Australian actor, writer and director Brendan Cowell whinges:
It is a weird road, the Australian film industry. Last year I was cast in Noise. The reviews read like love poetry, but we struggled to make $1 million.
Our advertisements were in every paper, littered with four and five-star reviews, and “film of the year” hyperbole, but patrons did not flock to see it. Recently my girlfriend and I saw a Bollywood film in India and more than 3000 people lined up for hours in advance, bribing those at the front of the queue for a ticket. Why, I ask, are we not lining the streets, bribing people to get in to see Noise or Home Song Stories or the award-winning Romulus, My Father? Is it the lack of song and dance?
No Brendan. Bollywood is privately financed and makes films that people will pay to see. If they didn’t, Bollywood would be out of business. Australian film industry largely exists on taxpayer handouts. There is no incentive to make films that are commercially successful. That’s why Brendan, you are making films that you think we want to see. We refuse to pay to see them and you get upset. Console yourself with the thought that you would be also unemployed if you worked in Bollywood.
Who does one have to service to get Australian people to the movies? (And yes I am willing.) How can we get Australian families to turn off such mindless crap as Australian Idol (why are we a culture obsessed with human failure?) and walk to the local cinema to catch the latest Aussie film to which Margaret and David gave a bunch of stars?
Brendan, if you want to make films that will please the film critics, knock yourself out. But evidently their stars count for little at the box office. How about you try to make a film that people other than yourself, David and Margaret would be interested to see?
Here is another thought: there is nothing worst than going to see an Australian film and realising halfway through that you have just paid your hard earned dollars to see some half-baked tripe. The plot lines are often weak, the characters are poorly developed the stories are boring. The disappointment is made even worst by the fact that the critics gave it four or five stars. They always do, doesn’t matter how bad the film is. They want to see Australian films do well and reliably bias their reviews making them worthless.
I believe Australians are afraid to peer inside themselves for fear of what they will see. It is as if “she’ll be right” and “no worries, mate” have paralysed our ability to question or consider our existence.
I see, it’s not your fault you make films that we don’t want to pay to see. It is our fault because we are afraid to peer inside ourselves. Cute.
Next year when I play Hamlet at the Opera House, I hope to be filled with the infinite and vivid wisdom of creation’s greatest quill and mind, and maybe then I can offer more answers.
Nice plug, mate! But dare I say it, wisdom comes not from playing Hamlet on stage but from learning hard lessons from life. This requires one to be honest with themselves. Perhaps you could start by asking a simple question: why don’t people want to pay to see Australian films? Than you have to answer the question truthfully. Perhaps people don’t want to pay to see just another left-wing pet project. You know, hate Howard, hate Bush, all Aussies are redneck bigots that hate Aboriginals and immigrants, our history is nothing but racism, murder and shame… Or maybe Aussie films are just plain boring. How many more stories of immigrant hardship do we really have to see, for example?
But hey, it is much easier to console yourself that you simply live in the nation of morons who are too thick to recognise your genius. That requires no honesty or bravery and film critics will perpetuate your delusions with another rave review.