Thursday, December 6, 2012

Limiting Nepotism, New Blood & Fresh Ideas # 2

Continuing on from:

Limiting Nepotism, New Blood & Fresh Ideas # 1

After 3 or 4 years working for a state or federal film funding body bureaucrats in positions of significant creative (and hence cultural) power would, under the initiative suggested here, return to the industry from whence they came - to struggle like the rest of us to survive; to be reminded of just what it is like to be on the other side of the funding table and dependent on the skills, the good will, the integrity of those now occupying the position they occupied so recently. Perhaps, a few years later, they might return to being bureaucrats - enriched by their experience in the field.

Film bureaucrats who have been in the positions they now hold for more than 3 or 4 years, along with those who hope to retain their jobs for as long as they can, have a vested interest in not wishing to even consider what I am suggesting here. They will not even discuss it. It is unfortunate that, in Australian film (both the industry and culture), there is virtually no opportunity today for there to be an open discussion (heated debate!) about suggestions such as the one I am making here or of the many other suggestions that fellow filmmakers have as how best to adapt to the radically changed cinema-going and broadcasting circumstances we all find ourselves in. Screen Australia actively discourages any form of dialogue with the industry that it cannot control. Screen Australia's idea of discussion, of dialogue, is a few bureaucrats on a stage telling the audience what a great job they are doing and inviting filmmakers to queue up at the microphone to ask questions. But that's another story...

There are too many film bureaucrats in both our states and federal film funding bodies who have limited experience as filmmakers. More importantly there are too many who lack the skills needed to perform well in their jobs. A qualification is in order here. Just as someone with no experience at all can, with a first film, demonstrate his or her talent as a filmmaker, so too can a Reader or Assessor of screenplays. A lack of significant filmmaking experience does not necessarily mean that a film bureaucrat lacks the skill to do his or her job - whether it be making value judgements about a screenplay or the potential of a film to reach its designated audience. However, just as the inexperienced filmmaker must prove her talent with the film she makes, so too should film bureaucrats (experienced and inexperienced, novice and tenured) demonstrate their talent with the films they develop and invest production monies in. In short, the assessors need to be assessed in much the same way filmmakers are - on the basis of their track record. If the quality of their work is found to be lacking, why should they retain their jobs?

It is not too hard to judge the quality of a film bureaucrat's work given that any finished film leaves behind it a significant paper trail. For the most part the initial concept, the synopsis and/or treatment, 1st, 2nd and subsequent drafts have all been assessed by at least one and, in all likelihood, more than one film funding body. And, when the relevant people within the funding bodies believe that the screenplay is of a high quality and likely to result in a fine film, recommendations are made to invest significant production monies in the project. In short, by the time the Screen Australia Board announces that a significant investment has been made in such and such a project, the names of numerous people are attached to it as having 'green lit' the project. They must bear some responsibility for the quality of the resultant film.

Of course there are many things that can happen between the time that all interested parties sign off on a film and the time it makes it to the silver screen. It is not possible, however, to lay the blame entirely at the feet of the producer, director or the actors when a bad film has been made from what was clearly an inferior, underdeveloped or plain bad (and sometimes incompetently written) screenplay. be continued...

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