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.