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THE FILM QUOTA.
i General sentiment in Australia will support the ideal of the State Govern I ment of fostering the Australian film
I industry, an ideal which has found ex ¡ pression in the Film Quota Act. At
I the same time, this sentiment has to
I recognise the serious difficulties which j lie in the way of building up the local ! picture film. In the first place, this
development needs time, for Holly- wood itself took about a quarter of a century to find its feet properly. It will require money, and -the public must have enough confidence in the local industry to justify investment. Other difficulties have just come to the fore in the Quota Act. Last year, for instance, distributors and exhibitors did not comply with the regulations by which they should acquire or exhibit a certain percentage of Australian films. Producers here had not made sufficient films to fill the quota, whilst the extent of obligations under the Act was un- certain. This was recognised by the Chief Secretary in his statement that exemptions would be made for last year
In this respect. The Premier, however, has shown clearly that thc Govern- ment does not Intend to make these exemptions a precedent for the future, or allow the Film Quota Act to become a dead letter through default. The decision that the word "acquire" includes production has created a conflict, for, although the distribu- tors remain officially silent, one American executive in Mr. P. Reis man, vice-president of R.K.O. Radio Pictures, has just declared that Ame- rican film companies will not produce pictures in Australia. Ke also made an implicit threat that they might with- draw their pictures from exhibition here. One correspondent has charac- terised this implied threat as nothing but bluff. A local producer also has declared opposition to American produc- tion here. Meanwhile, Mr. Stevens remains firm in his attitude of supporting. Australian films.
We do not know to what extent Mr. Rcisman speaks for American film com- panies as a whole, and his few weeks in Sydney may hardly provide an ade- quate basis for sweeping generalisations as to the possibilities of film production in this continent. But we can appre- ciate the strong points of the American case which he made out so emphatically. We have to face a number of unpalat- able facts if we sincerely desire to build up a film industry here. Australia is
remote from world cenLres and from the centre of the American motion
I picture industry at Hollywood. It would
be both costly and inconvenient to bring actors and technicians from Ame- rica to make local films. The motion picture industry is now highly special- ised, highly mechanised, expensive, and complicated. We simply have not got at present the varied facilities for large scale production. On the distributing side, we have a small population and thus a limited market. The Quota Act might well be amended by reducing the higher percentages of local films required in coming years. The problem, too, is one of exhibition as much as of production.
On the other hand, Mr. Reisman is a little disingenuous with his figures, based on American experience of the British film quota. Firstly, conditions arc different here, and such analogies can only be speculative. Secondly, when claiming that American companies lost £700,000 last year in producing films to comply with the British quota, he did not mention that the same companies get from £7,000,000 to £10,000,000 a year from Great Britain for the hire of their films, while British producers only get from America about £200,000 a year for British films. It is true that the companies run the risk of having their locally-produced films rejected by the board which decides whether the pictures reach a certain standard. But surely this is a fair re- quirement in order to protect the public from cheap, inferior films, turned out quickly to fulfil a quota require- ment. Experience of the "quickies"
made like this in Great Britain con-
firms the need for this provision. Any film, of course, runs the risk of being rejected by the public, which wants entertainment and cares little about its origin. The losses of some film companies are also due, as gener- ally admitted now, to their own needless extravagance. Cinesound Pro- ductions, Ltd., has shown that films on moderate lines produced for Australian exhibition can be profitable. Why can- not the American film companies do the same? Or, if the productions are more ambitious and lavish, they should be good enough to reach oversea markets. Local pictures have found a sale in Eng- land, whilst one, "Orphan of the Wilderness," is reaching Continental audiences. The local industry is grow- ing up and improving its standards, gradually shedding its crudities. It should be given a fair chance, and this without any conflict with the American producers, to whom we owe such fine entertainment over many years. We will continue to want the best American pictures, just as the American com- panies will want thc Australian market. There should be no talk of ultimatums and withdrawals, but a friendly co- operation between all the interests involved, such as advocated by the Premier.