Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Movie Disaster

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  • Phil Gregory, in reply to Stephen Knightly,

    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.

    Great for the people who own the IP, really sweet for the Malaysian animators, not much use to the unemployed Kiwi film worker and for the NZ tax payer who now has to pay his dole and doesn't collect his tax.
    This is not about IP, that is a different conversation. This is about saving an industry that is bigger and earns more overseas money than the wine industry, and all for the want of the government giving back some money that they wouldn't have got anyway. If you don't attract the big overseas jobs there's no money to give back.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    This is about saving an industry that is bigger and earns more overseas money than the wine industry, and all for the want of the government giving back some money that they wouldn’t have got anyway. If you don’t attract the big overseas jobs there’s no money to give back.

    Frankly, I think that's grossly simplistic. I'd respectfully suggest that the local actors and crew who worked on The Weight of Elephants and Top of the Lake weren't working for magic beans. I don't have a simple answer here (nobody really does), but thinking a little bit beyond Hobbit-fetishism can't hurt.

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

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I'll chorus echo that...

    ...the brilliant Chris Burt of Inside Track

    via, wayback, The Techtones (pure kiwi power-pop)

    and The Stridulators (2 blokes & 2 ironing boards groaning with synths, sonic scenescaping...)

    The Inside Track was on the B side of this ^ House of Squirm 7"
    and lest we forget - the magnificent opus to which Joe refers is The Nightwatchman

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7892 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Gregory,

    Sorry Craig, I ment to say film industry jobs are 70k per year on average as compared with the country's average of all other work.
    And I'm not talking about the Wellington industry, I'm talking about the much bigger but unsung Auckland industry.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Gregory,

    All this talk of New Zealand getting it's own stories up so we can control the IP is all well and good, but it's also good to make other people's stuff here.
    They turn up with a big bag of cash, we make the show and they bugger off with their movie.
    We get paid, they take the risk, our economy benefits, and then all that knowledge, skill and technology can be applied to our local shows. This is what Australia is doing, this is what Ireland is doing, this is what South Africa is doing, this is what UK is doing, even Louisiana is getting in on the game, but our government knows better.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    It would be interesting to ask our govt just how they choose which industries to support - like gambling, mining, smelting, finance companies, residential housing speculation.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    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?

    Also available to stream on Netflix.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Knightly, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    All this talk of New Zealand getting it’s own stories up so we can control the IP is all well and good, but it’s also good to make other people’s stuff here.

    I agree. I see three parts of the puzzle: public broadcasting, international contract work and then original IP. Each builds on the former.

    In times when contract work is short we need to be able to move on to making original IP with all that industry capacity and skill we built up. I'm sure there are a lot of currently out of work producers, directors and writers brushing off that old script or pitch right now, but then what?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sacha,

    It would be interesting to ask our govt just how they choose which industries to support – like gambling, mining, smelting, finance companies, residential housing speculation.

    That would be a good question. Even with a Booker Prize under “our” belts, I rather doubt New Zealand publishers will be getting lavish tax breaks and production incentives thrown in their direction. I’m damn sure Eleanor Catton, Victoria University Press (which IIRC will be taking delivery of a substantial third printing of The Luminaries later this week to meet demand) and every bookstore will be paying their full whack to the IRD.

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

  • nzlemming, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    But doesn't this start to become simply an economic development game, where we pick winners?

