Television

Australia states its case for effectiveness of films in promoting tourism

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MUMBAI: Another session at Locations 2003 dealt with the manner in which films can help in promoting tourism. Australia of course is one of the best examples of this. Films like Mission Impossible II, The Matrix Reloaded have helped in showcasing the beauty, colour, uniqueness of that country's landscape. Remember Tom Cruise hanging from the side of the mountain in the opening scene of MI II?

Anupam Sharma explained to the gathering how and why Australia is being given a boost through film. He co-produced the first Australian-Indian feature film in Australia. Right now he is producing a documentary on Indian film making in Australia. The Bollywood documentary is targeted at the international film market. The Hunter Valley, Canberra and the Outback have already benefited from Indian films like Dil Chahta Hai being shot in their regions.

His Sydney-based company Films and Casting Temple organises the Australian shoots for Indian movies, TV commercials and music videos and the hiring of Australian dancers and film crew to work on them. He was also instrumental in the first Indian television series to be shot in Australia. At the seminar he noted that cooperation between India and Australia in the filmmaking arena got a boost five years ago when actor director Feroz Khan scripted Australia into a film of his and shot for 40 days down under. Since then over 80 projects materialised between the Indian and Australian film industries including television serials, music videos and ad films by the likes of Lakme, Bharti Cellular, Kingfisher.

"In five years the production of Indian films in Australia has gone up by 39 per cent. There are two distinct trends. One is Indian filmmakers who are also tourists to Australia. The second is Indian tourists to Australia inspired by films. The numbers have gone up substantially. In fact tourism increased from India to Australia increased by 23 per cent from 1999-2000 when Indian filmmakers were beginning to discover the allure of kangaroo land. It is not just the landscape that has Indian filmmakers coming back to Australia for more but also the harmonious relationships, which have been forged with the Australian film crews. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane boast of state of the art production facilities.

"The overseas projects have greatly benefited the Australian economy by providing jobs. The easing of visa restrictions has made the process of Indians shooting their films here easier. Tourists want to see in real life what they saw in reel. The Australian Tourism Commission is therefore bullish on the Indian market. It recently released its global round up report on Asia. In 2001 45,000 Indians visited Australia and by February 2002 this number had increased by 16 per cent. Annually the traffic from India is growing at a rate of 18 per cent.

"As far as Indian films shot in Australia are concerned two Australian organisations will have a Bollywood film event down under later this year. This will be the most extensive showcase of Indian cinema around Australia. In the future there will be exchanges between the two film industries on several theoretical and practical issues."

He pointed out that it was not just Indian filmmakers going to Australia. Leading Australian cinematographers, stunt directors, designers and post- production companies are now working in India on Indian films. As far as television is concerned AXN's upcoming Extreme Dhamaka will have not just the hosts Mike Whitney and Tania Zaetta from Australia but also the production crew from Australia to coordinate the difficult stunts. In fact AXN has increased the budget by 50 per cent from last year.

Sharma added that the days of Australia promoting tourism through films could be traced back to the 1980s with Crocodile Dundee with Paul Hogan. Our Shrimp on the Barbie campaign which was conducted in the US saw a flood of tourists from America. In recent times films like Moulin Rouge, Inspector Gadget have raised interest in the country.

Sharma has written in conjunction with Oz Straits a guide, which gives Indians guidance about what Australia has to offer in terms of locales and production facilities. He also pointed out that seven Australian scripts related to India are in various stages of development.

Sharma noted that with Crocodile Dundee the perceived lifestyle of Australians and national landmarks got plastered on screens throughout the world. These films act as brochures for Australia. "The good news is that Australian films and films shot in that country offer diverse portrayals of people. The presence of landmarks like the Darling Harbour, elaborate group dance sequences on the steps of the Sydney Opera House in Dil Chahta Hai act as effective advertisement."

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