Beautiful Suffering

In 1993 South African photojournalist, Kevin Carter, took a photo of a young Sudanese girl during the famine, which caused a widespread uproar. The young girl, looking to be resting, crouches down while a vulture looks on.

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Kevin Carter

As instantly as the photo is published by The New York Times, people around the world write in to the magazine expressing concern for the young girl, wondering whether she had been saved from near death. Carter was blamed for not helping and received a lot of negative comments from the public (Ow-Yeong 2014). Unfortunately, the public were unaware that Carter was not allowed to touch the girl as he was surrounded by Sudanese soldiers so he would not interfere (Neal 2014). A picture can tell a thousands words but sometimes there’s still a thousand more.

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To look at the image is heartbreaking and quite confronting. But it also begs the question, if people are so upset by this image, what are they doing to help? Carter was part of a group of South African photojournalists called the “Bang-bang club”. The four photographers took some of the most devastating and confronting photos of the end of the apartheid and the famine during the 90’s. Without the courage of these men, we would not have seen some of these images, known of the incredible tortures of black South African people or seen the devastating effects of famine.

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The whole world would’ve turned a blind eye. But as soon as something as confronting as these images are seen, people want scrutinise the photographer and not look at the real issue. It’s like people don’t want to face the reality of the world and want to blame someone for all of these issues. Sadly, Carter committed suicide not long after he won the Pulitzer Prize. People attributed his death to the backlash of the vulture image, but really it was because he was tortured by the death of a Bang-Bang Club member and all of the horrific scenes he had witnessed, which really placed a toll on his mental health.

In contrast to Carter’s photos of truth and violence, we have an artist by the name of Sebastiao Salgado whose photographs receive reviews detailing that they are “too beautiful” (Kimmelman 2001). In a book titled Sahel: The End of the Road, shot in Chad, Ethiopia, Mali and Sudan, it depicts images of famine in these areas in the 1980s.

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By Sebastiao Salgado

“Black and white photos pair unforgettable horror with great beauty” (McDonald 2005).

 In 1991, Ingrid Sischy a writer for the New Yorker, wrote an article about the Sahel photographs. She said “Salgado is far too busy with the compositional aspects of his pictures—with finding the ‘grace’ and ‘beauty’ in the twisted forms of his anguished subjects. And this beautification of tragedy results in pictures that ultimately reinforce our passivity toward the experience they reveal. To aestheticize is the fastest way to anesthetize the feeling of those who are witnessing it. Beauty is a call to admiration, not to action”. (McDonald 2005).

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By Sebastiao Saldago

While in Carter’s photos we feel upset and almost helpless for his photographic subjects, in Salgado’s images I feel a sense of art and beauty. His photographs are something I feel you could hang up on a wall in your house and people would comment “how tragically beautiful”. It makes us look past the real issue unlike Carter’s photos. So, what do you think is the better approach to capturing suffering? Do we photograph the truth or do we find the beauty beyond?

 

References:

Kimmelman, M 2001, ‘PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEW; Can Suffering Be Too Beautiful?’, The New York Times, 13 July, viewed 28th March 16, http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/13/arts/photography-review-can-suffering-be-too-beautiful.html?pagewanted=all

McDonald, M 2005, When People’s Suffering is Portrayed as Art, Nieman Reports, viewed 28th March 16, http://niemanreports.org/articles/when-peoples-suffering-is-portrayed-as-art/

Neal, L 2014, How Photojournalism Killed Kevin Carter, All That is Interesting, viewed 28th March 16, http://all-that-is-interesting.com/kevin-carter/2

Ow-Yeong, W 2014,’ ‘Our Failure of Empathy’: Kevin Carter, Susan Sontag, and the Problems of Photography’, Think Pieces: A Journal of the Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies, University College London vol.1, no.1, pp. 9-17.

 

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Who wants to be instafamous?

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It is becoming ever so easy to become famous these days, and not even for being talented. I believe the rise of micro-celebrities really showed its prominence after the introduction of Instagram in 2010, although the term can be used around YouTube sensations and MySpace stars (pre-Instagram). Urban dictionary (although not reliable but is a concise definition) describes a micro-celebrity as “one who gains a cult or mainstream following due to viral internet distribution. Does not refer to those who have gained limited or cult followings through traditional media.” This definition was created by a user in 2006 and still this idea applies to those “Instafamous” people or bloggers.

For this post I mainly want to look at the Instafamous but it is important to find out the roots of the social media star. The term ‘micro-celebrity’ really came to academic prominence in 2008 when Theresa Senft wrote a book about Camgirls in the age of the Internet and social media. Senft (2008) defines ‘micro-celebrity’ as a technique that ‘involves people ‘‘amping up’’ their popularity over the Web using techniques like video, blogs, and social networking sites’ (p. 25). Marwick and Boyd (2011) also add, “this practice involves ongoing maintenance of a fan base, performed intimacy, authenticity and access, and construction of a consumable persona” (p. 140).

