Have your say – “Australian Academy” Industry Forums Announced

The industry consultation phase of the AFI’s major review, including a proposed “Australian Academy“, continues, and we are pleased to announce two AFI “Australian Academy” Industry Forums – one to be held in Melbourne on 29 June, the other in Sydney on 30 June.

The Industry Forums follow a series of consultative initiatives, and we encourage those who have not yet done so to participate in our online survey and thus have their say in the evolution of both the AFI and our industry.

A cross-section of survey responses received to date is posted below.

As indicated by these responses, our consultations have not only indentified strong support for the creation of an “Australian Academy”, but have also identified many innovative ways in which the AFI, through the Academy, can further enhance, engage and promote the talents of those working in Australian film and television.

We thank those who have taken the time to provide their feedback thus far, and encourage those who would like to participate in the Industry Forums to RSVP by 28 June.

We look forward to updating you on our next steps following the conclusion of our consultation period on 30 June 2011.

Some of the latest comments received on the consultation:

An Australian Academy of Screen Culture needs to promote Australian creative endeavour[s] for the big screen and small screen, including online. It should promote both our contemporary film and television culture and our significant screen heritage. I would also like to see an organisation that engages with members and the Australian and international communities to promote debate, analyis and the study of screen culture and issues. So the organisation needs a structural underpinning to provide resources such as a film, video and reference library for members and the general public alike (much like the AFI was many years ago). I would not like to see an organisation that is engaged with awards alone, as much as I appreciate the importance of celebrating through an awards presentation. Rather, an Academy needs to have some clout and weight within the Australian arts scene. It should be able to represent the industry and provide a valuable and respected source of opinion and views on Australian screen culture to the public at large and to governments.” Trevor Graham

“One word. ‘Fantastic’.   This is a constructive move forward.” Phil Avalon

“There’s no question the current models for industry representation and voting need to be reviewed and revised if the AFI is to evolve into a more inclusive professional structure. I’m hopeful the introduction of an ‘Academy’ is a much needed step in the right direction. But I also think little will be achieved by trying to reinvent the AFI brand. I’ve been a member of the AFI since the early 1990’s, and over that time I’ve watched it being slowly eroded by too much navel-gazing and an ongoing preoccupation with style over substance. The time and money wasted on trying to change the name of the awards to ‘The Lovelies’ some years ago is an obvious example. The separation of the AFI Awards into craft vs celebrity award nights is another. It may have secured broadcast coverage. But it has also been an ongoing insult to all the talented crew and production personnel who have been branded as less important to the AFI than TV starlets and their frocks. If the AFI is serious about creating a more inclusive structure, then it should respect the brand and instead of trying to change it, focus on its history of recognising, supporting and promoting the interests and talents of ALL of the people who contribute to creating Australian film and television.” Gina Roncoli

“I greatly support AFI moving to an Academy model. This will encourage greater audience engagement and acknowledgement of the tremendous talents of our Film and TV makers. The popularity enjoyed by our TV productions will have a greater chance of translating to cinema through the recognition an Australian Academy will engender.” Stephanie Mills

“Personally I like the idea of building an Australian Film and TV brand that becomes recognized worldwide. And also having Australians abroad, who work in the industry, help achieve this goal.” Alvaro D. Ruiz

“The Australian film industry is small, so every single opportunity to promote it,  i.e the Writers, the Directors, the Crew, the Producers is valuable. So too are the Actors that ensure that a production has a recognisable Australian on-screen presence. Our screen culture, be it large or small, can only be enhanced with a  stronger and passionate awareness of its existence.” Tina Bursill

“I feel this is an appropriate step to further enhance, promote and educate our industry. I also would hope that public perception and response to Australian film and television would be increased.” John Studley

“I think this is a really really great move – strong and bold. I think it’s imperative to the industry moving forward for the general public to get a better understanding of the Australia industry as a whole and hopefully break this [negative] ‘Australian Films’ thing in the process, which I think many Australians, particularly younger viewers, cringe at. Getting the public to recognise actors is great but in the States and the UK, the general public have, by and large, a good understanding of the top writers, producers and directors. Let’s face it, actors don’t need the help but the writers and producers, and to a lesser extent, the directors, need a big push. I think making more of a focus on these will give the audiences more opportunity to gain knowledge on our filmmakers and then our films in general. Australian cinema would greatly benefit from better representation and promotion, and I also think the “Australian Academy” idea would truly help promote Australian Cinema abroad. We don’t seem to have the same stigma with TV. Ratings are showing Australian TV drama [has] the reverse of what we see at the box-office for Aussie films. And so the onus falls on the content creators as well. We desperately need to move away from these dark, depressing, seemingly ‘worthy’ films that Australian filmmakers are inclined to make. From the audience point of view, they’re killing the industry. And it’s clear by box-office takings that no one wants to see them. There’s no less ‘art’ in comedy, although I know many people will argue the opposite. I greatly support the AFI’s proposal for the establishment of an Australian Academy.” Gian Christian

“The Awards model used by BAFTA in the UK would seem more suited to the AFI’s goals than the Academy model from the US. Additionally, it is essential to include Film Distribution personnel in any proposed new organisation going forward. I have over 20 years experience releasing both international and local films in Australia and having been an AFI member for 27 years wish to continue my involvement in the yearly awards process.”  Michael Atkins

