Melbourne Writers Festival and Anniversaries

August 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm (Conferences, Writing) (, )

One of the many wonderful aspects of my job at the Centre for Youth Literature is our work as a supporter of the Melbourne Writers Festival’s Schools’ Program.

Though, as a YA lover, I had been begging my way into MWF Schools’ sessions for a few years, my first experience at the Business End of the program came as something of a shock – it was the first time I had ever chaired a session, and it was also my first day on the job at the Centre for Youth Literature.

I feel incredibly fortunate that session was with Alice Pung – you couldn’t ask for a more gentle or gracious person to be your first.


Since that first time I have had the pleasure of being on stage with many authors – all of them amazing. I love working as a chair. It is a great privilege to have a public conversation with someone about their creativity and their passions – subjects that are really quite intimate.

This year, health permitting, I am facilitating the following MWF sessions:

SHORT AND SWEET – Margo Lanagan and James Roy

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ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS – Justine Larbalestier and Margo Lanagan


PRIZE FIGHTERS  – Myke Bartlett, Leanne Hall, and Melissa Keil.

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STRONG WOMEN – Kelly Gardiner and Justine Larbalestier

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MELBOURNE ON THE PAGE  – Cath Crowley and Maureen McCarthy

Image convent

And then, on Thursday, I shall be happy-sad exhausted, and celebrating my Centre for Youth Literature two-year anniversary, and the end of this year’s MWF schools’ program.

The Melbourne Writers Festival no longer permits the general public to attend Schools’ sessions, but you can catch many of these fabulous writers elsewhere on the program, and – of course – find their books in all good bookstores.

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Melbourne Writers Festival

August 11, 2012 at 8:58 pm (Conferences, Writing) ()

ImageI’m totally taking a page (or more) out of Adele Walsh’s book (well, blog) to let you know that I’ll be out and about (shock horror) at the Melbourne Writers Festival’s Schools’ Program as part of my work at the Centre for Youth Literature. (Have I mentioned that I love my job? I love my job.)

There are many amazing children’s and YA authors on this year’s program, and you don’t have to be young to attend. (Also, all tickets are only $7. Bargain!) I’m honoured to be chairing the following sessions:

Tuesday 28 August, 10am
Book here apologies – it’s sold out!

READING INTO WRITING – Emily Rodda, John Larkin, and Penni Russon
Wednesday 29 August, 10am
Book here Sold out.

Wednesday 29 August, 11.15am
Book here

Wednesday 29 August, 12.30pm
Book here

Thursday 30 August, 10am
Book here

Thursday 30 August, 12.30pm
Book here Also sold out now! (Eep!)

So, if you’ve got any burning questions for Melina Marchetta, Emily Rodda, John Larkin, Penni Russon, or John Flanagan, let me know and I’ll endeavour to ask them.

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Fairy Tales Re-imagined: part two

March 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Fairy Tales Re-imagined was a two day symposium (10-11 March 2011) exploring the evolution, and contemporary relevance of, fairy tales. You can read part one of Fairy Tales Re-imagined here.


Warning: contains adult themes and language.

Old Tales, New Platforms: the creation of Re-enchantment

(Chair: Prof Norie Neumark)
Sue Maslin (Producer, Re-enchantment), Sarah Gibson (Writer/Director, Re-enchantment), Rose Draper (Designer, Re-enchantment)

