Save the Australian Film Industry?

Image Source: blogs.indiewire.com

Image Source: blogs.indiewire.com

We all love movies right? Whether it’s a bit of comedy, action or romance, it’s a perfect escape. Being a huge movie buff myself, I could not imagine a world without the comfort and entertainment that films provide us. There have been countless blockbusters created by Hollywood, smashing global box offices and serving up all the goods. In saying so, thinking about the potential of this beautiful country we live in, what is driving the decline in home-grown Aussie movies? And what is happening to the Australian Film Industry?

The Australian Film Industry as we know it, has had its successes. With movies such as Crocodile Dundee, Australia, Babe and Rabbit Proof Fence, we’ve seen that there is the potential to make good, classic movies, but for some reason, we just can’t keep the momentum going. I’ll be the first to admit it, Australian film has been on struggle street for some time now.

There is no singular, “real” reason as to why the AIF is deteriorating, but I believe, in order to understand how the Australian Film Industry can improve its credibility and connect with Australian audiences, there needs to be a review into their current strengths, weaknesses and a look into the qualities that attract their target audiences to international film.

Image Source: theartofperseverance.com.au

Image Source: theartofperseverance.com.au

According to Toli Papadopolous article ‘An Aussie film decline? The reasons are a dogs breakfast, on the ‘Daily Review’, there is a growing number of audiences tuning in to watch Australian television programmes, such as House Husbands, Offspring and Winners & Losers, indicating that Australian content is still quite relevant. “Local content is still a regular part of the audience’s media diet, although television appears to be the dominant medium. Yet in an age of multi-platform media, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure a films success- considering less than 10 per cent of Australian films are viewed at the cinemas”. 

To put simply, there really is no strong interest in Australian movies. Personally, (and not mentioning any movie in particular) I feel that they tend to be immensely cheesy, the plot lines feel like ‘cheap knock-offs’ from their US film counterparts and there is a lack of connectivity to draw in audiences. So, how do we fix this?

There is unbelievable potential for Australian film. There are so many innovative ideas floating around, not to mention the rise of popular Aussie actors and actresses taking over the big screen, it is quite possible to have competitive movies that are enjoyed by not only an Australian audience, but internationally also. To do so, the industry needs to re-evaluate their current motives. Consideration needs to be taken in the decline of cinema attendance. With a rise in film piracy, and online viewing, fewer people are going to the cinemas due to expensive prices in ticket and confectionary items, along with the fact that there is free access to movies currently at cinemas, online, which audiences can stream from their comfort of their own homes. Significantly for people living in the spatial dimension of  rural areas, this would be ideal for them, instead of taking the hefty trip to see an Australian movie, which may not reach their expectations.

With a fascination and admiration for Hollywood, Australia is at risk of conforming to an Americanized culture. This country is unlike any other. We have our own sense of humour and unique lifestyle, that it would be a shame to lose it all through the entertainment world. We are fast becoming lost in globalisation, and being succumbed by a sub-culture that doesn’t identify with our own.

Yes, Hollywood may be all glitz, glamour and full of beautiful people, but we have something that Hollywood has so little of, RARITY!

To attempt to fix this, qualitative research must be undertaken. I feel that Australian Film Industry still are unaware of what the Australian public want in their films and entertainment. Detailed ethnographic research would be beneficial to identify what is or isn’t working. This research can be in the form of surveying, giving out half-price tickets for Australian films, or offering promotional, discounted items through DVD stores or electronic retailers in exchange for their thoughts, views and opinions on Australian film and the things they look for in a good movie.

In order to gain more stabilised information, an analysis of different demographics within Australia should be also coerced. With information regarding social, environmental, technological and other qualitative figures that are relevant, the Australian Film Industry will be able to shed light on the reasons of their decline, and then utilise their tools to revive their possible promising future. It may take some time, but I truly believe that if they can entertain and connect to Australian audiences, like they have in the past, we will once again re-stamp our place in the entertainment world.