    If you increase the opportunities for people to create and develop ideas to the pre-production stage, the likelihood is that more viable ideas will present themselves. It's not about picking winners, but about giving more opportunities to win.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Nik Williams, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    This discussion on the value of rebates to the Government and Tax Payer is based on an assumption: that some or most of the productions will come here regardless of whether they are increased or not. It would be pretty hard for the Government and the Tax Payer to stomach paying more of a rebate to say Avatar for instance, if they were only bluffing about going elsewhere. Whatever is the case for Avatar- as others have mentioned: Wellington based production accounts for less than half of the total market. There are currently no large productions in Auckland. There is nothing big on the horizon (typically industry insider will hear of upcoming large productions up to 18 months before they commence). We have yet to see whether or not Avatar is bluffing but the fact is no productions are coming to Auckland indefinitely. Spartacus finished filming in October last year and Power Rangers finished in June this year (Power Rangers have moved to South Africa). So with zero foreign productions coming here the Government and the Tax payer get nothing- raising the incentive (which should be REBATE) will bring them back- but even if it didn't what is the loss for the tax payer by raising the incentive? What I'm hearing from the Government is that we should not try and be competitive because the market is too tough. The large Budget Screen Production Grant (incentive) is a rebate for money spent in NZ- not an amount paid to entice a production here prior to production.
    In relation to jobs; the Government and independent Analysts are under the assumption that loss of income from a foreign production should be measured by the difference between that and a local one. This is tragically flawed and completely ignores the reality of the market. This formula is also applied on an individual level. Take myself for example; an experienced (over ten years full time) contractor with specialist equipment and vehicles. I have worked and will work on most types of screen production (local/international: features, tv commercials, tv drama, music videos, short films) throughout each year. Working on higher earners (tv commercials and foreign productions) enables me to work on local music videos and short films (where I might not even cover my costs ) and to some degree local drama- where I would earn a lot less. I have been able to increase my experience and capital though these larger productions. So if I don't get to work on a large production for part of each year do I automatically move to local production, hey I'm earning less but I'm still earning! No, I don't. Firstly there is not enough local productions to accommodate me and all my equivalents, secondly the earnings would not be enough to sustain me and could not come close to covering the cost of my equipment, not to mention that I will be effectively taking a job from a less experienced contractor (perhaps one not long out of film school). This is the situation I find myself in now. Perhaps I will leave the screen industry altogether, find a job- so I will take some one else's job? Or start my own business? It's a tough choice to make- because if I leave the industry I will sell my gear and I won't come back, it would be foolish to start again from scratch. I believe my circumstance is indicative of the industry as a whole.
    Apologies for the rant but it's beyond frustrating. We find ourselves at this juncture- having been described as a watershed moment, it is. With that in mind where is Film New Zealand? The body whose job it is to bring foreign productions here, we have had no comment from them at all and indeed do they know that business they advocate for is mostly based far north of Wellington and Peter Jackson.
    I agree with all that the Minister that the development of long term strategies to make the screen industry more sustainable (less reliant on foreign production) is an undeniably good thing- but this should not be used as a reason to let the industry slide into terminal decline. Ask the Minister what his time frame for this IP development is! He doesn't know- it's just a theory at this stage. We should be looking to enable the industry to compete internationally and transitioning it into a more sustainable model, not decimating it in neglectful ignorance.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Nik Williams,

    Good rant.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2930 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    This study from Oxford University

    It's a study from Oxford Economics, a commercial body, commissioned and paid for by film industry clients and not apparently peer reviewed (it doesn't even name its authors).

    The whole "multiplier" theory of economic benefits is deeply dubious. It assumes that were there no government subsidised movies (or yachts/stadiums/jet fighters) those working in the industry would be unemployed and unproductive. Given they are, as stated in the report, mostly qualified graduates, this is unlikely. They might be employed at a lesser salary, but again, they might end up doing something that's less sexy but more remunerative, like writing accounting software instead of graphic rendering.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Gregory, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Well I don't know about jet planes or super yachts, but unemployment is exactly what happens when our government doesn't match rebates of other countries. That's the whole point, it's all or nothing, the productions either come or they don't. Do you know anyone in New Zealand who's got a spare hundred million or two to risk on a movie or TV series. The rebate is only paid if they bring their money.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    So we can pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we are canny cut-rate Hobbits who do as they are told and work harder than anyone else, but really it was just favourable tax deals and a low dollar that brought movie and TV production here? Hollywood itself is also feeling the effects of what is just another attempt by globalised movie businesses to play countries off against one another in a relentless race to the bottom. We can talk about IP, but Americans don’t want to see more than a tiny bit of us.

    Now consider another business in the news lately – the Denheath custard square . It has got IP – with proper protected designation of origin there can only be one Denheath custard square. It trades on adding value to our established food industry. It pays all it’s taxes. It is located in provincial NZ, a place in need of good manufacturing jobs. It currently only has 10-12 employees but it is on the up and look at Hostess Brands who make those God awful Twinkies – they have 18,000+ workers. The sky is the limit for sweet snacks.