  • Professor Norie Neumark introduces today’s Re-enchantment panel by talking about the project.
    Says the term “multi-platform” is too cold for this work that involves and allows new forms, knowledge, and experiences.
  • Today’s Re-enchantment short being screened is ‘Fairy Tale Sex’. (Available at the Re-enchantment website + ABC’s iView.)
  • A lot of today’s Re-enchantment information is the same as yesterday. Currently exploring the Hansel & Gretel section of the site.
  • Fun fact: it’s believed that German gingerbread houses were inspired by Hansel & Gretel, not the other way around (- Gibson).
  • Gibson’s encouraging people to contribute to the user gallery on the Re-enchantment site. Anyone have some fairy tales artwork they’d like to share?
  • Rose Draper (Re-enchantment digital animator) talks about linear vs non-linear storytelling processes.
    In non-linear you have no control over how content is accessed and experienced. Both Gibson & Draper are from linear backgrounds.
  • Draper showing the different design stills from the development of Cinderella’s Wheel of Fortune (on the site).
  • Great images of different ways they communicated site design. Picture attached so you don’t feel too left out.
  • Gibson: non-linear positives: layering, potential to work poetically; interactivity.
    Disliked: things “disappearing into the bowels of IT”; every image being an accession number.
    As Maslin elaborates – the IT requirements turn ‘an intuitive process into a logical process’.
  • Maslin outlines challenges of producing an innovative project like Re-enchantment eg no established business model, rapid technological change.
    When #Reenchantment started, flash was big news. #changingtimes
  • Maslin encourages anyone looking to do a transmedia project to talk to universities, rather than traditional funding channels.
  • Q&A! Q: Any similar projects in the world that you could draw inspiration from, or share knowledge with?
  • A: No, tried what we wanted until we were told we couldn’t. (- Gibson)
    Pan’s Labyrinth website was inspiring in its world creation. (- Maslin)
  • I have to say, the second half of that panel was exactly the sort of information I was wanting to get from this symposium.


Working Creatively with Fairy Tales

(Chair: Dr Esther Milne)
Joy Norton: The Curse of The Witch

  • Their darkness fascinates and scares. Assign to Witch the attributes of the “other”.
  • The association of witches with herbal law and healing has been lost over time.
  • In Hansel & Gretel facing their fear of the witch facilitates their emotional growth, learning responsibility.
  • Sleeping Beauty: life can keep us unconscious and asleep when we ignore our darker aspects (witch).
    Something new at the right moment brings life in.
  • Rapunzel: if we’re not careful, our hungers and desires can make us abandon our commitments.
  • Norton encourages us to meet our witch, accept what she has to offer, and start a unique journey into a new and wonderful life.

Adam Hunt: Advertising People are Cultural Thieves

  • Adam Hunt is providing an entertaining vitriol about the sad state of the advertising industry.
  • All purchasing is emotional, not rational. “How else do you explain high heeled shoes?”
  • Successful advertising makes you smile, presents an idea. (“If they feel good, they might just buy your product.”)
  • Fairy tales give advertisers an easy way to present an idea – hook into cultural subconscious.
  • Great example of advertising (& cultural thievery):

Raid advertisement

Dr Meredith Jones and Suzanne Boccalatte: Hairy Pictures and Narratives

  • Jones & Boccalatte are talking about their book Hair.
  • Boccalatte’s interest in hair stems from her journey from hairy half-Italian to laser treatment. Has offered to show us her (hairy) legs later.
  • Exploration of hair as appealing and appalling. “Hair is chaos” – impossible to control. (- Boccalatte)
  • Rapunzel : hair as desireable, magical, shared experience. Cutting of hair=separation from mother &/or castration.
  • Historically: heads shaved as punishment eg for adultery. French women who’d slept with Nazis: hair publicly shaved, and were tarred, packed onto trucks & paraded through the streets.

  • Gender duality of hair associations/expectations. Cosmetic hair removal treatments. Pictures of merkins!
  • Beauty and the Beast, Bluebeard – lure of the hairy beast. Desire.
  • Hair as a keepsake, hair is memory, hair as life, hair as death.
  • – submissions (art & stories) open for the next book, on the theme ‘blood’. NB: Will only publish 1 menstrual & 1 vampire submission.

Audience Q&A

  • Q: Why do witches have pointy hats
    A: (by an audience member) Comes from traditional Welsh dress.
  • Q: What about changes to hair during menopause?
    A: Hair as journey: puberty and menopause, phases represented by hair. (- Jones)
  • Lots of questions for Adam Hunt to elaborate on how his anti shape discrimination ad got banned & cost him his job.
    Ad was done as part of the Gruen Transfer. Hunt placed shape discrimination on the same level as racial & sexual discrimination… A. Denton & W. Anderson loved it, but it breached the ABC’s policies & scared advertising clients of Hunt’s employer.
  • Audience keen to discuss the role of hair in Tangled and The Ring.
  • Someone who presumably wasn’t here yesterday has asked if new fairy tales can be created.
    A: World is full of modern fairy tales. “Like Charlie Sheen.” (- Hunt)
    True Grit as modern Red Riding Hood. (- Boccalatte)
    Old becomes new in the retelling. (- Norton)


The Forbidden Room: From Bluebeard to CSI

(Chair: Thomas Caldwell)

  • @cinemaautopsy opens the final panel, The Forbidden Room, with a summation of the tale Bluebeard in his excellent radio voice.