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Regulating the media

Image Source: techzim.co.zw

Image Source: techzim.co.zw

Rules and regulations are everywhere. They can be found all around us, in the most public and private of settings. At home, in school, in the workplace, in sporting clubs, on the road and everywhere in between. They can be seen as a form of protection, safety and security for all the people involved. In regards to the media, we see a tendency for tighter and stricter regulations, that are aimed to increase this protection for audiences vulnerable to certain types of contents, from both media commissions and personal enforcers.

Within my household, my younger sister and I were subjected to some media restrictions regarding television programs, from both our parents and grandparents (more so the parents, because grandparents can hardly ever say no to their grandkids!) and also restricted Internet access during primary and high school years.

Image Source: classification.gov.au

Image Source: classification.gov.au

Coming from a European background, my family has their own restrictions on pretty much everything we do. Growing up, my parents had tight rules on the television shows and movies I was allowed to watch. When it came down to it, if there was any nudity, violence, sexual scenes or other inappropriate content, then it was completely off-limits. Of course there was the occasional movie or television show that had bits and pieces of these themes, so my parents would let it slide or quickly attempt to change the channel. This was the case up until I turned 16. After that, I was basically free to watch what I wanted. The Australian Classification Board helps to maintain these restrictions, but the question is, how much can they control online in regards to movies, T.V, gaming etc?

Predominantly with the rise in technology, and movies and T.V available online, for free, I had the potential to access anything I wanted, without any  regulations. That is the beauty or ugliness of the World Wide Web. My Internet access at home, has no restrictions. My parents basically have no control over how or what sites are being viewed, and even if they did, they have no understanding of enforcing these regulations. This is also seen as a challenge for media commissions. How can they enforce their guidelines on a platform where everyone has control? Anyone has the ability to become anonymous online, create a new identity and find their way onto a particular website. The power of the Internet is quite amazing!

During high school, however, social media, movie/t.v/music streaming and other websites were blocked using a ‘Barracuda’ software, restricting any and all access by students and teachers, with the I.T administrators being the only ones to control these regulations. If anyone tried to get around these sites, somehow the I.T administrators would be alerted, and it was mere impossible to get passed them.

In the ‘real world’ it’s the opposite. There are virtually NO MEDIA REGULATIONS! And thats the way it always will be.

Multitasking Muse

Everyone multitasks. Even when we don’t even realise it. You’re probably multitasking right now. You might have your phone next to you, hundreds of tabs open, television on in the background or music blaring through your headphones. It’s just who we are.

Multitasking has become an inevitable entity. It shapes todays busy lifestyles and “helps” people manage their many daily tasks, as efficiently as possible. For me, I am the same as everyone else. Always trying to do a million things at once, and done equally as good as the other. This week, after undertaking a tutorial task about moments when we personally do and don’t multitask, I came to the realisation that people multitask more than ever, especially in regards to technology, media and mobile phone use.

According to a featured research conducted in the US on Science Daily, surveys suggest that 59% of Americans use their computer and television at the same time. The rate at which this done by, has been shown to be an oblivion to these users. They stated in the surveys that they looked back and forth between the two devices around 15 times per half hour. This was disapproved, showing that this is nearly 10 times more. “And even if quick ‘glances’ less than 1.5 seconds are removed from the equation, people were still switching over 70 times per half hour”, also “just 7.5% of all computer gazes and 2.9% of all glances at the television, lasted longer than 60 seconds”.  

Image Source: rothcg.com

Image Source: rothcg.com

These results alone, are quite astounding, and something that I am guilty of doing. But it wasn’t until reading these statistics, that I realised that this is pretty accurate, also making me think about media multitasking within the classroom (the place of ultimate multitasking and procrastination!). Once again, I am guilty of this. Sitting in a lecture room, or tutorial class, trying to listen to the lecturer, the temptations of your mobile phone and laptop screen are prevalent. Facebook is calling and sometimes you can’t help but just log on, even if you’ve done so 200 times in the past 5 minutes. It becomes a habit, and almost like we’re on autopilot!

