Oz pix underwhelm

Biz: Poor scripts, producers bear blame

GOLD COAST, Queensland — Australian films are struggling to draw auds at home or abroad, and inadequately developed scripts and producers who are too focused on the domestic market are the chief culprits.

That was the sobering assessment of many speakers at a film industry forum Wednesday at the Australian Intl. Movie Convention.

The 22 Oz films released last year grossed $A42 million ($27.3 million), a 5% market share, and only half were released on more than 30 screens. Distribs and exhibs on the panel agreed that better, rather than more, Australian films are required.

Icon Film Distribution CEO Mark Gooder identified the main deficiencies as poor scripts and inexperienced producers who need to better understand the global marketplace.

Gooder continually seeks projects to feed Icon’s international sales arm and said this year he’s found only one: “Jindabyne,” from “Lantana” helmer Ray Lawrence.

Coming up short

Arclight Films managing director Gary Hamilton complained that producers frequently insist they can’t make films for less than $4.5 million although he tells them the most that can be recouped from Australia and overseas is $2.6 million. “Producers should wake up and look at the real world,” he said.

Hamilton’s sales company mostly reps international films, and he sees few Oz projects with offshore appeal.

Palace Films general manager Tait Brady said he doesn’t know where the next generation of filmmakers of the ilk of Jane Campion, Phillip Noyce and Gillian Armstrong will come from, suggesting federal and state film agencies should invest more money to develop talent.

In response, Film Finance Corp. chief exec Brian Rosen challenged Aussie distribs to spend their own coin to develop projects, while noting that the FFC does support pictures from emerging filmmakers.

Rosen also pointed to a crucial weakness in the industry: lack of accountability from everyone involved in financing, producing and distributing local films.

“We’re a bank. We’re market-driven,” said Rosen. Films are eligible for FFC investment of up to half the budget if the balance is provided by private investors and distrib guarantees, regardless of whether the FFC board likes the project or the script.

Some attendees at the confab, which will run through Saturday at the Royal Pines Resort, believe the FFC may not take such a passive role for much longer.