Dr Rebecca-Anne Do Rozario: The Bloody Business of Fairy Tales

  • Dr Rozario wins bonus points for quoting Tolkien in her definition of fairy tales.
  • There are many different ways blood appears in fairytales: on Cinderella’s shoe, congealed on the floor, in a bathtub…
  • Rozario describes the evolution of the Bluebeard tale, with full synopses of different versions.
  • Different appearances of wishing for a white, pale woman with blood-red lips in tales eg Snow White
    In one: a man, having cut his finger, wishes for a woman who looks like his now blood-stained ricotta (only, y’know, more poetically).
  • Rozario outlines modern “Bluebeard” tales eg episodes of Buffy; Dexter; The Mentalist.

Pref Cathy Cole: Bluebeard’s Room – the lure of crime fiction

  • Bluebeard: empowerment through the need to know, solving the mystery, overcoming dangerous situation.
  • Tension created by clue placement. Anticipation of reference in every description, object, line of dialogue.
  • Suspicion as a survival skill.
  • Desire resistence… test of reader’s stamina & morality. To enter the forbidden room or not?
  • Would some of Bluebeard’s wives have been complicent or accomplices in his habits? Contemporary narratives say yes.
  • Bluebeard is an interesting character – charismatic, generous, sexual, foreign. Easy to hate him when he is different?
  • Growth of fear in culture, instilled from young age eg don’t accept candy from strangers, don’t go down dark alleys…
    …allure of crime fiction is ability to lift the lid on this fear, explore it from a safe vantage point.
  • Tropes of Bluebeard eg.need to marry wisely, choose well.
    Can’t help but be reminded of @margolanagan‘s Singing My Sister Down.
  • Cole presents Wikileaks/Assange as modern mystery – Bluebeard or Wife archetype?

Dr Terrie Waddell: The Forbidden Room in Cinema Narratives.

  • Waddell’s favourite fairytale: 12 Dancing Princesses (Brothers Grimm) -> exploration of this sense of entitlement to intrude on female space.
  • Importance for a woman to have a room of her own eg Wide Sargasso Sea, Tomb Raider, The Exorcist, The Hours, Pan’s Labyrinth.
  • Forbidden room as womb: place of safety, place of change. Violation of it= horror eg Rosemary’s Baby
  • “shadow projections of ego discomfort” – Waddell <- perfect description of Prof Cole’s earlier Witch/curse conversation.
  • Waddell’s exploring the archetypes in Repulsion– elements of Persephone, Artemis, Medusa.
  • Forbidden room as a liminal compass to the self – time must be taken to feel each character and narrative strand.
  • Waddell finishes with a J.M. Barrie quote: “Everytime a child says ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.” ❤

Audience Q&A

  • First panel where chair has engaged speakers in discussion-@cinemaautopsy raises Bluebeard/Adam&Eve parrallels; & torture-porn (eg Saw) as spectacle.
  • Great audience questions & discussion in this session… the portrayal of female serial killers (eg Monster, I Spit On Your Grave)
    …if crime writers have an ethical responsibility to portray violence realistically…
  • And that’s it! I’ll be attending the ‘In Conversation with Jeff Lindsay’, but probably won’t have the battery power to tweet it.

Gustav Doré: Bluebeard

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Fairy Tales Re-imagined: part one

March 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm (Conferences) (, , , )

Fairy Tales Re-imagined: from Werewolf to Forbidden Room was a two day symposium (10-11 March 2011) exploring the evolution, and contemporary relevance of, fairy tales. Presented by Film Art Media, Inside Out Productions, and ACMI, a significant amount of time was devoted to Re-enchantment, something I have been tweeting about quite a bit in the last few weeks. Re-enchantment is a rather exciting new project that embodies transmedia – that is, it adapts content (pertaining to fairy tales) for communication across multiple platforms – including an interactive website, a series of interstitial animated documentaries (airing on ABC TV), and audio recordings of fairy tales (airing on ABC Radio National, as part of their Sunday Story program).

