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TV and Film Taskforce successful first meeting

21 May 2002 Media Statement

TV and Film Taskforce successful first meeting

The screen industry taskforce, which is part of the Government’s innovation strategy, met for the first time yesterday to discuss growing the television and film industry in New Zealand.

Industry and Regional Development Minister Jim Anderton chaired the meeting and welcomed contributions from the taskforce members.

“This taskforce is a who’s who of the industry and their dedication to improving our screen industries is great news for all New Zealanders.

“At yesterday’s meeting we set clear economic goals for the industry over the next five years.

“Our goal is to grow international sales from an estimated $200 million per annum to $400 per annum, excluding Lord of the Rings revenue.

“To achieve this, we will focus on increasing the number and size of screen production houses in New Zealand. Our goal is to have 10 companies with revenues greater than $50 million and an additional 20 companies with revenues of more than $10 million per year.”

To address the issues associated with such a determined growth strategy, the Taskforce established three working groups. Combining the best of both government and private experience, each will focus on one of the following key areas of the industry: skills and education; new ventures and existing investment.

The Taskforce will be co-chaired by Julie Christie, Managing Director of Touchdown Productions and will meet regularly over the next six months.

Jim Anderton stressed the importance of focusing on New Zealand’s potential in this area. “The creative industries are growing at over twice the rate of the rest of the NZ economy. Although television grew 17% between 1997-2001, the film industry alone grew 164% over the same period.

“We have a world class industry that has already produced Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. We also boast Weta Productions and Cloud 9, whose television shows are screening in over 100 countries. In addition, Touchdown Productions are producing global reality shows that will be viewed by millions.

“The Taskforce will help ensure that the quality and success of New Zealand’s creative industries will continue.”

The members confirmed to date are (full profiles below):

* John Barnett - Managing Director, South Pacific Pictures Ltd
* Grant Bradley - CEO, Daybreak Pacific
* Julie Christie - Managing Director, Touchdown Productions
* Geoff Dixon - Managing Director, Silverscreen/Oktobor
* Ian Fraser - CEO, TVNZ
* Dave Gibson - Managing Director, Gibson Group
* Nigel Hutchinson - Director, Motion Pictures (Chairperson, Commercials Group)
* Robyn Laing - Preston Laing Productions (Chairperson, Independent Film Group)
* Diana Rowan - Nominated by Council of Trade Unions (CTU)
* Don Selwyn - Producer, He Taonga Films
* Michael Stedman - Managing Director, Natural History NZ Limited
* Richard Taylor - Director, Weta Workshop Limited
* Sue Thompson - CEO, The Film Unit (Chairperson, Post-Production Group)
* Ray Thompson - Chairman, Cloud 9

John Barnett, Managing Director, South Pacific Pictures Limited

John Barnett began his career in the film and television business as an independent producer in 1973. Over the past 30 years, he has produced television drama, documentaries and 13 feature films, including Middle Age Spread, Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Race for the Yankee Zephyr and the Australasian animated smash hit Footrot Flats. He was also Executive Producer for What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? He is currently producing Whale Rider.

John has been active in film industry politics throughout his career and was a founder of New Zealand’s industry magazine, OnFilm. He is also a member of the Board of Screen Producers and Directors Association and the Film & Video Labelling Body, and was until recently a member of the Board of the New Zealand Film Commission. He has been actively involved in film, television and video distribution and in the development of multiplex cinemas in New Zealandas well as setting up Sundance Channel (NZ), the first Sundance affiliated channel outside the United States.

Grant Bradley, Producer, Daybreak Pacific Limited

Grant Bradley is one of New Zealand’s most experienced film producers. His career spans over 20 years and more than 15 films. In 1995 the New Zealand Film Commission provided him with a Producer Operated Development Fund, which was the catalyst to turn Daybreak from a cottage industry into New Zealand’s most prolific film producer. His films have featured such globally recognised actors as Christopher Lloyd, Ron Silver, Kelly McGillis, Judge Reinhold and Patrick McNee, among others. He has also been an industry leader in attracting foreign investment, generating over $40 million in recent years from film financiers and banks in both USA and Europe.

Julie Christie, Managing Director, Touchdown Productions

Julie is one of New Zealand’s most consistently innovative and successful entertainment producers. She is an acknowledged leader in the local television industry as well as being this country’s most successful exporter of entertainment programme formats. Her sale of the gameshow, The Chair, to 22 countries, is the most successful deal of its kind in New Zealand. Touchdown is 100% New Zealand owned but now has offices in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Touchdown was the first Australasian production company to produce programmes contracted by American primetime network television.

Geoff Dixon, Managing Director, Silverscreen/Oktobor

After 25 years as a Director, Geoff Dixon is now recognised as an innovator in interactive television in New Zealand. By developing a new interactive division of his film production company, Silverscreen, Geoff has become the nation-wide market leader in this area. Oktobor is an interactive multi-media company and digital post-production facility that creates animation and special effects for film production companies and advertising agencies in New Zealand and throughout the world. Geoff’s work can be seen in commercials and short films, as well as feature films.

Oktobor have also been engaged in research and development for the interactive television market by designing new software applicable to various global platforms. Oktobor/Silverscreen occupy a unique place in the New Zealand market.

Ian Fraser, Chief Executive, TVNZ

One of the most widely recognised New Zealanders, Ian is the new Chief Executive of TVNZ and previous Chief Executive of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Ian has positively indicated his willingness to work with the industry addressing issues of mutual interest and concern.

