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Abstract

Over the last twenty years or so, Australian cinema’s international relations in production and policy have expanded and become more complex, while those with Hollywood have been transformed. The boundaries of the national cinema stretch much further than the national territory. Australian production and postproduction companies work in Australia with international partners or on international projects. In this article I will trace some of the material and discursive entailments of this new international turn to explore how dynamic and shifting relations between the local/national and the international have transformed the ways in which we might think about what constitutes Australian cinema, and to illustrate how relations of commonality and continuity with the international called up in the new arrangements challenge the dominant articulation in policy of difference from ‘other kinds of filmmaking’ as the basis of Australian cinema. I draw on Deb Verhoeven’s work on simultaneously national and international films and filmmakers, and adapt Doreen Massey’s concept of ‘outwardlookingness’ to consider Australian cinema’s international aspects.
Outwardlooking Australian Cinema
Ben Goldsmith
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland, Australia
Abstract
Over the last twenty years or so, Australian cinema’s international relations in
production and policy have expanded and become more complex, while those with
Hollywood have been transformed. The boundaries of the national cinema stretch
much further than the national territory. Australian production and postproduction
companies work in Australia with international partners or on international projects.
In this article I will trace some of the material and discursive entailments of this new
international turn to explore how dynamic and shifting relations between the
local/national and the international have transformed the ways in which we might
think about what constitutes Australian cinema, and to illustrate how relations of
commonality and continuity with the international called up in the new arrangements
challenge the dominant articulation in policy of difference from ‘other kinds of
filmmaking’ as the basis of Australian cinema. I draw on Deb Verhoeven’s work on
simultaneously national and international films and filmmakers, and adapt Doreen
Massey’s concept of ‘outwardlookingness’ to consider Australian cinema’s
international aspects.
Keywords
National cinema, outwardlookingness, Australian-international, film production,
screen policy, locations
Introduction
Over the last twenty years or so, Australian cinema’s international relations in
production and policy have expanded and become more complex, while those with
Hollywood have been transformed. Meanwhile previous understandings of cinema’s
role in national identity formation have been challenged by new thinking about
identity and space as fragmented, multiple, dispersed, uncertain, dynamic, contingent,
hybrid, ambivalent, and made up of mutable and constantly changing networks of
relations. Relational approaches, which focus on the ways in which cultural and
spatial relations of social actors influence and are influenced by broader structures and
processes of economic change, open up ways of thinking about Australian cinema as
internationally connected rather than bound and defined by the territorial or
jurisdictional limits of the state. The national cinema’s boundaries have become
insecure just as Australian films, filmmakers, policies and places are negotiating new,
complex and shifting networks and geographies of global Hollywood and world
cinema. Australia’s cinematic territory has, like many others around the world, been
perforated by international production. This production has varying levels of local
‘creative control’, and at its most mercenary takes a purely functional and utilitarian
approach to location so that settings can be chopped and changed, scenes replaced and
rewritten as producers receive better offers of financial incentives from different
places around the world. The new geography of international film production is a
geography of comparative economic stimuli as governments vigorously compete for
production using various policy levers to assist migrating projects. This international
turn changes the view of policy. Rather than the inward-focused policy vision that
encourages introspection in Australian expression, and which dominated production
assistance policies until the 1990s, much policy is now oriented outwards and made
for the benefit of incoming international producers. Australian filmmakers are also
better supported in their efforts to seek international partnerships and contracts, but
there remain points of tension where the boundaries of the national come into play.
These are some of the conditions of contemporary Australian international cinema.
In 1994, Thomas Elsaesser wrote that the concept of a national cinema only
makes sense ‘as a relation, not as an essence, being dependent on other kinds of
filmmaking to which it supplies the other side of the coin’ (Elsaesser 1994: 25–26).
More recently Elsaesser (2005: 22) has written about the idea of ‘national cinema (as
a theoretical construction) always existing face to face with an “other”’. This
characterisation of a binary relationship between the national and the non-national and
the understanding of this interaction through a framework of difference becomes
harder to maintain when we consider the Australian cinema’s experience of
internationalisation over the last two decades or so. International production
confounds and complicates the questions that Elsaesser (2005: 63) identifies as lying
at the heart of the national cinema project: ‘What is typical or specific about a
nation’s cinema?’ and ‘what is the function of cinema in articulating nationhood and
fostering the sense of belonging?’ Rather than, or perhaps as well as, asking what is
typical, the outwardlooking, Australian-international project asks what is atypical or
shared, and questions the function of cinema in articulating universal themes or
common human values and concerns, and fostering the sense of connection to people
and places beyond the nation.
One of the foundational tenets of national cinema has been compromised by
the expansion of Global Hollywood in recent decades. The assertion of difference
from Hollywood is challenged when elements of the national cinema (filmmakers,
infrastructure, locations, stories, financial arrangements) are regularly engaged in
Hollywood productions at one of Australia’s three major studio complexes on the
Gold Coast, in Sydney and Melbourne, or on location around the country. State and
federal governments have redrawn screen policies to facilitate international
production and recalibrated tests of Australian content and qualifying production
expenditure. These policies bring the national and the international into new relation.