Sadly, the symposium did not seem to be well advertised (I discovered it whilst trawling ACMI’s online calendar of events), and a few people expressed disappointment about this. While I don’t currently have the time to produce a glorious, in-depth write-up of the whole shebang, I did keep up a fairly comprehensive live-tweet feed, replicated here in a tidier, more logical fashion. (With interesting links! And pretty pictures!) I know it’s still not the same as being there in person, but as an attendee I am very happy to answer any questions and engage in discussion about anything I’ve tweeted.

Warning: contains adult themes and language.

Welcome and Introduction

  • Tony Sweeney (Director & CEO, ACMI) is thrilled to be able to use the word ‘zeitgeist’ in the opening speech.


Re-enchantment – the hidden world of fairy tales for adults

Sue Maslin (Producer, Re-enchantment), Sarah Gibson (Writer/Director, Re-enchantment)

  • Sue Maslin pimps Re-enchantment. Grew from personal interest into this immersive journey into the hidden meaning of fairy tales.
  • Re-enchantment targeted at 15years+; everyone who’s grown up with fairy tales & maybe wondered why they span time & cultures.
  • Colourful, playful surface, but depth of content that allows hours & hours of online exploration & education.
  • Emphasis on engagement and discussion, showcasing multiplicity of fairy tale interpretations.
  • Screening of Re-enchantment short on forests… ‘they remind us of times we are emotionally overwhelmed by fears and anxieties’. Is technology a barrier to experiencing traditional fairy tale emotions and situations eg getting lost?
  • Erotic subtexts to Red Riding Hood… a visual showcase.
  • Re-enchantment has gateways to 6 story spaces – Bluebeard, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, & Snow White.
  • While Re-enchantment doesn’t retell these stories there is a book in each space that contains different versions of the tale.
  • Can I just say I love the animated artworks in Re-enchantment
  • Exploring the Bluebeard section of Re-enchantment – the different interpretations. (Let’s look at the Misogyny Room!)
  • Death as entertainment – do we use fairy tales to anaesthetise ourselves? #Bluebeard
  • Beauty and the Beast missed out on its own space in Re-enchantment, but gets a mention in the short Beastly Husbands.
  • FYI All ten shorts, as well as being on iView, are on the Re-enchantment site.
  • Great audience question on disability access to Re-enchantment site.
    A: All audio commentary is available in text form. ABC will close-caption the shorts that they air.
  • Maslin announces they’re in discussion with two publishers about a picture book for adults around these themes.
  • ABC in progress of creating apps of the 3min shorts.


Woman and Wolf – the inspiration of Red Riding Hood

(Chair: Dr Terrie Waddell)
Dr Kimberley Pearce: Girl Meets Beast: the Power of the Pelt

  • In Charles Perrault’s Red Riding Hood tale (1867), RRH was devoured by the wolf (in her grandmother’s bed).
  • Modern retellings of Red Riding Hood integrate girl & beast – psychologically empowering, & evoking themes of vagina dentata.
  • Pearce explores films Teeth and Hard Candy, & novel Inhuman as modern, sexual, violent Red Riding Hoods. ‘The Power of the Pelt’.

Jazmina Cininas: The Girlie Werewolf

  • Men were the most famous werewolves but many women were burnt at the stake due to their ecclesiastically-recognised weakness to the devil.
  • Superstition persists in modern times eg Lindy Chamberlain

Jazmina Cininas: A two-legged dingo stole Lindy’s tears

  • “If she has many hairs she is a monster” – the werewolf myth in modern beauty ideals.
  • Fun fact – tomatoes are linked to werewolfism. Originally known in Europe as the “wolf peach” – an aphrodesiac and hallucinogenic.
  • Cininas is full of fun facts – “to have seen the wolf” is French slang for loss of virginity.
  • Less fun, the fate of those with hypertrichosis (“werewolf syndrome”). Julia Pastrana joined a freak show, then when she died the owner had her embalmed & continued to exhibit her (in the mid-late 1800s).

