Why do our
By JOHN BRYAN
Why did "Sons of Mat- thew," the latest film from Australian hands, fail in New York? Why have so many Austra- lian films failed abroad?
"AH," says the.man in
the street, "We'll
never make a film that's a hit abroad."
Won't we? Have you ever heard of a film called "Bush Christmas," made here by British director Ralph Smart? It was about a group of Australian chil- dren who bring some rather unferocious horse thieves to justice.
That film cost only £25,000
to make, and even then Smart was dead unlucky that the weather held him up for four days in the Blue Mountains. And that film had paid for itself twice over before it left Australia.
WHAT'S the record
otherwise? Let's take it since the war alone. First we had "Smithy" —
the life of Kingsford- smith. A success? As "box-office"—a mild one. "The Overlanders"? Men
in the industry say they doubt whether it made any real money. But it was an artistic success in many ways, and added to the reputation of Harry Watt, the director.
Which is a great deal more than his next Australian piece, "Eureka Stockade," did. This was, in effect, a dreary pot-boiler, which would have been better left on the shelf.
And now comes "Sons of Matthew."
Those who have seen all five of these postwar com- mercial films will notice that the two films with the least pretensions to "hisstory" in the elaborate Hollywood sense did well.
So-is the Australian film- making industry doomed? Must we confine ourselves to semi-documentary and stories with a curiosity background?
THE man in Melbourne
whose opinion is most expert gives a decided "No" to both these ques- tions.
He says that "Bush Christ- mas" succeeded not because it was a well-made film (it was very ragged) but be- cause it was a convincing story in which attractive people gave a great deal of pleasure to their audiences.
"Overlanders" was a success because it was well made, with great honesty of pur- pose, and had a huge nov- elty value.
The other three were over made. The average amount of film shot (he will not guarantee his figures, but believes they are reasonably accurate) to each Aus- tralian full-scale commer- cial film since the war was 150,000 feet to make 7,000 feet of the final copy. This compares with 25,000 feet for 7.000 feet in Great Britain.
HE believes that the
cost of film-making in Australia could com- pare more than favourably with England and America. But, he says, the Australian companies on location seem to have forgotten costs. They have let time get ahead of them.
Talk of lack of studio space he will not countenance that's rapidly being over-
Good films can't be made without first-class directors. But the production pro- gramme must be as precise
as human error will per-
Given both these factors, Australia can produce films the equal of any in the world. Actors? Well, it may be necessary to import a name or two. But America is two days away, England four.
Australia can make the films, all right, he says And, what's more, she will.