Currently there are 41 Australian films on Netflix, and that includes a Jimeoin comedy special from 2012. Alan Finney, CEO of the Australian Film Institute, and producer-director Ron Brown, know from experience that the Australian film industry is better than that, and they want to prove it with Ozflix.
Launching in mid-2016, Ozflix will start with a catalogue of 250–400 Australian films available to stream on a pay-per-view basis. But within three to four years, Finney and Brown believe that Ozflix could expand to become a comprehensive archive for every Australian film ever made. “Our aim is to represent the full history of Australian cinema,” says Finney.
The Australian film industry has always suffered from distribution issues, with locally made, independent films being forced into competition with multi-million-dollar Hollywood blockbusters for a place on screens. The major issue is that Australian content has been difficult to access, even for those who are specifically looking for it. Ozflix wants to change this and create a platform that celebrates the work of Australia’s filmmakers.
“Our industry often doesn’t recognise its own achievements,” says Finney. The story the public often hears is that there isn’t an audience for Australian film, but Finney has a different narrative. “When Australian audiences embrace an Australian film they do so disproportionately. Look at Crocodile Dundee, or Priscilla, or even The Dressmaker today.”
Ozflix looks to this and the continuing success of our numerous short-film festivals as a sign that Australians do truly want local content. Finney believes this interest is more than matched by Australia’s filmmakers. “With new technology people are open to making and experimenting more than ever before. The enthusiasm to get stories on screen has never been stronger.”
There aren’t really any limits to what Ozflix could become. There have been discussions about premiering films on the service, hosting short films and even including watch-lists curated by some big-name actors and directors. “Obviously we all know about the rapidly changing nature of our industry, and through that we’ll try to be as flexible as we can,” says Finney.