Australian feature film stories are too parochial. I have already written about how our stories could be made more original and more substantive. Today I will advance why our stories need to be universal as well.
by Steven Fernandez
A second story concept about racism could be set in a contemporary urban setting.
Suppose we have a migrant family. A family where both parents work unglamorous jobs and the three children are expected to be responsible and self-sufficient enough to mind the household after they come home from school. The eldest child, in this case, plays the role of deputy parent.
He or she may not necessarily be comfortable with that role, but practical considerations force him or her to assume it. Of the younger children, one could be studious while the other could be artistic or disabled (or both!).
Suddenly we have three characters (the children) who are ripe with possibilities. In each case they can experience the ugliness of racism in somewhat different ways. For example, the eldest child could be torn between his or her duties as housekeeper, versus the deepening desire to date someone who happens to be of the “wrong” race.
While the studious one could be constantly teased as being a “nerd” and/or as being “un-Australian” for not playing football or cricket. And, of course, the artistic one could be branded as a freak in the schoolyard.
Everyone on this planet can relate to each of these characters and their individual plights. So this story passes the universality test. Furthermore, every one of these characters display indications of deeper layers within themselves.
Everyone on this planet can relate to
each of these characters and their individual plights.
So there’s already the potential for viewers to grow to care about all three of them as their deeper layers unfold. In short, we have a completely viable second story about racism.
Now what is true for racism is true for other universal themes as well.
So the lateral thinking and creative process I have shown for racism can equally apply to writing interesting stories that are based on other themes. Themes such as sexism, ecology, capitalism, the alienation of the individual in an overly commercialised or homogenised society, and so on.
The key thing is to think outside the square of pre-established conventions. And, especially, not to be lazy and unimaginative with respect to your characters.
The key thing is to think outside the square of pre-established conventions.
In summary, then, Australian film stories need to be universal instead of parochial. Whatever “G’day mate” dialogue they may have should be pertinent to conveying a story that the world can relate to.
And there are no excuses left for not being able to write an Australian story on a universal theme in an interesting and different way.
Making our films universal will substantially improve their quality. Both artistically and commercially.
Steven Fernandez is a writer-director of short films and theatrical shows in Sydney, Australia. He is currently writing Human Liberation – an epic novel and screenplay package set in mythic ancient Greece.