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Local film and TV industry sold short

THE announcement that Barron Entertainment has gone into administration has dealt a severe blow to Perth’s fledgling film and television industry.

The news has, however, had a positive spin, reigniting debate on funding and support from within the industry.

In the 1999-2000 financial year the State Government invested $6 million in film and video from total cultural funding worth $178 million, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Total national funding for broadcasting and film is estimated to be $835 million over the same period.

Local film makers Julia Redwood and Ed Punchard, who head up Prospero Productions, have just completed a four-part series called Selling Australia, which will screen on the ABC next week.

The series looks at the mass marketing of Australian culture and the kangaroos, barbeques and crocodiles that prop up our sense of identity.

“The second episode, called The Brand, looks at the Australian Tourism Commission’s latest commercial featuring Paul Hogan.

It’s exploring issues like selling a country

as a commodity and warning people who haven’t thought about it,” Ms Redwood said.

“I’m originally from the UK and, as an immigrant, it became apparent that national identity was a real issue, almost a national obsession.”

One of the episodes looks at the foreign media attending the Olympic Games in Sydney last year.

“The media are a mirror to how a nation perceives Australia … the truth is most people don’t know much about Australia,” Ms Redwood said.

Sport also plays an important role in our national identity and substantial public and private funding in the sector has produced a successful, buoyant industry.

Ms Redwood claims the film and television industry could benefit from some similar support, not least of all in Perth, where the loss of the State’s only serious drama producer could have major ramifications.

“If Barron goes out of business it’s a disaster. He’s the only consistent drama producer in this state,” Ms Redwood said.

“And we’ll lose technicians and actors who have to leave the State because there’s no work. We’ve really taken a backward step.

“If we don’t fund this industry then there won’t be a drama or documentary industry. It’s a loss leader – we do it with sport, let’s do it with film and television.”

The $700,000 Selling Australia project was fully funded under the National Interest Program with the assistance of the ABC.

“I think drama in this country is in real crisis. We’re in documentaries and we’re keeping our head above water, but you’ve got to go out into the international marketplace – you can just forget about the local industry,” Ms Redwood said.

The future doesn’t look very bright, with production companies like Prospero Productions looking towards a future where the local industry may be unable to fund major productions such as Selling Australia.

“We’re having to project and say how will we fund our films without Australian money because the pot is so small,” Ms Redwood said.

“Prospero Productions has been enormously successful in being on the ABC, but one day there won’t be a project the ABC wants.”

The high profile studios on the east coast of Australia that attract the big budget foreign feature films deliver very little real support to the local film and television industries in Sydney and Queensland.

“The only reason we have US films made over east is because it’s cheap. It doesn’t help the industry,” Ms Redwood said.

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