The National Film and Sound Archive has been accused of failing to properly market the availability of 75 classic Australian films.
David Donaldson, a long-time supporter and client of the Archive, complains it is difficult to access the films on the NFSA’s website.
Kodak, Atlab and Deluxe co-funded the restorations, a treasure trove of Australian cinema. The library includes Alvin Purple, Breaker Morant, Caddie, The Cars That Ate Paris, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Crocodile Dundee, The F J Holden, My Brilliant Career, Proof, Storm Boy, Sunday, Too Far Away and The Fringe Dwellers.
“Wonderful work was done but it’s so hard to find about these titles or just find how to see those fresh prints," said Donaldson, the foundation director of the Sydney Film Festival and an inaugural board member of the Australian Film Institute.
“Over many years I have organised shows of Australian films, most recently with Terowie Days and Motorfest in South Australia, and advised film societies. I have found that there is a great willingness in the public to be interested in Australian films of the past. Getting them to the screen with approaches to NFSA and the AFC/Screen Australia was a real struggle."
Donaldson acknowledges two other restorations, Charles Chauvel’s Jedda (1955) and Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright (1971) , were effectively announced and shown in festivals. But he believes, “On an ongoing basis for people curious about Australian films and especially wanting to screen them, it is very difficult.”
Responding to Donaldson’s views, NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein tells IF, “We appreciate the feedback and will look at the possibility of improving product descriptions and updating our stock database… We also welcome comments about our website; we are continuously looking for better ways to communicate with our audience and present information in more exciting ways.”
Loebenstein pointed to two sections of the website:
http://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/film/which provides information about Wake in Fright, The Sentimental Bloke, The Story of the Kelly Gang, Jedda, For the Term of His Natural Life, and other titles and collections.
http://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/film/film-partnerships/ which provides information about the 75 titles restored through the Deluxe/Kodak and Kodak/Atlab partnership. These pages also mention that the films are available, on request, for screenings.
“These restoration projects are also represented on our australianscreen (ASO) website, with curatorial notes and video clips available to the general public. We also receive enquiries via email (available on our website) and our social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. No matter the medium, our response time is 72 hours or less,” he said.
“The NFSA’s core function is the development, preservation and sharing of our collection. We are not a distribution company, but we have entered into partnerships with professional distributors (such as Umbrella, Madman, etc.), in order to ensure that materials from the NFSA collection reach the widest possible audience and benefit from our partners' expertise in film distribution and marketing.
“Like with any films, there is a strong promotional campaign leading up to the theatrical/home entertainment release, which is when most of the media coverage and publicity take place. In a fast turnaround industry, it is impossible for any film to maintain a high profile indefinitely. The current decline in physical format sales and piracy make it harder for our partners to support the promotion of their back catalogue."
Loebenstein said the NFSA’s strategic plan, being developed in consultation with industry and the public, includes measures that will allow the organisation to find new revenue streams, including commercialisation of its collection via multiple platforms.
Donaldson seems unconvinced, stating, “On the basis of much experience in various facets of NFSA, I have come to feel that the organisation has an uphill path ahead in reaching the film sector and the community, thus to influencing the government to do right by a century of records of that wonderful mixture of art and commerce, the film.
“All of us are proud of the role of NFSA: that is why we want to help it get to a realistic footing. If we all had a better understanding of those world-leading skills, we would very much like to support them and benefit from them.”