Tell him he’s dreaming. What’s the fix on the Australian film industry

When the idea about why Australian films tank at the box office is suggested, the immediate thought that comes to mind is, they’re too Australian. Too Australian? How can anything be too Australian? Well, generally they are overdone, overacted and poorly made films. Or at least that was the consensus when the proposition was put forward in class.

Yet, the more I started to think about it the less I started to believe it. Yes, there are films that are made that are horrible, or at least from their trailer suggest that they would be terrible (I feel bad for Nathan Phillips, he was good in The Bridge). But in the same instance there are some really great and creative films being produced in this country, think Animal Kingdom.

What I think the problem is, is the portrayal of ourselves that we are getting out of our popular films. More specifically the national identity that we are creating through our films does not fit with how we actually see ourselves. Some experts believe this is due to poor script writing and others believe that the “Ocker” narrative has run it’s due course.

In the documentary trailer above Haydn Keenan describes it best as “cultural cringe“. Cultural what?! Basically the perception that ones own culture is lacking in comparison to other cultures. This point is exacerbated when we look at box office figures and the like for Australian films v.s other countries films, particularly American. The issue here is two fold.

1. American films if they are “blockbusters” often cater to a wide target market, specifically to attract a large viewership, even if the content isn’t that great.

2. American films often have the ability to transcend cultural boundaries, e.g. 12 years a slave, predominately due to their vast demography, something which Australia also has.

There in lies the problem, however with a new direction in the media and film landscape, this can be combated. In particular the crowd funding revolution can be extraordinarily influential in helping creative types execute their vision. Amanda Palmer talks about it in terms of asking. Asking for help ultimately gives your viewership some span of influence on what is created. This helps the film industry by defining the types of film people of a certain demographic want to see made and by allowing the rest of the budget to go towards glorified tourism ads starring Hugh and Nicole.

Ultimately this would be where I think a really great ethnographic study could lie. Possibly it would be traditional in it’s means e.g. focus groups or in depth surveying, but I think its creative in the way that you are finding your audience. Asking crowd funding participants as to why they decided to back a certain project, could provide some direction for the film industry as to where they could allocate funding or where there target market lies. Interestingly you could also see the viewership that didn’t support one film, but did another and find out what the difference is etc.

While not groundbreaking in its design I think it could be a really useful tool for the film industry. Ultimately, though the focus lies in doing really great work. People will no longer support something purely because its Australian, they want real authentic stories, good enough for them to take to the pool room.

Regulators! Mount Up!

Far from Warren G’s and Nate Dogg’s idea of it, media regulation is a common practice in the interconnected society we live in. Often socially driven, we deem there is specific times and places where we can use and view the media we consume. This tension manifests at meal times, waiting rooms and especially on public transport.

This regulation stems from 2 general ideas. Firstly, inappropriate media use is highly annoying, inadvertently invasive and pretty rude. I.e I’m sick of serving customers who are on their phone, talking at it and then ask “didn’t you get that”. Secondly and probably more interestingly (and possibly more on topic) is the idea that we want to regulate for people who can’t protect themselves, generally the young and the elderly.

In my own life I can remember not being able to watch certain shows (The Simpsons, South Park etc.) or use certain devices and see and read certain magazines (no not those) due to being of a young age. Similar things still hold true as I will regulate the shows my nephews will watch or the games they play to suit a deemed age appropriateness  for them. Other people who I know will take their child’s Ipad, phone and laptop away to punish or regulate how much time their children can use the media for

It would also seem that I and other people are not alone in the plight to regulate how and when the children they know use their content. In a study by Lenhart et al (2010) parents regulation of their child’s cell phone shows that this is a fairly common practice, especially considering the rather standard numbers across both the demographics and income regulators.

Similarly regulating older people’s media particularly social media has become common practice. I’ll often have lengthy conversations with my Mum about what she writes and shares on Facebook and how it could harm and effect other people.  Often my siblings and I might even say “It might be a little too technologically advanced for you Mum”. This type of media regulation is only to protect her from something we’ve deemed as too hard or beyond her ability, almost as if she were a child. Although we probably aren’t justified in doing this, we deem it necessary, like a lot of other regulatory boards e.g. ACMA.

Where this regulation takes on new meaning is when we think about it in relation to space and place. Due to the blending of the public and private spaces we inhabited our areas are inherently connected. While we think that something we post in our own private space is innocent or warranted it could do harm to others that intend to look at it. This is often regarded the other way when we consider children and their use of media outside of the private space. I would say that some media is often used as a tool of entertainment and fun in the public space, for parents to keep their children distracted. Yet, in private, over consumption of media is seen as lazy or introversion and should be regulated.

