Disaprate Orders: The Millieux of Film and Television Production in QLD 1977-1987

Article excerpt

When Bruce Molloy (1) made the comment that an extraordinary number of Australian feature films made reference to a mythologized notion of Queensland, he also pointed out that these images of Queensland co-existed at a time when there was a very limited capacity for film and television production within the state. Queensland politics provided a rich source of material and inspiration for film-makers on projects developed and funded by interstate film bodies and carried out on a fly in fly out basis, (2) yet there were few local films that gave voice to the experiences of living within the 'sunshine' state. The Queensland Film Corporation is best remembered for the scandals that preceded the chief executive Allen Callaghan's resignation and imprisonment for the embezzlement of Corporation funds in 1986. (3) In many ways, the accusations of corruption and cronyism have tended to obscure any critical evaluation of QFC performance.

The following article focuses on the causes of Queensland's arrested development in the film and television industries, covering the decade of the Queensland Film Corporation's participation in local screen development. In other states this decade (from 1977 to 1987) was one of growth and gradual convergence of local production capacities. In Queensland however, fundamental institutional differences between production agencies and what were perceived as appropriate models of industrial development, were compounded by significant political discord within the state. These divisive factors severely affected the local capacity to make a significant contribution to Australian cinema for the period in question.

To be more specific, the local 'grass roots', predominately left, wing, independent film movements looked to alternative forms of content and circulation to mainstream media. By they were fundamentally at with a repressive government. Initially supported by the Australian Film Television and Radio Board (FTVRB) of the Australia Council, these groups coalesced within the city-based Brisbane Community Arts Centre, and subsequently regarded themselves as part of the constituency allied to the Australian Film Commission's Creative Development Branch. The QFC was more in tune with the AFC's predecessor the Australian Film Development Corporation, and clearly set its sights on the Hollywood model, with little tolerance for 'overprecious, quality-of-life, cultural-enhancement priorities'. (4) This situation was exacerbated by the AFC's abandonment of policy measures that specifically addressed issues of regional equity (implemented by the FTVRB) in favour of the more elitist model of art cinema. (5) Consequently, up until the 1990s, film and television production in Queensland existed as a number of disparate arenas of activity that had little interconnection. The focus of this article is to examine the origins of this discord and the impact that it has had on the developing potential of screen production in Queensland.

THE REGIONAL TELEVISION AND TELEVISION COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION

To cite O'Regan, one of the 'conditions of possibility' (6) for an Australian film revival was the development of Australian television production; and from a regional perspective, Australian television culture in its first twenty-five years was more local in character to what it is now. Christopher Beck's collection of anecdotes on the first twenty-five years of television in Queensland suggest a 'golden age' in the production of local content. (7) In 1964, both television stations, BTQ7 and QTQ9, were supporting huge production units, with recording studios, camera crews, costume departments, makeup rooms, and props departments, producing twenty hours of programming a week. By the late seventies, the variety show genre lost popularity; and with the gradual application of first landline then satellite technology, Brisbane television production shrank to sport, news, current affairs, and documentary programmes. …