In concert they create ‘frontier zones’ where the local/national and the
global/international overlap economically and culturally (Sassen 2000: 216). In this
article I will trace some of the material and discursive entailments of this new
international turn to explore how dynamic and shifting relations between the
local/national and the international have transformed the ways in which we might
think about what constitutes Australian cinema, and to illustrate how relations of
commonality and continuity with the international called up in the new arrangements
challenge the dominant articulation in policy of difference from ‘other kinds of
filmmaking’ as the basis of Australian cinema.
Outwardlookingness and Industry 3
In his Australian National Cinema, Tom O’Regan locates the specificity of Australian
cinema ‘not in any particular set of attributes, so much as in its relational character’
(O’Regan 1996: 7). O’Regan shows that this character changes in relation to
Hollywood or other cinemas, and the products of the national cinema may variously
compete, imitate, oppose, complement or supplement the international. Events since
the publication of Australian National Cinema in 1996 have blurred some of the
boundaries between Australian and Hollywood cinema. Jane Mills (2009) points to
ways of moving beyond the opposition of Hollywood and national cinemas typified
by Stephen Crofts (2006), to working with a line of thinking with a nuanced sense of
flows, relations, and networks that calls into question any fixed sense of the
boundaries between Hollywood and other cinemas. This kind of relational approach
informs Deb Verhoeven’s useful expansion of Susan Dermody and Elizabeth Jacka’s
influential ‘Industry 1-Industry 2’ model of Australian cinema (Verhoeven 2010;
Dermody and Jacka 1987). Verhoeven identifies a new grouping, ‘Industry 3’,
characterised by routine mixing of the border between the national and the
international. In addition to the inwardlooking Industry 1, concerned with Australian
identity, influenced by European style art cinema and consumed by local, social
purpose, and the more outwardlooking Industry 2, concerned with entertainment,
internationalism, genre production and learning from Hollywood, Verhoeven argues
that a third industry is evident by the end of the 1990s:
[Industry 3] comprises films and filmmakers happily embedded in both the
local and global [and] typically […] films initiated by Australians wanting to
work with large budgets, international resources, high-profile actors and local
content or personnel, and shooting either in Australia or offshore, or
combining the two’. (Verhoeven 2010: 141)
If the qualification ‘initiated by Australians’ were removed, this category could also
include many of the international productions made in Australia. In this article I want
to expand on Verhoeven’s formulation of the ‘Australian-international’ to think about
the diversity of Australian cinema’s international relations. I want to consider this
new ‘outwardlookingness’ as an indicator of and a response to the internationalisation
of the Australian cinema in recent decades.
Outwardlookingness is a concept developed by Doreen Massey to describe ‘a
positivity and aliveness to the world beyond one’s own turf’ (2005: 15), and a
‘consciousness of wider geographies and responsibilities of place’ manifest in an
openness and an attention to the effects of ‘lines of connection’ (or relations) that flow
out from a place (Massey 2006). In applying it here I use it to describe some of the
initiatives, ideas, actions and attitudes that engage with and are enabled by an
encounter with the international in Australian cinema. In the films themselves this
can range from stagings of encounters with difference like Bill Bennett’s In a Savage
Land (1999), and films that depict formative international events for the national
imaginary such as Robert Connolly’s Balibo (2009), to stories drawn from
international source material like Ray Lawrence’s Jindabyne (2006). In production,
finance may be sourced from international investors or presales or through an official
or unofficial coproduction agreement. Australians may partner with international cast
and crew either in Australia (for example, the Spierig brothers’ Daybreakers 2010), or
overseas (for instance, Michael Rowe’s Mexican-produced low budget 2010 feature
film Año Bisiesto/Leap Year), where the encounter with difference and immersion in
another culture and society become catalysts for creativity. Australian locations, crew
and cast may be deployed in a project in which production is split between a number
of countries, as has been the case with some of the highest budget international
features shot in Australia. For actors, heads of department and some in less senior
roles, movement across borders, temporary migration and relocation is a normal part
of a career in film. The recent internationalisation of production has meant that the
mobility and migration of productions around the world can also bring the same
opportunities to geo-bound workers, anchored to particular places. This migration is
assisted or facilitated by film commissioners and other agents of the location interest,
whose concern is to attract production to particular places, and to build the reputation
and experience of places in order to be competitive for future productions. This is
quite different from the contrasting attitude of ‘inwardlookingness’ that has
characterised much screen policy and cinematic storytelling to date.
‘Inwardlookingness’ is still an important component of Australian policy and
production, but it is now rivalled by the view across the nation’s borders.
The quest that has long driven policy formation and much critical commentary
for what is different, unique or distinctive about Australian national cinema relies on
boundaries between the local/national and the international/Hollywood that are
increasingly difficult to maintain. Hollywood and other international production in
Australia has grown substantially since the early 1990s, and the connections between
local and international filmmakers, locations, infrastructure and resources have
burgeoned and become more complex in that time. This is part of the background for
Deb Verhoeven’s updating of Dermody and Jacka’s two-industry model of the
discourses of Australian cinema. Verhoeven (2010: 142) identifies the characteristics
of Industry 3 as ‘simultaneously international as well as national. Everyone involved
is a transnational citizen actors and crew might find success both locally and
internationally’. The films themselves can be ‘both derivative and critically distant’,
use digital production technologies and ‘are imbricated with other audiovisual
industries and new media technologies’. Their narrative style and theme ‘is different
from a big-budget Hollywood film, but sits comfortably alongside and often draws on
Hollywood for inspiration’. They attract ‘niche/specific audiences across the globe
rather than ‘local versus mass audience’. Verhoeven calls these ‘“Australian-
international” productions’ (2010: 141), and cites a range of examples from Happy
Feet (Miller, Coleman and Morris, 2006) to Son of a Lion (Gilmour, 2007), ‘an
Australian-produced drama entirely shot on the northwest frontier of Pakistan and
starring actors sourced from that location’ (Verhoeven 2010: 142). Paradigmatic
examples of Industry 3 filmmakers are Jane Campion and Baz Luhrmann, who are
described as ‘transnational filmmakers capable of working anywhere, sourcing
finance globally but unwilling to compromise their artistic independence and interest
in pursuing an antipodean perspective’ (Verhoeven 2010: 142).
