Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Richard Todd’s feature documentary which investigates the impact of the coal seam gas industry on residents' health and food and water resources will get a long and wide exposure around Australia.
Frackman was one of the recipients of the first Good Pitch Australia event in Sydney on Wednesday, which raised more than $2 million in donations for seven docs.
To be released in cinemas by eOne, the film follows Queensland landowner and pig shooter Dayne ‘The Frackman’ Pratzky, who joins a broad coalition of conservative landowners, radical activists and city folk who oppose coal seam gas mining.
“While some of the money raised at Good Pitch goes to production, the majority will be spent on outreach — building audience interest and excitement ahead of the roll out early next year as it starts an innovative campaign across rural Australia in cinemas and community halls and culminating in city theatres for city dwellers,” said Trish Lake, who produced the docu with Simon Nasht.
“They’ll see Dayne Pratzky’s remarkable story showing what’s at stake in rural Australia right now in the Gas Rush. It will be a roll out over many months with a dialogue we hope for whatever time it takes for state and federal governments to re-think their current deals with the global gas industry.”
At Good Pitch the project secured several large donations from private individuals and from family foundations as well as some anonymous donors via the Documentary Australia Foundation.
Madman Entertainment pledged $10,000 and offered to work with eOne to maximise home entertainment revenues. Support also came from CSG affected farmers, foundations and philanthropic organisations.
“These people took to the microphones and raised their concerns about fracking and coal seam gas. Their overall view was that the film couldn’t get out there quickly enough to both rural and metropolitan Australia,” Lake said.
“We were particularly impressed with the offers of support from large organisations with massive data bases and memberships, for our outreach to find audiences.“
Some of the funds raised will go towards the campaign for the film to reach international audiences, including via Get Up!
Lake stressed that the docu would not have happened without investment from Screen Australia, Screen Queensland and Screen West.
“We could not have been competitive to have made the shortlist (out of 100 applicants) without the significant work we’d done through the vital investment or grants from our screen agencies,” she said.
“It would be wrong to assume that with such great support from the philanthropic community that documentary makers could get by with less agency support. Not so.
“With a remarkable list of recent quality Australian films both fiction and non-fiction being lauded internationally right now, there seems to be something of a market failure at the box office for Australian films.
“So the most important thing we can do to optimise all the great work and the 4-year journey of Frackman is to use this money to cut through to audiences and let them know that this exciting film exists so they will want to see it – whether on the big or small screen or on a device, as soon as they hear about it.”
While Nasht is thrilled with the Good Pitch result, he renewed his criticism of Screen Australia's recent ruling that feature documentaries cannot apply for production investment for theatrical films.
He describes the limiting of feature docs to funding for factual projects as "not only a denial of cinema history, it's a slap in the face to directors like Gilliam Armstrong and Bob Connolly."
Nasht continues, "It's also out of touch with global trends. On Rotten Tomatoes' list of the 100 best critically-received films of 2013, 28 were feature docs. And they included Oscar, Venice, Berlin and Sundance prize winners, often in competition with narrative films. Sadly, just two were Australian feature films [Lore, The Sapphires]. Our film agency is ignoring one of the most important movements in world cinema, and it's also preventing positive social outcomes. I don’t see that as beneficial to the industry or society."