“I think the AFI needs to have a specific focus. Film culture, while related to Television and now Digital Culture, has its own distinct and particular history. Part of the value of awarding excellence within film is acknowledging the development, production, post-production and distribution aspects of the particular field. An Australian feature film can be a $6000 shoestring film someone made with their own money and equipment, a $1 million film privately financed, or a massive international co-production. I think we rarely see such diversity (and opporunity for independence) on the Television stage. I would also recommend, if not already investigated, fostering strong connections with Australia’s wonderful film festivals, such as MIFF, SFF and so on. If it’s not already in place, could such participating festivals become Academy Qualifying, such that their inclusion in such festivals enables them to be automatically watched by voters for the AFI awards? Such a scheme could support a Special Mention category for a film worthy of recognition and support, but that otherwise might miss out on an award for specific excellence. I think it’s worth noting that while interest in awards programs might be declining, festivals such as MIFF are building their audiences and getting bigger and bigger. Overall, I agree with and support the idea of an Academy model. I also believe though, that if television is to be regarded as a moving image field within the AFI’s scope, then perhaps so should our excellent interactive-media and games artists!” Andrew Serong

“The Australian film industry boasts world class talent that is at home on any stage or set. But, Aussie talent is at it’s best telling stories about our own people and culture.” Bill Admans

“As an actor, I believe that gaining respect within our industry is as important as gaining work. It is even more important to gain that respect from outside the industry. Only through the combined strengths of union and guild, augmented by the unifying presence of the AFI (in the form of the proposed Academy), can that respect be gained and used to build an even stronger industry. We have the potential to create an industry that can remain true to our national identity, acknowledging our unique heritage and creativity, while still being accessible internationally. We need to explore the many possible avenues of production, finance and international cooperation beyond that which we now experience, while avoiding petty, divisive disputes and parochial attitudes which can only diminish our standing internationally. Good luck in your endeavours.” Peter Callan

“I like the idea of an Australian Academy! Something I would like to see, that hasn’t been mentioned, is a brand new award statue. The current one isn’t very appealing and doesn’t represent the film and television art forms like the BAFTA or the CESAR award trophy.” Edoardo Mesiti

“I love Australian film, including many of the genre types that others disparagingly use to describe our industry as out of touch. I have regularly ‘found’ amazing gems within the AFI screenings. I may be only one of a handful who would champion them… It is wonderful to think that steps could be made to reach greater audiences. I am grateful also for those who are able to publicly critique with intelligence and context and an understanding of career development AND audience appeal. An Australian Academy could widen the range of Australian films that many see, instead of the present few.  Please keep access available to wider Australia, beyond the key capital cities. New technologies may be the key to accessiblity and distribution.” Justine Smith

“I think there needs to be acknowledgement and support for the field of film education which takes place in many formal and informal ways across a wide variety of demographics and socio-economic circumstances. Whilst I applaud the concept of an Academy it’s the word ‘inclusive’ that got my attention. Presumably this move is a response to the dire straights the Australian film industry finds itself in. I am not going to wade into the whole debate about that here, but I would say that, as you know, there is a lot of moving image content being produced independently without formal institutional support, finance or recogntion, that  does not see itself as being validated by the formal structures and institutions that represent us as the Australian film industry. Many of those groups are young people who see these institutions as out of touch, defensive, introspective and elitist. They are simply ignoring them the way they ignore most Australian content. Despite this, they are crying out for information, mentorship and support to produce stories that speak for them in their terms. Recognition of those groups and the people who work/mentor/teach with them, often under crippling conditions and often at the expense of their own film making careers, would be an overture of mutual respect that would resonate with these disaffected groups. But that’s not going to be easy or comfortable for many people. It would require the recognition and redefinition of moving image content that is currently still on the fringes.” Sean Okeeffe

“As an industry practitioner in directing, writing and acting, I am thrilled by the proposed changes and hope we can all embrace the future with enthusiasm. Indeed, the new Academy embraces the changing needs of cinema and television. As AFI Patron Dr George Miller puts it, this model for adapting the AFI to an academy ‘adapts successful elements of the world’s leading screen organisations to local traditions’. Perhaps also, the industry can lead the cinema-goer through education. Already, this site has comments reflecting this need in secondary schools to address ‘our future audience, and future practitioners’ (Vidler). I certainly agree. As the forum points out there is a need to adopt successful models from other countries, and one of these is the manner in which audiences are generated by awareness at an early level of education. However, more could be done here, which involves tertiary education and the industry itself.  I suggest we could bridge the gap between the practicality of the industry and our ability to analyse it. We have the benefit of living in a country which embraces highly accomplished filmmakers and crews. We also have had thirty years of higher education in Cinema. Could we do more through the new Academy to embrace this further?  One model for this from the past was the Cahiers du Cinema group, whose dedication to redefining the nature of cinema (through both theory and practice) made huge progress in the development of film art. Of course the era of the singular auteur has been and gone, but is there a way in which these two fields could come together in Australia and lead the world in this integration? I suggest that the professional fellowships such as Kennedy Miller Mitchell/Byron Kennedy Award are an avenue for this development. The AFI has traditionally supported the development of practical skills and education through such schemes. These schemes, as Director of the Australian Production Designers Guild George Liddle explains, ‘help raise the public profile of the local industry’. Could the excellence he describes also be helped by the integration of research and practical television and filmmaking skills on all levels?” Dr Ian Dixon

  •  To read the previously posted comments on the Industry Consultation, see this earlier post.
  • Have you responded to our survey and made your own comments? Click through to answer the questions.

Or, add your comments below on this blog. Comments will be subject to approval.

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