The points that Marwick and Boyd make about ongoing fan base, intimacy, authenticity and consumerism are key aspects in the success of the instafamous. Let’s use social media star Mimi Elashiry as an example. She’s a Sydney dancer who could never cut it as a commercial model, until she took things into her own hands and utilized Instagram to build a following, which in turn created jobs for herself. Post upon post of street style and a new era of “mystical traveler” vibes, people started to gravitate towards her daily posts and seemingly relaxed stylish lifestyle.  Now with over 800,000 followers on Instagram alone, she has maintained a loyal fan base with whom she creates intimacy and authenticity, as well as using her platform to promote products.

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It it funny to note that in Senft’s (2008) book on Camgirls, she writes that “unlike film and television audiences, Web viewers don’t seem particularly interested in purchasing products endorsed by Web stars”. Nowadays, it seems as though the main use for Instagram is to sell products through the Insta-famous. Although, maybe Senft is talking in a sense of campaigns and television commercials. I for one most likely wouldn’t be more inclined to buy Coca-Cola because Jenna Marbles told me to.

The problem with instafame is this newfound need for self-validation. More so than ever, teens are feeling the need to feel validation by the amount of likes an Instagram photo receives. People feel the constant need to post the perfect photo, no matter how long it takes to get it right, just so the world can see them as perfect. But really this is completely unrealistic and creates a whole new debate of self-confidence and worth in teenagers particularly. If you’d like to read more about this, you should check out some of my peers blogs like Ruby Taylor and Lucy Dean.

 

References:

Marwick, A & Boyd, D 2011, “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter.” Convergence, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 139 – 158

Senft, T 2008, Camgirls: Celebrity and Community in the Age of Social Networks, New York: Peter Lang.

 

 

 

Is it time to give up on Australian content?

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So, I’m sure you’d like to know if my opinion about Australian film has changed over the past couple of months. If we remember my first post, I was a little sceptical and not interested in Aussie film or television in the slightest. But now, I think I’ve got to the point where I would happily pick the Australian production on Netflix over the American one. That’s an improvement I would say. So why this sudden change of heart?

 

The Stigma

Australia films really aren’t that bad. I think there is a stigma about Australian films that have stuck with us for a long time. To me, it’s the idea that all films are like Crocodile Dundee (1986) and are extremely cringe worthy and as Susan Hoerlein suggests that “people recognise the brand, and if they don’t really connect with it, the brand has failed, and it would take an extensive marketing campaign to turn this around” (from Kaufmann 2009). This period of genre film was one of the most successful times in Australian cinema, and was coined “The Golden Age of cinema” which is why I think the industry tries to hold onto that era so much. This era was all due to the introduction of the 10BA tax incentive. The Australian Film Commission (AFC) was introduced in 1975 by the Fraser government and in 1981 implemented this 10BA scheme (Burns & Eltham 2010, p.105). This ultimately meant that film makers would receive 150% of tax back. These films were made with little regard for quality and for cultural identity advocates, and so they ended up being to bad they were good (Ryan 2012, p.146).  Lately, there has been much discussion that films have turned away from this genre style and have been creating something that is just not connecting with Australian audiences. Tiley (2010 [excerpt from Ryan 2012, p.148]) puts it perfectly saying “Australian film makers have become incredibly hostile to genre and slid into a gloomy trough of art and self-expression.” Film makers need to start creating something that the audiences connect with, whether its artistic or not. Film commentator Lynden Barber (Kaufmann 2009) says “we need more corn, more hype, more Australiana; boatloads of escapism and showbiz; heroic journeys that end in triumph. Audiences want happiness and tears of joy and fear or films based on their favourite book of the past five years.”

 

Could This Be the Start of Something New?

 This year has been Australia’s biggest year yet at the box office. Beating the 2001 record of $63.4m with a huge $88m in box office revenue (MPDAA 2016). Some films that contributed to this success were Mad Max: Fury Road ($21.7m), The Dressmaker ($18.6m) and The Water Diviner ($10.18m). It seems as though true Australian themes are still popular with the masses as seen with The Dressmaker and The Water Diviner. As Barber said “we need more Australiana” and its true because it just seems to work for us here. What about internationally though? The most popular Australian films to hit the US box office have not had “Australia” so blatantly thrown in your face (excluding Crocodile Dundee). Some of our most popular films include Mad Max: Fury Road, Happy Feet, Moulin Rouge and Babe. So because of this, I think it is important that we find a good happy medium between the two styles of film. Firstly, we could start by saying that we actually need more Australian films to be made for them to be competitive in the market. Dow (2014) tells us how in 2013 alone, there were only 26 Australian films screened in Australian cinemas, the US had 183 first-release films in Australian cinemas and 44 from Britain. This market share of only 3.5% surely tells us that the dilution of Australian films in cinemas is the cause for the seemingly low box office revenue. Aveyard (2011) makes the argument that due to the low revenue of Australian films, distributors like Hoyts and Event Cinemas are not showing Australian films. All of these issues connect in one way or another, no profit means no showing –> no showing means no profit.