Prof Barbara Creed: Eroticism of Being Devoured

  • Prof Barbara Creed presented a very in-depth, Freudian look at the eroticism of being devoured (Red Riding Hood). Too difficult to tweet!
    I’m not sure I grasped all the ideas, but I know I’ll never see the line “All the better to eat you up!” in the same way again.


If The Shoe Fits – interpreting Cinderella

(Chair: Dr Constantine Verevis)
Dr Meredith Jones: The Princess and Makeover Culture

  • Makeover culture: TV show The Swan; Princess Dianna vs Kate Middleton; Lady Gaga…
  • Sleeping Beauty, Snow White – women rewarded for passivity, for stillness & silence.

Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle and low, an excellent thing in woman.
– King Lear (5.3.275)

  • Michael Jackson: makeover culture gone too far.
  • Current shift towards transformation as psychotic and evil eg Black Swan. Dr Jones bets Middleton won’t evolve as Dianna did.

Sarah Gibson: The Shadow of The Slipper

  • There are over 1,000 versions of Cinderella and over 130 Cinderella films.
  • Stepmother giving preferential treatment to her own children was a common scenario when mortality rates during childbirth were high.
  • Modern Cinderella interpretation – a challenge to face your own feelings of envy – overcome it + self-doubt to achieve what you desire.
  • Why didn’t Cinderella’s father help her? In some versions he’s as much of the problem – incestuous desire.
  • In some versions Cinderella’s stepsisters are punished – pulled apart by wild horses; chopped, boiled & pickled (& sent to their mother).

Prof Peter McNeil: The Horror of heavy Feet: or Why Cinderella Must Have Her Light Shoe

  • Peter McNeil is giving a history of shoes.
  • Shoes as sexual representations: the way “you enter a shoe… like penetrative sex”.
  • Scholarly debate on the size of Cinderella’s shoe, which is not a feature in all versions of the story. Historical fashion of small feet eg foot binding.
  • I’m really not keeping up with all the names of shoe designers that are being dropped. #outofmydepth
  • However, interesting point about shoes being only item of clothing independent from the body. Hold their own shape.
  • Shoes as mysterious – hidden structure, especially sneakers. Stilettos still cannot be entirely made mechanically.
  • Shoes as representations of class: barefoot=poverty, shoe fashion.
  • Cobblers are the male Cinderellas – profession lowly & difficult prior to the invention of high fashion. Self-made men eg Jimmy Choo.

Audience Q&A

  • Q: What is the difference between myths and fairy tales?
    A: Myths are about culture, fairy tales are about individuals. (- Gibson)
  • Recurrent audience questions around Disney and sanitisation of fairy tales.
  • Good audience question on whether it is possible to create brand new fairy tales.
    Answer: it’s already happening with contemporary fiction speaking to psychological experiences eg @MargaretAtwood, Angela Carter. (- Gibson)
  • Oh goody! Someone asked further about Jones’ “contemporary transformation as psychotic” and brought up The Red Shoes.
    Jones’ response: personally, views violence in older fairy tales as psychotic eg Snow White’s stepmother made to dance to death in hot shoes.
  • Q: Could there be a fairy tale about aging?
    A: There’s some contemporary Baba Yaga stories eg Baba Yaga Laid An Egg (- Gibson)
    Jones thinks there will be a continuing shift towards fairy tales featuring aging, wisdom, etc with aging population.
Gustave Doré: Perrault's Little Red Riding-Hood

Gustave Doré: Perrault’s Little Red Riding-Hood

Part two of Fairy Tales Re-imagined.

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Voices From Elsewhere

February 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm (Conferences, Writing) (, , )

It doesn’t seem like the Wheeler Centre has only been here with us in Melbourne for one year. For me, trying to remember a time before the Wheeler Centre is like trying to remember life before smart phones – you know it existed but you’re not sure how you managed without it, its mere presence a comforting assurance that you only have to reach out to connect… for assistance, for entertainment, for social interaction… Yet here we are, smart phones and all, marking The Wheeler Centre’s first birthday.

