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David Williamson leads the call for more local movies in Queensland

Long-serving screenwriter and playwright, David Williamson has spoken out about the need for movie directors and screenwriters in Queensland to have faith and pride in telling local stories, rather than worrying about tailoring their movies to Hollywood. 76-year-old Williamson focused much on contemporary urban Australia during his time as a playwright and screenwriter. He believes the time is right for more in Queensland’s film industry to show bravery and commit to developing plots that resonate with locals and boost the nation’s self-esteem.

David Williamson

Williamson’s calls come as the chances of Queensland playing host to the upcoming Dora The Explorer movie are beginning to look slim. That’s due to the State and Federal Governments’ inability to come to an agreement regarding who would offer the film’s production team enough tax offsets to bring it to the Sunshine State. Last year, the Queensland Government pleaded for its federal budget to include a tax perk for global film producers to base their productions within the state. Admittedly, Queensland does have its moments in the sun on the global movie stage. Brisbane was transformed as the city became ‘New York’ for Thor: Ragnok and a few years before that it was portrayed as San Francisco for the all-action film, San Andreas. Nevertheless, proud Australian screenwriters such as Williamson believe blockbuster movies set in Australia should not need to pretend to be elsewhere in the world and instead focus on Australian city life.

In Queensland, movie talent tends to ebb and flow. Directors are however beginning to put roots down in Brisbane rather than move interstate. With no film production system like the United States, many of Australia’s small moviemakers are heavily reliant on government funding and seeking short term financial aid. There have been some small glimmers of hope in recent times, with ABC’s own Harrow and Safe Harbour located and produced in Brisbane. Mark Ryan, a film lecturer for Queensland’s University of Technology, said that while the state’s film industry was small, there were some reasons to be hopeful. Ryan revealed that “more and more production companies are staying in Brisbane”, as opposed to the way things were “15 years ago” when talent disappeared “interstate”. However, Williamson insists the Queensland film industry should not become “a backlot for Hollywood”.

Williamson harked back to some of the most celebrated movies made in Australia, notably Muriel’s Wedding, Red Dog and Strictly Ballroom and insisted these were “films that made [him] feel better about [his] life and made [him] feel better about being Australian”. He too was the mastermind of some of the most iconic Australian movies, including Gallipoli and Balibo and Williamson feels that today’s Australian movie fans deserve quality, local stories that matter to them, just as much as those of yesteryear.

In truth, the ball is very much in the court of the Federal Government, who continue to face pressure to improve their tax offsets and improve Queensland’s competitiveness within the movie industry. A spin-off to the hugely successful Fast and the Furious franchise was mooted to be coming to the Sunshine State, but producers reportedly found a better-value location to shoot outside of Australia. Big screen movies are still a big part of Queensland’s film industry. They help employ local businesses for all facets of film production and the Government should take this into consideration also instead of reviewing grants on a case-by-case basis.

Published March 31, 2018

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