Although, as I stated before that we have had our best year on record, this does not mean that we’re at a point where we can relax and put our feet up. We need to continue what is being done! Some of the success from these films, I believe, comes from the stars that are in it. The three top movies mentioned previously from 2015, all contain one or more international notable names. Mad Max has Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz and Rosie Huntington-Whitely. While The Dressmaker has Liam Hemsworth and Kate Winslet and The Water Diviner with Russel Crowe. Elberse (2006) also has the view that “star participation indeed positively impacts movies’ revenues—the results suggest that stars can be “worth” several millions of dollars in revenues.”

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Look at all those famous people in Mad Max: Fury Road. Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravtiz and Rosie Huntington-Whitley

I believe that the contributing success of Mad Max:Fury Road also came from the success of the original movies. The hype and marketing that went along with the film along with the A-grade cast is what really pushed this film to the top.

The first step is for Australia to be recognized as having a competitive film industry, and to do that we should start with runaway production, move onto co-production and then finally have our own work. Starting with runaway productions allows us to create more creative jobs in the industry, and only helps us build our strength in production. With this, foreign budgets will be larger so the creativity is endless. I don’t think it is a detriment to Australian content at all because it will not be lost. We should be supporting local film in conjunction with Hollywood blockbusters.

Conclusion

I truly don’t think it is time to give up on Australian content. I believe something needs to be done about it in terms of marketing, access and distribution but there is no need to give up. We need to steer away from gloomy themes and start creating something that interest’s audiences and show the government we can create more revenue and in return receive more funding. I think people need to get use to the idea though that “Australian content” does not mean “put another shrimp on the barbie” anymore and need to realise that the industry is changing and that a superhero movie could be Australian.

 

References:

Aveyard, K 2011, ‘Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition ‘, Media international Australia, no. 138, pp. 36-45

Burns, A & Eltham, B 2010, ‘Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’ ‘, Media International Australia, no. 136, pp. 103-118

Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s Wrong with Australian Cinema?’, The Guardian, viewed 2nd Feb 16,http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/26/australian-film-australian-audiences

Elberse, A 2007, ‘The Power of Stars: Do Star Actors Drive the Success of Movies?’, Journal of Marketing, vol.71, no.4, pp.102-120, viewed 5th Feb 16, http://www.people.hbs.edu/aelberse/papers/hbs_06-002.pdf

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Shortcuts: finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro: media & education magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8

(MPDAA) Motion Pictures Distribution Association of Australia 2016, MEDIA RELEASE 2015 Australian Film Industry Box Office Statistics, MPDAA, viewed 2nd Feb 16,http://www.mpdaa.org.au/customers/mpdaa/mpdaa.nsf/(PressReleasesByDate)/21-1-2016/$FILE/MEDIA%20RELEASE%20Year%20End%202015.pdf

Ryan, M D 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol.6, no.2, pp.141-157

Video on Demand and its favour of foreign productions

“The way we watch favours global cultural diversity over Australian content”

I think that with the statement above, it’s partly true and partly false. I believe this because I feel there is a difference between the way we watch Australian Television and Australian film. The way we watch film favours the global stage, but the way we watch Australian television favours Australian content. With the introduction of different ways to view film, such as video on demand (VOD), viewers are becoming more connected and globalized and are able to watch films from around the world. Whereas with free-to-air TV, as TV Tonight reports, the top 20 highest rating shows are 90% Australian, view here.

While free-to-air television is still the most widely used viewing medium (ACMA 2015), VOD services are proving to be quite popular. As VOD is still only a new viewing medium, its ease and accessibility is becoming a fear as the industry start to consider whether the influx of foreign film and television will dilute Australian content. In a report by Screen Australia (2014, p.12), it shows that people are still using free-to-air broadcasting services to view most of their Australian content. Currently, over 50% of Australian internet users are watching VOD (Screen Australia 2014b). Around 74% of Australians who use VOD are using it for catch-up TV (Screen Australia 2014b), which is quite a large number and it won’t be long until these people start moving towards subscriptions like Netflix, where Australian content seems to be few and far between. The industry needs to start considering VOD platforms as an important distributor and a solution to the problem. In the graph below, you can clearly see that the only thing Australian films are not competing well in is cinema attendance, with them mostly being viewed on television and therefore not earning box office money.

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Screen Australia Report (2014a)

Aveyard (2011) argues that “Australian filmmakers do not make productions audiences are interested in watching; that distributors do not market Australian films effectively and therefore fail to maximise their commercial potential; and that Australian exhibitors are reluctant to screen local films, which significantly limits their accessibility and earnings.” Aveyard (2011) agrees that Australian films do not circulate well with its current marketing practices. She explains that the creative use of digital media and other less conventional advertising strategies by independent distributors could find a way to improve the current situation. She continues to say how low marketing budgets “scare off” large distribution companies like Hoyts and Event Cinemas purely because they can’t feature a film that has no certainty of bringing in money.

