“Australian cinema impacted me profoundly growing up,” says Wallis Cinemas Programming Manager Sasha Close, echoing the sentiment of many people working in the sector. “Especially in my early career and I fondly recall seeing many Australian films at the cinema. I am always inspired by storytelling and film is a unique form of storytelling. Seeing a film in a cinema, with an audience is a great experience and one I always enjoy. That’s probably why I do my job.”
This passion for local content has inspired Close and the team at Wallis to initiate Discover, which was recently launched with the documentary Lowest to Highest and the drama West of Sunshine, and is about to roll out The Second, Wayne and Her Sound Her Story.
“Wallis Cinemas have been very supportive of Australian films and have a long history of supporting the industry in various ways,” says Close. “This program continues Wallis Cinemas’ support of Australian content and also recognises the unique and changing nature of cinema. Cinemas are programming more content and more diverse content to offer audiences choice. This program might work for other cinemas and in other cities or regional centres, depending on their audience, screen size and other variables.
“I undertook a secondment with Picturehouse cinemas UK and also attended CineEurope in 2017, supported by the Natalie Miller Fellowship,” she continues about the inspiration behind the concept. “Several conversations with programmers at this exhibition chain and with European exhibs more broadly, around programming of local content and how to be more initiative in programming films in general, inspired the implementation and launch of this program.”
Asked whether the Australian government – which has various programs in place to support production of local feature films and documentaries, on the proviso that they be released in cinemas to access funds, but rarely supports them with marketing dollars – should back this initiative, and Close believes that is something worth considering.
“This would certainly be a great conversation to start with funding bodies and map out how and what can be achieved,” she says. “Given the current landscape, with multi digital platforms, fragmented audiences to name just two challenges, discussions around how to support cinema release for Australian films and how to enable this, is worthy of discussion across all sectors of the industry.”
For more on Discover head to http://www.wallis.com.au/events/wallis-discover