Compare and Contrast the Independent Model of the Australian Film Industry with the Hollywood Studio System.

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  • Topic: Film, Independent film, Film production
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You are required to compare and contrast the independent model of the Australian film industry with the Hollywood studio system. You will need to approach this in relation to finance/funding structures.

“Show me the money!”
When Tom Cruise’s character exclaims this in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, audiences can now look upon it with a slight sense of irony. One of the most notorious Hollywood catch phrases of our time can succinctly sum up the state of Hollywood’s production system in one line.

In comparison to Hollywood and its vast output of film media, Australia doesn’t appear to be a serious competitor. According to MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America, 2009), Hollywood was responsible for the release of 610 films in 2008, with Australian feature film releases totaling only 21. Even with the box office success of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia in 2008, Australian films captured only 3.8% of the Australian box office (Screen Australia, 2010). It’s important to take one major fact into consideration when comparing the structure of the Hollywood Studio System to the Australian Independent film industry; Hollywood has money. Lots of money. Money means marketing, and marketing has become integral to the success of feature films.

Throughout the decades, Hollywood’s production system has changed dramatically. After the rejection of the “Hollywood Studio System”, actors were liberated, freed from the shackles of the major studios. This paved the way for ‘New Hollywood’, movies such as Jaws, Star Wars and The Godfather, inspiring the birth of a new type of film… The blockbuster. (Film reference, 2010). Blockbuster. The simple word provokes thought of all that is quintessentially Hollywood. However, Blockbusters have become a commodity, one of which is no longer exclusive to just Hollywood. With financial incentives such as Australia’s “Producer-Offset”, many of Hollywoods feature films are being co-produced and financed overseas (Screen Australia, 2010). The last decade has seen runaway productions become increasingly popular, examples of which include Mad Max and the Matrix, both of which were both shot in Australia.

Financial sources in film now range across a wide board of supporters, from major studios to independent film companies, private investors and government supporters. These significant changes can be attributed largely to the change in Filmmaking trends since the 1980’s. According to John Horn (2008, p. 446), the 1980’s marked a change in Hollywood production as the seven major Hollywood studios started selling large amounts of production budgets to financial hedge funds. According to Horn, It was during this time that Hollywood studios began operating less as content creators, and more similarly to the financial companies they were backed by. Major studios started producing films with as much pre-awareness as possible, ranging from adaptations of popular comic books and novels to video games and the increasingly popular ‘sequel’. These films were easy to market as they had built-in sales hooks, there were pre-existing audiences and the films therefore generally offered a high return. This phenomenon led to a new generation of film production; the world of Independent Cinema. Horn explains that there was an absence of narrative in popular Film; therefore new financial backers came forth to support Independent Cinema. Horn writes:

These were high net-worth individuals who made their money in business, such as Crash’s Bob Yari or Little Miss Sunshine’s Marc Turtletaub. The amount of money being spent on movies of this nature were often no more than $20 million, therefore they didn’t need to turn out global smashes.

In an online article, The Daily Telegraph stated that “in the wake of the financial meltdown, banks that had acted as the main funders for big and middle budget films have withdrawn their largesse, sucking $12 billion available to the top studios.” (The daily Telegraph, 2009)....
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