It’s a Fraud, I Tell You!

Why would you make a movie in Australia? Sure, there’s generous tax breaks, plenty of skilled tech crew, stunning locations, loads of moderately skilled actors, even- okay, let’s start again. Why would you make an Australian movie in Australia?

We got to wondering this while watching Fraud Festival on C31 last Sunday night (you can also catch it here). It’s a perfectly amusing mockumentary loosely (extremely loosely) satirising the Fyre Festival debacle of a few years back, only this time the crap festival is being held to save the suburb of Coburt from being demolished for a massive highway. Do they do the comedy bit where a scale model of the sleepy suburb has a giant flat chunk of road smashed down on it? Yes they do – and it’s Tony Martin holding the board.

Fraud Festival has a lot of obvious things going for it, by which we mean there are a lot of cameos and brief appearances from comedians you’ll recognise. It also has a fairly decent plot, in that things keep on happening, and there’s even a bunch of quality jokes in there even though it’s clear just about every scene was largely improvised. So it’s a decent movie? Oh hell no.

The movie format is currently the absolute worst format you can get when it comes to comedy. We all remember fondly all manner of classic comedy movies; we might even remember seeing some of them at the cinema. But at the moment, right now, comedy movies do not make it to cinemas… or much of anywhere else.

There are plenty of reasons why, but the (current) big one is that there are no big comedy stars who can get people to go to a movie. Comedies have nothing to offer marketing-wise aside from big stars – just check out the trailer for any comedy and no matter how funny the actual film, you’ll be watching at least 30 seconds of dead air – and movies don’t get to cinemas (or anywhere else) without marketing.

If you want to make visual comedy that people will watch and think “hey, that funny person deserves more work”, then it’s off to YouTube (or even TikTok) with you. Those kind of places are ideal for sketch comedy, which is why they’re the only places sketch comedy now exists. And if you want to do longer pieces – time to break your dream project into episodes.

Australian movies are made as calling cards. They’re calling cards for the cast and crew to try and get work in the US, they’re calling cards for the locations (many if not most Australian films get funding from tourism bodies and the like), they’re calling cards for the funding bodies to show off their taste and refinement when it comes to funding “quality Australian productions”. Comedy is next to useless in any of those roles, which is why even Australian “comedy” movies are really just dramas with a couple of jokes sprinkled in (yes, we’ve seen the trailers for June Again).

Plus now “feature film” tends to mean things like “good lighting” and “fancy locations” and “high production values”, which we’d argue aren’t essential to making a classic film (The Castle looks a bit cheap even by the standards of the time) but these days are essential if you’re going to get your foot in the door. Put it this way: these days a shithouse movie that looks good is always going to do better than a funny movie that looks shit.

So while for us the fact that Fraud Festival had some good laughs – it’s safe to say Emily Taheny’s “Fat Asian Baby” song was funnier than all of Aftertaste – is a big plus, in the outside world a comedy movie is just kind of a curio at best. Which is a bit grim, because 10-15 years ago comedies were going gangbusters at the box office worldwide.

And now they’re dead. We never should have let them make You and Your Stupid Mate.

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2 Comments

  • sven says:

    They should have feature films like this (cheap and cheerful) every week on the abc. Sunday night ? Or whenever Vera or Midsomer is (Before Doctor Blake is resurrected… you know they want to).
    Just churn the damn things out – different people each week, different locations. There will be quality issues, but who cares ? The sheer fact it would be on national tv where stray viewers might check it out might stoke some quality and originality from the stagnant pool that is the Australian film industry.

  • 13 schoolyards says:

    Bringing back comedy telemovies is a great idea – the trouble would be in the timeslot, because the ABC actually does well on weekends with their murder serials and wouldn’t want to ditch them, and if they were on during the week nobody would see them (on the commercial networks the situation is reversed).

    C31 would show them prime time, of course.