AUSTRALIAN film production received two heavy blows last week. Cinesound Ltd. was refused permis- sion to raise capital to make a film of "Robbery Under Arms"; and Ealing Studios of Britain decided to stop making films in Australia.
MUST OUR FILM INDUSTRY DIE?
In this challenging, article, KEN G.
HALL, Producer- Director of Cine sound, puts the case for Australian films.
I BELIEVE the
Australian film industry is now in a critical situation - after a long and too often bitter struggle.
Despite all that has been said, pro and con, this vital fact remains:
If Capital Issues permis- sion had been granted, "Robbery Under Arms" would have been in pro- duction at Pagewood as a joint effort of Ealing and the Australian group
at this moment.
No attempts at clouding the issue can alter that. And obviously, with a
feature film in production,
(Grant Taylor)-in the Aus tralian film-says a gaol farewell to his sweetheart (Rosemary Miller).
Ealing would not be pack- ing up to go home.
Because of Capital Issues con- trol there cannot be, as far as I can see, any further feature production in this country after the completion of Charles Chauvel's current film, capital for which was granted, in part, before the real clamp down came last June.
It's not a serious mathemati- cal problem. You cannot make films without money. You are not permitted to raise the money. Hence no films.
That is the position - whether Ealing goes or stays.
The Prime Minister, discuss
ing the effect of Capital Issues, said "there will be casualties." He was right. The film pro- duction industry is severely wounded and may succumb.
But the real point is - can the Government, and the nation, afford to allow it to
ALMOST every country
in the world - quite apart from the obvious major nations - fosters its film industry. They regard film making as of national import- ance in some 50 countries.
In China, Peru, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, Pakistan, India, Japan, Switzerland, Greece, and dozens more. Even in the tiny principality of Monaco.
But not, apparently, in Aus- tralia.
We HAVE a story to tell the rest of the world and the en- tertainment film is assuredly the best way to tell it. The Americans have proved that trade follows the film.
And a large part of the civilised world believes that the American way of life, with its fabulous kitchens and the "car for every family" idea, is the best there is to be had.
The impression came largely from the propaganda influence of American films, of course. Americans don't hesitate to use their films for national propaganda.
Neither should we.
ALTHOUGH there was a
fair amount of silent film production in Aus- tralia, the industry got its real start, paradoxically, in the depths of the depression.
In the thirties there were five feature studios in produc- tion in Sydney and one - the late F. W. Thrlng's Efftee Studios - in Melbourne.
Today there are two in Aus- tralia - one of them in pro- cess of folding up.
Films were made in the thirties for the proverbial "peanuts," and many of them showed very excellent returns. A few of them set records which still stand.
Cinesound alone made 18 feature films in the nine years up to 1940.
More than half of those pic- tures are STILL earning revenue. Not big revenue now, of course, But the money is still coming in in several cases after 20 years, or almost 20, of active life.
Films like "Silence of Dean Maitland," the Cecil Kellaway films and the four outstand- ingly successful films Bert Bailey made with us, the George Wallace comedies, and others.
Charles Chauvel's "Forty Thousand Horsemen" of 1940 and many films before it, earned wonderful returns.
What restricted this appar- ently up and coming young in- dustry?
The war in the first instance. Practically all feature produc- tion ceased and all companies went over to making war effort films.
At the end of the war "Smithy" was made at Cine sound for Columbia, an Ameri- can Company, and later Chauvel's "Sons of Matthew." But since then very few films that were all-Australian have reached the screen.
The major obstacle was then, is now, and always has been, lack of capital.
All my life people have been saying "why don't we make more pictures - we have the sunshine and the scenery?"
Sunshine and attractive
scenery are not enough for pic- ture making.
You have to have a lot more: the creative talent among writers, artists, directors and senior technicians; adequate studios well equipped; a sound knowledge of the entertainment world which will guide you in the all-important selection of subjects; and last, but not least, the capital which makes it possible to bring all these factors together m the making
of a film.
To brush off film production as "non-essential" is ridicu- lously short-sighted and un- realistic Australia is in the unique position of being the only country in the world to take that view.
It wasn't "non-essential" in war time when it made all the Government's war effort and propaganda films. And it won't be again if we should unfor- tunately become involved in another war.
That is, if there's an industry left to take up the burden.
The film is a potential dol- lar earner at a time when dol- lars in Australia are scarce. It costs Australia nothing to get
The Capital Issues Board has its directive from the Gov- ernment - I know that. But when that directive is seri- ously damaging what is obvi- ously an ESSENTIAL Aus tralian industry, then I think the time has come when the directive, as it applies to film production, MUST be reviewed.
A huge amount of money is not required - we asked for £ 160,000 on which we expected to make two features (provid- ing two-thirds of the capital, of course) and begin a third. By which time earnings would be catching up with outgoings.
The money will all be spent in Australia. Scarce materials will not be called upon. No manpower other than that already employed in the indus- try is needed.
What, then, can the objec- tions POSSIBLY be?
GEORGE WALLACE, well
known on radio, was a suc-
cessful film comedian.