It is quite difficult paying attention to one thing, when you have a number of distractions around you, that are more appealing and entertaining. I guess it is our way to stay connected to the people and the world around us, even in the most public and limited of places. According to Farina Sana’s journal article “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers”  a study was tested on students in a lecture theatres, and their use of multitasking, contributing to exam time. The results demonstrated that participants were listening to the lecture, taking notes, and also attending to other online tasks. However, carrying out these multiple tasks impeded their ability to retrieve information accordingly, “likely as a result of poor encoding during learning (as evidenced by multitaskers’ poorer quality of notes) and inefficiency at allocating limited attentional resources”. So, what I make of this, is that multitasking is damaging to a student’s ability to learn and retain information. It is an interesting find, but I am not quite sure if I agree entirely.

Thinking about my own experiences with media multitasking, I don’t believe that is negatively affecting my learning experience. If anything, it is healthily making me work better. We can’t sit hours on end focusing on one task, especially studying. I sometimes need to take a break, switch gears, and if that is logging onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or turning on the television, then so be it. Our generation has grown up knowing and feeling that we can do everything at once, and this is something that just cannot be unlearned. Even during high school, we were encouraged to use online resources to assist us with classroom activities, and taught to utilise the Internet. Specifically at university, using social media is one of  the main parts of my degree. Without it, we don’t get the hands on experience we need to succeed in our career prospects.

Multitasking works! It just depends on each individual and how they respond to the tasks they are juggling. I believe the media isn’t to blame for this, multitasking has been around before the Internet or television existed. It is all a matter of doing what works best for you and your situation.

Here is an episode of the Ellen Degeneres show, with one of her guests, David Spade, coming onto the stage with his iPhone, and talking about his attachment to his smart phone and his illegal multitasking of texting, driving and pedestrian phone use.  (Skip to 22:14)

 

Redefining the Public Space

Image Source: daveibsen.typepad.com

Image Source: daveibsen.typepad.com

The line between what can be seen as our public and private spaces, is rapidly shifting. Today, due to the increasing use of technology, we can see both elements of our public and private, intertwine among one another, ultimately blurring the line between the two.

According to Means and Tims (2005) a public space can be defined as a “shared resource in which experiences and value are created”. This may have been the case at the time this definition was established, now, it is essentially the opposite. Wherever I go, and whoever I see, people’s eyes are glued to the palms of their hands, almost mindlessly scrolling through their iPhone feeds. It has become our new ‘norm’ and I think its safe to say that we are ALL guilty of pulling out our phones in the most social of situations.

Undertaking a hands-on activity during my tutorial class last week, allowed me to analyse and witness first hand how true this actually was. Walking throughout the UOW Campus, almost every single person I passed, had their phone in their hand, earphones plugged in or heads hiding behind laptops. I obviously know and understand that this part of our generation, because I am living it, but when you actually start to take notice, it is far more prominent than you think.

In a typical public space, one that was around years ago, if you were in a social setting, it would be rude to be on your phone whilst having a conversation with somebody.

Today that has indefinitely changed. We see groups of friends hanging out, not really conversing with eachother, but only with their phones. I’m not going to lie, my friends and I have done this (and still do), it becomes natural and almost like a reflex, to reach for our phones. I guess this is the new way of connecting to a different kind of public, social place.

Whilst walking around, I was already pretty aware of how dependent people have become on their phones and technology. What I also noticed was a boy attempting to take a photo of a pair of girls wearing outrageously, loud outfits, assuming he would post it on some social media app for a chuckle.

Image Source: www.basd.net

Image Source: http://www.basd.net

This made me think about my own privacy concerns, and how this could affect me when I am out in public. Anyone could be taking a photo of me walking in the shopping centre, or down the street, without my knowledge. This could be happening more frequently than we think. I believe that whoever succumbs to being the target of this, would consider their privacy rights, but is there anything, legally, that can be done?

