John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Getting it made - the new face of the domestic film industry

A fledgling Kiwi company is about to release two new movies at film festivals

Producer Tom Hern and director James Napier-Robertson.
Producer Tom Hern and director James Napier-Robertson.

From teen stars on The Tribe to parts in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Shortland Street, Tom Hern and James Napier-Robertson have gone behind the cameras and are being tipped as the new faces of the domestic film industry.

The former actors and their financial backers — iHug co-founder Tim Wood and his wife Sasha — are partners in Four Knights Film, a fledgling film-maker being lauded for a methodical business-building approach.

The company was formed nearly four years ago amid the success of their critically acclaimed debut feature film, a thriller called I'm Not Harry Jensen, which was made on a shoestring budget delivered by friends, family and anybody who could be tapped for support.

Now Four Knights will launch two feature films in the next two months.

The first is The Dark Horse, a medium budget drama starring Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston, about "two lost souls finding the strength to carry on through each other's company".

It is set to be launched at an international film festival later this year.

The second is Everything We Loved, about a couple who are accused of being child abductors. It will debut at the New Zealand Film Festival and then be distributed on the internet as part of the new approach to film distribution.

Both are part-funded by the Film Commission whose chief executive, Dave Gibson, is optimistic about the company's talents in making films and knowing how to work the market to find other investors.

Film is a famously high-risk investment and even at these low budgets there is no guarantee of investors or the Film Commission recovering their money. Hern acknowledges the first five years are about building the firm up.

It was hoped the 2014 releases would help develop their names, foster bigger budgets and deliver profits.

"Since 2010 it has been about developing projects and that has been been really good for us," Hern said.

Hern described the $4 million budget for The Dark Horse as medium-sized but thousands of films are made around the world for such an amount.

The Dark Horse uses a traditional structure for being released with a distributor — Transmission Films — releasing the movie in Australia and New Zealand and France-based Celluloid Dreams looking for more sales to other territories.

And selection for international film festivals means they have a chance to sell to buyers.

"This is where out sales kicks into overdrive," Hern said.

"There are so many films being made and only the cream of the crop will survive."

Some film genres like horror can be sold direct to the market, but The Dark Horse is a drama, so it needs good reviews from film critics.

Bigger movies are built on star power, but even lower down the food chain buyers want a recognisable name before they will support a film.

There was still a market for movies built on good ideas.

"I still think there is a demand there, if the script is strong enough it will work [and] you will find a way to cut through and get projects made," he said. "We are definitely out to make our investors some money.

"But we really needed this first big shot to put a stake in the ground in the marketplace with the company name and I think we have achieved that with the films."

Four Knights will have traditional distribution for The Dark Horse and online distribution for Everything We Loved.

"We want to adjust our films to give audiences the films where they want," Hern said.

This could be through video on demand that is available on tablets and even mobile phones. The issue is monetising the product because people expect to get free content on the internet.


Four Knights Film

• Partners include former teen stars Tom Hern and James Napier-Robertson.

• Fledgling film company is being lauded for a methodical business-building approach.

• Formed nearly four years ago amid the success of its critically acclaimed debut feature film I'm Not Harry Jensen.

• Two feature films launching in the next two months, including The Dark Horse starring Cliff Curtis and James Rolleston.


Read also: Film industry boss will chase private money

- NZ Herald

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