Monday, September 8, 2008

Make This Happen

This past weekend yet another American dance movie was released here in Australia. It was called Make It Happen and it was, apparently, not that good. That it hasn't even received an American release yet is perhaps quite indicative of said quality, but that's neither here nor there right now. Over the weekend (Thursday-Sunday) the burlesque themed flick made $693,340 (src) to land at #4 on the chart - although it must be said that #3 was The Dark Knight, which grossed $693,961, so it missed out on a top three debut by a mere 50 people or so (as I worked out at an average of $12 per ticket).

All this merely proves something that I - and I'm sure a few other smart cookies out there - already knew; the dance movie is one of the easiest slam dunk genres at the Aussie box office. We'll turn basically any of them into a hit! Whether they be good (Save the Last Dance) or bad (Step Up). Even when they don't succeed "back home" in America, such was the case of the Antonio Banderes-starring Take the Lead or Centre Stage from 2000. A modest performer to say the least on American shores, grossing $17.2mil, over here in Australia it became a word-of-mouth sensation and made over $4mil despite only debuting to only $400,000.

Of the three dance film's released this year Step Up 2 the Streets was an unequivocal success making nearly $10mil, while How She Move proved to be a flop, ending with under half a million dollars due to zero advertising, despite apparently being one of the better entrants in the genre. Other recent titles such as Stomp the Yard, Bring It On (a hit despite being about cheerleading), Shall We Dance and Honey have all succeeded beyond their, I imagine, modest origins. Not to mention musicals like Moulin Rouge!, Mamma Mia! and Hairspray(!), which have all gone off like gangbusters. We like music in our movies, apparently.

I mention all of this because of the ongoing discussion going on at Jim Schembri's Cinetopia about the state of the Aussie film industry and what can be done to help it. The creation of Screen Australia is the first step - hopefully - in allowing our industry to make movies that are not only artistically driven and of the "arthouse" mindset, but also hopefully some titles that will appeal to the general public at large. One of the many virties of the recently-released (and, ironically, box office flop) Not Quite Hollywood was that it showed us that you can't sustain an industry on costume dramas, movies about heroin addicts and writer/directors dealing with their miserable family history on screen.

All of this made me wonder why we (I say as if I'm actually part of the industry) haven't gone about making our own dance films? There is clearly an audience for them where even the lower grossing entries like You Got Served trump the tallies of Australia's most well-received dramas. I got to thinking about it and it really makes perfect sense.

Australia obviously has plenty of dance talent for both on screen (performers) and off (choreographers). Our music industry is doing far stronger than our film so get some ace Aussie dance/pop music and throw it on the soundtrack and not only would you have a modest hit at the box office, if not a big hit, but you would also have a hit soundtrack. If Step Up 2 the Streets taught us anything (I have it sitting here on DVD, so I will find out later tonight if it does indeed have anything to teach, teehee) it's that a soundtrack can have a life of it's own outside of the box office. That soundtrack has proven to be more successful than the movie both here and overseas.

This is the idea that I came up with. It's not brain surgery (or, if you like, rocket science) but I think it works. Feel free to comment and add or subtract from it. Then maybe somebody out there can pass a memo on to those funding heads at Screen Australia and get this puppy made.


Set at Hilford Grammar Girls' School, Don't Hold Back (so named after the popular song by The Potbelleez) is the story of two rival year 12 students - let's call them Jo and Chloe and in a remarkable casting coup one is played by someone from Home & Away and the other by someone from Neighbours omghowsmartright?!) - who are vying for a spot in the prestigeous Sydney Academy for Drama and Dance (entirely made up). Not only must each perform a solo routine entirely of their own choreography, but they must enlist the assistance of four others and choreograph a group routine. See, I've already set up four (FOUR!) dance sequences not to mention countless routine montages. And let's face it - WHO DOESN'T LOVE A MONTAGE?!

As these two girls battle it out they must stretch themselves to the limits all while the soundtrack plays such amazing songs as Kylie's "Speakerphone", "Wiggle It" by Ricki-Lee and however many tracks by Sneaky Sound System and The Presets that the budget at afford.