I think the biggest fear with Australian film is its inability to create large budgets in the box office and as explained in previous posts, has to do with access and the need for a different attitude towards Australian film. If a new plan is put into place and becomes successful and is able to gain viewers, it could possibly mean that the government could put more money into funding marketing and larger distribution companies would jump on board as there would be a guarantee success and worth investing money into.

 

References:

ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) 2015, Supply & demand: Catch-up TV leads Australians’ online video use, Australian Communications and Media Authority, viewed 4th Feb 16, http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/engage-blogs/engage-blogs/Research-snapshots/Supply-and-demand-Catch-up-TV-leads-Australians-use-of-catch-up

Aveyard, K 2011, ‘Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition ‘, Media international Australia, no. 138, pp. 36-45

Screen Australia 2014a, Online and on demand Trends in Australian online video use, Screen Australia, viewed 4th Feb 16, https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/d61a7c4b-3abf-444c-9367-aa8dc8b1b8f6/OnlineOnDemand_2014.pdf

Screen Australian analysis of Nielson data 2014b, Australian audiences are watching online, Screen Australia, viewed 4th Feb 16, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/news_and_events/bulletins/didyouknow/2015/10Mar2015.aspx

The importance of “Runaway Productions” in Australian jobs

During the year 2000, runaway productions became popular in Australia. Overseas productions companies were bringing their films to be made here and this was all due to production incentives and subsidies and of course the exchange rate. At the time, our dollar was a lot lower and cheaper for American films to be made here. Australia is home to two large studio complexes owned by Hollywood majors. They are the Warner RoadShow Studios in Queensland and Fox Studios here in Sydney. There is also Dockland Studios in Melbourne but as it is not owned by Hollywood majors, the area has not seen a boom in Hollywood productions (Newman 2008, p.303). Australia began taking away business from Vancouver, which up until that point had provided the location for over 80% of Hollywood’s foreign-produced features since the 90’s (Burns & Eltham 2010, p.109). Local employment more than doubled, from 5,998 in 1994 to 15,195 in 2000 (Burns & Eltham 2010, p.110). During this time, films such as The Matrix (1999) and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) were made. Also along with the excitement of Hollywood blockbusters being shot here, Burns and Eltham (2010) also state “the exchange rate remained attractive [for internationals], Australian crews benefited through employment and small business development. Tourism and related industries also experienced flow-on growth.” (p.110)

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The UTS building in The Matrix

This last sentence is what I really want to focus on. Even though lending our country to Hollywood productions may sound like a terrible idea for our local film industry, I think it has actually benefited it and more. Not only do I believe it has benefited the local crews and productions companies, it has projected a large amount of money into our economy, and at what loss to us is that? Hollywood is getting their movies made cheaper and we are getting a boosted industry and economy. In an article about the filming of Superman Returns (2005) in Australia by Geoff Boucher (2005) for the LA Times, he says:

“An abstract by the New South Wales Department of State Development reports that “Superman Returns” injected some $80 million into the local economy, created 800 local jobs and employed as many 10,000 people as it shot on 60 sets on nine stages over eight months. A crowing minister told the Sydney press in November that the movie will be “more powerful than a locomotive at the box office” but that it’s “already proven a winner for the Sydney area.”

In 2006 Australia saw a decline in these runaway productions due to trade picking up and the dollar increasing and therefore steering Hollywood to other nearby places like New Zealand (Burns & Eltham 2010). From this, we saw a decrease in employment from 16,427 to 13,844 in 2006-07 (Burns & Eltham 2010, p.110). While staying at a low for a while, recently I have heard a lot about Hollywood films being shot here again like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) in Queensland, Angelina Jolie’s film Unbroken (2014) in Sydney and now Julie Bishop has announced that the new Alien film and Thor will be filmed here. The Turnbull government has offered Hollywood studios $47 million in grants to lure the blockbusters, which are expected to create about 3000 local jobs (Wroe & Knott 2015).

I think that this is a smart move from the Turnbull government as I believe bringing Hollywood blockbusters here will not dilute our Australian culture but only enhance the industry on developing more entertaining cinematic films with bigger budgets which will hopefully come from this “invasion” of Hollywood.

 

References:

Boucher, G 2005, Up, Up… And Away, Los Angeles Times, viewed 3rd Feb 16, http://articles.latimes.com/2005/dec/31/entertainment/et-superman31/2

Burns, A & Eltham, B 2010, ‘Boom and bust in Australian screen policy: 10BA, the Film Finance Corporation and Hollywood’s ‘race to the bottom’ ‘, Media International Australia, no. 136, pp. 103-118

Newman, D 2008, ‘Australia and New Zealand: Expats in Hollywood and Hollywood South’, in Paul McDonald and Janet Wasko (eds), The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 295–305.

Wroe, D & Knott, M 2015, New Alien and Thor movies to be filmed in Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 3rd Feb 16, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/new-alien-and-thor-movies-to-be-filmed-in-australia-20151022-gkfspv.html

Is any attention good attention?

