time ago. Please remember that you are only allowed to comment here under sufferance.

By the way, if you can offer some substantial criticism of LOTR or any film by anyone -- saying something "sucked shit out of a dead dog's ass" does not count as substantial -- you can go right ahead and post it. But please keep the subject of your favorite snacks to yourself. I mean, TMI, dude.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 23, 2003 at 03:16 PM