Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Producers may have to dig deeper for movies

The Screen Production Incentive Fund gave $4 million to the producers of Under the Mountain. Photo / Supplied
The Screen Production Incentive Fund gave $4 million to the producers of Under the Mountain. Photo / Supplied

Government officials are expected to recommend keeping a film fund which helped pay for local movies such as Boy and Under the Mountain, but make it more business-focused and require film makers to raise at least 10 per cent of the funding.

Papers obtained by the Herald show that the officials' draft recommendations for the Government's screen sector review include requiring films funded through the Screen Production Incentive Fund to get at least 10 per cent of budgets from private investors, despite the drop off in private investment in film since the global financial crisis hit in 2008.

The paper was presented to sector groups in Wellington this week. A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage said it was a draft and the recommendations did not represent Government policy.

The paper also recommended placing NZ on Air and the Film Commission under a shared governance arrangement, with options ranging from appointing some board members to both boards to placing both agencies under one board.

It said this could encourage greater collaboration between the two funders, but would require careful consideration given NZ on Air was focused on cultural objectives while the Film Commission also had economic objectives.

There were concerns the screen fund would be scrapped next year when the initial allocation of funding ran out. However, the officials' papers recommended it continue and be reviewed again in three years, despite not achieving its economic objectives including higher levels of private investment.

The paper noted it was still too early to judge the success of the fund, and its creation had coincided with the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008. Only two of the eight feature films had made a net return and the proportion of Government funding of films had increased on average from about 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2008.

It said the fund met its cultural objective of bringing more New Zealand content to the screen. Ten feature films were made, compared with just four of a similar budget size over a similar period before 2008.

Producers can top up the funding from other Government bodies such as the Film Commission, NZ on Air, Te Mangai Paho and Creative NZ.

The Screen Producers and Directors Association refused to comment on the paper.

Overall, the officials' paper said there was growth in the New Zealand screen industry, partly because of Government incentives but in large part because of the reputations of people such as Sir Peter Jackson, Andrew Adamson and Sir Richard Taylor.

It warned future growth prospects were "relatively fragile" and the industry was "heavily dependent on ongoing Government support, investor and audience perceptions, and the reputation of key individuals".

It said financial incentives had to be maintained that were similar to other countries if it wanted to continue to attract productions.

It recommended keeping the Large Budget Fund, saying that without such incentives there would be a significant drop in major movies coming to New Zealand and some local capabilities would go overseas.

That fund has provided incentives such as rebates for international productions including the Hobbit, Avatar and Lord of the Rings.

Govt backing
Since 2008 the Screen Production Incentive Fund has funded 10 films and some TV programmes, including:
* $4 million for Under the Mountain
* $3.4 million for Love Birds
* $2.5 million for ICE
* $2.5 million for Tracker
* $2.4 million for Predicament
* $2.1 million for Boy
* $3 million for Tales from the South Pacific
* $787,146 for a series of the WotWots

- NZ Herald

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