In January members of the Kinomatics team (Deb, Alwyn and Bronwyn) had a research paper titled: Australian films at large: expanding the evidence about Australian cinema performance , published in Studies in Australasian Cinema.
The paper proposes a new way to conceptualise the impact and success of film titles and unsurprisingly we’ve called the technique we devised the Film Impact Rating or FIR. The FIR focuses on the case of Australian films and is a response to the way so many local films were written down in 2014, some of which is summarised in an article Deb wrote for The Conversation in December. While domestic box office figures remain the main go-to metric for some of the local industry doom-sayers, we argue that this is an increasingly outdated approach, especially in light of key changes in film distribution such as the increasing importance attached to international markets. Certainly in Hollywood it is now well recognised that international markets are a critical component of the basic business model and this in turn has generated for us a particular interest in the global dimensions of film diffusion. Even smaller film-producing nations such as Denmark have similarly emphasised global distribution as a key component of that industry’s success.
Typically, however, claims for Australian film industry success rely almost exclusively on a film’s domestic box office performance. Our paper considers the possibilities for an expanded approach to measuring success and failure in the Australian film industry. Adopting analytic methods from cinema studies, cultural economics and geo-spatial sciences, we examine the international theatrical circulation of Australian films drawing on the extensive Kinomatics Screen-time Dataset which is supplemented with other complimentary data including box office and contextual critical commentary. In this way we developed the FIR as a composite index to measure film cinematic impact.
In addition we have launched the website Reel Measures both as a means to communicate and share FIR with a broader audience outside academia as well as a tool in its own right where web-users can generate their own FIR index based on different weightings given to its components. Feedback and user interaction with this online tool will be harnessed to further refine FIR and inform any related future research we undertake.
One of the principle aims of our paper was to generate debate and discussion about the ways in which success of our local film industry is conceptualised. We explicitly invited industry and public feedback from our paper we have been delighted with the attention it has generated. The paper has been discussed by Don Groves at IF.com.au which was also picked up by IMDb. Also we are encouraged by some of the useful feedback offered from Geoff Gardner and Bruce Hodsdon that has been posted on the Film Alert: Notes on Cinema blog.
If you have your own thoughts on what matters in evaluating the success of failure of Australian films we would love to hear from you. Also if you haven’t already had a chance and are interested in generating your own FIR index based on what you think is most important to judging the success of our local film industry please visit Reel Measures.