This is a useful opening up of a category of production that is simultaneously
Australian and international. Although Verhoeven’s model has been developed in the
context of the contemporary internationalisation of Australian cinema, it can be
projected in to the past, to some extent. That is to say, it is possible to identify a range
of Australian and international filmmakers and personnel who mediate(d) between
the local and the global, the national and the international, from Marius Sestier to
Norman Dawn to Errol Flynn to Cate Blanchett. These personalities contribute to the
making of Australian international cinema. We could point to many others, from the
cast and crew of the Ealing features of the 1940s and 1950s, through the shiploads of
Australians who have made their fortunes in Hollywood, to visiting international
filmmakers like Michael Powell or Steven Spielberg. Verhoeven’s notion that
Industry 3 filmmakers prize an ‘antipodean perspective’ begs the question of what this
might consist. Michael Rowe, a previously unknown filmmaker originally from
Australia who won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 for his
Mexican film Año Bisiesto/Leap Year told Encore magazine proudly ‘I’m a son of
Australia, of course […] My artistic sensibility and narrative is incorruptibly
Australian; that comes from the cradle and you can’t get rid of it even if you wanted
to’ (‘Rise of the Prodigal Son’ 2010: 21). This is reminiscent of George Miller’s view,
reported in White (1984: 96) and quoted in O’Regan (1996: 102), that:
we are Australians, we are Australian film-makers. I think, without even trying,
the Australianness comes through in the film, so you can’t suddenly export
yourself, as it were, and make film without that Australian point of view. Even
though our culture reproduces to some degree the American, British, European
and, in a little way, Asian culture, I think that makes us even in a very subtle way
peculiarly Australian and you can never get around that.
This almost essentialist view is consistent with but not reducible to the definition of
Australianness outlined by Tim Rowse in Arguing the Arts, that:
Australianness should mean nothing more than that a number of residents of
Australia were involved in the making of it. The employment argument is the
more liberal interpretation of ‘making it Australian’ because it does not beg
the question of what people who live in Australia are concerned with’. (Rowse
1985: 79)
This citizenship/residency-based definition of Australianness avoids the need for
qualitative judgements about the subject matter of the work; it has been the test in
policy for qualification of Australian content, although the ‘Significant Australian
Content’ test privileges certain roles and emphasises ‘creative control’ by Australians.
Changes to the test brought in with the introduction of the Producer Offset in 2007
represent a limited movement towards outwardlookingness, with the removal of the
previous requirement that films had to be wholly or substantially made in Australia. If
we apply Rowse’s apparently simple test of ‘if Australians [are] employed’ then the
terrain of the Australian-international is opened up.
Verhoeven’s ‘antipodean perspective’ appears to privilege heads of
department and key creative personnel, but as I will outline below, it is also useful in
thinking the Australian international cinema as a constellation of relations to consider
the work of Australians in all roles. The category of the Australian international is less
useful for policy, which seeks to limit eligibility and access to public funding,
although the finance available to international production has increased substantially
in recent years. This should not, however, be a deterrent to scholarship. The idea of an
‘antipodean perspective’, as an orientation of Australians on the world, has a corollary
in what we might call an ‘antipodean aspect’: that is, the international view of
Australia and its people that would include characters in international film and
television programs like Jermaine’s uncouth girlfriend Keitha in The Flight of the
Conchords (20072009) or the many human and non-human Australians in Finding
Nemo (Stanton and Unkrich, 2003). As Elizabeth Avram has written, productions like
these have cultural resonance even if they do not fit official categories of
Australianness (Avram 2004). They too are part of Australian international cinema
because they go in some way to showing ‘how others see us’. If identity is formed
relationally, then the visions or deployments of Australia and Australian cinema by
others can be accounted for and accommodated. O’Regan does discuss films by
foreign directors such as Walkabout (Nicolas Roeg, 1970), Wake in Fright (Ted
Koetcheff, 1971) and Ned Kelly (Tony Richardson, 1970) and to these we can now
add the more mundane visions of movies of the week produced on the Gold Coast,
and the melodramatic music spectacle of the more than 20 Indian films made in
Australia in recent years.
Typically Australian cinema has been shaped and understood topographically
as a set of surfaces and contained spaces, points, lines and contours on a map. The
idea of the Australian-international encourages us to pursue a topological approach:
that is, a concern with relations and interactions between relations that go ‘below the
surface of the film’. Australian international cinema is formed of these relations: some
are strong and resilient, others weak and short-lived; some are governed by state and
federal policies and regulations, others form and flow independently. For a variety of
reasons, these international relations have grown and intensified in recent years.
