Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bureaucracy rampant when direct Ministerial intervention is what's needed

After my last post, see below, I had a look at what's happening at Screen Australia. Is there to be any end of the bureaucratic bullsh-t going on which seems quite contrary to the plans for direct selection and investment set out in the previous post? First of all, the Minister, the Bald Eagle aka Peter Garrett, released his Statement of Expectations at to what Screen Australia will get up to. This to a statutory authority, a status which once upon a time a time conferred independence of judgement and freedom not merely from Ministers but also from the apparatchiks that increasingly crowd out Ministers’ offices and stultify any smart thoughts. Screen Australia has now released its draft Statement of Intent (SOI) for 2008/09, in response to that Statement of Expectations. Screen Australia advises that these “SOIs are formal commitments by Screen Australia to meet the expectations of Government.” Can you believe an alleged arts/industrial organisation participating sensibly in such nonsense. If you do then you will believe that huge box office successes, Oscars and Cannes entrants are a matter of weeks away and the tooth fairy will squire Nick and Russell down the red carpet on Oscar night. Who dreamed this up? Please step forward and identify yourself so that the nation can laugh at you. Screen Australia says its draft sets out preliminary thinking within the organisation on the shape of its future programs. And that it “will use the directions articulated in the SOI as the basis for developing the suite of programs to be offered in 2009. A second round of industry consultation regarding guidelines and programs will take place in October”. Those meetings should be, as the old mate Counihan used to say, a real hoot but, sufficiently prolonged, the process could take the Government and its befuddled film bureaucrats through to the next election without a single movie being made to reflect either expectations or intentions or even the achievement of KPIs or any other bit of new management jargon designed to ensure nothing really happens. The process will also have the benefit of allowing bureaucrats to hide fear of failure or acknowledge failure itself. I’ll bet some consultancy firm has been hired to handle all this if not dream it up. That company would have a chortling bank manager and in eighteen months or so it will be favourite, based on its experience, to supervise a whole new round of announcements and consultations as to how Screen Australia, under its new Chief Executive Officer, plans to refocus, restructure and concentrate on achieving commercial and other success. …

The debate about quality Australian film

The Sydney Film Festival recently made an interesting contribution to the discussion about how to get our best film-makers working. Here's what they published in their online site. I'm surprised that nobody took the matter up further

Question 5SFF: Federal Arts Minister Peter Garrett recently announced that he will be giving direct grants of $10 million each to twelve currently unemployed filmmakers. Informed sources have suggested recipients may include Ivan Sen, Jane Campion, John Ruane, Richard Lowenstein, Ray Argall, Jocelyn Moorshouse, Leo Berkeley, Scott Murray, Shirley Barrett, Rowan Woods, Albie Thoms and Brian McKenzie. If you were handing out the money, who would you pick - excluding yourself, of course?
Randall Wood (Rare Chicken Rescue): "Ivan Sen - He's got a big heart and that shines through in his films - He's a wonderful storyteller (but I don't think he's unemployed)."
Tony Radevski (Ephemeral): "Ivan Sen."
Lisa Matthews (Ten Pound Poms): "The majority of those above are mostly not unemployed. If such a welcome magic money wand was to appear - I would like to see the following filmmakers realise their next film: Curtis Levy, James Middleton, Lawrence Johnston, Jessica Hobbs, Samantha Lang, Ivan Sen, Jocelyn Moorhouse, Jeremy Simms, Andrew Dominik, Stavros Kazantzidis, Matthew Saville and Andrew Lancaster."
Michael Mier (The Sound of CRY): "Filmmaking is such a hard process I really couldn't decide who should get grants. It seems those that are determined always find a way to make their films and I really love helping others realise their projects so it would be too hard to select ten names."
Glen Hunwick (Mutt): "Lisa Hunwick, Jake Hunwick, and Taylor Hunwick, (no relation of course)."
John Evagora (296 Smith Street): "Rowan Woods - The Boys is still one of my favourite Australian films."
Stefan Moore (The Cars That Ate China):"I would pick Dennis O'Rourke and Susan Lambert (who is admittedly my wife) but unless any of the suggested recipients are proposing to use the grant to make a very good film or films, I would say that this is a shocking waste of money."
Tali Gal-on (Lucille): "Sarah Watt - because I love Look Both Ways, and I can't wait to see what she does next. Dee McLachlan - The Jammed was a horrifyingly powerful film. And some up and coming directors that I met at the VCA: Daniel Agdag, Rosalie Osman and Sam Bryant."
Alex Holmes (Ali and the Ball): "Emerging filmmakers... excluding myself, of course."
Keri Light (Wanderlust/Wonderlost): "Because he is talented, because he has been my mentor and because he is now one of my best friends, I shall say Richard Lowenstein. That's one. But if there is a conflict of interest in picking one's mentors and friends, I shall nominate Michael Cody so that we can make our film...which may be even more of a conflict of interest... hmm. Maybe Minister Garrett should do as is stated in the question and give $10 million to each of the 12 directors listed or $5 million to 24 directors. How very cool. How sweetly divine. Brilliant."

Sean Kruck (Summer Breaks): "It would depend on the project. I would look at established filmmakers but also take a punt and mix it up with some fresh blood. Australian films generally don't seem to make much money so why not take bigger risks on the filmmakers and the style of films?"

Good thinking in there and a ringing endorsement of direct ministrial intervention in an ailing industry!