I nearly didn’t attend last night’s Gala Night of Storytelling: Voices From Elsewhere. Not to besmirch the fine keynote folks, but there wasn’t a guest that grabbed my area of interest (which leans away from the “literary”) until they announced Sonya Hartnett. You may be pleased to know I’m now offering large helpings of humble pie (dairy-free, of course) – the night was a knock-out and the international guests particularly memorable – if you’d like to form a queue, I’ll serve it up in order.

The storytelling began with Australian icon Mem Fox, who bolstered our spirits with a bittersweet tale of trying to live with courage and patience. As the applause faded and the next guest, Yannick Haenel, stepped up to the podium something magical happened. Yannick told his story in his native tongue, French. He spoke about how it is easier to be candid – to ‘say what we cannot say’ when you are on the other side of the world. In a way this gift of liberating, geographic displacement was also given to the audience as we were suffused in the rhythms and sonance of a language other than English. Part of me did not want to hear the translated story, to stay instead in the place where my heart, not my brain, did the understanding.

Translated, however, I can report that the story was about the lives of Yannick’s grandfathers during World War II – one press-ganged into the German army, the other fleeing to join the resistance; the price that both men paid for their actions in ‘a world where decisions did not exist’, and the silence that they wrapped around it in the days that came after. ‘This is the silence I am thinking about now.

The next Gala guest, John Birmingham, filled the silence a little with his humourous experiences of martial arts, gestures emphasising the violence (and the imaginary smoke bombs) before easing into the story of how being trained in aikido saved his friend’s life, and not in the way you might expect.

Abha Dawesar took us to the crowded streets and trains of India, complete with smatterings of Hindi, and through a story within a story encouraged us to fulfill our destinies by embracing fate.

Murong Xuecun (translated from Mandarin) built the mythical tale of Mr Sheng – a man physically sustained by the mere sight of food dealt an unjust life. I had great joy in watching Murong as the translation was read – he grinned and nodded at each audience reaction, delighted that the humour had surmounted the language barrier.

Sonya Hartnett reflected on trying as a child to reconcile her experience of her mother with the disconnected stories and artifacts of the woman from the time before motherhood. One such story was how, one evening in Greece, her mother responded to a fellow cinema patron with wandering hands by stabbing him in the leg with her hat pin. In trying to make sense of what it means to have a mother who’s stabbed someone, one conclusion Sonya reached was that it was a bit uncomfortable to be left alone in the dark with her.

Sadly, Dagmar Leupold’s story (translated from German) failed to impress upon me in any way. Perhaps something of it was lost in the translation. I struggled to follow the narrative and the different locations referenced, but I understand she was saying something about cute leather ankle boots and their connection with a book cover illustration of a girl ice-skating.

I was soon re-captured by the Gala as Nam Le explored the theme (‘voices from elsewhere’) through the subject of ventriloquism. Some surprising highlights included a cunnilingus joke, and how he tells some less-than-savvy Australians that Bruce Lee is his grandfather. And should they happen to point out that Bruce Lee has two e’s in his surname? ‘We were boat people… we had to leave almost everything behind, even vowels.’

The night was rounded out, and up, with a performance by Archie Roach – a story in both English and his indigenous language sung to the strum of an acoustic guitar.

The Wheeler Centre was recording the Gala – keep an eye on their website to experience the telling of these tales for yourself.

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Arresting Audiences – part two

September 28, 2010 at 9:58 pm (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Identifying Your Audience – Dan Gregory (SMART and The Gruen Transfer)

Dan Gregory opened with the concept that “we’re all in marketing” – the way we present ourselves to the world, the way we engage in relationships, whether consciously or not is all an act of marketing ourselves. It’s a concept I’ve had presented to me before, at a Creative Women’s Circle event, only in that instance it was done more gently with an emphasis on talking about your work or business in a positive manner rather than a self-deprecating one because you never know who might be listening. Maybe it’s just me, but there does seem to be something repugnant about marketing when it’s divorced from honesty or fun, and the notion that relationships might be engaged out of self-interest rather than interest in the other is decidedly unappealing. Fortunately, fun is how Dan delivered the nine key messages for identifying your audience [my own emphasis in red]:

1. Accessable
– Audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented. You can’t just throw your product out into the world and expect an audience to be there. You need to know who they are, where they are, and what their interests are.
– Technology is changing ways audiences can be accessed – what used to be water-cooler conversation is now happening immediately via mobile devices.
– Dan used the branding of Nandos via a late-night tv campaign as an example, and for our entertainment included an anecdote about his business partner Kieran Flanagan bounding into a sex store asking for bondage outfits… that can fit chickens.

