Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Bill Farrow's Excellent Adventure

Bill Farrow is probably the only Great Big Shonk of the 1980s to get away with it – his only punishment to date has been having a ten volume Victorian parliamentary report and inquiry into his late 80s business activities “ordered to lie on the Table” on 10 December 1996.

Presumbly wanting to encourage the contents of the said ten volumes to ever-after remain on the legislature’s Table, unread and gathering dust, Farrow has kept a low profile in recent years. And what better way to keep a low profile than to found a television production company – I kid you not. In 1998, World Wide Entertainment Production & Sales Pty Ltd was established.

With its grandly-titled, export-oriented name, and five years of operation now under its belt, one could be forgiven for thinking that Farrow TV must lately be the manna-from-heaven answer to David Williamson et al’s fears and prayers over the looming decimation of local screen culture. In Farrow TV is surely a proudly Australian production company, taking on the world (and especially, the US screen oligarchy) at their own game.

Err, not quite. Searching the net, I couldn’t find a single reference to any produced piece of World Wide Entertainment output. Which means that David Williamson should hang on to his sackcloth for a while yet. Moreover, the paucity of WWE’s output to date squarely raises the dilemna well-known by every struggling producer – how to keep the wolf from the door while chasing the big markets.

Fortunately, Farrow TV has been able to tap into taxpayer dollars to tide it over its lean first few years. Not, as you might expect, in the form of media production subsidies (apart from some paltry dollars available for script development, most screen grant dollars are effectively tied to getting celluloid-in-the-can; something that WWE has seemingly not yet managed). Rather, Farrow TV has gone to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and got itself two sizeable “export development” grants – $42,109 in 2001 (same URL), and more recently, about $90,000.

And also luckily for Farrow TV, the operation of these Commonwealth grants seems to resemble that of the Habersberger Inquiry report, in being ordered to lie moribund on a table somewhere. There is apparently no requirement (or follow-up) for actual output (= exportable product), with the grants being simply to help a company promote its business abroad.

Which means, in total, that maybe things are looking up for David Williamson, after all. Stop moping about in your local, David – get on a plane and promote, promote, promote – and best of all, the taxpayers will pick up half the tab.

The Yanks may not like "Dog's Head Bay", either. But sipping pina coladas poolside at a Beverly Hills hotel will lessen the pain of it all, I'm sure.

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