Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Movie Disaster

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  • Russell Brown,

    A little more from Lindsay Shelton on Scoop:

    New Zealand’s screen industry has three halves. Two of them are in crisis, if you believe the media last week. The third half is Peter Jackson, which is in vigorous health.

    The two crisis-prone halves are looked after by two state-supported Wellington organisations. The Film Commission is responsible for encouraging and financing the production of feature films being made in New Zealand by New Zealanders. Film New Zealand is responsible for enticing offshore productions to come here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • David MacGregor,

    The obvious issue (well to me anyway) is about IP.
    I agree with everything you have stated but the truth is that Hobbit and Avatar style productions don’t belong here. We might be the skilled minions but that is all we are. Pitching for production isn’t much smarter than growing trees or milk powder. There is no residual – other than creating a skilled work-force in boom times who become un/under employed in the fallow times.

    If we were smart we would do something like the US did during the depression to create work for artists – instead of concentrating on offering discounts. – a Works Progress Administration kind of thing. It would be a more constructive endeavour than public/private schemes building new prisons (just another form of farming).

    Movie ideas aren’t hard – James Cameron proves that – Titanic and Avatar are based on out of copyright/no copyright ideas. Kids are flooding out of tertiary institutions with design/film/communications (whatever that is) degrees. Put them to work. Instead of going it alone make it a hive. Call me a communist (Joyce’s new incantation) but we’d clean up and make billions.

    Oh, and stop with the Top of the Lake/Piano/Boy daliances...make them out of profits. The world understands Ironman.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Feb 2007 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Knightly,

    I agree with David. IP-development is the missing piece of the puzzle. The screen industry has developed excellent capability from doing contract work and from public broadcasting, but there is little support for the next step if those now skilled, Academy Award-winning people wanted to make their own thing and take it global. I see a lot of producers pushing the boundaries of existing film funds to make something which is both a New Zealand story and would appeal internationally, but they’re never going to make Ironman.

    From some of Peter Jackson’s recent comments (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/personalities/news/article.cfm?c_id=72&objectid=11141634 ) it sounds like he’d like to go back to making original IP himself.

    I work in video games and NZ’s game development industry is growing hugely. Our revenue is 99% export and mostly original IP. The domestic market is too small, so our success has come from creating and owning original IP, going global and publishing it digitally ourselves. We keep the margin that could have gone to a publisher, spin off sequels and grow a loyal following. The margins are higher and the profits stay in NZ to be invested again. A similar model can be applied to film and TV too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    pH phactor...

    ...at loggerheads with Stephen Joyce

    I'm afraid your Stephen
    doesn't pass the acid test,
    now Mr Steven Joyce,
    there's another matter
    full o' burn that one is...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Gregory,

    This study from Oxford University in 2010 found that every £1 brought into the country was worth £13 to the economy. Other countries are doing what they can to get in the game. Does this government know something that they don't?
    And these jobs that we are losing are good jobs, the average film job is 70 k per year when the countries average is 50k. Remember when this mob got in they talked about getting wages up there with Australia, well this isn't helping.
    http://industry.bfi.org.uk/media/pdf/i/r/The_Economic_Impact_of_the_UK_Film_Industry_-_June_2010.pdf

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Stephen Knightly,

    IP-development is the missing piece of the puzzle

    Best we get "Goodbye Pork Pie meets Battletruck II' into production now...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    New Zealand’s screen industry

    though Shelton only talks about film.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    I didn't see it linked, but here is the M.E.D. 2012 discussion paper of the screen industry (discusses the prior Oxford one in the course of it)

    http://www.med.govt.nz/about-us/publications/publications-by-topic/evaluation-of-government-programmes/Economic%20study%20of%20the%20NZ%20film%20industry.pdf

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Recent govt screen sector review documents.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Chaz Harris,

    I agree. We need a mechanism for IP development funding separate to the NZFC who are stuck and bound by the cultural legislation requirements - simply opening them up to funding commercial projects won't help much because their leadership doesn't have that point of view and commercial focus needed to operate in a commercial film environment. They'll need to know instinctively what has a good chance of selling.

    Investing in commercially focused IP projects that just happen to be made in NZ by NZers is the gap here, just like something like Callaghan Innovation fund grants for research into new technology, something like that for creative content creators would be hugely beneficial. If we had the ability to put a bit of money on the table with IP owned here by a production company based here, we can ensure both the residual benefits and economic growth impact is felt in NZ - and in that case it might not always need to be shot in New Zealand to be beneficial to us anyway.

    Wellington • Since Oct 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Knightly, in reply to Chaz Harris,

    and in that case it might not always need to be shot in New Zealand to be beneficial to us anyway.