According to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, you COULD contact the police, however the Privacy Act 1988 “is unlikely to apply in this circumstance as it does not cover individuals acting in a personal capacity”. This ultimately means that someone could take photos of you, or vice versa, without permission, and it’s all fine.

In regards to social media, once a photo is upoladed, it is on the Internet FOREVER. Even if it is untagged or deleted, the World Wide Web finds a special place to store it. I think there should be some regulations put in place to stop, or assist in stopping, putting photos of people other than yourself, if they are offensive or shaming in any way.

We can see this more so now, than ever before. With mobile phones at the forefront of our lives, I feel that this takeover contributes to a new ‘anti-social’ public space, contradictory to what the public space is essentially known for, and re-defining its future.

Cinema Experience

Going to the cinema’s is possibly one of the greatest pass times in every kid’s life. Growing up, I remember getting super excited and giddy whenever my parents would mention the idea of going out to the movies. For me, it was such an exciting place. It was somewhere where the ‘real’ world could become completely shut out, and when the lights dim, for the next two hours, you can get totally submerged into a fictitious lifestyle. That was always my favourite part, and which I believe is the whole purpose of the cinema experience. Being a public space, there is also a private element that contributes to each individuals experience.

According to urban planner, Torsten Hagerstrand, there is a potential three human constraints which contribute to the way in which social planning, within audiences, is conducted. These three constraints are known as:

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Image source: westfieldretailtrust.com

  • Capability: Can I get there?
  • Coupling: Can I get there at the right time?
  • Authority: Am I allowed to be there?

This past weekend, I tested the three constraints, along with my sister, and set off on a long-awaited movie date.

On Friday afternoon, I was speaking with my sister about this week’s blog post and as soon as I said “I have to go the movies” she jumped at the opportunity and invited herself. As we both live in the same house, and as I am the one who has a driver’s license, the capability of getting there, is at my disposal. We decided to go the Hoyts Warrawong cinema, as it is not only the closest, but also the cinema where I have the fondest memories. After searching for the latest movie sessions showing, we quickly decided on watching ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, both being avid superhero lovers, it was a given. To ensure that coupling was identified, we went back online to double-check that there was a time available that suited us. We originally planned to attend a Sunday session at 2:45pm, however my sisters conflicting plans stopped us from doing so, and we mutually agreed on Saturday. In regards to session times, I preferred the Saturday morning 11:15am as it was more convenient, and for me, a typical time of the day to see a movie. However, my sister had favoured a late afternoon time, around 4:10pm, because the morning session was too early for her liking. It took a while to negotiate the time, as we both let our stubbornness get in the way. Eventually we agreed to the morning session (after some sibling bribery) and had our plan ready to go.

Image source: mashable.com

Image source: mashable.com

Considering the authority constraint, it didn’t show to be as much as a problem. Being 20 years old, I didn’t necessarily need parental consent to go and watch the movie. However, my sister being 16, we had to run it past the parents, and also because the film is rated M, allowed the both of us, to watch the movie legally, not imposing the authority constraint.

Upon arriving at Hoyts Warrawong, we bought our student tickets, a box of popcorn each and a few packets of Skittles and other confectionaries brought from home. We headed over to Cinema 3 where the usher tore our tickets, and walked in. Ignoring the allocated seating on our tickets (as the majority of people do), we made our way up the stairs, stealing a glance at the floor seats that are way too close for comfort. It was pretty easy to choose our seats, as we both like sitting in the same area. The best view for us was towards the left side of the screen, in the middle section, three or four seats into the row. There is no typical reason for this, it just feels more comfortable and relaxing.

The movie audience was a mixture of teenagers, older adolescents and a few romantic couples. Being within this public space, sharing my experience with these people, didn’t really phase me, as my full attention was on the movie (even during the previews). The cinematic experience has drastically changed for me personally. I used to get so excited to go to the movies, and to be part of that atmosphere. These days, I much prefer to relax on my couch and watch the latest movie on my laptop, where I don’t have to worry about finding the perfect seat, paying to see the film or being on my best behaviour out in public. I believe this is a rising factor in today’s society, as technology becomes more and more central in our lives. I do however also believe that in the next 5-10 years, cinemas will remain successful, as it is a place where people can be social, hangout, play air hockey and then go see a movie.