Hence the real tension in media regulation is context. Contextually, when is it ok to use media and what media can you use in that time. When does using your devices become OK and what deems that action to be allowed. Surely if we are alone, with no one around use of our device affects nobody even if social provisions state otherwise. In other words, let me sit at the sushi train by myself and play on my phone, without looking down on me.

Don’t Call It a Remake.

Dramatic storytelling is of unrivalled importance to the overall cultural competence of the world. Dramatic, but it does! This importance is shown when we look at drama’s that have been recreated for different audiences. Thinking critically about who is saying what in each of their depictions of the characters can say a lot about what people of that nationality, ethnicity and gender feel. This is made strikingly clear when we consider the various remakes of the Sherlock Holmes series as detailed by Penny and Asher-Perrin. Their in depth discussion of the ways in which drama is focused in each of the narratives shows how this can differ across nationalities.

In fact, they’ve done so well that I’ve decided to (somewhat) go out on a similar vain, with a detailing of the different versions of, The Bridge.

Broen, The Bridge and The Tunnel are three series all made from one narrative. Two bodies are laid together, as one, across international borders. The complexity of the international borders and there respective issues are then explored throughout the different shows. Broen or the original Bridge focuses on Denmark and Sweden, which then was remade into a U.S/Mexican version which in turn got turned into a English/French version. They each explore things of national interest and in various ways yet have basically the same plot line.

However where they differ is in the unique locations that they provide and the difficulties the two protagonists have in broaching these localities. With these unique locations also comes unique audiences. This opinion piece shows quite beautifully the differences between each of them. Of particular interest is the idea that the European versions are quite “dark” in comparison to there American counterparts. This is basically something that we would call an “American Trope”. Something that is uniquely American that has been  written in or out of the series to better suit this audience.

This actually happens numerous times throughout the series with reference to; Sonja and her mental state, which is given background in the US, for fear of the audience not “liking her”. In Europe this is left untouched and it is up to the viewer to deem or determine what or if she has a mental illness. The way the female lead is played and portrayed also changes in terms of importance. The Scandinavian version is uniquely female lead, with the Sonja role being the integral character, while she is interchangeable with the male lead in the others. There is also a critical element to the “prudish” nature of the sex scenes that inherently undermine Sonja’s power in picking up the man from the bar. The American need for “closure” also undermines the series 2 finale of the American version, to mine and my father’s bitter disappointment.

What all three say about drama and in particular police drama is how unequivocally localised it is. When the cultural plot or cues are visible to us when can understand and take make much more from the show. If not we often become let down or at odds with why something may have happened a certain way, i.e, when whoever wrote the Dexter ending decided to make it the worst ending ever.

 

 

Media Mutlitas….

 

Media multitasking has presented us with some really interesting ways to engage with numerous platforms at the same time. Need only check out my Introduction V.2 post to show how I genuinely enjoy my time watching the Television. With another screen in the way.

Devices being used while watching tv: Source

Devices being used while watching tv: Source

However, this type of media viewing is not unnatural to us anymore. In fact a lot of shows, in particular reality shows, use this ability to incorporate a wider viewership and sense of community in their show. The graphic to the right acknowledges this change as more and more tech savvy teenagers enter into a space where their ability to consume media bi fold is unprecedented. Yet, is it particularly helpful to be consuming media in this way?

A team from the University College London Interaction Centre study into “Working With The Television On: An Investigation into Media Multitasking” looked to show the connection between media multitasking and whether this could be engaged with in terms of undertaking a stressful job situation. While the study, undertaken by researchers with a high interest on the development of our human condition with multimedia screens, shows mostly negative results, I’d argue that they are mostly false negatives.

Overall though the results of this preliminary study suggest that if people want to relax and become engrossed in a television show they should avoid working on a secondary device at the same time. I’d argue however, that they don’t (at the very least I don’t). Or if they do, their phone becomes less of a distraction and more of a contributor to the narrative of whatever they are watching. This is actually something that the study acknowledges in the limitations of their study and suggested that further studies in this area would create interesting dialogue.

I’d also say that the demography of the participants could also factor into an inability to be strong at multitasking. Due to media multitasking being quite a recent phenomena I would’ve liked to have seen younger people, from outside of the University pool take the test.

The nature of the task I would also say raised issues amongst the participants. Mathematical problems although quite stressful (I couldn’t work out the example they gave) don’t really give the nature of what people will be doing whilst watching television. The researchers also point to this and suggest that lighter duties would more realistically be undertaken whilst watching. I’d agree with this part and say that this is the kinds of things I’m undertaking whilst engaging with the content. Bills, online shopping and writing university blog posts, all of which require minimal effort.

This type of multimedia use is especially significant when we think about it spatially. Predominately this kind of multitasking is done in private, mostly because the media use is off a duel nature, i.e. you’re less inclined to go into a public space and watch a television show on your laptop and be on your phone. Where as in a public space your multitasking media experience may be less self directed and more implied by the environment, e.g. at the doctors on your phone, while there is a screen in the waiting room.

