A camera operator operating a video camera in black and white.

The future of the Australian film industry

Could this be the end of Australian film?

The film industry in Australia has struggled to keep up with recent trends in cinema. The American film industry seems to have completely taken over the box office.

The Australian film industry rakes in over three billion dollars for the Australian economy each year. Creating $250 million dollars in exports and supporting over 25,000 jobs.

But with the increasing popularity of film coming out of America our industry is ‘fighting for survival’.

The opening monologue from Star Wars Revenge of the Sith.

Deregulation proposals threaten to revert back to the 1960s. Where only 1 percent of Australian stories and film were being broadcast.

So how can we make sure that new Australian film, such as 2019’s Ride like a girl, remain near the forefront of cinema?

Saving our films from extinction.

Dr Donna McRae, Senior Lecturer in Film & Television from the School of Communications and Creative Arts at Deakin University explains the problems within the industry and how we can help to improve it.

The ‘Make it Australian’ campaign has been attempting to address the issue and get more Australian stories created and developed within Australia.

When asked whether it has been effective in recent years Dr McRae says, “Yes and no. We need more Australians to watch Australian films at the cinema.

Empty seats in a cinema.

“Also, we need streaming services (such as Stan and Netflix) and free to air tv to commission more Australian content.”

Dr McRae explains that “until this happens we will still be floundering.”

The American impact.

With the American Film Industry taking over majority of the Box Office there have been fears surrounding the future of the Australian film industry and whether our films will slowly die out.

Boutique and independent cinema chains are fighting to keep their doors open.

They usually try to screen as many Australian films as they can.

A good example is Thornbury Picture House in Melbourne, who support the independent sector as well as programming the more popular content, but it is a small concern, so they need to make sure they still get people attending.

“I don’t think the American film industry will entirely take over; we still have pockets that try to hang on. But we need to remain vigilant – we need to maintain our industry.” Says Dr McRae.

A major factor of the problem our film industry is facing is that the government funding bodies are favouring TV and web series at the moment.

A laptop screen with the first episode of Stranger Things on pause.

So that is a near-fatal blow to the industry. If you can’t get the money, there isn’t any film.

“Those in the sector that make low budget feature films are hanging on by a thread and hope that this will pass.” says Dr McRae.

There has been lobbying for streaming services in Australia to be regulated enough to have a proper percentage of new Australian content.

“Unfortunately, there is not a clear path of development from the funded web series, which is an entry level, to the big budget features that are made here.” Says Dr McRae.

This in-between area will make or break the film industry.

Australian films and our national identity.

Without films like Sweet Country, The Castle, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wolf Creek, that help to define us, there would be a void in our culture.

“Just the same way as if we didn’t have Vegemite or Hills Hoists.” Says Dr McRae.

These films contribute to our national identity, so it is important for filmmakers voices to be heard.

Split Point Lighthouse, Aireys Inlet, Victoria.

Dr McRae also suggest “Australian society needs to learn about our Indigenous people, our politics, our interests and way of life, and film is a great medium to support this.”

Many classic Australian films were created in the 1970’s when the film industry was strongly supported with government funding and the 10BA tax break that supported many low budget films.

“We need to find a way for that to happen again. We have the filmmaking talent here so we need to utilise it.” Says Dr McRae.

How can Australia help?

Dr McRae suggests “People need to see films at the cinema. The only way that the film industry will endure if that the general population support our local industry.”

We have seen that Ride Like a Girl has become the highest grossing film this year so far. For the Australian film industry to flourish we need people to support at least another 10-12 Australian films.

“Then we would become viable again.” Says Dr McRae.

First day of the horse racing season at Champ de Mars (Mauritius).

Many independent films make it to cinemas for a one-week season that are world class. Yet it seems as though the trend is that if they don’t have big names in them, they don’t last.

“If everyone could go out and see an Australian film in the cinema, especially in the first weekend, then our industry would grow.” Dr McRae suggests.

Enjoy the cinema experience and go see the film on the big screen.

Enjoy some popcorn and a choc top, and know that you have contributed to saving our dwindling, yet talented industry.

Are you a Deakin academic with a passion to share your research? You may be interested in writing for us.

Find out more