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PUBLIC DEBATE DERAILED BY ILL-INFORMED LAWYER

Mr Alan Anderson, Melbourne lawyer and Liberal Party member*, reveals his ignorance of the subject matter in his misguided article in the Sydney Morning Herald (Less not more, government help may be better for the box office, April 28, 2005). He begins by referring to filmmakers as "the artistic classes" which is an oddly antiquated phrase – and an oddly nonsensical idea. But it’s his disparaging reference to bureaucrats at the Film Finance Corporation making the creative decisions that sticks out as one of the most uninformed comments in the article. By Andrew L. Urban.

If he knew anything about his subject he would know that the FFC last year hired two industry practitioners with fine track records to make script assessments on which the FFC would make financing decisions. The head of the FFC, Brian Rosen, also comes from the private sector, with a decade of it spent in Hollywood. Hardly the bureaucratic picture Mr Anderson is trying to paint.

Mr Anderson then comes up with this gem of an observation: "Perhaps, given the insularity of our cultural elites, the bureaucrats would achieve a better commercial return. Yet even if the man from the ministry does know best, would that be a film industry worth having?" What does that mean? The bureaucrats he is talking about come from the world he describes as ‘cultural elites’ – meaningless jargon being used in the absence of information.

Mr Anderson has set his mind to finding the solution: he proposes a dramatic shift in funding: "One solution is to move from a producer-focused to a consumer-focused subsidy, proportional to box office takings. This would give filmmakers an incentive to appeal to wider audiences than the small coterie of like minded activists and jaded post modernists who inhabit their narrow world, without curtailing artistic freedom." Note how ‘cultural elites’ have now become ‘small coterie of like minded activists and haded post modernists’. But his name calling aside, his suggestion for box office related subsidies doesn’t suggest a rigorous mind at work; it certainly hasn’t been taxed thinking that idea through.

It is to the detriment of public debate – which is to be encouraged on the subject of Australian filmmaking in its broadest sense – when otherwise serious broadsheet newspapers publish such ill-informed writers, given them a platform they don’t deserve. Of course, it’s also just possible that the left leaning SMH has published his article as a cruel joke on him, setting him up for ridicule.

*He is credited as such at the end of the article.

Published April 28, 2005.

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