Have you ever wondered where all those great Australian films go once they go off cinema release, when you can’t buy the DVD at retail or view it legally in good quality online? Do you have visions of some tightly managed, grandiose Guggenheim like facility or maybe even a warehouse like the one shown in the last moments of Raiders of The Lost Ark?
Do you know where the original prints go to rest when their audience and distributor have forgotten them? You might be surprised to learn that for the most part, they un-gloriously and un-ceremonially go to rest with their creator ie. their producer, director or perhaps investor and in some cases quite unbelievably can be found wasting away in a forgotten draw, trunk or garage.
Attending a producers conference at the weekend as part of Vivid, I was pleased to discover OzFlix.TV, an initiative of industry veterans Alan Finney and Ron Brown. Alan is currently Chair of the Australian Film Institute, and Ron is an independent producer with nearly 1500 productions to his credit.
OzFlix launched in 2017 and with the lofty intent to capture and give a home to ‘Every Aussie Movie. Ever.’ and as George Miller so eloquently put it, it has essentially become Australia’s Screen Content Art Gallery, hosting as it does over 450 of Australia’s home-grown feature films, along with some original docos.
If you love a free movie you’ll be pleased to know there’s a bunch of free content available or you can take advantage of their free movie offer every week, otherwise you can view on demand on a pay per view basis for $6.79 or $3.79.
I was very surprised to learn that without Ozflix, fewer than ten per cent of tax payer funded Australian films are actually available anywhere to view. (When OzFlix was born Netflix offered fewer than 30 Australian movies.)
Unlike the American film industry, where almost all the films produced are copyright controlled by a handful of major Hollywood studios, in Australia the rights of each film are frequently in the hands of the individual Producers or their descendants. If you had wanted to build Netflix in USA, you would have spoken to six commercial organisations to secure the right to stream the films in their catalogues.
This would have covered all the desirable films ever made in Hollywood. However in Australia the opposite is true. To secure the right to stream Australian films literally hundreds, ultimately thousands, of individuals need to be researched, contacted and negotiated with in order to achieve a far more modest result.
Often the films are found in such a state they need extensive repairs, then they have to be digitised so they can be streamed, so OzFlix partnered with two companies who specialise in film restoration to undertake the work as films are discovered – or rather uncovered.
This process can run at a cost of $5,000-10,000 so the Australian Film Future Foundation Ltd was established, a not for profit that would allow philanthropic donations to be received to fund the repair process for the films recovered. OzFlix also works closely with the NFSA (National Film & Sound Archive).
Ozflix was a sponsor of the Vivid FreshFlix Film Festival I was attending as they’re also extremely supportive of the independent film production industry, providing as it does a high quality broadcast video streaming platform dedicated to premiering and showcasing Australian screen content.
If you’re an indie film enthusiast you might be interested to know that this year OzFlix also introduced ‘The Ozzies – Independent Film Awards’, which offered prizes in 20 categories and attracted 106 entries, and a Super Jury of 34 of the country’s leading practitioners (including Gillian Armstrong, Phil Noyce, Kriv Stenders, Stephan Elliot, Nadia Tass, David Williamson, Jen Peedom, Nigel Westlake, David Hirschfelder, Kitty Green, Polly Stanford, Bruce Spence, and many other award-winning men and women)
I think OzFlix is a great initiative and obviously very necessary to protect of our screen culture and content. We have a rich film heritage in Australia but it might surprise you how little those born after the year 1990 know about it. Having been raised on a diet of content from offshore, even media course graduates I met here recently know very few of our own screen icons, international film talent or accolades.
I recommend that next time you think of sitting down to stream a movie with the family, consider looking for something on OzFlix.tv to support the local industry or just enjoy a bit of cultural nostalgia.