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Saturday 7th December
4th December 2009
New Zealand’s isolation is responsible for our distinctive approach to life: we’re resourceful, indomitable and hard-wired to ‘give it a go’. Huge assets in the film industry, and one of the reasons why last year New Zealand was second in the world for the amount of film investment from abroad (NZ$571 million) after Canada, and ahead of the United Kingdom and Australia.
Our film industry, now worth NZ$1.2billion a year, is based on a unique combination of Kiwi ingenuity, sensible use of our precious land resources, and the combination of incentives and timing to attract, build and hold productions. The film sector adds value to the whole country, bringing in ‘business tourists’ and its product – movies – acting as visual alchemy for New Zealand’s tourism marketing.
Yet we’re losing films because of our lack of infrastructure: the third Chronicles of Narnia film, The Dawn Treader, went to Queensland because we don’t have a NZ$5 million ‘tank’; a movie with a NZ$100 million spend.
Sometimes, however, we get it right. Yogi Bear, a major Warner Brothers production, was brought here with the help of an investment of $17,000 in scouting support by Film New Zealand.
It’s appropriate tonight, addressing Film Otago Southland in Queenstown, that I acknowledge the success of local efforts to overcome issues notoriously universal in the global film sector: regionalism, fractiousness and competiveness.
Film Otago Southland is leading the way in regional co-operation, proving it’s possible for a group with competing interests to work in a mutually beneficial way. These businesses are, with local government, pointing in the same direction: building regional economic development to benefit tourism and all its associated industries.
I’d like to applaud FOS, for its production centre (the third largest in the country), and for punching well above its weight…proof, yet again, that New Zealand has hugely talented people, who get off their chuffs and get things done.
Investment in infrastructure is the next step: studios cement productions, productions develop talent that, in turn, attracts productions – infrastructure is just as important as New Zealand’s magnificent landscape. I’m sure the Department of Conservation would agree that our landscape’s resources are finite; unlike studio space which is both a sustainable and renewable resource.
Infrastructure isn’t a silver bullet, but it creates opportunities to anchor productions. Wellington is a classic example: it wasn’t that long ago, in the ‘days before Peter Jackson’, that Wellington didn’t have a film studio complex; now there’s a whole industry built around Jackson and Weta Studios, with a wealth of highly trained people. The same happened in Henderson, in Auckland, with Hercules and Xena, The Warrior Princess.
New Zealand’s film industry certainly has some similarities with yachting. We’ve always been a nation of intrepid sailors, something the world realised when we won the America’s Cup. Now every decent international sailing team has Kiwis on it. Who’d heard of New Zealand movies before ‘Angel at my Table’, ‘The Piano’, ‘Once Were Warriors’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’?
We’re not whingers, and we’re not asking for handouts. But sometimes we need Government assistance – Public Private Partnerships, for example. So I’d ask the MP for Clutha-Southland (and Minister of Finance!) to support us in our long game, tricky in a country where short-term has always ruled. It’s like planting kauri trees; slow growers that live almost forever; unlike the kowhai, which grows quickly and flowers dramatically – but is relatively short lived.
New Zealand has become a trusted centre of excellence which will, in turn, lead to the generation of projects, and that’s where our future lies, with the help of regional support, as demonstrated by Film Otago Southland, and – I hope – the Government.
So now we need to focus on growing talent, a renewable human resource that could be a major contributor to New Zealand’s future wealth.
Today: a 10-year-old in Cromwell, Dunedin or Invercargill. Tomorrow: a No 1 producer or writer in the global film industry…
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