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New York, 1939. What’s a small-town girl from an apple farm in Branson, Missouri, doing in a grand apartment like this? Sure, it’s the Depression. Everyone’s working an angle. But teenage ingenue Violet St Clair, played by a male Melbourne actor, Ash Flanders, has no idea she’s the next big thing.

This is the belfry of Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. Baby pigeons coo on the other side of the tin ceiling. Four actors, their director Declan Greene, and designers are here rehearsing the latest Sisters Grimm show, Calpurnia Descending, and today cameras are trained on the behind-the-scenes goings-on to record a movie to run between live performances on stage.

You think it was your decision to hold off seeing a new Australian film at the cinema last night? Unseen forces may have made up your mind. Think about it this way: how many posters have you spotted around town for that latest homegrown sleeper hit? With film distributors and exhibitors prioritising films backed by the biggest marketing budgets – usually US movies – producers, directors and academics are questioning the future of Australian film in the cinema.

In 2014 to date, Australian films have accounted for just 2.28% of box office takings nationally, says the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA).

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