For the past five days 500 producers, filmmakers, directors and TV executives from 50 countries have converged on Sydney for the annual INPUT Conference.
INPUT is a global screening event which has been held in a different city for every one of its 35 years. For the first time it was held in Australia, at the Entertainment Quarter at Moore Park. Last year it was in South Korea.
Focussing on public broadcasting, INPUT screens content from around the world followed by Q&A sessions and plenty of networking across the day.
Both SBS and ABC sponsored the event here and the list of Aussie delegates was certainly a ‘Who’s Who’. They included Kingston Anderson, Ray Argall, Maureen Barron, Jock Blair, Tim Brooke-Hunt, Penny Chapman, Jennifer Collins, Kim Dalton, Paul Cutler, Caterina De Nave, Martin Fabinyi, John Godfrey, Ruth Harley, Tony Iffland, Debbie Lee, Cheryl Northey, Helen Panckhurst, Lou Porter, John Richards, Jane Roscoe, Carole Sklan, Brett Sleigh, Jenni Tosi, Steve Warne and Laura Waters.
The screenings included Documentaries from Finland, Chile, Poland, Israel, Ireland, NZ, Spain, Switzerland, Factuals from South Africa, Canada, India, Dramas from Solvenia, UK, Mexico, Reality from The Netherlands, YouTube dramas from Hong Kong, User-generated content from Japan and Blog TV from Singapore.
Australian screenings for visiting delegates included The Slap, Go Back to Where You Came From, Outland, Housos, Danger 5, Angry Boys, The Chaser, The Tall Man, Who’s Been Sleeping in My House and The Straits.
Screened the day before it won the Rose D’Or, Go Back to Where You Came From attracted some volatile opinions, just as it did with the TV audience. While most were impressed with the subject and the way it was fused with Reality, one delegate from Belgium was horrified that ordinary people would assist in raids in Malaysia.
Producer Nick Murray reiterated the way the show changed people’s opinions, both participants and audience, from their misconceptions of asylum seekers.
“That raid was the moment where major things happened to Rae’s opinion. She was completely confronted by that as of course a lot of people are. That was the moment that was the beginning of her changing her mind,” he said.
“That raid was pivotal in having her previous opinions changed.”
Murray added that refugee advocacy groups had a huge spike in volunteer support following the series.
At the screening for The Straits producer Helen Panckhurst denied that the show had been Sopranos-inspired, but emerged from a desire to feature Indigenous characters in a “non-worthy” drama -a crime drama. In fact she was mindful of not copying its characteristics.
“When you’re doing a show that is in similar territory it is hard to not do things that are similar. So we were aware of it,”she said.
“Genre is genre,” added ABC Drama Exec Greg Waters. “It’s a crime show. We were really hoping that people would get shot and killed in gothic ways and that there would be big family melodrama, betrayal and lies. Our expectations of that weren’t from The Sopranos, they were from the crime genre.”
Panckhurst said with the ratings not hitting desired targets there was a concerted effort to push the show through Facebook mid-series, but that while it began to lift the numbers it was a bit belated to have impact.
“In terms of the broadcast audience we didn’t quite get the kind of audience that we would have loved. It’s skewed towards a younger audience than the demographic of the traditional ABC audience.”
Waters spoke more about ABC demos.
“The existing ABC audience is strongly skewed to over 55. The existing ABC Drama audience is very strongly skewed to over 65 year old women. We deliberately set out to make a show that was not targeted into the sweet spot of our existing audience. it’s always hard to build into a new audience, to promote into a new audience. It’s really hard to inspire them to come and see your show,” he said.
“We haven’t made this sort of high-stakes, high-adventure crime show since the early 90s. So a generation have grown up not expecting to come to ABC Drama for the type of show that The Straits is. So we fell like it will take a while to introduce a new audience to the fact that we’re making a drama that is not polite, not period and not aimed at women over 65.”
ABC was also asked about a second season for The Straits and how much consideration is given to younger audiences watching via iView.
“We absolutely take into consideration our iView figures. People watch on the second screen on ABC2 and timeshift. We’re sort of unfairly judged against the 5 city metro which is what’s published in the overnights and what the critics all use to say whether a show has succeeded or failed,” said Waters.
“We would never make a decision on a show without taking into consideration iView and timeshifting. iView in Dramas tend to follow the ratings, though. You rarely have a show where the iView figures don’t closely correlate with the total ratings figure,” he said.
“Part of the problem is we loved the show and didn’t see any problem with it as far as we were concerned. It was the show we asked for, the show we wanted and we were as surprised as Matchbox (Pictures) that the ratings didn’t match our expectations. It’s not a show you can look at and say ‘We’ll change this, change that and change a few other things’ to get the ratings. We don’t want to change anything. We love it.
“So it’s a question of whether we’re prepared to make the investment in trying to build a new audience or whether we say our judgement wasn’t the same judgement as the Australian people and we have to try something else.”
INPUT next year travels to another location, reflective of its diverse delegates: El Salvador.