2. Unique
– Audiences can be identified by demography, geography and psychological behaviour.
– Identifying a unique audience allows you to speak to the “primary driver” and communicate top values.
– UK film recognises four audiences: Mainstream; Mainstream Plus; Afficianados; and Avids.

3. Defined
– Identifying an audience gets complicated by multiples.
– Need to think of distributors as well as consumers.
– Audience can be defined by who you DON’T want to talk to – who are you prepared to offend?

4. Identifiable
Identity beats quality.
Your brand needs to be ownable and identifiable. This identity needs to resonate with and be relevant to the audience, or they’ll tune out.
– e.g. Nike’s marketing campaign is not selling a shoe, it’s selling a lifestyle…

Remind you of someone?

5. Emotional
All decisions are emotionally driven.
– “Psychos are killing demos” – the commonality of consumer behaviour overrides demographic differences.

“People go to films to escape – if it doesn’t provide that you miss a key emotional driver.”
– Dan Gregory, via @GaryPHayes

6. Numerous
– Don’t confuse numbers with dollars. A small audience with passion can generate as much revenue as a large audience that isn’t engaged.
Target and engage your audience – get a dialogue going.
– e.g. For one campaign the tag “Choose your words carefully – you’ll only have four.” was chosen (based on the fact that at the peak of Mt Everest, the altitude prevents you from saying more than four words per breath). This was used in social media to open up a dialogue with the audience about what their four words would be.

7. Connected
– People don’t always know what they want until you give it to them.
– e.g. Audience had asked for a natural-tasting energy drink but when they got it (Mother) they didn’t like it.
– With audiences being more connected online, your product/campaign flies or dies faster.

8. Engaged
– Need to frame the old in a new way, that the audience hasn’t seen before.

9. Sold
– You need to be comfortable with selling and marketing.
– Need to develop an individual strategy.
Build an audience, don’t find it.
– Audience perception is greater than truth.
– To sell Australian film, make it congruent with the Australian “brand”. New Zealand has done this successfully with their film and tourism (100% Pure New Zealand).

Any insistence upon an Aussie brand irks me. As a genre geek with an affinity for fantasy I’d like to see, and would love to be a part of, films of that ilk being grown on Australian soil. Pipe dream? Maybe. Yet even Dan emphasised the importance of identity, and engaging with a target audience no matter its size. Surely the financial obstacles traditionally associated with fantasy films can be pruned, and a low budget version can find a home here? Sadly, the proliferation of “Aussie” flicks is a self-perpetuating cycle: funding bodies offer support for “Australian” themes and content, “Australian” films are made and promoted, so the audience expects “Australian” films, emerging film-makers think they have to make “Australian” films, so they submit for funding for “Australian” films…

Okay, so enough abuse of quotation marks. Maybe Aussie branding is the smart way to market a film – especially to an overseas audience. Like a franchise, it offers the power of a recognised brand and an established market presence. You may even find financial backing more easily. All you have to do in return is adhere to the product expectations. For me, this is too great a price – by tacking all our industry onto one identity we’re selling ourselves short. Let’s not be typecast. Let’s dream big.

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Arresting Audiences – part one

September 25, 2010 at 11:24 am (Conferences) (, , , , , )

Who Do You Think They Are? – Mark McCrindle (McCrindle Research)

Mark eased the audience into the world of statistics by comparing them to a book of 3D images – at a cursory glance they are just patterns and colours, but looking deeply reveals meaning and context. The sales pitch quickly derailed when he then examined a helpful little book on How to Survive the ’80s and started talking about the “timeless realities of us as humans”, temporals, and DNA. I half expected Doctor Who to make an appearance just to chip in with “wibbley wobbley timey wimey”.

Eventually, we got around to the 7 trends in audiences – of which I got 6. (And I don’t feel bad, because @FilmVictoria missed #3 as well. Or maybe it disappeared into a temporal wormhole.)