 

I’m not a Housewife, I’m a Hornbag.

The irony of this statement from Kim, on the Australian show Kath and Kim, is not lost on an Australian audience. The audacity of a middle-aged woman, dressing down to a stereotype of a young teenager and declaring herself profoundly attractive (it really isn’t fun explaining the joke) gives us fits of laughter . Turnbull suggests that the ironic disconnect between the way the character/s imagine themselves  and how the audience view them to be, is the reason Kath and Kim has received such high acclaim.

Yet this resonance is dramatically lost in the US remake of the series (and that’s putting it nicely).  This is important, especially as an Australian audience as we are quite protective of our (good) content. Which makes sense, especially in this case, as we have made comedy somewhat of a national identity. Medhurst describes its importance in terms of how we view and make sense of our national identity by allowing us to share in the joke. That is to say that the jokes are reflective of our nature and gives us an air of familiarity.

Turnbull also draws upon Moran’s idea of cultural translation to consider how this familiarity could be created when recreating a text across cultures. It was shown that in many drama remakes that there needs to be an air of local appeal to the content. This is certainly the case in the recreation of Kath and Kim as Selma Blair used pop stars like Brittany Spears as her characters inspiration, something that would be unnecessary for the cliché riddled Gina Riley.

Likewise in the American remake of The Office the central themes and ideas are the same but the style and personas displayed are uniquely national. Turnbull suggests that not only is this to do with how the comedy is delivered but is impacted in how the actors look. In the Office the “Englishness” is delivered through the typically average looking cast, headed by the wonderfully eccentric Ricky Gervais. Similar to Riley’s Kim his air of sexual “confidence” gives us awkwardly hilarious moments. However, this would probably be lost in the American market, especially when you compare the depiction by Steve Carell of the equivalent character.

Yet, unlike Kath and Kim the American Office garnered critical acclaim and is seen on an equal footing with the original show. This is mostly due to a departure from the original and a foothold by the remake in its own narrative. This is probably the most useful way to recreate shows, particularly comedy. Pay homage, but depart as quickly as you can.

 

 

Influential Youth: The Rise of Mall Media.

The definition and role of the public and private space has been blurred significantly since the recession of traditional types of public spaces. Traditional public spaces  have been defined by Neal and other urban planners as:

 all areas that are open and accessible to all members of the public in a society

These places for example include parks, public squares and beaches. Central to these ideas urban planners are concerned with how these spaces and other public spaces function from a social, economic and political perspective. In particular they are concerned with how citizens interact and use these spaces. Traditionally this has been separate from our private spaces. Private places are where we go to seek refuge from the public spaces. Madanipour defines these spaces as ‘territories’, which include our homes and properties.

However with the availability and spread of web 2.0 technologies the difference between the two is often hard to define. Badger laments this change as it has affected the social norms that we are supposed to abide by. Yet, it seems that this view on societal norms lacks a connection to what is actually happening in our public space now.

The reality is that increased technologies have made the opportunity for “Pseudo – Public” spaces. These spaces while public in nature are owned by private corporations who use the traditional values of a public space for economic gain. Most notable of pseudo – public spaces are malls or shopping centres. This is due to their social function to house people in a public way, yet have the ability to leave out certain groups unlike traditional public spaces. Pseudo – public places are also characteristically a hot bed for aggressive marketing tactics, including television and digital advertising screenings.

Television screens in a shopping mall

Television screens in a shopping mall

These two screens, which I shot on a recent trip to the shopping complex that is closest to my house, show exactly the type of blurring of the public and private. Each are used to either promote a brand or product or are used to show a particular television station (the same station runs at all times).

In fact this is an increasingly used advertising tactic called ‘Mall Media’. Mall media is the combination of advertising through both smaller scale electronic billboards and through dedicated network channels that show companies products (this is prominent in America, less so in Australia) to their target markets.

Electronic Billboard

Electronic Billboard

Mall media companies look to exploit the segment of the pseudo – public space market that are most readily available to them, affluent parents and young teenagers. RMG networks has even given them their own specific sub categories, the alpha mum and the influential teen. The distinct consumer behaviour that they describe for both cohorts is certainly plausible – notably the social media awareness that they attribute to the teenage population.

This is where the blurring of the public and the private realm becomes problematic for people. Of greatest concern is should we be allowing these big business companies the ability to directly market to the most susceptible segment of the population and what effect does it have on them. Personally, I think these screen provide relief from the monotony that is often associated with going shopping and especially in the food court. I couldn’t count the amount of times I’d watched Ellen, through subtitles, on that very television.

What I’m not sure of however is how these types of billboards and televisions enhance the social experience of traditional public places, like a park for instance. Surely the linkage to the types of activities that we are undertaking in the pseudo public versus the real public is what should define the amount of content and what is being advertised to us. Without these boundaries I think this blurred culture could become of concern.

