Independence is the key to successful filmmaking
The vast majority of Australian films are not successful at the box office, which is why they are heavily subsidized by the government.
The problem with this high number of unsuccessful films is that Australian films have earned a reputation as being unentertaining. This repels both audiences and investors.
We need to change this image in order to attract private investment and lure audiences back. The question is, how?
What if we could rebrand Australian films? Or, what if there was a particular type of Australian film that did not suffer from the same poor quality image as the rest?
Well, there is one particular type of Australian film that doesn’t deserve a bad reputation. There is one type of Australian film that has actually had a phenomenal success at both the local and global box office. This type of film is the Australian Independent Film.
Australian Independent Films are relatively rare but they have enjoyed an overwhelming success. They often have relatively smaller budgets, and they tend to be ignored by the establishment and the media, but when they do get noticed it’s only due only to merit and sheer entertainment value.
Arguably the three most successful Australian films of all time are independent films. They include Crocodile Dundee, Mad Max and The Story of the Kelly Gang.
The Story of the Kelly Gang was the world’s very first feature film; Mad Max held the world record as the film with the highest profit-to-cost ratio—for two decades; and Crocodile Dundee was the second highest grossing film worldwide in 1986, beaten only by Top Gun.
There are many more successful Australian Independent Films if you go back in time. At the birth of cinema, Australia was a prolific filmmaking nation thanks to the efforts of independent filmmakers. This ended when the government banned production of all bushranger films, the most successful genre at the time, and imposed a strict regime of film censorship.
Other more recent examples of successful Australian Independent Films include The Castle and Gabriel, but unfortunately Australian Independent Films have become far too rare. It is now very difficult for independents to compete with the bigger budget foreign and government films for talent, finance, media and the all-important ‘shelf space’ in the way of cinema screens.
So how do we change this? How do we promote Australian Independent Films in order to lure back audiences and investors?
There’s one simple solution. We promote the past success of Australian Independent Films. We can also explain why independent films are a safer option for audiences, investors and filmmakers.
Independent filmmaking provides greater creative freedom to filmmakers. It enables them to break new ground by challenging cultural norms and filmmaking orthodoxy. Independent filmmaking is ideal for filmmakers who want to push the boundaries and truly connect with audiences.
Commercial viability is fundamental to independent filmmaking. A real artist knows that artistic expression is as much about communicating with other people as it is about expressing oneself for its own sake. Independent filmmakers can’t afford to be self-indulgent or socially detached.
Independent films must put the entertainment factor first, which means infusing films with substance and meaning and not mere spectacle or distraction. Without big budgets to splash on production values and marketing campaigns, independents must focus on what really matters – character and story.
Australia has both the talent and the wealth to sustain a self-sufficient commercial film industry. By supporting independent filmmaking we can break the monopoly of the non-commercial films; and create real jobs, real wealth, real exports, and share our real voices with the world.
Independent filmmaking is the future of our industry.
Jason Kent is the driving force behind Pure Independent Pictures, an initiative dedicated to supporting only purely independent Australian films.