    The latest Buzzy Bee TV series was produced in Malaysia, but the IP is owned by New Zealanders. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/5678677/Buzzy-Bee-goes-global-on-TV )

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Stephen Knightly,

    Stellar positioning...

    ... the IP is owned by New Zealanders.

    Something we can look forward to:
    The Luminaries being filmed here, perhaps...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Sounding like a stuck record but if good dramas such as Harry, Nothing Trivial etc are to be considered unsuccessful, it isn't necessary for a lack of an engaged and loyal audience. It is more to do with the continuing dependence of mainstream TV on the the effing bloody Peoplemeter system of audience measurement, which is increasingly becoming fraudulent in these days of audience fragmentation and channel proliferation.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2539 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    flickering out...
    Geoff you (and others) may be interested in these sad old closed Soviet cinemas...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Chaz Harris,

    But doesn't this start to become simply an economic development game, where we pick winners? I'm ok subsidising the NZ screen industry as part of a cultural independence strategy, but not really if the idea's just to make money. I'm already pretty wary about a lot of the big screen production subsidies, both from a cultural and an economic standpoint. The more commercial the government funding gets, the more it is open to critique as simply a subsidy to capital, which isn't really something I'm super interested in.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Knightly,

    Yep, the purpose of our govt screen agencies is both economic development and cultural independence. The Film Commission's goal is for New Zealand to have "a sustainable and internationally competitive screen sector."

    If it was exclusively about cultural independence, then it can only ever be a continual public broadcasting subsidy and there will never be enough. Developing global IP is the opportunity for some sustainable revenue.

    As things go digital, NZers will increasingly watch programmes on Netflix and YouTube rather than TVNZ OnDemand. If we want NZers to experience NZ stories then we'll have to put our content on those global platforms. For instance, many Kiwis found Lorde on SoundCloud first. Going digital naturally means going global.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    The more commercial the government funding gets, the more it is open to critique as simply a subsidy to capital, which isn’t really something I’m super interested in.

    And that’s fair enough. But I can’t get behind Gordon Campbell’s scathing post on Power Rangers. Yes, the production and performance work is all contracted and the days can be long. But it’s a project-based sector and it’s how people in the industry are used to working. Some of them buy their own gear and hire it out, set-builders have workshops, and so on. And yes, of course you don’t own your likeness as a Power Rangers actor.

    A decade of Power Rangers has helped support a standing workforce and equipment base. I don’t know of anyone in the Auckland industry who wouldn’t have wanted it to continue. It’s going to be harder for someone like the brilliant Chris Burt of Inside Track, who made the Power Rangers sound effects, to stay in business.

    We gave back the Power Rangers company $2.5 - $3m of their production spend each year. I’m not wild about subsidising capital either, but it would cost us a hell of a lot more to directly fund a level of screen production that would give you the same skill base.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yes, the production and performance work is all contracted and the days can be long. But it’s a project-based sector and it’s how people in the industry are used to working. Some of them buy their own gear and hire it out, set-builders have workshops, and so on.

    Umm Gordon, seems to me, to be focusing on performers contracts, didnt mention production contracts at all. I dont mind these sorts of projects being made, it pays some peoples bills. But entertainment is only one part of what the film/TV industry should be contributing to society, yet it has become the only focus. Education/ developing ways to spread knowledge about our world around are completely neglected.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1882 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Of course — I’m very much not against that kind of capacity protection subsidy.

    As far as Campbell goes, I think there’s a weird elision of the fact that you can be in a contract, project based industry and still be organised! Hollywood manages it significantly better than much of the more traditionally set up American industries. Also woah weird Israel related stuff going on there.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Konrad Kurta,

    Didn't both Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors make money overseas? Surely profit and cultural relevance aren't mutually exclusive. Without access to vast amounts of capital nobody here is ever going to make Iron Man V, so shouldn't we be focusing on carving out a small-to-medium budget niche that balances both cultural and economic imperatives?

    Supposing we did have an industry that produced generic IP - would we ever have the financial clout to push it overseas?

    South Korea • Since Dec 2012 • 43 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It’s going to be harder for someone like the brilliant Chris Burt of Inside Track, who made the Power Rangers sound effects, to stay in business.

    It's been my privilege to work with Chris Burt on a number of projects, including a magnificent soundtrack which I never really had the opportunity to express my appreciation for. However all of that was a long time ago - in fact it all ended rather abruptly when I had to leave NZ in order to keep working in the film biz. The coming of Hercules c.1993 must have been a salvation for many, as it coincided with a particularly savage recession that decimated the old commercial base of local film production.

    When Power Rangers started production here Chris Burt would have been well established for close to a couple of decades as one of NZ's most gifted sound designers. His 'skill base' was developed before foreign production became a mainstay of the local industry. While I fervently wish him the best to continue working in his field for as long as he chooses, wouldn't it have been better to find an example of someone who entered the industry with Power Rangers, and rose to the top of their game via that show?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to David MacGregor,

    Oh, and stop with the Top of the Lake/Piano/Boy daliances...make them out of profits. The world understands Ironman.