As I have pointed out in previous posts, Australian film is filled with outback ocker stereotypes. But I suppose we must love it considering Crocodile Dundee is the highest grossing Australian film of all time in the Australian box office (Screen Australia 2015) and not to mention our 2nd highest grossing film in the international box office making $174.8m, just under Happy Feet. 

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Australia Box Office. Source: Screen Australia
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American Box Office for Australian films. Source: Screen Australia

 

So why is it, that if Australian movies are seen to be so stereotypical, why do we love them so much? It is clear the from the Australia box office table that more than half of the films there, are based on classic Australian themes from setting to storyline, from humour to clothing. If these are the certain kinds of films we are producing no wonder why Americans make fun of our “true blue” attitude. But you know what, maybe all this attention is great!

Plenty of Australian films base their settings around iconic Australian landscapes and because of that, have become areas for tourists to visit. The first of those to gain traction was the setting of the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock, which took place at Mt. Diogenes in Victoria (Middlemost 2015). My dad had mentioned that he had visited the place before purely because of the film but admitted that there’s not much else to do there but look at some rocks and trees. Some of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia have been thanks to a number of films showcasing the outback and in particular Wolf Creek (2005). Loosely based on the backpacker murders of Ivan Milat, the film follows “roo” shooter Mick Taylor and his evil torture of three tourists. The meteorite crater in Wolfe Creek National Park, WA, is where the trio were kidnapped and is now the place which has become so popular with tourists.

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Wolfe Creek Crater, WA

Frost (2010) has also credited the success of Crocodile Dundee (1986) as a major player in the heightened amount of American tourists to coming to Australia. O’Regan (1988) also agrees saying that in 1987 our tourism rose faster than any other developed nation.

“A visiting American journalist wants to write a feature story on Dundee and his adventures. Riley is excited because he hopes that such media coverage may be translated into increased tour business, particularly from the lucrative American market. In reality, life imitated art, the success of Crocodile Dundee in the USA stimulated a massive surge in American tourists to Australia”- W Frost (2010)

 

It was with the film Babe in 1995 that we encountered a “significant shift” in Australian films (Brabazon 2001). The idea with Babe, it that it’s set in a nowhere land and does not rely on classic Australian landscape tropes. As you can see from the American box office table above, Babe is in the top 10 highest Australian grossing films in the American box office so it is clear that this move was important. From the list, you can see how Babe really is a catalyst for the introduction of Australian films like Moulin Rouge, Happy Feet, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Great Gatsby where the outback does not take a leading role.

Although there is still that ocker stereotype that will follow us overseas for a longtime, I think that there are positives that it brings to our country like tourism and even has given us a change in Australian cinema where we can be take more seriously.

 

References:

Brabazon, T 2001, ‘A pig in space?: Babe and the problem of landscape’, in Craven, Ian (ed.), Australian cinema in the 1990s, F. Cass, London, pp. 149-158

Frost, W 2010, ‘Life Changing Experiences: Film and Tourists in the Australian Outback’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 37, no. 3, pp.707–726.

Middlemost, R 2016, ‘Critical Regionalism vs. Regional Tourism- Representing Australian culture’, PowerPoint slides, University of Wollongong, viewed 3rd Feb 16

O’Regan, T 1988, ‘Part IV: ‘Fair Dinkum Fillums’ – the Crocodile Dundee Phenomenon’, Media Information Australia, No. 50, pp.155-175. http://wwwmcc.murdoch.edu.au/readingroom/film/Croc.html

Screen Australia 2015, Australian Content: Box Office, Screen Australia, viewed 3rd Feb 16, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/boxofficeaustraliatop100.aspx

Where has the audience gone?

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Australia had its peak in box office revenue in 2001 with films like Moulin Rouge, Lantana, The Man Who Sued God and Crocodile Dundee in LA. These four Australian films and others, made the record amount of $63.4m and a share of 7.8% (AFC 2001). According to Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA 2016), 2015 has been the best year for Australian film cinema attendance and has surpassed the 2001 record with a high $88m in box office revenue, taking a 7.18% share. The attendance share for 2015 is much different from what we saw during the crisis of the mid-2000s where it reached its lowest in 2004 with a 1.3% share. So what happened to cinema attendance during that time? Is there something wrong with Aussie films or is it the audience?

The first issue with Australian films and cinema attendance is that Aussie films are becoming completely drowned out by American ones. The US had 183 films in Australian cinemas in 2013, compared to 44 from Britain and just 26 from Australia (Dow 2014). We could create more films or stop screening so many international films. But will this work? I don’t think so. People want to see what they’re watching in the US. Maybe, as actor Anthony LaPaglia says, “don’t release the film in Australia first. Release it overseas. Take it to overseas festivals. And then, if it gets overseas attention, it will get Australian attention” (Dow 2014). This is not a terrible idea and could possibly work but should be tested first.

Promotion and marketing is an aspect of Australian film, which I think is lacking and also relates to the dilution of Australian films amongst others due to international films marketing campaigns being so large due to budgets. In Kaufman’s (2009) article, she quotes Susan Hoerlein who talks about the need for rebranding of Australian film. She says, “people recognise the brand, and if they don’t really connect with it, the brand has failed, and it would take an extensive marketing campaign to turn this around.” Currently with Screen Australia’s Producer Offset funding, it excludes the ability to use this money towards any marketing expenses therefore Australian films marketing plans are very limited in size and scope.

