Friday, February 19, 2016


There is a modern cultural norm that is noticeably absent in Australia.


Yes, the caped cash cows of the entertainment universe.

We've had crocodile hunters and supermodels. Talking pigs and gangsters. And yet, somehow, a bona fide superhero has eluded us.

From a pragmatic perspective, I suppose it makes sense. We have a few medium to small cities, dense suburbia, and a whole lot of sparse emptiness. Hardly the embers of a hero story like Gotham.

But surely we can do better than Boomerang, Captain Boomerang, The Kangaroo, and Captain Australia?

Perhaps not.

Recently, one of Australia's largest film production and distribution companies, Hopscotch, decided to address this egregious oversight on Australia's cultural landscape. The company launched an open call-out for ideas called 'Hopscotch Heroes'.

Keep in mind, open call-outs for film ideas can be fraught with peril. But, in the face of possibly being overwhelmed with a tsunami of dross, Hopscotch showed genuine enthusiasm for the whole endeavor:

Hopscotch Features, one of Australia’s most prolific film producers, is on the hunt to find Australia’s newest and freshest filmmaking talent – and are doing so by way of our Hopscotch Hero competition...

...We are throwing down the gauntlet and calling on all budding Australian filmmakers to submit your very own original movie. To be clear, we’re talking about a short film no longer than 2 minutes in duration, and it’s got to be all about superheroes.

Seems encouraging. And the barrier to entry wasn't exorbitant either.

We need you to come up with your own superhero, make a short film about them and send it our way. Your short film must be your own original idea and can be shot on a regular video camera or smartphone, such as an iPhone 5 or equivalent Android device. You also have to be an Australian resident and over the age of 18 to enter.

Come up with an idea, shoot a concept video, even on something as basic as an iphone, and then send it in to be considered. Quite reasonable, on the surface.

But only on the surface.

Riddle me this, how does a superhero show they have powers?


...they demonstrate them.

How does a superhero demonstrate their powers in a film?

With Visual Effects (VFX). Very expensive and time consuming VFX.

(E.G. this very illustrative before and after GIF from Iron Man 2. Hint: in real life, the Iron Man suit is basically red pyjamas covered in motion capture dots).

Here is where the Heroes Competition concept gets shaky. If the filmmakers can't afford VFX, which is HIGHLY likely, how compelling can the superhero concept films be? Particularly when they're encouraged to shoot the concept film on an iphone?

Perhaps Hopscotch should have thought this through a little more clearly.

By then it was too late. For all of September, the flood gates were open. And, from what I gleaned, the concepts rolled in. Oh well, a bit of bother replying to people and a learning experience for future open concept call-outs.

That would have been a measured response, at least. Unfortunately, Hopscotch had a different idea.

Apparently, at a recent film industry convention, Hopscotch spoke about the Hero Competition while giving an update on their business. In what will undoubtedly not be a shock to you, Hopscotch indicated that the contest 'hadn't worked'.

Based on the wobbly foundation, this is hardly a surprise. The Hopscotch representative could realistically have left their commentary on the whole experience at that simple summary.

Alas, not. A video began playing for the assembled audience.

A reel of 'low quality submissions' to the Hero Competition, to the amusement of the convention attendees.

Yes, you read that correctly.

They invited submissions from the public, with a very low barrier to entry, yet with unrealistic goals, and then ridiculed the submissions to smug laughter from other film industry professionals.

Ironically, the whole thing has an air of cartoonish, nasty snobbery. If only it were confined to a comic book.

So, while you stew on that for a moment, consider this.

There's a line at the end of the Batman film 'The Dark Knight', where Commissioner Gordon tells his son:

"He's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now."

I can't really explain why Australia doesn't have the more meaningful and enduring superhero we need as a part of our pop culture.

But I know this.

Based on the level of (dis)respect they showed to a number of the submissions, it sounds like Hopscotch got exactly the heroes they deserved.

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