SYDNEY — Who should have the final say on how Australian films are made?
Producers, directors and funding agency Film Finance Corp. Australia are vigorously debating that question.
Some filmmakers fear their roles could be usurped because the FFC’s new investment guidelines stipulate there must be “meaningful consultation” with the org, from pre-production through to post.
All the FFC’s investment contracts for pics that it approves through its recently introduced evaluation process carry that stipulation; it doesn’t apply to projects that qualify for funding by having marketplace deals.
Seven films including the Heath Ledger/Abbie Cornish starrer “Candy,” “The Book of Revelation,” “Suburban Mayhem” and “Wrong Girl” have been greenlit via the evaluation door.
“If the FFC wants to get involved creatively in all aspects of the film, they could usurp the role of the producer,” warns Screen Producers Assn. of Australia exec director Geoff Brown. “That sort of approach could create friction and tension.”
Australian Screen Directors Assn. exec director Richard Harris says “meaningful consultation” is a vague term, and he worries about how it may be interpreted.
“If things go wrong on a film and there are differing views, whose call is it?” Harris asks.
“Most producers are smart enough to know they should have meaningful consultation with the FFC; the worry is that (process) is kind of being mandated. At what point does ‘meaningful consultation’ mean (the right of) approval?”
FFC chief exec Brian Rosen contends his org is not asking for final cut, merely seeking to be treated as a “partner who will support the filmmaker to make the best film possible.”
Rosen says: “Filmmaking is a collaborative effort. The government is asking us to take a more rigorous approach so that taxpayers get value for their money. We will ask questions; it’s up to the producers to supply the answers.”
Looking at the generally weak performance of Oz pics critically and commercially in the past few years, Rosen adds that process “should happen on every film; it has not happened on quite a few films.”
The issue hasn’t come to a head yet — but none of the seven films approved via evaluation has reached the post stage, where arguments might occur.