John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Film industry boss will chase private money

Gibson believes there is more investment money in NZ than there used to be. Photo / NZ Herald
Gibson believes there is more investment money in NZ than there used to be. Photo / NZ Herald

The domestic film industry has high hopes the arrival of one of the country's most experienced film and television producers — Dave Gibson — will change a stable but stale culture at the New Zealand Film Commission.

The screen industry is built on money — much of it public money — and not personalities. But Gibson's appointment to the commission last December came after the Government moved to increase taxpayer funding to the industry.

National has virtually doubled support to the industry in the six years it has been in power. The new incentives came into force on April 1.

Initially this funding boost was approved by the Government to help Weta Digital — an arm of the Peter Jackson organisation — to win big deals to work on the next two Avatar movies. Then the domestic industry put its hand up to ensure it was not forgotten.

Screen industry consultant Tim Thorpe said Auckland-based producers making American movies on contract wanted to ensure they were not shut out of funding. They saw business slowing for runaway US productions for US cable TV shows filming here — largely because of the high value of the Kiwi against the US dollar.

The latest boost sees some TV productions being able to pick up 40 per cent of budgets for projects with a higher level of local input and up to 25 per cent of some films.

Thorpe says it is too early to say what effect the financial incentives will have on the domestic sector, if any.

Gibson believes they are linked to two big budget TV co-productions that the commission has "on the hook".

At 61 and having made numerous TV shows and films, he is the first producer to be chief executive of the commission and has been a regular at film markets like Cannes where projects are bought, sold and funded.

Producer John Barnett has been one of the most trenchant critics of the commission and its role in defining what films get made.

Barnett is a big fan of Gibson's.

"What Dave being there means is that many more producers will now know they have to take responsibility and get out there and find markets for their films.

"The Film Commission is not going to be like the Social Welfare Department any more," he says.

Gibson says part of the problem has been the disparate way the industry has developed silos working on film, TV, commercials, the international and domestic businesses.

"The industry should be a little bit more connected and it is up to the commission to provide a little bit of leadership and co-ordination and help things to happen."

The big aim is to draw in money from the private sector to make the government funding go further.

Gibson believes there is more investment money in New Zealand than there used to be.

"New Zealand is more of a country where there is more of a chance of getting a film made. That means for production it has been pretty democratic.

"The downside is that there is an awful lot of films being made and there is the same very small percentage that are very good.

"Meanwhile, with the huge increase in the number of films being made, it is getting harder to be noticed."


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- NZ Herald

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