Dow (2014) points out that Australians are not watching Aussie films at all but it’s just that that 9 in 10 people wait until is comes on DVD or VOD. But does access to these films also play a part in viewing? In 2012, 43 Australian films screened at Australian cinemas and spent an average of 8 weeks in cinemas. They averaged 75 screens across the country, with a median of 17 (Mostyn 2014). To me, this number seems incredibly small and I would argue that the issue is with the release and marketing of Australian films and not the audience. It is possible there may be an issue with the audience but only because of the lack of information received through promotion and access, so ultimately it’s the industries move on whether or not to try and rectify the issue.

 

References:

Australian Film Commission 2001, Australian Films- 2001 Box Office Share, AFC, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://afcarchive.screenaustralia.gov.au/downloads/policies/2001bos.pdf

Dow, S 2014, ‘What’s Wrong with Australian Cinema?’, The Guardian, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/oct/26/australian-film-australian-audiences

Kaufman, T 2009, ‘Shortcuts: finding Australian audiences for Australian films’, Metro: media & education magazine, no. 163, pp. 6-8

Mostyn, R 2014, ‘Explainer: where’s the audience for Australian films?’, The Conversation, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://theconversation.com/explainer-wheres-the-audience-for-australian-films-20945

Motion Pictures Distribution Association of Australia 2016, MEDIA RELEASE 2015 Australian Film Industry Box Office Statistics, MPDAA, viewed 2nd Feb 16, http://www.mpdaa.org.au/customers/mpdaa/mpdaa.nsf/(PressReleasesByDate)/21-1-2016/$FILE/MEDIA%20RELEASE%20Year%20End%202015.pdf

 

Ozploitation and the effects on Australian film

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Firstly, what is Ozploitation?

Took me a little thinking to get a grasp of it but I’m going to put it plain and simple for you. Ozploitation is the term used to describe Australian genre films during its golden years of the 1970s and 80s. These genre films basically exploited Australian stereotypes and aspects of Australian culture. Deborah Thomas (2009) explains that some of these genres are nicely summed up in the film Not Quite Hollywood (2008) which include ‘Ockers, Knockers, Pubes and Tubes’ which showcases comedy, particularly sex comedy with films such as Stork (1971), The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972), and Alvin Purple (1973). ‘Comatose Killers and Outback Chillers’ is next which features low budget horror films such as Thirst (1979) and Howling III: The Marsupials (1987). Lastly is ‘High Octane Disasters and Kung-Fu Masters’ which focuses on sensational action films likes The Man From Hong Kong (1975) and Turkey Shoot (1982).

 

So, how did this all start?

There are two reasons as to how the Ozploitation era started. In 1971, R-rated films could be made in Australia, which sparked the rise in in over the top action, horror and sexually explicit films (Daily Review 2014). This style of film was mostly used from 1971 to 1975 because it was after that, that the Australian Film Commission (AFC) was introduced with a view of “movies projecting a positive sense of national identity to the world” (Ryan 2012, p.145). As the genre movies still slowly continued like Mad Max (1979), Patrick (1978) and Thirst (1979), the next period of low budget genre films emerged in 1981 with the introduction of the 10BA tax incentive. This 10BA tax scheme was put in place to essentially move the burden of film funding from the government to private investors that resulted in a surge of genre films where producers would receive at 150% tax back (Ryan 2012, p.145). Ryan (2012) says “films were produced for tax relief with little regard for quality; and for cultural identity advocates. 10BA film concessions did not necessarily give an outcome that was desirable in cultural or aesthetic terms”(p.146). Basically these films were so bad they were good.

 

What did/does this mean for Australian film?

The term Ozploitation only started with the film Not Quite Hollywood (2008), and is therefore only a relatively new stop to discuss. Ryan (2010) believes that the film has made a negative impact towards Australian film history as he says “Not Quite Hollywood does not present a complete body of Australian genre movies and privileges certain movies over others to advance the documentary’s argument”(p.8). Ryan says “it limits our understanding of Australian genre cinema’s heritage to the low end of genre and restricts study of such films to a narrow exploitation framework”(p.11).

I agree with Ryans argument and as a result of “tacky” Ozploitation films I believe that currently, and as Tiley (2010 [excerpt from Ryan 2012, p.148]) puts it perfectly “Australian film makers have become incredibly hostile to genre and slid into a gloomy trough of art and self-expression.” I believe filmmakers are doing this as a stand to move away from genre films that have a negative connotations. The problem with this is that arty films to not attract mass audiences. Filmmakers need to start creating films that are entertaining and not think about how arty they can be. Less successful Australian films means less cinemas attendance to support these films.