    Could you translate that into English for me, because it really strikes my ears as enormously fucking condescending to call Top of the Lake a "dalliance". What makes me sad and a little angry, is that Jane Campion only works in the bloody country when those dirty foreigners pick up the tab: Sundance & BBC Worldwide in the case of Lake, and French and Australian indie producers for The Piano.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And – let’s be honest here – the TV hits haven’t been coming. Audiences for local scripted drama, which costs NZ On Air a shitload to fund, haven’t really been turning up. The Almighty Johnsons, Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Harry and The Blue Rose have all failed to reach expectations. It really does start to make commercial sense for TV3 to run The Block three nights a week, as depressing as that might be.

    So, what kind of license fee has SyFy been paying to pick up The Almighty Johnsons, which rated well enough in the UK to be picked up by the corporate mothership for broadcast next year?

    And if producing local drama makes no commercial sense, then you’ve got to wonder what kind of rationale there is for costly ‘content deals’ that seems to involve an awful lot of shows that not only aren’t particularly popular here, but have been cancelled long before before they end up being ‘burned off’ just before the early morning infomercials. Perhaps it’s time for The Block to go 24/7?

    In 2013, Lucy Lawless is at loggerheads with Steven Joyce, angry that Joyce singled out Lawless’s husband Rob Tapert’s production shift to South Africa as a factor in the industry slump. In a serious of furious tweets she has accused Joyce (who, to be fair, has been even more publicly contemptuous than usual) of “killing” the New Zealand film industry by refusing to raise the rebate.

    To be fair to Joyce, Lawless was being implausibly disingenuous. Of course Tappert's going to follow tax and production subsidies, and it strikes me as rather cute to pretend otherwise. Of course, Joyce is being a bit of a dick because that's not the whole of a rather complex picture, but I don't think trying to out bid the UK and South Africa is a magic bullet either.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    It is more to do with the continuing dependence of mainstream TV on the the effing bloody Peoplemeter system of audience measurement, which is increasingly becoming fraudulent in these days of audience fragmentation and channel proliferation.

    The Peoplemeter has indeed become a relic of the analogue TV age, but I suspect those who maintain it have too much to lose.

    Bernard Hickey pointed out that the biggest threat to the Hobbit trilogy was not Simon Whipp (for all his misguided 1970s union sensibilities) but currency volatility. Not much can be done about that, since the greenback will remain the world's major trading currency for a while, and the US is still the world's biggest entertainment market.

    The wider issue surrounding NZ’s film & TV industry malaise, I suspect, is cargo cultism. It’s especially rife among NZ TV broadcasters, who gloss over quality NZ-made IP that’s wildly popular overseas like the Wild South docos, because they think it’s unprofitable or too intellectual. Former TV3 CEO Brent Impey epitomised this kind of cargo cultism in a public panel observed by MediaWatch’s Colin Peacock:

    I took that as a sign of healthy interest in the topic, but one of the panellists that night chucked a bit of cold water on that theory – Brent Impey, the former boss of Mediaworks (the company which owns of TV3, C4, Radio Live, music stations such as The Rock, The Edge and others).

    He’s always been an energetic advocate for commercial broadcasting, and he gave an interesting answer to a question from the event’s host – Finlay McDonald.

    FM: “How come there is no serious long-form current affairs on New Zealand television?

    BI: “Because people don’t want to watch it”.

    FM: “People do want to watch it!”

    BI: “People do not want to watch it, Finlay”.

    FM: “Put your hands up if you’d like to watch some. There you go!”

    BI: “With the greatest of respect the people in this room are socio-economic 1 and 2 living in Herne Bay, Grey Lynn or Parnell.”

    FM: “Put your hands up if that’s true!”

    BI: “I want to point this through. There is this great craving for ’It was better when Brian Edwards did that interview on the Post Office. Or Ian Fraser. But the reality is it’s been tried time and time again and the public don’t want to know”.

    Interesting response isn’t it?

    Brent Impey wasn’t saying that is good or bad, just that that’s a fact of life in the media today – and that arguing about it is only really of interest to people they call “the chattering classes” in the UK.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Gregory, in reply to David MacGregor,

    Hmmm, movie ideas aren't hard eh, I'm glad you think so, perhaps you could knock off a couple of scripts over the labour weekend and single handedly save the New Zealand film industry. And I love how you drop the names of the two largest grossing movies of all time as examples.
    This is not about IP, it's about losing a huge over seas earner that's taken 30 years to grow, because this government uses a different calculator to all the other film making countries in the world, who are now cashing in.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

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