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Amy (1998)
Production and Exhibition


Production

'Amy' was solely Australian funded by Tass and Parker's Cascade Films and Film Victoria which are both Melbourne, Australia based. As husband and wife, the film was a team effort. Parker began writing the screenplay for 'Amy' in 1987, while watching Daryl Somers in a production of 'Man Of La Mancha'. The theatre performance gave Parker the inspiration for a story about a girl who could sing but not speak or hear. Tass was immediately in agreement with the idea and enthusiastic about directing another heart warming film with comic elements similar to their first film 'Malcolm'. 'Amy' took over a decade to become a reality due to both creative reasons (such as other projects and refinement of the script) and difficulty attracting finance. The vision of Tass and Parker was apparently not mainstream enough for the majority of financiers and they were repeatedly requested to change the script in order to obtain finance but they refused preferring to protect their creative integrity and unique style of filmmaking. The production company Cascade Films, owned by Nadia Tass and David Parker, was inspired by their recognition of the needs of independent filmmakers. Professional recognition of the film 'Malcolm' , culminating in eight AFI awards, established Cascade Films as a pivotal production house in the Australian film industry and money earned from past film successes was reinvested back into their 'Amy' project. Eventually they found a co-financer in Film Victoria. "Film Victoria favours script or production investment in projects which demonstrate a commitment to quality, innovation and potential commercial viability, are significantly Australian in content and which are controlled, developed and produced by Victorians in Victoria or provide clear economic benefits to Victoria." (2001, Film Victoria Website). 'Amy' obviously conformed with this criteria and Tass and Parker were finally able to make their artistic vision a reality without sacrificing any inventiveness.

Release and Box Office

Village Roadshow acquired Australian and New Zealand rights of 'Amy'. The Commercial Television Fund also allocated funding for its cinema release and Beyond Films signed 'Amy' for international sales rights.

'Amy' did not perform well in Australia because it was released at the same time as seven other Australian films, including 'Head On' and dominated by Hollywood product which is considered "the" mainstream cinema to local audiences. It experienced a limited release, playing on 30 cinema screens during its first three weeks and then dropping to 19 screens in the fourth week. A platform style release was utilised by Roadshow, the plan to gradually expand the cinemas as word of mouth spread. It did not receive a mainstream cinema release like the distribution and exhibition of 'The Dish' enjoyed and this seems regressive to 1970s handling of Australian cinema exhibition. A further problem was 'Amy' was situated midway between an adult and children's film yet it was released in Australia with a M15+ rating which prevented the majority of the youth audience.

A different story occurred outside of Australia. 'Amy' performed favourably at overseas box offices, experiencing unprecedented success at cinema theatres and film festivals around the world. Its American distributor, World Wide Motion Pictures Corporation opened 'Amy' February 2001 in New York and Los Angeles which was the beginnings of a national platform release. Amy has been screened at numerous festivals around the globe along with openings in cinemas in Japan, Argentina and Scandinavia.

'Amy' was also more accessible to overseas child audiences as the film frequently had lower classifications than it received in Australia and substantiated that the film can be equally appealing to both adults and children. A demonstrated case is the children related awards 'Amy' won in France. In an interview with Parker, he states; " the awards prove that the film works beautifully with a younger age group than it has been pitched at." Parker also comments that Australian audiences are extra strict on what is not suitable for a child to view; "whereas in France, they certainly didn't have that sensibility at all,'' Parker says. and what seems to be happening is that young kids are really responding to it very positively.'' (Shaw, 1999, The Age.) The Le Prix de la Jeunesse award won by 'Amy' was judged by children aged eight and up. Tass additionally felt children found it a relief to see issues impacting their everyday lives on the screen and is perplexed why 'Amy' received the M 15+ rating in Australia predominantly for portraying domestic violence. Tass discusses this issue. "It's pretty obvious in our society. That was the reason, plus the couple of swear words that are very, very background, that gave us the M 15+ rating, which doesn't quite make sense to me. Are we supposed to not show the public or not show children the very thing that they know about? So many children have seen the film now, and they come out and feel relieved. One comment I had was, 'I didn't know that it happens to other people'. " Malone, 2001,p146.) A problem with the film appears to be the uncertainty on how to market it as it is hailing various demographics and has a mixture of genre elements. This hybridisation would have ultimately reduced its release and box office which explains why a commendable film performed regrettably in Australia.

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