John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Screen study to ease industry fears

Big overseas movies made here such as The Hobbit can receive millions of dollars in taxpayer help. Photo / Supplied
Big overseas movies made here such as The Hobbit can receive millions of dollars in taxpayer help. Photo / Supplied

A Government review of the screen industry has veered away from a feared merger of the New Zealand Film Commission with broadcasting agency New Zealand On Air.

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH) review on film funding is set to be handed to the Government in the next two weeks.

Television programme-makers have feared integration of the two bodies which have vastly different cultures and processes, but it seems MCH will merely call for more consultation between the two agencies.

That will be a relief to the TV producers, who get a good run with NZ On Air for subsidies for their commercial fare, and face little scrutiny on content compared to the film commission's approach to movie funding.

NZ On Air is popular with the Government, which had been keen on closer relations between the agencies but has cooled on the idea.

NZ On Air may still face scrutiny over its controversial approach to taxpayer funding of The GC and New Zealand's Got Talent.

Some film commission critics may be disappointed at the expected low level of change in the Government review. One industry player said the MCH report "tinkered at the edges" in its assessment of the film industry.

The report focuses on the commission and the two main funding initiatives, the Large Budget Screen Production Grant and the Screen Production Incentive Fund.

The earlier Peter Jackson-David Court report into the film commission - which was handed to arts minister Chris Finlayson in July 2010 and forms the basis for the MCH report - had called for a more strategic long-term vision to allow more flexibility.

It said the commission should move towards being more talent than project-focused.

"There should be a larger development team within the commission and relaxing of the current reliance on producer-centred projects," the Jackson-Court report said.

Industry comment on the report included harsh criticism of the commission.

At the time, supporters of the commission said many of the report's concerns had been addressed in a new management structure, under chief executive Graeme Mason.

Two film producers approached by the Herald said part of the problem faced by both the film commission and NZ On Air was the increasing level of red tape collected by government agencies using their limited resources.

This was unlikely to be addressed in the MCH report to Finlayson.

One of the key issues for Jackson and the Hollywood investors who make films here is whether the Large Budget Screen Production Grant will be touched by the Government.

It gives 15 per cent rebates for local productions worth more than $15 million.

Hollywood productions like The Hobbit are expected to receive more than $100 million of taxpayer cash.

Nobody expects the large budget grant to be cut - it could be increased.

New Zealand is under pressure to increase grants to Hollywood to match incentives from other countries.

- NZ Herald

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