08 Aug Aussie Films take centre stage
With The Sapphires knocking on the door of $15M, Kath and Kimderella cruising past $6M, and Mental taking over $3M, Australian film is enjoying the kind of box office renaissance it hasn’t seen since the nineties. “It’s been around 15 years since we’ve had three Australian films in the box office top 20,” says Bryce Menzies, Principal Entertainment Lawyer at Marshalls+Dent Lawyers. Menzies, whose 30 years legal experience in film includes Muriel’s Wedding, The Proposition, Red Dog and The Sapphires, believes that historically the “success” of the Australian film industry comes in waves. “In the 1980s the 10BA tax incentive saw private financing flood into Australian films and the result was a string successes from Crocodile Dundee to Malcolm.
“The high camp of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the ABBA kitsch of Muriel’s Wedding then reignited the industry in the nineties along with a string of other artistic and commercial successes like Babe, The Castle, Proof and Shine. According to Menzies, after that we kind of lost our way. “Ironically we began to lose our commercial success when we started to try to make more commercial films. Plus the funding model changed as Division 10BA of the Tax Act was phased out. I believe our current wave of success comes down to the fact that we’re refocusing on great Aussie stories rather than trying to tell stories from other cultures. A good example of this is The Sapphires. I’ve done all the legal work for this film and it’s a project dear to my heart. It’s done huge business here and it’s set to do really well overseas. It’s showing in New Zealand, is about to open in the UK and we’ve sold it to every territory across the globe. The investors are very happy little vegemites because, by definition, it’s a huge commercial success. However, it’s essentially an arthouse film and its success proves that Australian film makers need to focus on making arthouse films telling Aussie stories. That’s our point of difference.”
According to Menzies, the immediate future is bright. “Right now we have a financing model that encourages the big international Aussie stars like Guy Pearce, Anthony LaPaglia and Rachel Griffiths, to come home and work. This is crucial because it’s the cast that encourages backers to fund a film and right now there are about 14 Australian actors whose name alone will fund a production, which is a really good position to be in.”