Australian cinema changed dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s. More
Australian filmmakers than ever have travelled overseas to work, or collaborated with
filmmakers from other countries either in Australia or overseas. The majority who
travelled went to Hollywood to seek their fortunes, while others worked in countries
as diverse as Hong Kong, South Africa, Mexico, Iran and India on Australian and
international productions. Many Australians have worked on international productions
in New Zealand, as large-scale film and television production took off in that country
following the production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Jackson, 2001, 2002, 2003)
in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Australia itself now boasts three major studio
complexes, all of which compete vigorously for international production. The buzz
around Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood (2008) and election of
Anthony Ginnane to the presidency of the Screen Producers’ Association of Australia
in 2008 signalled both the adoption by the industry establishment of a filmmaker
(Ginnane) who personifies Dermody and Jacka’s Industry 2 model, and signals a new
attitude to the Ozploitation style of filmmaking and its particular set of international
relations through genre, return to genre and high-budget filmmaking. Agencies,
filmmakers and financiers are now more relaxed about genre films in Australian
cinema and the ‘international contamination’ they imply (Gibson 1992: 81).
Despite a dramatic dip in the financial year 20092010, international
production in Australia became a regular and important component of Australian
filmmaking over the last two decades. International productions made up over 20% of
the 606 feature films shot in whole or in part in Australia between 1990 and 2009.
Indeed, in the period 20002009, more than a quarter of the 311 feature films shot in
Australia were official or unofficial co-productions, or ‘foreign’ productions
according to statistics collated by Screen Australia. Over the same period, more than a
fifth of the television dramas shot in Australia originated overseas, and over 50% of
the total amount spent on feature film production in Australia came from international
productions.1 While producers from the United States have been involved in the
largest number of international projects, producers from a total of 23 countries have
worked in Australia since 1990:
International Film and Television Production in Australia 19902009
Country
Foreign
Film
Coproduction
Film
Foreign
TV
Drama
Coproduction
TV Drama
Total
USA
48
4
83
8
143
UK
1
19
11
192
50
Canada
-
6
2
30
38
India
22
-
1
-
23
France
-
4
-
1-
14
Japan
5
-
5
1
11
Germany
1
2
5
1
9
New
Zealand
-
3
-
5
8
Korea
1
-
2
-
3
China
1
-
1
1
3
Hong Kong
2
-
-
-
2
Ireland
-
-
-
2
2
Singapore
-
-
-
2
2
Belgium
-
-
1
-
1
Greece
-
-
1
-
1
Israel
-
1
-
-
1
Italy
-
1
-
-
1
Netherlands
1
-
-
-
1
Pakistan
1
-
-
-
1
Philippines
-
-
1
-
1
Poland
-
-
-
1
1
Sri Lanka
-
-
1
-
1
Thailand
1
-
-
-
1
In a survey of production credits conducted in 2001, the Australian Film Commission
found that 17% of Australian crew had experience of working on a foreign film or
television drama production. Over a quarter of all special effects technicians, sound
editors, grips, gaffers, and first assistant directors had foreign production experience,
while almost the same proportion of directors of photography, art directors, and sound
recordists listed foreign productions among their credits.3 It is reasonable to assume,
given the rising number of international productions in Australia in the decade after
2001, that these proportions will have risen further. There is a similar story in post-
production. According to the 20062007 Service Industry Survey by the Australian
Bureau of Statistics, 28% of the income of Australian post-production, digital and
visual effects companies around $120 million derived from work for overseas
businesses.4 Australian post-production and digital effects companies like Animal
Logic and Rising Sun Pictures now regularly provide services for international
productions from around the world.
In both production and post-production, the largest number of clients for
Australian services and most filmmaking partners have come from the United States.
The growth in Hollywood production in Australia over the last two decades is both
the consequence of local factors such as the availability of skilled and talented crew,
purpose-built studio facilities and other production infrastructure, and tax incentives
and other financial arrangements favourable to incoming producers, and the result of
the general international expansion of Hollywood production activity that has been
termed Global Hollywood (Miller et al 2001). One of the characteristics of Global
Hollywood is that films are not only made and set in places around the world, but
many films are made in several locations, with finance, actors and crew drawn from a
number of countries. Los Angeles remains the principal ‘design centre’ where
decisions affecting production, marketing and distribution of films around the world
are made, but Hollywood is now thoroughly implicated and entangled in an emerging
system of globally dispersed film and television production. To a great extent,
analysis of the phenomenon of globally dispersed production in Australia and
elsewhere has focused on the ‘design interest’, those entities and places which play
the critical role in coordinating, controlling and organising the production, financing
and distribution of films, with attention paid principally to the forces that drive their
activity. By contrast consideration also needs to be given to the role of ‘location
interests’, and local problematics, histories, politics and cultural dynamics in
assessing the spread of Global Hollywood. In other words, the focus must turn to the
relations between Hollywood (or other international producers) and the local film
industry in order to understand the big picture. Consideration of these relations as
constitutive of contemporary Australian filmmaking requires previously held attitudes
and assessments that have sought to exclude international filmmaking from the idea of
a national cinema to be revised. Hollywood is now well and truly a part not only of
Australian screen culture, but also of Australian national cinema. The number of
Hollywood productions made in Australia, or with Australian cast and crew, is now so
large as to defy any neat separation between the local/national and the
international/Hollywood. They are no longer different from Australian cinema; they
are part of it.