With a Capital M.

Hollywood, New York, London and…Hong Kong? While Hong Kong might seem out of place in this equation they definitely fit into the “Global Media Capital” spectrum as defined by Curtin (2003). Global Media Capitals are places which create a central location for production of media content. In particular Curtin (2003) also recognises Bombay and Cairo as other sites of this production.

Thinking in terms of Media Capital is important for numerous reasons but mostly importantly is the idea of media flow. More specifically this means how does media and cultural content flow into and out of the Media Capitals and how do they in turn affect this output. Generally transnational flow has happened in a “west to the rest” kind of way, I.e Western content is produced and then spread to the rest of the world. Lately however, we have seen a shift to very localised production of content that shares stories relevant to the audience that is viewing it.

This is shown in Hong Kong’s recent proliferation as a Media Capital. The new growth reflects Hong Kong recent domination as a cultural capital in the south east, with the blending of the old traditional Chinese culture and the emergence of new culture formed by 1st generation Hong Kong citizens, who feel little connection to the mainland. By depicting this clash in culture the content becomes accessible to a larger market.

This idea of Media Capitals becomes turbulent however when we try to look across different Media Capitals and their depiction of certain cultural content, in particular news. Khorana (2012) describes this tension when looking at the attack on Indian students in both the Indian media and the Australian media. Australian media blamed the sensationalism of the Indian media on adding to the controversy, while the Indian media denounced the coverage by the Australian media.

The tension described here signifies how Media Capital’s cultural view can affect how they depict certain events. It also works into the idea that the cultural flow of content can be lost or misdirected across media capitals as one side or the other can not comprehend the others action.

References

Curtin, M 2003 “Media Capital: Towards the Study of Spatial Flow”, International Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 202 – 228.

Khorana, S 2012 “Orientalising the Emerging Media Capitals: The Age on Indian TV’s ‘Hysteria”, Media International Australia,

Hagerstrand’d

In 1969 Torsten Hagerstrand’s work on time geography led to a  new way of thinking about the relationship between spatial and temporal aspects of human activity. In particular thinking about the concepts in terms of our relationship to a cinematic experience is of interest. For the three concepts that Hagerstrand outlines can have a great impact on whether an audience can physically get to the cinema to watch the movie. This sense of disconnect is heightened when we consider the ease of which audiences can view these movies without leaving their home.

Hagerstand’s three concepts are as follows:

  1. Capability – The ability to get to a place
  2. Coupling – Can I get to the place at the right time?
  3. Authority – Am I allowed to be there?

When applying these three concepts to my own movie experience I was struck by how relevant these concepts actually were:

1. Capability – To start off it took me the entire week to the point that this post is late to be able to get to the movie. This was due to various work, university and sport commitments that I had to undertake. Finding a person, any person, to go with me at a similar time to when I was free was also difficult. Being free during the day and busy at night often conflicts with everyone in the worlds schedule.

2. Coupling – Eventually I got my sister to squeeze a movie trip in to her tightly packed life. However due to her kids and other things and then my job we only had two options for the movie. A quick jaunt to see Magic in the Moonlight or to see Guardians of the Galaxy. I picked Magic in the Moonlight, because I thought it would appeal to her more and Emma Stone is a boss, so it couldn’t possibly be bad right? (Oh dear, what an unmitigated disaster).

3. Authority – It struck me that this would be the least relevant due to the change in social standards particularly with regards to the cinema. However I couldn’t help but feel like in a two tier cinema, where the comfy recliner seats are down the bottom the movie experience somewhat resembled that of the segregation era (nowhere near to that extent or complexity of issue, but maybe just a nod to it).

The authority issue reared itself again as my sister and I walked into the cinema. She had her youngest child, almost 1, with her. To my amazement the stares and looks that we got as we sat ourselves a couple of rows up was astonishing. One lady who was in the row in front of us even turned around looked us up and down and turned around as my nephew snuffled a little before going to sleep.

While this is unsurprising as babies can be of distraction during the movie, what I found more pressing was the double standard of the other viewers. The movie audience was predominately older people as the cinema runs a special on Tuesday for senior citizens. While they glared and scoffed at a child, they found no problem with other similar aged people talking and eating loudly during the film. This is where I think the idea of ‘authority” was most prevalent. With the idea that in a particular social space the predominate audiences movie habits reigned supreme, while the rest were made to feel inadequate.

With this idea of the shared social space I also see this as the reason that cinema watching won’t die off suddenly. While the market may fluctuate and change I think that within most social groups there is a desire for a place where they can go to feel togetherness. The cinema perpetuates this by allowing multiple social groups to feel comfortable in the space depend on what movie is shown and when it is shown. This ability will continue to allow movie theatres to have relevance.