November 24, 2003


Film Finance Corporation Australia is a government agency that funds Australian movies. Lots of movies. Lots of very bad movies:

In 15 years, the corporation has backed 169 features but only eight have turned a profit.

Director Sue Brooks complained the other night about free trade negotiations that "threatened" Australia's film culture. "Our audiences," she said, "would be appalled to think that we were trading that away against wheat." Sue, sweetheart ... what audiences?

Posted by Tim Blair at November 24, 2003 12:43 AM

Well, since you keep posting stuff about the whiners in the Australian film industry, all I can say is, when will America enact immigration reform to keep your bloody Weirs and Crowes and Kidmans and Jacksons* from taking all our jobs?

* Yes, I understand that's a different country. William Shatner's Canadian but we let him represent America to the Klingons, so shut up.

Posted by: Mike G at November 24, 2003 at 01:33 AM

Sue, I think we should separate the wheat from the chaff in the Australian film industry.

Posted by: Softly at November 24, 2003 at 02:59 AM

Actually, the FFC co-funds features and never puts in cash unless its met by a similar committment from private sector funding. Films only get the green light once the private sector has come to the party, so blame their judgment for the so called failures.

And by the way, "turning a profit" doesn't mean a film wasn't popular or a box office success. Most Oz film-deals are structured to be tax-effective. It would be a sign of a lousy accountant for a successful oz film to "turn a profit". So once again Mr Cut and Paste gets it wrong, wrong, wrong. It's enogh to make Robert Manne worried/b>.

But if you want successful model, then clearly Australia needs more guerilla filmmakers like Michael Moore, who can turn a low-budget lefty doco into a box office bonanza.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at November 24, 2003 at 05:59 AM

What kind of model does Michael Moore provide? He made the film entirely off his own back with no outside funding as far as I know. No tax credits, no nothing. If this is the kind of thing you want to happen here then I am sure that Tim will agree with you entirely. Actually I am glad to see you guys are on the same side when it comes to financing films.

Posted by: Rob at November 24, 2003 at 08:28 AM


Speaking as tax expert, who has on occasion worked for film makers, I have to disagree with you. A fim like any other business venture needs to trun a profit in the accounting sense if it is to be called successful. The same film may make a loss for tax purposes. However, the popular ones make a profit both in accounting and in tax terms.

The real problem with the system at present is that it encourages the production of mediocre product that turns enough of a profit to keep the producers in chardonnay, but not to produce strong popular filma. It is in fact a prop for the the inefficient.

The FFC is thus as much to blame in that it keeps assiting with such films, instead of sending the producers away to make things that will do well at the box office.

Like all cultural protectionism, the sytem as it is now is corrupting and silly. A friend who works for one of the big film distributors tells me that Australian films are mostly box-office poison. The reason she gives is that too many of them seem to be left-wing or otherwise unrelated to life as we live it in this country.

Posted by: toryhere at November 24, 2003 at 09:42 AM

"But if you want successful model, then clearly Australia needs more guerilla filmmakers like Michael Moore, who can turn a low-budget lefty doco into a box office bonanza."

And entirely without government funding.

Posted by: Geoff Honnor at November 24, 2003 at 09:59 AM

After being KO'd in the 1930s when the US Studios bought up all the OZ cinemas and then refused to show local films, the OZ feature film industry was revived entirely with government funding in 70's first by Whitlam, then by Fraser. Film production is a high risk investment and is fuck-off expensive. Name any other nation of 20 million that maintains a feature film industry in the face of the rampant market power of the vertically-integrated Hollywood system? Americans make fantastic movies, but they have fuck-off budgets for scripts, production and marketing. They churn out a ratio of crap to sensational no better than Australia's. And they dump their product on Oz just as they do everywhere else.

So, overall, non-American feature film production is not profitable. End of story. An OZ film is a success if everyone gets paid, not if the film goes into the black. Most Oz films are shithouse, but what talent there is has no option but to head for LA. Commercial success also depends on star power, and all those Aussie stars don't work at home anymore because there aint enough dosh compared to what they command in hollywood.

"The FFC is thus as much to blame in that it keeps assiting with such films, instead of sending the producers away to make things that will do well at the box office."

So you want the government to tell people what to create now? Not very tory of you. It's a numbers game, only one in ten films will be a hit, if that.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at November 24, 2003 at 10:27 AM

Why do I get the feeling that Mirander is in the film industry? That would explain: 1) the leftoid political outlook (if fawning adoration of Bill Clinton can be considered a "politcal outlook,"), 2) the almost complete lack of morals, 3) the bitchery, and 4) the inability to treat anyone shehe has to deal with like a human being.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 24, 2003 at 10:47 AM

First by Gorton, but who cares, they should all have left it alone.

It's obviously a sheer waste of federal funds, all to allow a bunch of self-appointed 'culture' arbiters to fund their versions of 'the Australian narrative'.

Posted by: ilibcc at November 24, 2003 at 10:53 AM

Fawning admiration of a Democrat President?

Oh that reminds me, 8.30 tonight on the ABC:

'Jimmy Carter.

In the years after the White House, Carter has recast himself as a giant of moral leadership.'

Posted by: ilibcc at November 24, 2003 at 11:01 AM

Isn't everyone here "self-appointed"? Except Andrea, who's just self-abused.

Posted by: Miranda Divide at November 24, 2003 at 11:07 AM

Everybody loves wheat! Mmmm, delicious wheat.

Posted by: Amos at November 24, 2003 at 11:07 AM

Y'mean they make films down there? I thought y'all just stood around holding wattle branches an' shit.

Maybe they could make a film of that! Think of it, fifty thousand aussies standing in the desert wearing hats with corks tied to the brims:

Helo long shot, L to R along seemingly endless line of sunburnt wattle-wavers.

Posted by: mojo at November 24, 2003 at 11:57 AM

I like to watch.

Posted by: Big Ramifications at November 24, 2003 at 01:04 PM

Not most Australian films, you wouldn't.

Posted by: ilibcc at November 24, 2003 at 01:22 PM

Yeah, illibc, like you I almost choked on my muesli when I read the ABC's promo on tonight's episode of the life of America's sorriest excuse for a president. Jimmy Carter "a giant of moral authority"? The man who lost Iran to the mad mullahs and allowed American diplomats there to be humiliated and treated disgracefully ?

Obviously written by someone who wasn't around in the '70s.

Posted by: Rob (No 1) at November 24, 2003 at 02:16 PM


I don't want the Government ot tell anyone to create anything. But neither do I want my taxes wasted on supporting film makers in some luxury, especially when they produce nothing that I want to watch.

The point is that it is now too late to make good films for cinema release. In this age of the blockbuster only teenagers go to the cinema anymore. Hence, our wish for a nice upper-middle-brow cinema is really a pipe dream. So it's time for the old troglodyte Whitlamists to remove their lips from the public teat.

Posted by: toryhere at November 24, 2003 at 02:45 PM

I don't think that's at all unusual. Hollywood puts out hundreds of dreck films for every hit. It seems a safe assumption that it works that way for all countries' film industries.

Certainly some studios will have a higher hit/miss ratio, but they still put out stuff people don't bother with.


Posted by: Kalroy at November 25, 2003 at 03:19 AM