Aussiewood reinvents itself
In push to create more international hits, Australia's film industry is reorganizing and offering hefty rebates for new productions.
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But most of the scripts aren't good enough to compete with international fare, says Screen Australia's Mr. Brady. There's widespread consensus that the industry most needs to invest more time in rigorous assessment of screenplays. Eric Bana, for one, has indicated that he'd make more films in his home country if he were offered better material. The actor returned to the Outback to film 2007's "Romulus, My Father."Skip to next paragraph
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Several other Hollywood regulars, including Cate Blanchett, Guy Pearce, Radha Mitchell, Anthony LaPaglia, and Geoffrey Rush have recently starred in Australian productions, notes Susie Dobson, president of the Los Angeles-based organization "Australians in Film."
Another bright spot for the industry: Aussie crew members are flying back to the Southern Hemisphere to make Hollywood-financed blockbusters such as "Australia," "Happy Feet 2," and the X-Men spinoff, "Wolverine."
The weak Australian dollar, coupled with the cutting-edge production facilities, means that Australia is poised for a resurgence in location filmmaking, says Ms. Boland. Those overseas productions will give young Australian filmmakers invaluable experience. The challenge will be nurturing that talent.
In that regard, all eyes are on the newly created Screen Australia. Its CEO, Ruth Harley, only started on Nov. 17. But many are hoping the former head of the New Zealand Film Commission can revive Australia's filmmaking fortunes in the way that "Lord of the Rings" and "Whale Rider" turned New Zealand into a cinematic titan.
Things are already looking up. Brady says that 2009 has a strong slate of films that could ride the momentum of "Australia." Indeed, an Australian clay animation feature titled "Mary and Max" has just been chosen as the prestigious opener for January's Sundance Film Festival. One or two more hits could restore confidence in Antipodean fare.
The key is to make films with an emotional experience, says Tristram Miall, producer of "Strictly Ballroom" and "The Black Balloon." "That's the one area where you can compete with anybody, Hollywood included," says Mr. Miall. "You don't need megabudgets to do that, you just need a good story."