Dave Gibson, Managing Director, Gibson Group

Dave has been a strong leader in the film and television industry for many years both in NZ and offshore. He is a shareholder (with director Yvonne Mackay) in Gibson Group Limited, which has grown from a small group of dedicated creatives to a major production company specialising in television drama production. In recent years, Gibson Group has broadened its creative scope to include new media initiatives, including website development and the design and implementation of multimedia installations, particularly in Europe. Gibson Group Limited also has an associated company, First Sun Limited, which is dedicated exclusively to feature film production. In 2000, First Sun premiered writer/director Glenn Standring’s The Irrefutable Truth About Demons at Cannes to widespread industry acclaim.

Dave is a strong voice for the independent production of New Zealand content and would add experience in local and international co-production deals.

Nigel Hutchinson, Producer, Commercials, Mopix Motion Pictures

Mopix Motion Pictures was founded by Nigel Hutchinson in 1975 and has been producing commercials throughout Australasia ever since. Nigel acts as an ambassador for New Zealand offshore, particularly in the Asian marketplace. Nigel produced and directed the American Home Direct TV commercials for AIG Insurance, Japan, as well as producing Goodbye Pork Pie. He works with many regular visitors from British, European and American film companies to shoot commercials in New Zealand. He has extensive experience in the film and television industry and will add the commercials dimension to the Taskforce.

Robyn Laing, Preston Laing Productions

Robyn Laing is Chairperson of the NZ Film School, an independent producer (Bread & Roses) and Chairperson of the Independent Films Group. Her husband, John Laing, is also a director (Absent Without Leave, Dangerous Orphans).

Diana Rowan, Diana Rowan Casting Ltd

Diana Rowan has 20 years experience as a Casting Director. She has worked on a variety of local and international projects, including television series Xena and Hercules and feature films Vertical Limit, The Piano, Rain and Whale Rider. She has extensive experience in the film and television industry in New Zealand and a comprehensive understanding of actors, producers and directors requirements.
She is also on the executive committee for WIFT (Women in Film and Television) and on the board of AFTA New Zealand.

Don Selwyn, Producer, He Taonga Films

Don is a producer and director based in Auckland. He has recently won critical acclaim for his innovative interpretation of The Maori Merchant of Venice, starring Waihoroi Shortland and Ngarimu Daniels. He has been actively involved in the advocacy of Maori film and theatre for many years. He also produced the award winning docu-drama Feathers of Peace, directed by Barry Barclay and focusing on the history of the Mori-ori.

Don has been instrumental in Maori representation in film, television and theatre over the last twenty years. He has recently been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Literature from Massey University for his contribution to the ARTS Theatre and Film. Don also received the New Zealander of the Year award for ARTS in 1995 for his contribution to ‘ARTS and CULTURE’, and the New Years 1999 Honours Officer of the New Zealand Merit (O.N.Z.M.).

Michael Stedman - Managing Director, Natural History NZ Ltd

Michael Stedman has worked in the television industry for nearly 25 years. He has produced more than one thousand programmes and has extensive experience in television production, international co-production, industry training and senior management. Previous roles include Head of Features at ABC Australia, Head of Training at the Australian Film and Television School and Head of Production at Television New Zealand.

In 1991 Michael took over the role as Managing Director for Natural History New Zealand, increasing its output by 300% in only 18 months. Since then he has guided the company through unprecedented growth to become one of the world’s largest documentary production companies. In the last five years the company has spread its wings to embrace new genres including science, travel, medicine, adventure and history programming.

Richard Taylor, Director, Weta Workshop Ltd

Fifteen years ago, Richard (along with his partner, Tania Rodger) initiated a New Zealand Effects facility that is now known as Weta Ltd. Since then, Richard and his co-directors, Peter Jackson and Jamie Selkirk have built a world-class facility encompassing three separate businesses: Weta Workshop (physical effects workshop), Weta Digital (digital visual effects) and Camperdown Studios (studio facilities). More recently Tania and Richard established Sideshow Weta Collectibles, a high-end merchandising business.

Richard is the first New Zealander to win two Academy awards and two BAFTA’s. Weta Workshop and Weta Digital earned these awards for their special effects contribution to the visual effects and make-up for The Lord of the Rings.

The team at Weta are currently working on a series of high-end collectibles for the Jim Henson Studio and are in the process of developing content for their own television productions.

Sue Thompson, Chief Executive, The Film Unit

Sue is a leader in the New Zealand film industry with excellent networks in both New Zealand and around the world. The Film Unit is wholly owned by Peter Jackson Enterprises and remains an important part of the post-production process for New Zealand filmmakers. They have exclusive responsibility for film post-production of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy and will be actively involved in future strategic growth and direction in partnership with other companies owned by Peter Jackson.

Raymond Thompson, Chairman, Cloud 9 Productions

Veteran Screenwriter Ray Thompson came to New Zealand in 1995 following a successful career in Hollywood and London. He is well-known for his involvement in dramas such as Howard’s Way. During his tenure as Head of Development for BBC Television he acted as a producer and creative liaison on a wide range of productions, including House of Elliott, Casualty, Between the Lines and Eastenders.

Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group has evolved over the past seven years into a hugely successful $400 million international business. Cloud 9 has produced arrange of successful family drama shows. The Tribe, Atlantis High, Swiss Family Robinson, and the Enid Blyton series have all been broadcast under the Cloud 9 banner.

The Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group is now one of the largest investors into the New Zealand creative industry, and over $120 million has been injected into the local Wellington economy via Cloud 9's productions. Cloud 9 has also independently contracted over 4,500 people as well as creating a myriad of intangible benefits from the worldwide exposure of New Zealand locations on global television screens. Cloud 9 trades through offices in London, New York, Brisbane and Wellington.

For further information contact Sector Spoecialist, Clare O’Leary at Industry NZ


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