    So if I had a few hundred million in government subsidies, well, they work just as hard in Timaru as they do in Auckland. Why shouldn’t it go to all the Denheath Custard Square companies out there? People who actually make and export something? People who pay all their taxes? People who provide much needed regular, full time manufacturing jobs in provincial NZ. Businesses that can’t up sticks and leave if the government doesn’t bow and scrape to them. As opposed to the money going to subsidising foreign film conglomerates that just want to play us off against everyone else to see who they soak the most taxpayers dollars from to ship back to whereever they have an HQ? People who can turn the employment tap on or off at their discretion?

    Making custard squares in Timaru or whatever might not be as glamorous as seeing your name in the credits for Spartacus, but in the long run I suspect that sort of industry might be better for our economy.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2213 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    unemployment is exactly what happens when our government doesn't match rebates of other countries.

    Why? If that's the case, you're implying that there a group of smart, talented people who can only work on big-budget movies and if they can't do that, they'll sit at home and draw the dole. No possibility that they might find another career, or move elsewhere, or transfer their skills to something that doesn't rely on taxpayer dollars.

    Are all the people who would have worked in car plants putting CKD cars together now unemployed?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Nik Williams,

    Rich of Observations your last statement is laughable. I’m a screen industry contractor who would rather jump off the bridge than line up on the dole line- which I won’t. This is actually detrimental to the cause. If I did, along with every other film contractor out of work- the Government would have some data to chew on. They don’t because the analysis hasn’t been done. Comparison to car manufacturing- ridiculous.
    Tom Semmens: say a film production has ten custard squares to spend on tax. Ireland and South Africa among others (in fact anywhere succeeding in the world custard square economy) are offering 2-3 custard squares back NZ only offers 1.5 custard squares. They would be mad to go to NZ wouldn’t they? It’s just basic custard square economics. So sadly NZ misses out on 7-8 custard squares, no- not just 7-8 because there are many others. Its patently ludicrous to complain about having to pay some custard squares as though they are already in the Government cake display.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2013 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    In general, I don't buy the "let's not tax corporations because otherwise they'll go away" strategy, and it hasn't worked out very well for the Irish in the long run.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Brown,

    Meanwhile in LA - only 4 out of last top 50 movies made there as industry suffers from runaway productions. On-location production down 60% . Only half of TV drama now shot there, 2005 it was 80%.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/26/hollywood-struggles-to-halt-film-exodus

    Auckland • Since Mar 2013 • 137 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I’m a screen industry contractor who would rather jump off the bridge than line up on the dole line- which I won’t.

    I'm sorry? That's exactly my point - so if you haven't got a subsidised film to work on, you won't be unemployed and you'll still be earning. So the subsidy isn't entirely creating employment - it's substituting employment to some degree.

    And how moral is it to be engaged in a contest with South Africa for how much government money we can give to the international film industry - money that the SA government then can't spend on stuff like improving housing?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Phil Gregory,

    Do you know anyone in New Zealand who's got a spare hundred million or two to risk on a movie or TV series.

    It's called the government in most civilised countries.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    I suspect that sort of industry might be better for our economy

    Because young folk are just queueing to work on production lines.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Actually yes people do queue to work on production lines.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    what a bright future

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    I'm not sure any level of subsidy is going to make up for the changes in relative purchasing power of the South African Rand vs US dollar compared to to New Zealand dollar vs US dollar.
    From the outside, it does sound like a very similar set of problems to other manufacturers for export for whom the high dollar has been really hurting. the Buzzy Bee TV approach has certainly been used by some in that sector, for the IP holder to survive and grow when the local production can't compete with offshore.
    Now, a stable lower dollar is certainly not a political priority at the moment, so I reckon we are in survival strategies territory, which in other exporters seems to be a mix of niche value added stuff people in other countries can't do (depends on expertise, guaranteed deliverables (reliability), and controlling IP used in the production process) and extreme cost control (here is a radical question, for the reasons that NZ tries to sell itself- the fact that production can be done here and shipped electronically- is there any reason that the production centre has to be in Auckland with the attendant high costs of living and operating?)
    And, speaking as someone who the only TV I've watched this year was the Almighty Johnsons, while the question of support to culture overlaps the screen industry, that is an area that also ties into other support of the arts.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

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