Many of these productions were made on the Gold Coast, in whole or in part
at the Warner Roadshow Studios that opened for business in 1988. This studio
complex was jointly owned until 2006 by the Hollywood major Warner Bros, and the
Australian company Village Roadshow. The connections between these two
companies, dating back to a distribution agreement signed in 1971, further
demonstrate the entanglement of the local/national and the international/Hollywood.
While Village Roadshow played a major role in establishing the Gold Coast as a
‘Local Hollywood’, a location for international production, the company has also
been a significant player in Global Hollywood with its partnership with Warner Bros
in a US$1 billion revolving production fund that has produced over 60 films since
1997. Almost all of these films were produced outside Australia.
Australian-international production forms a sizeable part of Australian
production, attracting significant government attention and financial support, and
sustaining a range of place-based agents working in the ‘location interest’, where the
goal is to attract as much production as possible to a place, and if possible retain it.
Although the international productions don’t neatly fit the established paradigms or
frameworks for discussion except in economic or industrial terms, they do deserve to
be taken seriously in our consideration of Australian screen culture because they
represent some of the new relations between the local and the global which
characterise contemporary international audiovisual production. Jane Landman (2009)
has shown the way with her topological production studies approach to the
international Sydney-located science fiction television series Farscape (19992003).
This work is also important in its valorisation of Australian-international work that
does not mark its local specificity (or antipodean perspective) onscreen.
The International Turn in Policy
Changes in screen policy by state and federal governments have considerable bearing
on the ways in which we can conceive the relations between local/national and
international/Hollywood production in Australia, as many of these changes have been
motivated by or directly affect the level of that production. Screen Australia and the
Australian Tax Office routinely make distinctions between Australian and non-
Australian productions. Australian-international production is now a normal part of
governments’ calculations, pronouncements and forward planning in tax reform,
employment, investment, infrastructure development and tourism policy.
Many state and federal screen agencies have been restructured or transformed
over the last fifteen years, and new agencies have been created. The amalgamation of
several federal agencies to form Screen Australia in 2008 collapsed the longstanding
distinction between the Australian Film Commission, with its cultural remit to support
Australian film production and screen culture, and the Australian Film Finance
Corporation, which was intended to function as an investment bank, financing
Australian films with supposedly greater chances of commercial success. Screen
Australia is responsible for Australia’s official coproduction arrangements, although
the eight existing treaties and two memoranda of understanding have produced only
38 feature films in the last twenty years. This is considerably less than many other
countries around the world with co-production agreements in place. Another
organisation that did not exist in the mid-1990s, Ausfilm, has played a crucial role in
marketing Australia as a location for international production, and in facilitating
scouting trips by international producers to Australia. Originally set up in 1994 as an
industry association called Export Film Services Australia, Ausfilm was established in
1998 but did not receive federal funding until 2001. With offices in Sydney and Los
Angeles, Ausfilm has focused its attention on attracting Hollywood production to
Australia.
At the state level, there have been major overhauls in the last few years of the
screen agencies in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. For many years the
Queensland screen agency, the Pacific Film and Television Commission, was the
most active and successful in attracting international production to Australia. The
Queensland government has been an important financial supporter of the international
production industry through a series of low interest loans to allow the initial
construction and subsequent expansion of the Warner Roadshow Studios, and through
a variety of incentives to production such as the payroll rebate scheme and the
Revolving Film Finance Fund. In New South Wales, the former state screen agency
the New South Wales Film and Television Office was rebranded Screen NSW in 2009
in part in an effort to signal a new approach to international production in the state
and promote new ‘film friendly’ policies. In Victoria, as in Queensland, the state
government played a leading role in the establishment of Australia’s third major
studio facility, Central City Studios in Melbourne. The state government was a major
investor in the facility, and was able to use the power that its financial commitment
provided to require the operator of the studio to guarantee minimum levels of
Australian production each year, in order to assuage local concerns that the facility
had been built principally for the benefit of international producers. The requirement
proved onerous for the studio operators, and the facility struggled for a number of
years until a series of high budget international productions including Alex Proyas’s
Knowing (2009) and Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009) were made
there in the late 2000s.
Tax arrangements also influenced levels of international production in
Australia in this period. Shortly after the election of his conservative Coalition
government in 1996, Prime Minister John Howard announced a review of government
support for the film industry, chaired by David Gonski, former chairman of the
documentary production agency Film Australia (DCITA 1997). Gonski’s report
highlighted the growing levels of foreign investment in film production and
production infrastructure in Australia through the 1990s, levels which would be
further increased following the completion of the new Fox Studios Australia, a
Hollywood standard studio complex in the heart of Sydney that had been the
centrepiece of the previous Keating government’s major cultural policy statement in
1994. The Howard government pledged to ‘work to reduce the barriers of overseas
production in Australia’ and began, albeit in piecemeal fashion, to implement a series
of measures intended to further stimulate international production in order to increase
employment and skills development in the Australian industry. In 2001, following the
introduction or improvement of similar schemes in Canada and New Zealand and
amid growing international competition for what was known as ‘runaway’ production,
the government introduced a tax incentive to attract large budget international film to
Australia. The Refundable Film Tax Offset was initially set at 12.5%, and limited to
feature films, tele-movies, video and DVD releases, and television miniseries. In
order to qualify for the scheme, productions had to spend at least $15 million dollars
and 70% of their total production budget in Australia. Productions that spent over $50
million in Australia did not have to meet the 70% of total budget requirement.
