I read with interest Matt Nippert's article in the
on film industry incentives. When it comes to Sir Peter Jackson and the wildly successful New Zealand film industry, I think your readers deserve a little more insight.
When my husband was High Commissioner in Canada, we hosted the premiere of the Hobbit films. We could have filled the theatre 10 times with influential people and the events were sponsored by Kiwis doing incredible things with wine and food. It's hard to articulate the reach and resonance of that entire family of films and their predecessors.
If taxpayers had spent hundreds of million of dollars promoting New Zealand we would not have come within a "my precious" mile of what those hairy little buggers delivered. And that's in addition to the hundreds of millions that were sunk into highly skilled jobs, lucrative support positions and related service opportunities throughout the country.
Many of our colleagues in Ottawa (from Kazakhstan to Kathmandu – kid you not) were aggressively trying to outplay New Zealand in a fiercely competitive industry. They were open about this. They looked at our playbook and tried to copy it. "We can look like New Zealand but we can be cheaper with minimal or no bureaucracy," they'd say.
They still are looking to take our seats in the theatre. Why wouldn't they want what we've created?
What industry arrives, sinks inconceivable amounts of money into a country, makes it look beautiful (well, for the most part) and puts it on to the world stage in a way we almost could not imagine?
When the Labour Government was elected, the so-called Hobbit Act was in its sights. A re-write was an election promise. The unions had long wanted utu. So, what did our newly elected representatives do?
The Government listened.
An Oscar winner, a person who puts more real people on to sets than any other person running a company in New Zealand and a couple of legends who between them make things sound wonderful and blow other things up, (and me, working pro-bono because I feel so strongly about this) met with Minister Iain Lees-Galloway on what I think was his second day in office. At any rate, we were literally climbing over boxes to take advantage of his invitation to hear us out.
Hear us he did. And he's kept listening – as have others in his party.
Because if we don't offer incentives, others will. If we do not consider tax breaks for film-makers looking to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy there's a queue of other countries lining up to do just that.
If we want to bind a creative dynamic and totally unique industry up in red tape then it will go elsewhere. To open arms. And if we decide to try to cut down, belittle and castrate the people who have put us so gloriously on the world stage then we're simply bloody idiots.
I hope your readers know that, in this context, we are only as functional and attractive, and brilliant and productive and ground-breaking and money-making, as the support that is accorded to this vital and utterly defensible industry.
Bottom line: it is better to give a small concession (in the grand scheme of things) away for huge gain than to sit with nothing, making nothing, doing nothing, skilled people going overseas ... while feeling strangely virtuous.
We might concede some money. But we are conceding money that we would never get to our shores if there were no big films and little films and thousands of other related projects coming here. Is it better to have nothing at all than a huge degree of something magnificent?
This Government got it right, there's nothing to hide.
• Penny Tucker, a former New Zealand diplomat and ex-director of a large Washington DC lobbying and consultancy firm, has worked closely with the Screen Industry Guild. She now runs a company, called Advocacy Works, advising companies how to mitigate unintended consequences of regulation.