 

References:

Daily Review 2014, Five Essential Ozploitation Movies, Daily Review, viewed 31st Jan 16, http://dailyreview.com.au/five-essential-ozploitation-movies/15950

Ryan, M D 2010, ‘Towards an understanding of Australian genre cinema and entertainment : beyond the limitations of ‘Ozploitation’ discourse’, Continuum : Journal of Media & Cultural Studies , vol.24, no.6, pp. 1-13

Ryan, M D 2012, ‘A silver bullet for Australian cinema? Genre movies and the audience debate’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, vol.6, no.2, pp.141-157

Thomas, D 2009, ‘Tarantino’s Two Thumbs Up: Ozploitation and the Reframing of the Aussie Genre Film’, Metro Magazine: Media and Education Magazine, no.161, pp.90-95

Australian Film Assumptions

 

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Before picking up this subject, I’ve always had a negative attitude towards Australian cinema and television. I am not proud to admit this as I think it’s important to support local talent and production. I have never watched Underbelly, Packed to the Rafters, Love Child, the INXS biopic or any other television drama or soap (excluding Puberty Blue, which I love!). When I watch it, I kind of cringe. There’s something that I just can’t take seriously about Australian acting. To go to class and find out that some people felt the same way was somewhat of a relief. When asked what we think when we hear “Australian content”, a lot of the same themes kept popping up like stereotypes, the beach, the outback, soapies, cringe worthy and unsuccessful.

So what really defines a film or TV show Australian? For a film to be classed as Australian made, it has to showcase significant Australian content under the guidelines of Screen Australia. Screen Australia says that to be of significant Australian content, the film has to take into account “the subject matter of the film, the place where the film was made, the nationalities and places of residence of the persons who took part in the making of the film and the details of the production expenditure incurred in respect of the film” (Screen Australia 2015, p.6).

Personally, I think that the “subject matter” and “the place where the film was made” have been taken too far. I mean this in a sense that almost every notable Australian film has something to do with the outback or an extremely Aussie accent. Some films that showcase this are Picnic at Hanging Rock, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Wolf Creek, Strangerland, Tracks, Crocodile Dundee and Last Cab to Darwin. I feel that it is time that producers and directors try to move past this ‘Australianness” image and create something that doesn’t contain Aussie stereotypes. We should move towards storylines like Moulin Rouge, The Black Balloon, Paper Planes, Happy Feet or even The Babadook. Even on just a quick Google of Australian films, I get bombarded with a whole lot of movies with stereotypical Aussie plots and landscapes and actors with over the top “ocker” accents (let’s maybe just exclude Mad Max: Fury Road and a few others).

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I also question as to why we portray these over the top stereotypes. Is it because we lack a sense of cultural identity therefore we are trying to cling on to whatever we can? In saying these opinions, it’s only the start of the semester so I am excited to see whether further knowledge on Australian films will open my mind a little more or change my thoughts and attitudes towards Australian film. Who knows, by the time I’ve finished this subject I might actually want to pay to see an Aussie film.

 

References:

Screen Australia 2015, Producer Offset Guidelines, Screen Australia, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/getmedia/c83d96e6-d225-4270-847a-864b230759f0/Glines_ProducerOffset.pdf

Social Medias Effect on the Fashion Industry

via @voguerunway on Instagram
via @voguerunway on Instagram

As outlined in my previous post about my research plan, I am an avid social media and fashion consumer. I have great knowledge in this area, therefore I recognised it as being a simple and exciting way to discuss how media is spatial in nature, with a specific focus on social media and its worldwide effects on the fashion industry. The best way for us to start it to simply and plainly discuss how media is spatial. To start, geographer Doreen Massey (2013) had the idea of space not just being a place that we live in.

A lot of what I’ve been trying to do over the all too many years when I’ve been writing about space is to bring space alive, to dynamize it and to make it relevant, to emphasise how important space is in the lives in which we live, and in the organisation of the societies in which we live. Most obviously I would say that space is not a flat surface across which we walk; you’re not traveling across a dead flat surface that is space: you’re cutting across a myriad of stories going on. So instead of space being this flat surface it’s like a pincushion of a million stories: if you stop at any point in that walk there will be a house with a story”.

In my understanding of Massey’s idea of space, space is all the little things that happen in between life. Relating this to media practices, it matters where you are, access to media and society (Bowles, 2015). I think that these aspects closely relate to my idea of the spatial relationship between social media, fashion and audience.

Social media has always been my main access to information about the fashion world, simply because it’s easy to use and access. I believe this is due to current technology, such as smartphones, where social media apps like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Periscope are incredibly easy to navigate. In a time where online activity is growing, it is important for brands to follow the trend and move advertising online, and fashion is one industry that has successfully done so.

@louisvuitton

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Let’s Talk The Basic Stuff First

In a time where people want everything now, the instantaneous effect of social media has only increased people’s needs for everything straight away. Every year, twice a year, Fashion Week occurs. This is where the latest trends are shown on the runway. Before Instagram, people relied on magazines like Vogue to get their Fashion Week news. Those people who consume these magazines generally were wealthier than most. Then news moved online to websites and until only recently, blogs. Even though blogs are relatively new, Instagram is already taking the original role of blogs. With easier access, the status of the consumer does not matter, as it is free.