Following a dramatic slump in the production of international television series from
16 in 20002001 to 1 in 20042005 (a slump which hit Queensland especially hard)
the Offset was extended to cover television series which met a test of ‘qualifying
Australian production expenditure’ (QAPE) of $1m per episode.
These measures, however, were no match for similar schemes in other
countries or for the raft of new schemes that were established across the United States
in the 2000s. In 2006 a review of the Offset found that the number of productions that
took advantage of the scheme, and the total amount of QAPE generated by these
productions were each less than 70% of the government’s initial estimates.5 Following
the review, the scheme was revised again in 2007 with the introduction of the
Australian Screen Production Incentive, which actually comprises three incentives:
the Producer Offset, for Australian producers; the Location Offset, for producers of
large budget international productions; and the PDV Offset, an incentive available to
productions using the services of Australian post production, digital and visual effects
companies. The difficulties in operating such schemes the need for constant
attention to competitive offerings in other countries, and the failure of the scheme to
attract large numbers of international productions is evident in the revisions to the
scheme in the 20102011 federal budget. The existence of these schemes suggests
that the new outwardlookingness of Australian cinema has reached, if only in a
limited way, the policy arena. The offsets and other ‘film friendly’ policies orient the
vision of cinema outwards, rather than simply conceiving films that look inwards
towards the geographic and imaginary interior of Australia as the entirety of
Australian cinema.
The offsets and other policies are however products of a state-centric
accounting for cinematic space in which states have the power to define the
nationality of a film, and in which domestic and foreign have historically been
regarded as separate realms, governed by different rules. The removal of the
requirement in the Significant Australian Content test that to be approved as
Australian films must be wholly or substantially made in Australia represents a new
outwardlookingness, or at least an acknowledgement that the cultural objectives of the
legislation to foster and display Australian identity and story spaces could be met by
films made by Australians outside Australia. Films like Granaz Moussavi’s My
Tehran for Sale (2009) and The Waiting City (Claire McCarthy, 2009), made in India,
would have faced greater hurdles in having their Australianness and contribution to
Australian international cinema acknowledged and rewarded under the previous
regulation. My Tehran for Sale was part-financed from the Adelaide International
Film Festival Fund which, together with a similar scheme run by the Melbourne
International Film Festival, represents another point of connection between the
Australian and the international. Such initiatives have shown the way for federal and
state agencies to display an outwardlookingness and aliveness to relational rather than
attributional formations of Australian cinema.
Locations
The 1975 Report of the Interim Board of the Australian Film Commission expressed
an attitude to international production in Australia that bore the imprint of the cultural
nationalism and anti-Hollywood views that had been voiced during the campaign to
re-establish Australian filmmaking over the previous decade. ‘Locations should not be
give away to make decorations for overseas films, but kept as a vital part of those
films to be made by Australians,’ the Report declared. ‘The Australian scene is as
much a national resource as Australian minerals’ (Interim Board 1975: 36). This idea,
that Australian locations were a precious resource that might be exhausted, like
minerals extracted from the ground if they were ‘give[n] away’ to international
producers, sits in stark contrast to the efforts of state and federal film agencies today
to be ‘film friendly’. The international turn involves agencies offering incentives,
subsidies and other forms of assistance to productions to encourage them to film in
particular locations.
International production has not only provided new views of Australia, but
also new ways of thinking about Australian cinema and its relation to place and
identity. International production has increased the variety of locations used for
filmmaking. In contrast with the contemporary, literal, realist, location-based
character of much recent Australian cinema, international production in Australia over
the last twenty years has stimulated large-scale studio developments and made large
studio builds commonplace. At the same time, international production has increased
the repertoire of Australian locations, introducing and establishing new ones such as
the Gold Coast and Far North Queensland, and extending and transforming existing
locations, such as inner city Sydney and Melbourne. Popular locations are now
regularly made over for Australian-international production. So for example, the Gold
Coast plays itself in the Indian film Singh is Kinng (Bazmee, 2008), provides a creepy
horror backdrop for the World Wrestling Entertainment film See No Evil (Dark,
2006), stands in for Florida in the mermaid film Aquamarine (Allen, 2006), and is
transformed into the fantasy landscapes of Narnia in The Chronicles of Narnia:
Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Apted, 2010).
The Gold Coast was Australia’s first regular and dedicated location for
international production. The versatility of its locations and landscapes, together with
the purpose-built studio facilities opened in 1988, make the Gold Coast a model
example of a ‘greenfields location’ (Goldsmith and O’Regan 2005: 76–108;
Goldsmith, Ward and O’Regan 2010): that is, a place with limited prior experience
that has become an important centre for film production. The Gold Coast learned from
California’s mutability as ‘a universal backdrop against which any story can play’
(Tunstall and Walker 1981: 13), with a pro-active state film agency dedicated to
marketing the city and its environs to international producers. The other major
advantage that the Gold Coast has developed is the synergy that has been fostered
between film production and other leisure, entertainment and tourism businesses in
the city (Ward and O’Regan 2009). In turn, the Gold Coast has become an example
for other locations and screen agencies in Australia and overseas which have sought
to attract production in recent years.
