Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Hannan, MF 2010, 'Valuing music composition in Australian feature film production', Proceedings of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM): Instruments for Change Conference, Melbourne, Vic., 24-26 November, pp. 34-37.


The thirty most successful Australian feature films based on international box office receipts have notable music scores (see and Some even have leading characters who either perform music or who perform to music as central parts of their narratives. These are Happy Feet, Moulin Rouge, The Piano, Shine, Muriel’s Wedding, Strictly Ballroom, Young Einstein, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Mao’s Last Dancer. Some use existing recordings of music of very prominent popular artists, which presumably would have been expensive to licence. These notably include Muriel’s Wedding, Happy Feet and The Dish. Some (notably The Man from Snowy River, The Man from Snowy River II, Australia, and Mad Max II) have commissioned orchestral scores that draw attention to what Gorbman (1987, p. 68) calls the epic quality or spectacle of landscape shots and action sequences. In other words, the music score draws attention to itself in its role of monumentalising the visual sequences.

In a number of other films on the list, high-profile foreign composers have been commissioned. These films include Green Card (score by Hans Zimmer), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (score by Maurice Jarre), Babe (Jerry Goldsmith wrote a score which was rejected, then Australian Nigel Westlake was contracted), The Piano (score by Michael Nyman), The Year of Living Dangerously (score by Maurice Jarre), Rabbit Proof Fence (score by Peter Gabriel), Knowing (score by Marco Beltrami), and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles (score by Basil Poledouris). All but two of the films on the list (Crocodile Dundee II and The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course) have accompanying soundtrack albums, thus drawing attention to the contribution of the music in the films’ productions. Thus apart from these two very successful films all the other most successful Australian feature films have some kind of musical prominence either in their narrative content or in the resources expended on the music or promoting the music.