“Through the Web 2.0, new ways of communication have been developing, with the goal of making the purchase no longer an acquisition of status, but an experience that, when shared, may multiply significantly the awareness and cultural relevance of the brand, fostering a process of identification by the public” Marianna Boero (2015).

Fashion, Space and Social Media

The effect of social media has had more than an influential impact. It has changed the way we watch fashion and has even changed careers within the industry and this is medias spatial effect. Just recently I was watching the live Balmain x HM show that was happening in New York while I was sitting at home here in Sydney. I was watching this on a new app called Periscope which only live streams events that you can’t go back and watch later. Similar to this would be the live updates on Instagram of other shows during fashion week. Snapchat is also another app which has taken over the live streaming of Fashion Week, with multiple stories detailing every show and every model, people are able to see what is happening as it happens.

#GigiHadid and #KendallJenner backstage at @balmainparis 💙 #KenGi

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Because these live streaming apps are so popular now, traditional forms of news have had to step up their game to keep up. For example Voguerunway.com (was style.com) aims to live update their website of each new show with professional photographs of each look, and another website like this is nowfashion.com. These website have had to understand social media to keep up with it and to keep audiences coming back to their sites. I discovered this quote from a research project by Iris Mohr (2013), a professor in marketing and self-proclaimed fashionista, where her findings indicate that there is a “significant effect of fashion related media, including social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace), magazines, newspapers, and blogs in intensifying fashion week attendees views about fashion”. She also adds “the influence of the media identified was essential and important in evaluating the quality of the shows and/or designers”. From this, I take that without the videos and photos from the shows, the audiences cannot clarify whether the designs and show was great or not. With the addition of social media platforms, those who did not attend are able to comment and give their opinion therefore gives the clarification of the importance of the show.

The change in popularity of viewing apps has completely changed the way audiences operate and has had effects on business operation. Brands have had to implement new teams in the companies solely to focus on social media promotion. This is an example of how media is spatial, as it has completely changed the dynamic of the office from new marketing aspects to gaining loyal customers. This change is not limited to the fashion industry either as companies like Woolworths and McDonald’s pay for sponsored ads on these apps.

“The usage of social media technology by luxury brands surged in 2009. Technology encourages customers to interact with brands. These customer interactions build the brand by increasing awareness, involvement, and engagement; thus, adding to brand recall and stimulating purchases. Tweets, blogs, and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest offer fashion brands ways to connect with audiences” Iris Mohr (2013).

Recently, I conducted an interview with my friend Lyndsie who is completely obsessed with the idea of fashion and social media, like myself. Here is how she feels about the impact social media has had on the fashion industry.

  1. Do you think social media has changed the way we consume fashion?

Most definitely!

  1. In what ways do you think so?

I believe that retailers, brands and designers utilize social media in such a way it has become one of the key aspects in which consumers view and learn about particular brands. Social media platforms allow communication between both the brand and the consumer as they provide consistent information about emerging trends and styles. These platforms have shaped the way in which society consumes fashion, as social media access is simple, quick and easy. This factor is a catalyst for the increased online traffic and sales, meaning social media effectively contributes to the shift to online shopping and the way society views brands. Brands expanding their marketing to social media ultimately influences what society wears.

  1. How do you think the instantaneous ability of social media has affected consumers of fashion?

By society embracing social media platforms and identifying the influential ability they have, the fashion industry is successfully becoming a more open and shifting to a more personal approach to their followers through social media. Eradicating what once was an exclusive industry where only front row attendees to fashion shows were able to experience, now everyone is instantly able to watch as styles change and as new designers emerge all through the likes of social media. Viewers are more intrigued and feel more welcomed to contribute to the fashion industry, becoming more inspired and are able to feel more empowered and confident about their style and who they are.

Lyndsie’s answers agree with my opinion of social media and also with the research I came across, particularly in question 3 about the change of audience in fashion. Fashion is no longer for the elite but for those who are interested in it, no matter if they can afford it or not. This all comes down to the barriers which social media has overcome for us regular folk to enjoy.

If you would like to read more about the links between social and media, click below.

Fashion in the Age of Instagram 

Is Instagram Killing Personal Style Blogs? 

The Digital Runway: How Social Media is Changing Fashion

References:

Boero, M 2015, ‘The language of fashion in postmodern society: A social semiotic perspective”, Semiotica, no. 207, pp. 303-325,

Bowles, K 2015, Week 1 Lecture via Powerpoint, BCM240, UOW, viewed 31st October 2015, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/462145/mod_resource/content/1/BCM240%202015%20week%201.pdf

Mohr, I 2013, ‘The Impact of Social Media on the Fashion Industry’, Journal of Applied Business and Economics, vol. 15, no. 2, pp.17-22

Social Science Bites 2013, Doreen Massey on Space, Social Science Space, viewed 31st October 2015, http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2013/02/podcastdoreen-massey-on-space/