Whatever the reasons, the cinema is always a fun idea. The frequency of attendees may not be as high as they used to be, but the way we think about this public place, and the times we’ve spent there, will be always be the nicest of experiences.

The New Network

Within today’s quintessential Australian household, online media activity plays the centerpiece role behind the screen of every laptop, tablet and smartphone. The increasing rise and advances in technology have allowed for these formats to become the platform of our daily lives, creating the new “normalised” lifestyle. Referring back to my previous television blog post, the average T.V was our main source of gathering and recieving information, whilst also becoming the archtype of the beginning in our media space. Today, this media space stretches all around the globe, locationally, from the comfort of our own homes.

Image source: abc.net.au

Image source: abc.net.au

The National Broadband Network (NBN) is Australia’s answer within this public media sphere. Currently under technical development, the NBN aims to provide upgrades to the existing phone lines and Internet networks of the Australian public. With this assistance, Internet access and downloads becomes faster, networking becomes easier accessible and the way in which people explore and utilise technology will become the equivalent of national railway network, connecting everyone to anything. What has been dubbed as the country’s largest infrastructure project in history, the NBN is a view of the pathway for the future, revolutionising the way we access data and technology, for both regional and metropolitan cities.

Image source: nicholsoncartoons.com.au

Image source: nicholsoncartoons.com.au

With the proposed planning of this revitilised network, it got me thinking about, and deciding to take a look into my own household, and the type of broadband network that is currently available to me. With five people (four excluding my grandmother), and one wi-fi ADSL broadband modem, there is constant online activity happening, at all hours of the day. My father connects his mobile to our wi-fi and constantly checks his business e-mails, my mother jumps on the desktop and googles the thousands of available muffin recipes, my sister connects her laptop, tablet and iPhone to keep up to date with school assignments (*cough* social media) and I utilise my laptop and iPhone to basically have an infinite connection to search on the World Wide Web.

With one data plan, and with around seven devices linked to a single modem, you could imagine that the Internet made available would not be at its fastest, and uploading/downloading is painfully slow, predominantly if everyone is connected at the same moment in time. After instigating a discussion with my family members on the topic, they unanimously agree. “I would love it if the browser was quicker, less hassles and more productivity” my father mentions. “I am sick of waiting like fifteen seconds for a page to load, I want and need it to be almost instant” my sister states. Alternatively, my mother believes that the new NBN could be quite costly and economically unjust. “Who would pay for this network? Us taxpayers or private sectors? What if this is like another Liberal hike? It would be pretty expensive for the public, plus you kids will for sure never put your phones down” she says. Whatever the underlying circumstances, the introduction of the NBN is of great value, and the ability for rural areas to access the Internet, and allow for new forms of interaction is quite beneficial in today’s society. However, under investigating if my home would be eligilbe for the NBN connection, I discovered that it won’t be happening for a while, which raises disappointment and a setback, especially when one of the goals of the National Broadband Network is to reach out to all regional areas, limiting the usefulness of this national network.

Image source: nbnco.com.au

Image source: nbnco.com.au

Checking into my previous television blog post, I decided to ask my grandmother if she had any clue about the Internet and possibly the NBN. Surprisingly, she was well informed about what the Internet is and does, significantly Facebook and Skype, (she loves for me to connect her with family overseas). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Internet use in older persons is on the rise, with factors such as increase in life expectancy contributing to this. Around 30% of older persons are shown to use the Internet for social networking and or video/voice calls, so I guess my grandmother plays an active participant role in this figure!