1. Booming

I can’t say I keep an eye on birth rates myself, so it was a surprise to learn that last year there were over 300,000 births – which is 30,000 more than the peak rate in the post-World War II baby boom. It seems Australians have been, well, productive since 2001, when we hit our lowest birth rate. Of course, we’re also increasing our population – and our multi-culturalism – through immigration.

Some film and television viewing stats about this booming audience that may piqué your curiosity:
– 85% say that they watch Australian content (film + tv)
– 1/3 of this group couldn’t actually name an Australian film that they have watched
– 1/5 of Australians do not watch Australian film
This last figure did not surprise me. I had recently hypothesised to a friend that Australian films can be categorised into three main types: larrikin, intense family drama, and horror. Regardless of debates over the quality of, or even the quantity at which we produce films – without having a greater variety there’s always going to be a fair proportion of the audience who is just not interested. This debate really came to the fore during the fourth panel Investigating Genre.

2. Changing
– Households are smaller (with single households, and couples without kids, being the fastest growing type of household).
– Age demographics are shifting: by 2020 there will be as many 15-19 year olds, as there are 60-64 year olds.
From this point on, an interesting rift developed in the summit audience. While Mark and audience members were telling anecdotes about “kids these days” and laughing at the generational differences, Tweeters (#fvaudience) started getting annoyed by the stereotyping, and the patronisation of “dot com kids” – the very audience that the industry is trying to “arrest”. I think @GaryPHayes highlighted the issue best when he tweeted:

‘seeing other generations as very different not a good stance, look for behavioral, psychographic common ground’.

3. ?

4. New lifestages
child > adult
child > teenager > adult
child > tween > teen > kippers > adults

While I contained my distaste at the term “kippers” (kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings, approx. 20-24 year olds), Mark emphasised the time poor, sophisticated, and demanding nature of today’s audience (a “narrow bandwidth of interest”), and the Twitter debate continued.

5. Influences
Summit attendees were surveyed prior to Arresting Audiences. Turns out that within the industry itself – for every person who thinks the industry is healthy, three say it needs work.
So, according to these results, the industry itself thinks it needs innovation and change. And, according to McCrindle Research, the audience wants user-created content, social validation, and the fulfilment of short-term needs. Apparently the solution is not necessarily changing what you say, but how you say it. Because this is a…

6. Post-structural
…world full of young post-structural people with the attention span of- oh look! Something shiny!

In seriousness, Mark did demonstrate the importance of products evolving to meet changing audience needs with examples such as the recent questioning of the relevance of printing the Oxford English Dictionary, given its success in online publication.

7. Post-rational
Mark identified four types of post-rational relationships:
By engaging with your audience in both a cognitive and emotive manner, they will fully embrace your product. Or, as 10 Things I Hate About You puts it:

Bianca: There’s a difference between like and love. I mean I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.
Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
Bianca: That’s because you don’t have a Prada backpack.

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Arresting Audiences – the beginning

September 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm (Conferences) ()

I was lucky enough to secure a ticket to Film Victoria’s sold out summit Arresting Audiences, which kicked off its programme today with a bang and is set to wrap up the investigation tomorrow. If you are unable to attend but interested to hear what’s happening, you can follow the twitter hashtag #fvaudience, and shiver in anticipation for Film Victoria to launch their online portal of tools and resources.

The tone of a conference is set the moment you are handed your inaugral showbag, and Arresting Audiences did not disappoint. As well as items both practical and thoughtful (pen, notepad, and a Film Vic KeepCup), I was delighted at the crime-investigation themed folio of information:

The genre glee continued as the summit opened with Law & Order spoof opening credits (bom-bom), before getting down to some serious statistics and stimulation. For me, today inspired a lot of thoughts about genre, especially in an Australian context, that I really want to share and hear others’ thoughts on. I’m so keen about it that I started this gorram blog! (Well, blog-ish thing. Anyone who knows me knows I am a hopeless blogger.) Of course, I’ll also be sharing my general notes of each session, which are smattered with my subjective reactions and ruminations. For now, however, I’ve spent so much time setting up this space that the details will have to wait in favour of sleep.

Were you at the summit? Any initial thoughts? Unexpected reactions? Favourite sessions?

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