A Screen Australia board member prompted an internal review into the box office failure of the agency-backed drama Two Fists One Heart earlier this year.
The informal inquiry – headed by Screen Australia chief executive Ruth Harley – comes amid an economic downturn which has lowered private investment and slashed production budgets across the industry.
The $8 million film (which included a $4 million investment from Screen Australia) grossed just $295,000 at the local box office, according to the agency. (The Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia recently updated the figure to $305,300.)
Amazingly Two Fists One Heart did cost $8million. I'm not so sure as to where all the money went because it certainly wasn't on the screen, and it sounds awfully similar to the $7million boxing drama The Tender Hook making less than $70,000. Yes, LESS THAN $70,000! But we're not here to talk about the many failures of that movie.
Apparently Screen Australia can't quite fathom how this movie failed with audiences and so I decided to take some of my own time and try to save Screen Australia some of their time (and money - government tax payer funded money) by letting them in on some of the reasons why. I doubt Screen Australia's investigators will think of these as negatives since this is the same organisation that hand out payments to directors each year who have no desire to make product that is in any way "commercial".
1. "Two Fists One Heart" - You cannot tell me that anybody, outside of the person who came up with it, thinks that that is a good title for a movie. Actually, I'm sure there's quite a few people out there who would like to see this movie if it were about a doctor and his naughty nurses, but Screen Australia isn't gonna start funding those movies. I know your film is about boxing and Two Fists would have worked somewhat better than the sickness-inducing blahness of "Two Fists One Heart". Nobody wants to see a movie with that title.
2. The trailer - When I mentioned the film and it's trailer earlier in the year I said this: "the trailer's penchant for sickening title cards like "FAMILY" and "LOYALTY" don't illicit much enthusiasm." Watch the trailer below and just try to tell me that you don't agree. It can't be done.
3. The Release Date - Granted, the producers and the distributors couldn't have known that in just a few months the fortunes for Australian films would take a (comparatively) massive turnaround in the public eyes (eight $1mil+ grosses so far in 2009 compared to two in 2008), but there were far more obvious reasons to withhold release of Two Fists One Heart.
Jessica Marais is one of the stars of Two Fists One Heart and you know what else she stars in? Packed to the Rafters, the highest rated show on Australian television with a rough average of 1.9 million viewers a week (figures here). The second series premiered in July 2009 and yet Two Fists One Heart was released in March. Seems like a big mistake when you consider the details.
The other thing to consider in regards to the release day is that that the NRL season began on 13 March and the AFL season two weeks later on 26 March. I'm not sure on the exact statistics, but aren't they prime times for people to be staying in on Friday and Saturday nights to watch their favourite teams play for the first time since September? I know if I was far more interested in watching my beloved Geelong Cats trounce Hawthorn than I was seeing naff-sounding movie about boxing.
4. Boxing - I'm not sure boxing is a sport that people want to see. Am I crazy for thinking that? Not even Cinderella Man, starring "our Russell Crowe", couldn't muster much enthusiasm with audiences. It's useless to bring The Tender Hook into this discussion, but perhaps it should. Movies about boxing just aren't that interesting to audiences in 2009.
5. Marketing - This is obviously the big reason. I've already looked at the trailer, but what else did they do wrong? Disney Australia have this penchant for making bad movies (other recent released include Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger and Subdivision, which curiously wasn't even released in Victoria!)
5.a Let's look at the poster, shall we? It's shit.
So people who may have actually wanted to see a boxing movie won't know it's about boxing and those who are just on the lookout for a good movie to see won't see it because, well, look at it.
Throw in a confusing title/tag line combo and you have a recipe for failure.
5.b I believe it was around March that Samson & Delilah started the build-up to its May release. It screened at the Adelaide Film Festival in February and after that did regular advance screenings. We all know what happened after that. Two Fists One Heart should have, has I already noted, withheld its release and done ANYTHING to get noticed. Advance screenings being a given, but I don't remember reading any press. Shocking since its two stars are stars from two of the highest rating programs in Australian history. Marais in the aforementioned Packed to the Rafters and Daniel Amalm in Underbelly. Those programs don't even get a mention on the poster, which we have already established is a waste.
5.c He's not my kinda guy, but Daniel Amalm is half naked for a lot of the film. I imagine staring at him for a couple of hours would be far more entertaining for some audience members than the movie they went to go see instead.
6. The Movie - Lastly, it also didn't help that the movie just isn't that good. Sure, it received plenty of nice reviews, but nothing much in the way of raves, which is what a movie like this needed with the absence of good marketing. I know I wouldn't recommend this movie to people, but maybe that's just me.
Conclusion Hey, Screen Australia! How come you're doing an internal review of Two Fists One Heart and not, say, Cedar Boys? Serhat Caradee's Cedar Boys received government funding - although, nothing as high as the ludicrous $4mil of Two Fists - and was a far, far better film that deserved much more than it's $204,160 gross. Perhaps Screen Australia should be investigating why someone in their office gave four million of the government's money to a first-time feature director. Shawn Seet must have done one helluva pitch!
So there we go. No need for any grand investigations. It comes down to the same ol' same ol' when it comes to why an Aussie film fails. Nobody knows it exists, and those who do think it looks like crap. Investigation over.