Call to arms to support the screen industry

16 November, 2014 by Don Groves

Phillip Adams today called on filmmakers, writers, painters and other creative types to rally to support the Australian film industry.

Delivering the Hector Crawford Memorial lecture, the ABC radio broadcaster and columnist for The Australian declared the industry’s advocates must not be “fooled into collaborating with the bureaucracies by arguing in their terms.”


A former producer and chairman of the Australian Film Commission and the AFI, Adams told the Screen Forever conference, “It is time to form another Team Australia. Based not on dog whistle calls to bigotry but on expressing the sort of cultural and political idealism that was so exhilarating in the glory days of Whitlam.

“It is time to call upon the pantheon of Australia’s creative producers, filmmakers, writers, painters, pundits, public intellectuals and sympathetic pollies – anyone and everyone who can be recruited to the cause.”

Adams recalled that the campaigns to properly finance and support Australian screen content in the 1960s and 70s succeeded not because of economic arguments but by stressing the need to see and hear Australia’s voices, tell our history and celebrate our heroes.

“It was never an argument about an industry as such – and support for industries, these days, don’t go down too well,” he said. “Ask far more significant operations like the auto industry. If Canberra will cop the political pain and close them down they’re hardly likely to lose much sleep over the complaints of local film producers.

“The film industry exists because government called it into being, persuaded by patriotic arguments. Lose the support of the Australian government and this whole enterprise vanishes, like picnickers at Hanging Rock, and we revert to the cinematic terra nullius of the 1950s and 60s.

“If you are to win or regain support from government – and it matters little what brand of government you’re dealing with these days – the only weapon you have has Australia written on the blade. It is still the most powerful word, whether used as noun or adjective. “

“It’s what saves the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the constant assaults of The Australian newspaper. It is what draws attention and funding to Australian Opera, Australian Ballet and pretty much anything else with Australia in its name.”

Adams’ producing credits include The Adventures of Barry McKenzie, Don’s Party, The Getting of Wisdom and Abra Cadabra, and he was EP on Lonely Hearts and We of the Never Never.

Having closed his production company and resigned from committees 10 or 15 years ago, he said he reluctantly agreed to speak at Screen Forever.

“Our film industry was created with government largesse in the early 1970s. And I’m sure that Hector Crawford would agree with me when I state the bleeding obvious and say it cannot live without it,” he concluded.