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Ongoing growth in booming screen industry

December 20, 2005

NZ can sustain ongoing growth in booming screen industry in wake of Kong and Narnia

King Kong and Narnia will rock the movie world, but is there any growth left after a brilliant year for New Zealand’s screen industry?

Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the mighty King Kong are seen as the two mega-hits to rule the world in a slow 2005 for Hollywood.

The World’s Fastest Indian has been identified as an Oscar chance for star Sir Anthony Hopkins, Toa Fraser’s No.2 selected for Sundance Festival showcasing while River Queen, Sione’s Wedding and Perfect Creatures are set to launch soon.

But the New Zealand Screen Council, the organisation established by an industry-wide task force to implement ambitious growth targets for NZ film and television production, believes there is still more room for expansion.

``The confidence that 2005 has given the screen sector is fully justified,’’ screen council chairman Graeme Wilson says.

``The last building blocks needed to create a sustainable, year-in year-out growth industry are identified and could be put in place over the next few months.’’

The screen council is working on several projects that it says can put the middle and smaller levels of the industry on a stronger commercial footing.

``Nobody would presume to suggest that Peter Jackson needs any advice in the business of production,” Wilson says.
“It is more than enough that he is here in Miramar, contributing not just his stellar reputation but also a brilliant post-production facility to the NZ industry.

``However there is creative excellence flourishing in smaller budget production companies and in the television sector that could greatly benefit from extra support to develop the business end of their ventures.’’

Part of that support will come in a series of high-level training opportunities to be offered by the screen council in 2006.

The council has recently called for applications for a top-level business training course being conducted with the prestigious Australian Film, Television and Radio School in March, 2006.

``This is less glamorous than the usual picture of movie and TV production, but these skills are essential if we are to grow the NZ industry.

``Apart from praying for a clone of Peter Jackson, growth will come from strong, well-managed mid-level companies providing a continuity of production, employment and profitability,’’ Wilson says.

The screen council is also working for some adjustments to the practices of funding that it says will allow NZ production to grow into a solid and sustainable contributor to the NZ economy.

``New Zealand on Air and the NZ Film Commission, and mechanisms such as the Large Budget Screen Production Grant and Film Fund have been central to the current success of the industry,’’ Wilson says.

``The returns – whether in the form of NZ identity and culture on our screens, or in world-wide promotion of the country through international distribution – are readily seen by most New Zealanders as being a thorough justification for a relatively modest level of public investment.”

The screen council believes that some adjustments to the detail of funding would provide the essential basis for even greater returns.

``In particular, we would like to see our producers retain ownership of programmes funded for New Zealand screening by government agencies, notably Te Mangai Paho and New Zealand On Air, so that they can create real businesses from secondary sales.

“The UK production industry has enjoyed rapid growth since their regulations changed to require the dominant funders (BBC and ITV) to allow producers to own the rights to programmes they created after they have been screened in the UK.”

“Our production companies cannot create real businesses or develop entrepreunerial skills if they have no assets to exploit.”

“We will provide the training and skills, but it requires Te Mangai Paho and New Zealand On Air to release the assets. At present well over 13,000 hours of programming sits in a relatively unexploited inventory that could be released back to its creators at no real cost to anyone, but it would provide a huge boost to the business base of the production industry, just as it has in the UK.

Other adjustments, such as a broadening of the criteria to allow more New Zealand access to the Large Budget Screen Production Fund, and a topping up of the highly effective Film Fund have also been proposed by the Screen Council.

``We have also joined other users in supporting moves to improve New Zealand’s broadband capacity,” Wilson says.

``As far as the film and television industry is concerned, there is an immediately available opportunity to put us on a footing with our worldwide competitors.”

The Advanced Network will be established with Government support to connect research and education institutions. It was originally proposed as a broadband facility for NZ creative and innovation users as well as the narrower research and education definition.

``The benefits to the New Zealand economy will be readily measurable, and (with Peter Jackson’s continuing help) we will be able to see 2006 as another key year in the continuing rapid growth for film and television production in New Zealand.”


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