On the day of the audition the performances go off without a hitch until - omgwaitforit - one of the dancers in the group routine for Chloe trips back stage and can't perform. However, in a remarkable fit of good sportsmanship Jo decides to step in and help her rival whose life ambitions hang in the balance. They're a hit and, of course, the Sydney Academy of Drama and Dance (remember, a made up place) decides to invite them both. Aww, happy ending all around. Cue end credits featuring cast dancing to something by Sam Sparro or they could spend some extra cash and get someone like Lady GaGa. Hell, get an ex-Australian Idol singer (what's Guy Sebastian doing these days?) and get them to write a song for the movie. Easy peasy.

And, yes, I didn't make up Hilford Girls' Grammar. That's actually a very deliberate way of getting in a cameo by none other than Ja'mie King. Who would've thought of capitalising on one our biggest pop culture hits of the last few years? Not the Australian film funding bodies, that's for sure. Get a director who can actually frame a movie well, throw in Natalie Bassingthwaite as a teacher get Rhys from So You Think You Can Dance to play, oh I dunno, Rhys from So You Think You Can Dance, plus someone like Deborra-Lee Furness as a disapproving mother (what kind of dance movie would it be without a disapproving parent?) and you're set.

There you have it. An Aussie version of a movie genre that Aussie audiences legitimately like, featuring a soundtrack of songs Aussie audiences legitimately like, featuring some TV personalities that Aussie audiences legitimately like. Shocking.

Don't Hold Back - Only at the Movies TBA!



Soulfan said...

Very amusing. But in answer to this question

"what's Guy Sebastian doing these days?"

Guy has just finished a sold out concert series with The Mgs as his backing band. If you do not know who The Mgs are they are considered the greatest Soul band in music history. They also played on his latest album The Memphis Album which was produced in the home of soul itself, Memphis.The album is one of the highest selling albums released in Australia in the last 12 months, having been one of only 3 Australian albums to crack multi Platinum sales. Steve Cropper(a member of The Mg's) also produced this album and had this to say about Guy a couple of months ago.

"This kid came into Memphis, and just blew everybody’s socks off. He just took us by storm, and it was like every song we did, we just looked at each other and like all said we can’t believe this kid can sing this good."

If you don't know who Steve Cropper is I suggest you google him. You will find he is considered to be the greatest soul guitarist in the world and he has been inducted into 3 American Hall's of Fame. Most recently into the Musician's Hall of Fame just this year.

Guy recently did a showcase in New York, and due to the fact his talent in Steve cropper's words "totally overwhelmed" the Sony executives, the album is being released world wide by USA Sony early next year. Guy will be working on a few extra tracks in Memphis sometime in the next few months. Again with Steve Cropper and other members of The Mgs.

So I am afraid he is a liiiiiiiiiiiitle too busy to take you up on your brilliant idea. Sorry.

Glenn said...

Fiiine. We'll get Jessica Mauboy.


I had forgotten about The Memphis Album although I wasn't quite aware how successful it was. Goes to show ya, I guess.

Sandra said...

I'm a Guy googler myself (and Steve Cropper so I don't miss much). Ardent Studios in Memphis has now been booked, apparently, for a couple of tracks that Sony USA want on The Memphis Album. They've market-tested tracks and at the moment they want one more classic soul track and another Guy original.

There have already been great reviews of the album by overseas critics (reviewing their 'import' copies) and, in general, overseas Guy awareness is very high for someone who's never been in general release.

The album will be released in the USA in the first quarter of 09.

Guy's also very big on the corporate gig scene.

Also, he's finished the recording studio he's been slowly putting together for, oh, a couple of years now, I reckon (he is a former recording engineer). So keep him in mind when Jessica's written that song - I'm sure Guy would be wanting to put the studio to good use quickly.

So yeah, he's pretty busy.

PS. Funny blog.

Dame James Henry said...

Your idea is so fantastic that I'm surprised you haven't gotten a call to make it already, but you're missing one important element: the romantic interest! The girls have to be enemies because there is a hot male dancer that comes between them.

Joel said...

Said hot male dancer will probably be Adam Garcia...

Also, the reason haven't received a call yet about making this film is there's no smack addict in it.
Make one of the teachers a recovering drug addict and it will be in theaters by 2009.

Glenn said...

Hahah. In Australian film heroin addicts start early!

Ben Wilson said...