The growth of international production in Australia has coincided with a
global trend towards ‘split location’ production. Different places are brought into
relation as cinematic spaces, connected through the production network or through the
act of film editing. Parts of a film’s production are now routinely carried out in
several different locations, with plug-in services provided by geographically dispersed
production and post-production companies collaborating on the same film. Split
location production has been a feature of Hollywood practice for many years, and has
intensified with the recent spread of Global Hollywood. It is now an industry norm at
all levels and across many film industries. As a consequence, the number of places
equipped and able consistently to sustain high-end international production grew
substantially over the 1990s and 2000s. The studio complexes built in Sydney in the
1990s and in Melbourne in the 2000s have found themselves in competition not only
with established production locations like Hollywood, London or Toronto, but also
with new and revived locations across the US and around the world. Australian
policies geared to the supply of productions to Fox and Central City Studios have
worked only fitfully as global competition for migrating media production has
intensified.
In post-production, the growing capability and importance of digital visual
effects, coupled with improvements in communications and transport systems, have
enabled firms to compete and collaborate on projects with other firms which may be
located all around the world. The contribution of such split location post-production
to the growth of a film industry is perhaps most obvious in New Zealand where the
expertise and innovation demonstrated by companies like Weta Digital and Park Road
Post have complemented the use of the country’s spectacular locations by filmmakers
from around the world and helped make New Zealand a major centre of global film
production. In Australia, companies like Animal Logic and Rising Sun Pictures have
grown in to substantial enterprises on the back of digital visual effects work for
filmmakers not only from Hollywood, as Animal Logic’s work on Zhang Yimou’s
Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004) exemplifies. With the release of
Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (Snyder, 2010), Animal Logic has
been made anew as a thoroughly international Australian company. Since the early
1990s there have been many collaborations between Australian post-production
companies and Asian filmmakers. In 1995, the Australian sound postproduction house
Audioloc worked with editor Kim Yang-il, on the sound mix of Eunhaengnamoo
Chimdae/Gingko Tree Bed (Kang Je-gyu, 1996). Kim Yang-il was a key player in
other Korean projects posted in Australia around that time, such as Man With Flowers
(Hwang In-roe, 1997), Kkoch-ip/A Petal, (Jang Sun-woo, 1996) and Aleumda-un
Cheongnyeon Jeon Taeil/A Single Spark, (Park Kwang-su, 1995), all of which were
edited at another Australian sound postproduction house, Soundfirm. As a result of
the relationship developed during postproduction of Eunhaengnamoo
Chimdae/Gingko Tree Bed, when Kim Yang-il was appointed Postproduction
Supervisor on the historical epic Musa (Kim Sung-su, 2001), he approached Audioloc
to work on the sound mix. Director Kim also expressly wanted to avoid the
exaggerated sound design of action scenes in conventional Hollywood films. The
Australian company’s resourcefulness and record of managing complex soundtracks
secured what was a challenging assignment involving large scale battle sequences,
dialogue recorded in three languages, and wildlife unfamiliar to the Australians.
Entomologists, ornithologists and botanists were consulted to assist the sound
designers in constructing a layered mix that was full of dramatic life and natural
sound. Examples and experiences such as these invite us to re-evaluate what is often
dismissively or disparagingly considered service work. Sound editors and mixers,
screen composers and orchestrators, digital effects artists and animators are not
directors, and do not have total control over the big picture, but they make often
substantial creative contributions to the projects on which they work. These
collaborations between Korean filmmakers and Australian postproduction companies
enrich the films and industries of both countries.
Conclusion
Australian cinema is best understood relationally, as being constructed by relations
between actors, in all senses of the word. These relations and the opportunities they
create and deny are multi-dimensional and multi-layered. Australian cinema’s
international relations have multiplied these opportunities in recent decades. But at the
same time, the policies and attitudes of the institutions of Australian cinema, and the
relations they entail, have worked with fluctuations in currency exchange rates to
limit Australians’ opportunities to engage with international filmmakers. The contrast
is stark with the situation in New Zealand in 2010 in which the government and its
agencies have gone to extraordinary lengths to safeguard New Zealand international
cinema and secure the production of the two Hobbit films including changing
employment law to work around an actors’ union ban instigated by the Australian
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
Verhoeven’s concept of the simultaneously national and transnational
‘Australian-international’ film and filmmaker, an important part of her ‘Industry 3’
model, usefully moves on thinking around the international relations of Australian
cinema. In this article I have considered the broader application of the concept in the
light of both a long history of international engagement in Australian cinema and in
terms of the common ground opened up between the Australian and the international.
The depth and complexity of relations between the local/national and the
international/Hollywood have only been very superficially sketched in this article. I
have concentrated here on the Australian international in relation to production,
policy, and locations. My intention has been to encourage scholars of Australian
cinema to consider the diversity of relations that constitute it, and not to be limited to
understandings of Australian cinema that simply conform with categories developed
by government agencies for their own purposes. These purposes are important and
necessary, but they are not the same as the purposes of scholarship. Despite a
downturn in the last year for which records are available, the volume and regularity of
international production in Australia, the variety of uses to which Australia has been
put in these films, and the large number of Australian filmmakers who now have
experience of working on such productions are all powerful reasons for attention. In
this article I have sought to show that rather than conceiving or defining Australian
cinema through its ‘otherness’, as opposed to or distinct from the international (or the
‘foreign’ as Screen Australia terms it), it is productive and useful to rethink its limits
and question the boundaries between ‘the Australian’ and ‘the international’. Rather
than understanding Australian cinema as a territory, Australian international cinema is
conceived as a space of relations. The expansion of international production in
Australia, along with many other international connections (in finance, production
location, creative collaborations, distribution, consumption) and the
‘outwardlookingness’ that such international connections entail, has transformed the
ways in which we can think about and view Australian cinema.