For a woman that couldn’t afford to own a television set for almost the entire first half of her life (and barely knowing how to use it), to now clicking and communicating throughout the World Wide Web, it truly demonstrates the strength and adaptability that technology possesses, and the way in which it has become a daily commodity that has enriched the lives of users, and changed the way information is interpreted and received.

Looking five years into the future, I predict (hopefully)  that the National Broadband Network will stretch out to the majority of regional cities throughout Australia. It will be beneficial in linking all people to the world around them, establishing reformed ways of interaction and also making way for a modified Australia. In regards to the television, I feel that services such as Foxtel will become less popular, due to the increase in quick and endless accessibility in downloading movies and television shows, however people will not overall abandon their television sets, but rather keep them as a constant. For example, in my household, while everyone is playing around on their phones and laptops, T.V’s will be on in the background, to fill in the space where conversations would usually lie. A different story to that of at least a decade ago.

The National Broadband Network will become a successful, monumental entity if it fulfills its intentions of expanding its broadcast Australia wide. In doing so, this should widen the knowledge and understandings of Internet users and generate a stimulus that empowers this metamorphosing phase in Australia’s technological rise.

Always watching…

IMS-Research

Since the rise (and continued rise) in technology, the Internet and social media, we have witnessed a revolutionised form of interaction and connection between our public media sphere and media producers. It is a phenomena that is inevitable, and one that constantly surrounds us. Given this distinct transformation, we can see an ignition of producers reaching out to their audiences, in ways that didn’t exist as little as a decade ago. Prior to this, the concept of audience measurement was conducted in less profund ways. Organisations such as Australia’s OzTam and Nielsen Media Research, would utilise their data research equipment to record their audience ratings, and measure the number of viewership taking place on their nominated program. Although this still exists today, we are now in a timeframe where audience measurement almost becomes like a form of ‘Big Brother’ and audience’s, along with their personal details, become easily accessible through what can be identified as ‘Social TV’. 

What I mean by ‘Social TV’ is that many of today’s television programs offer the oppurtunity for audience involvement and participation. One prime example of this is Channel Nine’s hit reality show, ‘The Block’. Throughout the airing of the program, ‘The Block’ invites all their ‘BLOCKaholics’ to get social, and head over to the ‘9jumpin’ app, and any of their social media outlets, give their own verdicts on the contestants renovated rooms, and an overall opinion on that particular episode. Throughout the aired episode, audiences catch glimpses of tweets from other members of the public, and also gives viewers the chance to take an online poll and vote for their favourite room/couple. block glasshouse contestants june 23

This feature is a depiction of the transforming realm of audience viewership. This not only allows a way for audiences to feel apart of the television program, but can be also seen as reformed way of audience measurement, on behalf of the Channel Nine Network. 

If you think about it, it truly is great methodology to gain insight into the number of people tuning into your program, and how well you’re rating. But at the same time, how much is too much? By Channel Nine, and ‘The Block’ delving into their audience statistics using this new wavelength of social media, they are also submerging themselves into the private lives of the general public. By clicking ‘Like’ on the ‘The Block’ Facebook page, and tweeting the hashtag #TheBlock, your name, where you work, where you study, where you live, the photos you’re taken, and other details that are visible, become available to media networks, with or without your knowledge of so called, obliged consent. Don’t get me wrong, getting involved in one of your favourite shows is a fun idea, but it’s not that fun allowing complete strangers access into your personal, little world. 

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With this information, networks have the ability to screen their viewers, establish new ‘plots’ based on audience feedback, see what parts of their program are popular and unpopular, and whole array of other marketing tools to keep their audiences watching, and possibly spy on what you’re posting, which is the main concern! (personal view)

I suppose it is all part of the 21st century. Technology has made it easier for people to gain access to guarded tools much quicker, and more subtly than ever before. Perhaps it something we need to get used to, because it’s definitely not going anywhere. The old fashion way of audience measuring seems to have almost vanished, and social media is at the forefront of it all. 

The future for audience measurement is intact for now, but as technology and social media grows furthermore, so too will the way media producers look for their audiences.