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Strong Drama Line-Up In NZ On Air Funding Round


A strong line-up of new local drama for television, announced by NZ On Air, shows it is business as usual for the funding organisation, despite the one year phase-out of the Public Broadcasting Fee announced in last month's Budget.

At its June meeting, NZ On Air allocated funding to a new drama series, a new comedy series, and a feature film.

NZ On Air chief executive, Jo Tyndall, said that the organisation was pleased to be able to continue funding programmes which reflect New Zealand's culture.

"NZ On Air funding is designed to fill the gaps in the commercial system. Drama and comedy are risky genres, in part because of their relatively high production cost, and without NZ On Air's intervention in the commercial environment, these programmes would not be produced," Ms Tyndall said.

The three new drama and comedy programmes funded in June are Street Legal, The Life and Times of Te Tutu, and Crooked Earth.

Street Legal is a new six part drama series, developed from a pilot funded by NZ On Air last year. The series centres around an Auckland law firm, and stars Jay Laga'aia as one of the firm's senior partners, with a tendency to play it fast and loose.

Street Legal is written by Greg McGee, and will be directed by veteran New Zealand drama director, Chris Bailey. NZ On Air has allocated $2,160,000 to ScreenWorks for the production of Street Legal, which will screen in prime time on TV2 next year.

Featuring popular local comedian Pio Terei, The Life and Times of Te Tutu provides a new take on New Zealand's history. Although it's set in colonial New Zealand, the seven part series of comedy plays portrays contemporary issues about the collision of two cultures, with very funny results.

NZ On Air has allocated $1,019,100 to Pipi Productions to produce The Life and Times of Te Tutu, to screen on TVOne in prime time.

Finally, NZ On Air has contributed funding towards the production of a feature film, Crooked Earth, to screen on TV3. Set on the North Island's wild East Coast, Crooked Earth is an action film, centring around the conflict between two brothers who reunite at the death of their father.

NZ On Air will contribute $300,000 towards the production of Crooked Earth, to be produced by Robin Scholes, of Communicado.

"Without NZ On Air's intervention, New Zealand audiences would not see locally-produced drama and comedy programmes, which tell our own stories, in our own voices," Ms Tyndall said.

Ms Tyndall noted that people were still required to pay their Broadcasting Fee, until July 2000.

"The abolition does not take effect until July next year. In the meantime, NZ On Air is relying on people to pay, in order to keep funding unique New Zealand television programmes, such as these."



Street Legal $2,160,000 6 x one hour drama series Chris Hampson, ScreenWorks (TV2)

The Life and Times of Te Tutu $1,019,100 7 x half hour comedy series Ray Lillis, Pipi Productions (TV2)

Crooked Earth $300,000 2 x one hour drama feature Robin Scholes, Communicado (TV3)

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