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Notes
1 Figures are extrapolated from the production activity summaries for feature films
and television dramas provided on the Screen Australia Get the Picture website. My
figures for what I call ‘international production’ are derived from the combination of
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the categories that Screen Australia calls ‘foreign’ and ‘co-productions (official and
unofficial), as distinct from Screen Australia’s category ‘Australian’.
http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/production.html
2 Screen Australia lists 18 TV Drama coproductions with the UK, and 1 with
Scotland.
3 Australian Film Commission (AFC), analysis of foreign drama credits listed in The
Production Book 2001.
http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/mpfocusforeigndrama.html Accessed 28 July
2010.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Television, Film and Video Production and
Post-production Services, 2006/07 (cat. no. 8679.0) data cube.
http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/gtp/mppdvincomexgenre.html Accessed 28 July
2010.
5 Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, ‘Refundable
Film Tax Offset Scheme, Report of the 2006 Review of Division 376 of the Income
Tax Assessment Act 1997’ p.30.!
... Collins, 1987;F. Collins & Davis, 2004;Coogan, 2003;Cook, 2010;Crane, 2014;Davis, 2006;DePaoli, 2012;Desai, 2006;Desser, 2006;Edensor, 2002;Elsaesser, 2006;Ezra & Rowden, 2006a, 2006b, 2006cFiske, Hodge, & Turner, 1987;Frater, 2015aFrater, , 2015bGeraghty, 2006;Gilbert, 1994;Goldsmith, 2010;Hall, 1993;Hambly, 2016;Hamilton & Mathews, 1986;Hess, 2006;Higson, 2006;Hjort & Petrie, 2007;Hobsbawm, 1996;Ipsos, 2013;Kil, 2015 ;Lee, 2008;Limbrick, 2007;Malphurs, 2008;Mandala, 2012;Maslowska, 2014;McAulay, 2012;McCarthy, 2001;McFarlane & Mayer, 1992;Megaw, 1985;Moore, 2017;Morris, 1988;Naficy, 2006;Norris, 1975-6;Novrup Redvall, 2013;O'Regan, 1982O'Regan, , 1996Patriche, 2003;Ransom, 2014;Routt, 1984;Shefrin, 2006;Shohat, 2006;Smith, Choueiti, & Pieper, n.d.;Su, 2011;Tiffin, 1994;Tobin, 2016;Trivundza, 2010;Turner, 1993;Vanderschelden, 2007;Whitaker, 2005). Thus the grid was developed to reflect both the aspects of screenwriting craft which are cited in every screenwriting manual I have ever read Dancyger & Rush, 1995Field, 1982;Heys & Turnbull, 2000;Howard, 1993;McKee, 1999;Seger, 1987) including more academic works (Aristotle, 1998;Batty & Waldeback, 2008;Koivumäki, 2016). ...
... This aspect of the research is made particularly significant given the accelerating interconnectedness of film industries around the world through globalisation (Australia has 11 co-production treaties with other nations to jointly develop film properties and is negotiating more (Screen Australia, 2014, p. 16)). The significance of such globalisation is testified to by the growing body of work investigating transnational filmmaking (see Ezra & Rowden, 2006;Goldsmith, 2010;Hjort & Petrie, 2007, particularly pp. 1-19). ...
... 1-19). This subject can only become more relevant in Australia through the "outward-looking" Australian-international film industry of the early 21 st century (Goldsmith, 2010;Verhoeven, 2010). ...
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Hollywood films and television programs are watched by a global audience. While many of these productions are still made in southern California, the last twenty years have seen new production centres emerge in the US, Canada, and other locations worldwide. Global Hollywood has been made possible by this growing number of Local Hollywoods: locations equipped with the requisite facilities, resources and labour, as well as the political will and tax incentives, to attract and retain high-budget, Hollywood-standard projects. This new book gives an unprecedented insight into how the Gold Coast became the first outpost of Hollywood in Australia. When a combination of forces drove Hollywood studios and producers to work outside California, the Gold Coast's unique blend of government tax support, innovative entrepreneurs, and diverse natural settings made it a perfect choice to host Hollywood productions. 'Local Hollywood' makes an essential contribution to the field of film and media studies, as well as giving film buffs a behind-the-scenes tour of the film industry.
Local Hollywood: Global Film Production and the Gold Coast Not in Kansas Anymore " : Transnational Collaboration in Television Science Fiction
  • Goldsmith
  • Ben
  • Ward
  • O Susan
  • Regan
  • Tom
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Australian National Cinema Arguing the Arts: The Funding of the Arts in Australia, Ringwood, Vic: Penguin. Sassen, Saskia (2000), 'Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization
  • O Regan
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O'Regan, Tom (1996), Australian National Cinema, London: Routledge. Rowse, Tim (1985), Arguing the Arts: The Funding of the Arts in Australia, Ringwood, Vic: Penguin. Sassen, Saskia (2000), 'Spatialities and Temporalities of the Global: Elements for a Theorization', Public Culture, 12: 1, pp. 215–232.