Last week we officially opened the new Adelaide Studios at a very wet Gala. It was a coming of age moment for SA filmmakers and there was genuine excitement from all over the country about the new facilities.
While I have worked in the industry for over 15 years I used my work as a journalist to examine the impact of the studios on our industry. It does look rosey, but there is a price. As Richard Harris admitted, if they don’t make money, we will all feel the pinch.
Admittedly I have an office at the new studios and will be the first to say it is a far cry from the Hendon Studios. So far, the tenancy is at full occupation and there seems to be a demand for the sound stages.
When I heard that Mike Rann was going to use the Studio’s opening as his farewell party my heart sank. This was our night to celebrate and I was concerned it would be overrun with public servants and board members. Thankfully the local film industry far outweighed any of them.
On arrival, out in the rain was a small-dedicated group reminding us that our spanking new facilities came at the cost of a new mental health hospital. Something I am reminded of every time I turn off Greenhill Road on to Fullarton Road. There, right in front of me I am greeted with “New Hospital Coming 2012”.
While it is proclaiming the good news of a much-needed mental health facility I feel a pang of guilt. Sure the Hendon Studios were dated and film production was struggling with those sound stages. But we managed to get strong productions in there over the years and would have continued to do so. There are lots of reasons why people come here to make their films, tax incentives, crews, SAFC investment etc.
Over the past year I have been working on mindshare. A website that allows people touched by mental illness to share their stories in a myriad of creative ways from moving image to writing to visual arts. While working on this project I worked closely with the Mental Health Coalition of SA, their consumers and support workers.
Often I would be asked what I think of the new Studios and the breaking up of the Glenside campus. I would reiterate the problems we had with Hendon, the ceiling in the sound stages were too low, the building was falling apart etc. But deep down my answers felt superficial to an entire sector that is going through a massive amount of change.
For some they are heading in to the unknown and when you are living with a mental illness that can make a huge impact. And they’re supported by an entire sector still trying to make sense of the path forward.
On the way to the opening I did ask myself, ‘were our studios more important than a new mental health hospital? Couldn’t we have waited another year?’ When I asked my colleagues this question on the night, it was like I was throwing a wet blanket on the conversation.
Perhaps they did not see what I see each day or had to answer that question before.
Thanks Mr Rann for your legacy to the Arts. You will be remembered as the Premiered who gave us so much. It is a shame others in South Australia won’t feel the same.