Why make films in W.A.? I suppose the normal arguments include the following ten points:
(1) The weather and the landscape evoke fond memories of a pre-smoggy Los Angeles.
(2) A film industry is good for tourism.
(3) It is a sunrise industry with a very fast startup time.
(4) It is labour and capital intensive.
(5) It has a number of desirable flow-on and multiplier effects.
(6) Apart from the weather WA has the money. A great many of the millions invested in features and mini series and docos are financed by the Swan River jet set, by the Great Gatsbys whose high-tech mansions fill the pages of Home Beautiful and Vogue - money that is leaving the State. In fact you have got so many millionaires here you are going to need a form of Nixo to control them!
(7) You also have the entrepreneurs, either home grown or foreign expats from Britain and South Africa who seemed determined to take over the media of the nation and perhaps the planet. Take Michael Edgley. After years of running the PR machine for the Kremlin and being the travel agent for the KGB, Mike is now a celluloid hero, with his name above the titles of Snowy River and Phar Lap.
(8) It is a business that is going to grow by leaps and bounds. The communications explosion is just beginning. We are in the first milliseconds of the big bang. Australia now employs 3500 people in the film industry, making about 1200 hours of film a year. Well, in five years you can probably double it or even treble it, and we must remember we are the most voracious consumer of predigested images on earth. Our television penetration was phenomenal, as was our appetite for colour television, and of course, we have the highest penetration of VCRs, home video, in the world, something like four times the US rate.
(9) Australia is the fifth market on earth for the US. They will repatriate $1 billion in film rentals in the next ten years and perhaps more of that money could be kept in Australia, or in Western Australia, with stronger local industries.
(10) At the moment you attract about one per cent of film activity. Talk about being off Broadway! But that is not really the issue. I don't think the arguments are economic; I think they are cultural. Last October I had a stand-up debate here in Perth with Tony Ginnane. The debate was international films - what I call mid-Pacific films - versus Australian films. Tony set out to chronicle the twists and turns, what he called the misplanning and the mistakes which he saw had led to the emergence of a film industry handicapped and emasculated by its dreaded preoccupation with things Australian. My reply was by way of an appeal to the heart. I recalled a cartoon by Bruce Petty which to me puts the argument in a nutshell. It shows a little Australian family sitting in front of a great big television set, looking rather glum and vulnerable, and on the screen are the words ''Have your emotions lived for you tonight by American experts.'' That is an appeal which speaks to all of us, I think - one whose relevance has been reactivated by the recent video invasion of American experts and the threatened invasion of pay television, the latter being a new means devised by overseas experts to extract payments for emotional services rendered.
Well, in WA the argument could be extended. You could have a local Bruce Petty saying ''Have your emotions lived for you tonight by eastern experts.'' In fact this is a concern which could be legitimately expressed in every state of Australia, with the possible exception of Victoria and the certain exception of Mr Wran's New South Wales. It is an issue which trades under the name of localism and refers to the argument that every region and every community should have a say in its own communications media. Okay, Western Australia is a fully-fledged member of the federation of the Australian States and should have a go, a say, a piece of the action and a place in the sun. Moving pictures are the medium of our century. They are the footprints we leave behind for posterity's archaeologists and, for good or ill, the freeway to the future. I think our place in that future is reasonably secure but only insofar as we stick to our guns and make films which are avowedly, identifiably and unashamedly Australian. Here it must be recognised that we pay a price for that look in terms of our penetration of the international market and ultimately in the dollar returns. There is a market for Australian films but it is not as big as the market for Hollywood imperialism and it never will be. This fact and its corollary, the need for subsidy, must be acknowledged as the ground rule of any film activity. There is no point in building a production industry which merely adds to the momentum of the Beverley Hills bandwagon. Government subsidy, whether direct or indirect, is the key. Without it you either leave the door locked or you break it down and leave it open to international influences, but if you do that, if you make films with no identifying features, you forfeit the benefit of international recognition and you get a passport with no name and an industry with no art. Someone somewhere should erect a monument to the unknown film maker, but I hope not here in Western Australia. ''Why make films in WA?" is a rhetorical question. The arguments here and now are as compelling as they were fifteen years ago i~ Canberra when I presented a report to John Gorton beginning with the words ''We hold these truths to be self-evident.'' Gorton accepted the report and the industry ever since has enjoyed bipartisan political support. It has also enjoyed bipartisan geographical support, if that is the right term, except in the Northern Territory where they are still fumbling for the light switch and in Tasmania where Robin Gray turned the light off while Malcolm was there, something I believe to do with the shortage of electricity. I think it is a pretty good time to be alive in lots of ways, if only because the monoliths and monopolies are shaking - the Kremlin, the Pentagon, the Vatican; authoritarian power structures are in trouble because the interesting thing is that technology is decentralising in almost everything we do. The Russians, you know, aren't so much afraid of the Cruise missile as they are of the Xerox machine. Nothing terrifies the Russian bureaucrats as much as that gadget. It is under heavy lock and key. It is capable of breaking down the laws of copyright; it is capable of being a very subversive instrument. In the same breath the Russians don't know what to do about the minicomputer, these wonderful little gadgets which decentralise information. The Russians simply won't let them into the country. They don't want information decentralised.