First, allow me to be brutally honest: I think Guy Sebastian is one of the most horrifying creatures in our galexy. I can only assume that it was all those World Youth Day geeks that snapped up The Memphis Album, them and his friends at Australia Post (why is that album STILL playing EVERY time I go to the Post Office?).

Anywho, must hand it you Kamikaze; this is one fantastic post! I would LOVE this movie, were it real. And having H&A and Neighbours leads would surely attract the tween crowd (most of whom probably couldn't name even 1 Australian film).

Our film culture really is holding a lot of people back. Despite what people say, many Aus Idols are rather talented. Just look what happened to Jennifer Hudson when someone gave her a shot!!!

Outland Institute said...

Yep, I think it works. And isn't it funny to find that Guy Sebastian still has fans? I worked at Her Majesty's when Human Nature did their soul covers album, and it was funny to see the audience was half old women who loved the songs and didn't really know who the band was, and half young women who were there as a nostalgia trip for a band they used to like in high school...

"Guy's also very big on the corporate gig scene." - shudder.

Do we think Screen Australia could ban any more heroin films? Haven't we done enough now? Surely we've filled the quota?

wheres_the_pole said...

can you include a puppy some how? everyone loves puppies

Outland Institute said...

Yep, puppies are good.

How about a puppy MONTAGE? Eh? Eh?

Glenn said...

During one of the montages a dog can run in and disrupt the dance and everyone laughs and laughs and then the dog continues to chase around a character who - naturally - is afraid of dogs.

And, OI, as long as heroin exists then Australia will produce movies about heroin addicts. Plain and simple. I'd just hope we could make a good one from time to time.

Lynden Barber said...

"All of this made me wonder why we...haven't gone about making our own dance films?"

Bloody hell, are you seriously trying to tell the world you've never heard of Strictly Ballroom?

i_thought_it_was_yellow said...

not to beat a dead horse but can the puppy be missing a hind leg, or even better be in one of those doggy wheel chairs - with a limp.

Karlos said...

Lynden, that was 15 years ago.

LJ said...

having gone through 5 years of what us presumably a good undergrad film degree in this country, my previous hopes for the future of film in this country are all but dashed.

I brought this issue up with one of my tutors a couple of years back. And it was regarding how the guys who did saw went to the US for backing and ultimately made the film and its sequels there. I was shot down immediately, although my point wasn't really about why Saw itself didn't get funding in australia but why commercially viable films don't get a look in with the funding bodies.

See the problem is systematic and doesn't really lie with bodies like screen australia, rather those bodies are staffed and pressured by middle class filmmaker who are too busy filling their own artistic ego journeys to make anything that people actually want to go and watch.

So really good trash like centre stage or Bring it on will never make it in this country simply because our infrastructure is too straight middle class male to do anything other than what we put out.

Personally I'd say make keating the musical a fully fledged film...that would be awesome.

Ben Wilson said...

Totally with you LJ. I'm a former film student myself, I can honestly say the biggest thing I learnt from my time there was to avoid the Aussie film system altogether. The fact that our film people make bad choices has been proven over and over, yet nothing ever changes. It's embarrassing. But worse, despite the dreadful state of our film climate, new talent is still so terribly overlooked. How is it possible that a young Australian up and coming filmmaker can have a more realistic shot in the US than their own country?

I've come to accept that in this country, no one should ever count on being given a go. We don't seem to harness new talent. Anyone serious about a career in film is better off making something entirely from their own resources, and trying it out at festivals that matter. I hope to do this myself.

Lynden Barber said...

Karlos, perhaps you could try re-reading the original comment to which I was replying before attempting a smart-arse but clearly not-so-smart reply:

"All of this made me wonder why we...haven't gone about making our own dance films?"

Please note that it doesn't ask why we're not making dance films right now, or why we haven't made any dance films lately. Or within the last five years. Or even within the last decade, for that matter. It clearly suggests that Australia has not made dance films PERIOD.

So I repeat: Strictly Ballroom.

And if you still insist on rewriting history to pretend a film made in 1993 doesn't count, 'cause that's apparently far back in the mists of pre-history circa the Napoleonic wars, then perhaps you would like to consider Razzle Dazzle. Assuming this musical comedy featuring - let me see, quite a bit of DANCE as I recall - isn't already a bit too day-before-yesterday for you too...