From the Archives: This was originally published as a Facebook Note in late 2009.
Filmmaking is about creative collaboration and co-operation.
When you see the ongoing success of events like the ‘Perth Film Network’ networking functions you realise how much we are all benefiting, getting to know and work with the rest of the people in our fledgling industry. It’s great to see people responding so enthusiastically to these events. It makes you realise what has been missing for so long in this town- communication. It’s fantastic to have that chance to meet people, have a few drinks and and dream up new ideas for future projects.
But we won’t ever catch up to the rest of the country unless we all pull together, put in some serious effort, and make it happen…. or else we will keep on having drinks and having a good time, and life will go on pretty much as it always has round here. Which is fine if you want to keep working for nothing, or are happy getting paid two-thirds of what the rest of the country gets because ‘it’s only WA’. It’s fine if you don’t care that many of our crew never get much past the skill level of your average keen student filmmaker, not from want of trying, but purely because they never, ever, get a chance to work with someone better than they are and see how it can, and should be done.
There haven’t been enough professional level production here to have any sort of useful mentoring of our brightest and best, and people complain that the big productions that come over don’t use many local crew. Why is this so? Two extremely valid reasons- firstly, because we have a very, very small group of people trained to the standard they need, and most of those work full-time to service the small industry we do have- local commercials, corporates, docos, sport, and once in a blue moon, a kids tv series. Second reason is because most of the interstate and overseas productions don’t know a soul in the industry here, and even if they did want to hire local crew- they wouldn’t know where to find them. Basically we are really bad at promoting ourselves outside our own backyard. And not so hot within it, for that matter.
Is it any wonder that anyone with any ambition gets on a plane as soon as they can? If the people who do have the knowledge can’t or won’t teach you, how can you learn? Worse, if there is no-one here with the kind of skills you need to learn, what else are people supposed to do? How many of you want to spend the next twenty years making the same kind of films they have done here for the last twenty? Sure, the advances in computing and digital technology now make it possible for anyone to get a little camera and make a film, complete with CGI, in their living room. Well, heads-up, folks- just because you can physically make a film, it doesn’t automatically follow that its going to be good! This is an artform and a craft – one that requires dedication and passion, and most of all, practise! And by the way, practise doesn’t mean doing the same thing, the same way, over and over and over- it means refining and improving and learning.
On that note, think about the kinds of films you are making. Symptomatic of the Australian industry as a whole is the criticism that we are too introspective, and it’s true. We spend so much time navel-gazing that we forget, in our earnestness, why the majority of people watch film: to be entertained, educated, or both. You can make all the deep and meaningful, existential diatribes you want to. You might appeal to the small group of arthouse patrons who enjoy being lectured at. But if you ever want to be successful- forget it. If the only reason you go to see a film is because your friend filmed it, wrote it or was in it, that tells you something straight-up. It’s probably no good. Or at best, not interesting enough to garner an audience on the merits of the film alone. No-one is suggesting you attempt the American studio way, trying to analyse a bunch of disparate factors and jigsaw them into a blockbuster formula.. that’s crap too. Just make good films. That in itself would be different enough to guarantee your future.
Writers, you should know that the ‘important’ story burning a hole in you is probably one you should write down, put away in the bottom drawer, and never look at again. It is in all likelihood reflective of your own inner struggle for self-awareness, and not necessarily of any interest whatsoever to the general film-going public. If you think you want to write, then write stuff that advances the human condition- or what the heck, just write something that’s fun or interesting to watch!!
Directors? Why, oh why, does nearly every film student think they would be the next ‘Big Thing”, if only some mysterious benefactor would give them several million dollars and a pro crew…. people- do your homework! Having faith in your abilities is admirable, but lets back it up with some talent. Skills don’t form fully-fledged in the womb, we need to learn them. Raw talent is merely the beginning, and then comes the hard part. It takes sustained effort and the willingness to learn from your mistakes- and other peoples.
Actors- guess what? You have chosen one of the hardest professions. Guess what else- most of you will never make it big. Many of you will have solid workaday careers and work steadily without ever getting famous, but thats ok, in fact it’s a pretty rewarding life if you can do that. Many of you will get fed up with never having any money and quit. Some of you need a serious reality check, because you think you are hot and you aren’t. But no matter where you fall on the scale, Perth needs you too. If you all bugger off as soon as you can then we are left to start again with the next crop and our local productions suffer. Why do most interstate productions bring in their own cast? Same reason as they bring their own crew- because all the good ones left and went over east anyway. The skill level here is ten years behind them, and its a pain to have to work with people with no experience when you can easily access ones who have plenty somewhere else.
Perth used to have a reputation for being cliquey, and people were mostly concerned with protecting their little patch. Professional jealousy is not pretty, but it was rife, and if you speak to people from the rest of the country, even people at the top end of the business, they have all heard stories of how hard it is to make friends over here and break into the biz because people are scared to share.
Well, I say let’s trash that old reputation and create a new one- one where Perthites are willing to become a part of the greater world-wide filmmaking community, one where we are no longer afraid of people ‘stealing our work’, but in which we welcome new additions to the fold warmly, to see what we can learn from them.
This new generation of filmmakers, plus the stalwarts who have stuck it out for the last decade or so, are ushering in the new guard, a group of people who embrace change as opportunity. Hey guys – you rock!
Let’s put a bomb under this hobby-farm and turn it into a real industry.
Ok, that’s my little rant, thanks for reading if you made it this far, and lets hear your thoughts on how we can all work together to change things for the better.