THE FILM INDUSTRY.
BRITISH PRODUCTION AUSTRALIAN ENTERPRISES.
Suppose the restriction of 15 per cent on film imports from America, which some Aus tralian producers desire, were brought into force, and that picture showmen then decide to fill up the gaps thus created in their con
tract programmes entirely with British and Australian films. Would tberc be enough of these films to supply the demand?
According to a recent article in the London "Evening News," only two studios are now producing regularly in England. A writer in the "Fortnightly Review" of last October re fers to it as a matter of common knowledge that 80 per cent, of the pictures screened in England are of American origin. Mr F A Hughes, himself in charge of an English agency (Imperial Films), estimates the total yearly output of motion pictures in Britain as not more than 100, and confesses that the majority of these are of an inferior type. His firm, which owns one of the two existing studios, distributes in Australia 62 feature pictures a year. Mr. Stuart F. Doyle, mana aging director of Union Theatres, Ltd., and a director of Australasian Films, Ltd., de- clares that on a trip to England recently he found picture production at a distressingly low ebb, with producers so discouraged that they were not at all interested in the Australian or any other outside market, and no one was willing to put any money into the business. He had hoped, he says, to ob- tain some pictures for the use of his company here, since he much preferred to deal with English firms than with American, but he found practically nothing which would be suit able, and brought home only "Carnival," featuring Matheson Lang. Much ot the un suitability rested in the themes, which were highly localised, and would not appeal to Aus-
WHAT OF AUSTRALIA?
80 much for British productions. What is the position In Australia?
At the present time there are eight or nine organisations taking part more or less spasmodically in the business. Of these the more established are Australasian Films, Ltd., Beaumont Smith Films, Ramster Photoplays, and Mr. Raymond Longford. From all sources the number of Australian pictures released in New South Wales within the past five years has been in the vicinity of 47, and during 1924 the number of pictures to come before the censor for the review necessary before their release was only nine. These figures include only "feature" films, apart from the regular show of topical gazettes nnd scenics.
In view of the fact that two Australian pro- ducers declare their fixed belief that Austra- lasian Films is hostile to production in this country, and has itself entered the lists merely as a move of policy in order to placate public opinion, it is interesting to note the position of that firm in the industry. It was consti- tuted in 1913, in conjunction with Union Theatres, Ltd., from a number of smaller organisations-West's, Spencer's. Greater J. D. Williams Amusement Co., and Amalgama ted Pictures, Ltd., Melbourne. The first at- tempt at local production was made a year later, but the first film attempted was not completed, and the studio which had been bought at Rushcutter Bay remained empty for a period. In 1918 a further effort was made, but the comedy then produced was never publicly screened. Last year's engagement of Mr. Stuart Whyte as producer marked the third of the company's efforts to make film plays locally.
Mr. Whyte is a Scotsman, who has lived in America for 15 years, and there gained something of a reputation as a producer of stage entertainments and musical comedy. He was engaged hy Australasian Film on the rccommendetlon of Mr. E. D. Benson, personal representative of Douglas Fair- banks, who had seen him work as assistant producer in the American pictures, "Robin Hood" and "The Thief of Bagdad." He is now engaged in revising "Painted Daughters," which has cost over £3000.
In addition to producing pictures in the Rushcutter Bay studio, Australasian Films has for some years rented it to any other Australian producers who might feel disposed to pay the reasonable charge recurred. This charge covers not only the use of the studio, but also of cameras, operators, and all necessary equipment. These facilities have been so generally availed of that the studio is now occupied every day by pro- ducers other than Australasian Films, and the latter firm has transferred its activities to the Centennial Skating Rink at Bondi, which has a floor space of approximately 300 square feet, and is eminently adapted for lighting machinery.
A CITY RELEASE.
Working in conjunction with Australasian Films is Union Theatres, Ltd., which shares with Hoyt's Pictures and Haymarket Theatres, Ltd., control of every city picture show. Every producer considers a city release es- sential to the success of his picture, even if it costs him a large sum of money, so that if these two theatrical organisations, combined against any given picture there would not be not much hope for It. However, there is no record of anything like this hap- pening. No Australian picture has been de- finitely refused by either house. A state ment by Mr. Raymond Longford, that Union Theatres had refused to screen the Common- wealth pictures that were going to Wembley was withdrawn by him on further considera tion. The pictures were shown at the Ly
Of course Australian producers cannot com mand their own terms from these city houses, and any dissatisfaction there, I amongst them regarding metropolitan release rises from this cause. Working on a small scale, they cannot afford to keep their pictures "on the shelf" Uko American linns do, until there is a favourable opening for them-for city theatres find it difficult sometimes to cope with a rush of "floaters" that are likely to have long runs, just as suburban theatres do. For instance, "The Sea Hawk," now screening at the Crystal Palace Theatre, has been walting since last September for a Sydney release. From a strictly commercial point of view there is no discoverable reason why a city theatre proprietor should show American pictures in preference to Aus- tralian if he can obtain equally favourable terms, from both sides, since his regular con- tracts with American firms contain nothing to blackmail him into showing their "specials" it he does not wish to do it.
One can only hope that they will do this. For however honestly American firms carry on the business of distributing their films here, the fact remains that they fill our theatres with pictures which cannot express the mentality of the Australian people as local productions would. The subtitles of these pictures contain Americanisms which might have an influence on our common speech; many of their plots contain matter that is not quite in accordance with our national ideals. In the past there have been a few really good Aus- tralian pictures to light the path. It re- quires only enterprise to enlarge this number in the future; for to be enjoyable, a film need not have cost a tremendous sum of money.
One of the principal aims of the newly formed Ausrnlaslan Motion Picture Produc- ers' Association is to bring the Censorship of locally-made pictures under the same au thority as that of American pictures, namely,
the Federal Government.
It is quite apparent at the present time that State and Federal censorships have dif ferent standards. To realise this it is only necessary to have seen "The Kelly Gang," an Australian picture, which was prohibited from being screened in public, and compare it with any American "wild west" picture taken at random. In the imported film as released, there is no lack of that "successful crime, such as bushranging, robberies, or other acts of lawlessness, and scenes showing the me thods of operation of criminals which might
be considered as having an injurious effect upon youthful minds," all of which State re- gulations prohibit in locally-made pictures. Federal regulations, apart from a general statement directed against "any matter the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interests," give power to the censor as regards scenes depicting crime, only to excise matter that "Is likely . . . t0 en courage or incite to crime." In both cases there is scope for individual interpretation, but the State regulations are the stricter.
Of course, theoretically speaking, foreign pictures thet have been passed by the Fede
ral authorities are subject to review by the Censorship Board in this State if any person raises a complaint about them: but once a film has passed the Federal censor it is
fairly safe from interference, just as a local film is when it has passed the State cen- sor. The police in each centre has instruc
tions not to prevent the screening of films which have passed censorship, though they have power under the Act to suspend a screening until they can obtain proof of the pictures having been censored, or until they get the consent of the Minister to its exhi
Despite a less severe standard, the pro portion of American pictures which has to
be either prohibited or recast is much greater than that of Australian pictures. Of 47
Australian pictures reviewed during the last five years, only three have been wholly con
demned, while one was passed in spite of a
protest from the Commonwealth. This one
was "The Breaking of the Drought," which was taken exception to because it showed the country in an unfavourable light. The picture cannot be shown abroad, because to pass out of this country it must undergo Fede
ral censorship. In all matters of State
censorship the Chief Secretary is the final