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Into the Shadows journeys beyond the big screen to meet the filmmakers, distributors and exhibitors who bring Australian films to us, the audience. Away from the bright lights, the red carpets and paparazzi, an awful truth is discovered. The cinema was once a place where Australian culture thrived: audiences were educated, entertained and inspired by Australian stories, characters and landscapes. But now, alarmingly, out of the $895.5 million spent at the Australian box-office in 2008, only $36.6 million (3.8%) was spent on Australian films. Australian films are clearly not connecting with the cinema-going audience. Why?
Into the Shadows begins by tracing the history of Australian cinema, from the initial production boom in 1910-12, declining steadily to the barren post-war years. The film investigates the regeneration of the domestic production industry, championed by a dedicated few, in the late 1960s. Bruce Beresford, Anthony Buckley, Phillip Adams and Alan Finney recount what the atmosphere was like in the 1960s and 1970s while distributors and exhibitors, Andrew Pike (Electric Shadows), Chris Kiely (Valhalla), Natalie Miller (the Longford) and Antonio Zeccola (Palace) reveal how important the independent art-house cinemas were in contributing to the re-birth of the Australian film industry.
The closure of many of these independent art-house cinemas in recent years, typified by the demise of Electric Shadows in Canberra in 2006, exacerbates the difficulties that producers have in reaching cinema screens on a fair and equitable basis. Many exhibitors, past and surviving, question the efficacy of the industry’s Code of Conduct, and talk frankly about unfair trade practices. These difficulties parallel the growing number of Australian films remaining unreleased.
But all is not lost. A new generation of Australian filmmakers have emerged and continue to push at the boundaries of the cinema trade, exploring new ways of connecting to the ever elusive but very important audience.