Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Good Aussie films a thing of the past

By Ruby Hamad - posted Friday, 5 December 2008

On December 6, four films that few Australians have seen will vie for top honours at the 2008 Australian Film Institute Awards.

The Jammed, The Black Balloon, The Square and Unfinished Sky all received outstanding reviews, yet their combined box office takings were a paltry $3.9 million. Compare this with the Will Ferrell vehicle Step Brothers, an American comedy that was panned by critics, which alone took $8.7 million in this country.

As an aspiring filmmaker, one of my primary concerns is that I am competing with a large pool of very talented filmmakers for a very small share of the Australian box office.


At present Australian films garner only 4 per cent of box office takings. This leaves us in a bit of quandary over whether we should make films that are true to our personal vision or try to give the audience what we think they want.

At present it appears that what the film industry thinks the audience wants American style blockbusters and comedies. Hence, the proliferation of comedian-driven vehicles such as Takeaway, Boytown and The Nugget. These films had fairly large budgets by Australian standards, yet all failed at the box office.

I believe they failed because they attempted to exploit the earlier success of films such as The Castle and Crackerjack. But what these two films had, which others do not, is true to life characters and a genuine premise; in other words, character and script development.

Both these films told uniquely Australian stories and both were driven by an underlying message the filmmakers were keen to relay to the audience. In other words, the filmmakers had something to say.

Compare Australia's current crop with the Australian “New Wave” of the '70s and '80s. Films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, Breaker Morant and My Brilliant Career appealed to audiences and critics alike, not only here but overseas.

Back then, The New York Times put such films' appeal down to their “distinctive national flavor, most obvious in their rich visual texture ... in a recognisably American format. Locale, custom and accent may differ, but the cinematic language does not ...


“Indeed, the solid, well-crafted plots, believable characters and naturalistic dialogue of the best of these films recall American movies of an earlier era.”

In other words, the films of the New Wave were better received because they were better made.

“It is a shame,” The Jammed director Dee McLachlan said of the modern day struggle for a slice of the Australian box office pie, “because we're competing against American, big star, $100 million films”.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First Published in Eureka Street on December 4, 2008.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

16 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Ruby Hamad is a freelance writer and recent graduate from the Victorian College of the Arts, where she majored in film writing and directing. She also has a Bachelor's degree in Political Economy from the University of Sydney. Ruby lives in Melbourne where she is working on a new feature film script.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Ruby Hamad

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Ruby Hamad
Article Tools
Comment 16 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy