Why Mad Max could only have been made in Australia

 

NB: This was originally written as a pitch
for a comedy site and abandoned.

I recently had the chance to see the
recording of the FAQ show for Ozflix with
Bruce Spence. We could only ask one question so mine was 300 words long.
I ended up having to cut it so I asked if the people making the movie
knew that if it was something that could happen in the near future and
not just a movie. He used the word prescient in his answer and said that
George Miller was “a bit of genius”. The first movies were about the
fuel crisis of the 1970s. Fury Road was about water.


So this happened

and then this

Despite there being many Australians
involved in the Hollywood film industry, the country does not have many
iconic film characters apart from Skippy, Crocodile Dundee and Mad Max
that are world famous. Wolverine does not count unfortunately.

The original Mad Max film was based
on Dr George Miller’s experience from dealing with a parade of carnage
through his emergency room in a time when cars were much more powerful
than today and more poorly regulated and more importantly, when drink
driving laws were lax.

In the city where the original film
was made there were vast suburbs stretching out in all directions with
lots of well made, straight, flat roads that helped the production. It
also led to many imitators both in Australia and overseas but Mad Max is
still the most iconic.

When the film was made in the late
1970s the gas crisis was a recent memory so the plot about the world
running out of fuel for cars seemed like a real possibility. There are
also a lot of other things that contributed to the movie being what it
is that will become apparent as we go on.

Despite what some fans are saying
about the new movie, it is an Australian production as a crew of 800
people went over from Australia to South Africa and Nambia to shoot the
film and many of the extras were Australian actors.

What I want to talk about in this
article is how the original film could not have been made in any other
country than Australia (an alternate reality of Mad Max being made in
Hollywood could be dealt with in another article.)

1. The political environment

Australia does not have the law that
its Prime Minister can only have two terms so at the start of the 1970s
after two decades of the one political party being in power, people were
ready for a change https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9jykIqQxEOw

Gough Whitlam tried to institute
real change, but that went about as well as could be expected, he is
famous for being the only Prime Minister to be fired by the Governor
General

While he was in the Whitlam
government did pass a lot of reforms that led to a lot more creative
things going on including kicking into gear the local film industry due
to free university degrees and a lot more people going into creative
industries as a result.

http://www.whitlam.org/gough_whitlam/achievements/environmentcultureheritage

The Australian Film Commission was
created on July 7, 1975 and began making substantial grants to feature
film, documentary, television and short film projects.182
It significantly extended on the support for the Australian film
industry that began with the Gorton Government. This support contributed
to the renaissance of Australian cinema that took place in the 1970s and
1980s, reviving an industry that had stagnated for decades. This support
allowed the expression of a new confident cultural identity through
film. Iconic and critically acclaimed films such as Picnic at
Hanging Rock
, Gallipoli and The Last Wave
were produced with funding from the new Australian Film Commission.

2. The Australian film industry in the 70s

At the start of the decade the
Australian film industry had “had a bit of a lie down” for about 20
years and even some of the more famous Australian films such as

They’re a Weird Mob

Wake in Fright


and

Walkabout

were not even directed by
Australians as while there were still people working in TV and film it
was thought no one would see Australian movies if they made them.

The subject is covered in depth in
the documentary “Not Quite Hollywood” about the “boom” time of
Australian cinema from the introduction of the R-rating (NC-17) and the
10BA scheme through to the slump in the 1980s due to over-investment in
shoddy productions.

http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/research/statistics/archtax10batype.aspx

When first introduced in June 1981,
10BA allowed investors to claim a 150 per cent tax concession and to pay
tax on only half of any income earned from the investment. Government
concern about the cost of 10BA over the years meant that concessions
were progressively reduced to 100 per cent. Division 10BA was
closed to new applicants in July 2007 with the introduction of the new
Producer Offset. The concessional status for investment in productions
holding a valid 10BA certificate remained available until 30 June 2009.

3. Actors available

While Mad Max was famously one of
Mel Gibson’s first movies that he only got the role for after turning up
for casting with a black eye after getting into a fight, there were also
many other cast members who had been in many other films in the previous
decade that directly contributed to making the film what it was.

No, I was not named after the movie
“Tim” it was the BOOK

Several of the actors had already
been in movies together, namely the movie Stone which is as much the
spiritual successor to Mad Max as any other movie

According to Stone’s producer Sandy
Harbutt Roger Ward went over to the pub that the Hells Angels who were
playing the extras were drinking at and yelled out “All Hells Angels are
poofters!”. Some of the fights in that movie were pretty real.

Not forgetting one of the most
important people involved in the film, stuntman Grant Page who was in a
lot of Australian movies in the 70s and early 80s http://www.abc.net.au/arts/stories/s3306721.htm

 

4. Director

Director George Miller was a doctor
before making the film and famously had to use his own van in one of the
stunts for Mad Max as they were running out of money.

http://www.madmaxmovies.com/mad-max/cast-and-crew/george-miller/index.html

There were a lot of young directors
at the time due to the film industry having a revival in the 1970s
people like Brian Trenchard-Smith, Peter Weir, Phillip Noyce, Gillian
Armstrong, Fred Schepisi amongst others who started off small and then
went off to work in Hollywood or overseas due to the Australian film
industry not being big enough to sustain them all.

http://dspace.flinders.edu.au/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2328/1565/N_Prescott.pdf;jsessionid=54D6B25FEBAC435D8DDE915D695230D0?sequence=1

During the 1970s , following the
confluence of numerous different factors, t ere was an extraordinary
revival of Australian film. The graduation of the first group of
students from the newly-created Australian Film, Television and Radio
School(AFTRS), was one factor; students like Gillian Armstrong and
Philip Noyce left their studies and began to work in the industry, and
settled alongside filmmakers like Fred Schepisi, Bruce Beresford and
Peter Weir, who had entered the industry in other ways. The other
factors ushering in the revival are also significant: in 1970, Philip
Adams and Barry Jones (working with the blessing of then Australian
Prime Minister Gorton) travelled around the world researching
Government-funded film industries, with the brief to prepare a detailed
report recommending ways in which an Australian Film Industry might be
literally “established”. After much wrangling and two changes of Prime
Minister, the new Australian film industry was brought into being.

One of Peter Weir’s first movies
“The Cars that Ate Paris” also has the porcupine VW Beetle that makes a
welcome return in the trailer for the new Mad Max movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q424p7lWD-U

5. Car culture of Australia

Even though they were both USA car
brands, Holden vs. Ford rivalry was the source of many playground fights
growing up, sadly there are not going to be any car manufacturers left
in Australia after 2016 when the last of them shuts down as the current
government has decided to pull the plug.

The peak of car manufacturing in
Australia was in the 1970s where a car manufacturer’s race the Bathurst
1000 was held once per year by cars actually in production. If you go to
see the museum at the track you can see all they did was weld roll bars
into a real production car that still had its back seats installed and
souped-up the engine http://www.motoring.com.au/news/2012/sports/bathurst-1000—the-superstar-70s-32315

While not as money-rich as the
Formula One or having a big a following as NASCAR, the V8 touring cars
still do a series of races around Australia and the Formula 1 race in
Melbourne is the only one where they actually have another class of cars
racing on the track before the big race or nobody would come to it

Australian cars in the 1970s were
big an boxy, if you got into the crash the car would be fine, it was you
would be smashed up. There was famously a car that was deemed “too
dangerous” to release after an incautious motoring journalist took it
for a test drive one Sunday morning.

http://www.drive.com.au/motor-feature/why-they-killed-off-the-aussie-supercar-20120622-20sfx.html

With the popularity of cars in
Australia and the number of road accidents, drastic measures had to be
taken and the Traffic Accident Commission started airing graphic road
accident commercials on network television as part of various campaigns
mirroring the violence in the Mad Max movies but showing the real
consequences

https://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/tac-campaigns/20-year-campaign

A 20 year retrospective of all the TAC campaigns
from the past 20 years.

To commemorate this 20 year anniversary, a five minute
retrospective of TAC campaigns from the past 20 years has been
compiled. This montage features iconic scenes and images from
commercials that have helped change the way we drive, all edited to
REM’s moving song ‘Everybody Hurts’.

As an aside I did once borrow a VHS tape from the
Australian Centre for the Moving Image called “The Road Worrier” that
was totally based on Mad Max but had a golden driving instructor robot
and advised students to “DON’T BE A NERD! TAKE YOUR TIME”

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.religion.kibology/UkLvCQWKe8o

Title The Road worrier (304757)
Physical Colour; Sound; 19 min
Produced 1986
Distributor Film Australia (FA)
Synopsis Examines driving hazards encountered by young
people when
they start to drive: inexperience on roads; traps to avoid when
dealing with car dealers. Also looks at how to acquire good
driving skills. Prod Co
Distributor Film Australia (FA)
Prod Co: Film Australia
Director Karl Zwicky
Subjects Automobile driver education; Automobile
driving; Automobiles
Purchasing; Film Australia

Asking ACMI for a copy of “Rolf Harris Water Safety”
is left as an exercise for the reader https://twitter.com/ACMI

6. Geography

Despite being a flat, straight and
six lane freeway, the Melbourne to Geelong road is still dangerous and
claims several lives per year

http://www.theage.com.au/data-point/geelong-roads-deadliest-in-state-20121221-2brv3.html

The Weribee Plain is part of the
Western Volcanic Plains and starts at the You Yangs, that are actually
the remnants of volcanoes that have worn down so much only the lava
plugs in the middle remain.

http://www.nre.vic.gov.au/plntanml/biodiversity/directions/volcanic.htm

This meant a very flat road with
good looking locations such as the bridge where they took the railings
off to do the stunt where the motorcyclists went into the river. Also on
the same bridge one of the stuntmen actually got hit in the head by the
motorcycle’s wheel.

You can actually go see where they
filmed parts of the first movie fairly easily if you are living or
traveling to Melboure. Due to hoons messing up the place in their cars
the author has left some locations off the list

http://www.madmaxmovies.com/making/madmax/

“Note: Some locations I have
discovered are privately owned, and for that reason are not listed.
Additionally, I have noticed evidence at some other locations that
people have been hooning around in their cars. DON’T let this be you.
It’s rather childish, and spoils it for everyone else when I’m forced to
remove locations from the list as a result. Thanks.”

The second and third films were
filmed a lot further out near Broken Hill and do not have the same feel
to them. The outer suburban malaise where all you can do is drive around
and yelling out at people before wrapping it around a power poll at
100mph is a popular thing for younger drivers to do still, the Victorian
government had to change the laws to restrict the number of passengers
probationary drivers could have due to so many accidents.

https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/licences/your-ps/p1-and-p2-probationary-licence-restrictions

Australian band TISM also covered
this topic in their song “Greg! The Stop Sign”

There is also the song “Maltby
Bypass” which I cannot find online that is about the region around
Weribee telling the story of Johnny Cash having is photo taken on the
side of the road and a family car breakdown a decade earlier

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