Steven Joyce seemed somewhat complacent in his RNZ interview this morning on Radio NZ. His argument seemed to mirror some of the points I and others made with my post yesterday on NZ’s struggling screen industry. However, Joyce’s version seemed to be rather a shallow exercise in covering his lack of efforts for the Auckland screen production industry, while failing to offer any well developed, concrete solutions to the problems.
Lucy Lawless doesn’t appear to be that keen on Steven Joyce, judging by her twitter feed, blaming him for the decline of NZ’s film industry.
While Joyce and John Key seem to have been keen to actively intervene to get the sleazy Sky City convention centre-pokie deal, they (and Mayor Len Brown) seem to have neglected Auckland’s once thriving film and TV production. As ad points out, when Bob Harvey was mayor of Waitakere City, he actively promoted the West Auckland studios and locations for filming by local and international companies. While Key was keen to offer handouts to Warners, they seem to have made far less effort for the Auckland region as a production and filming location.
Unlike the Key government’s support for the Hobbit movies, Joyce is now saying they don’t want to participate in a “race to the bottom” in competing with the bigger government financial incentives now available in countries like Ireland.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce concedes some television and film production companies are struggling and describes it as a challenging period.
He says the Government is working hard with agencies, including the New Zealand Film Commission, on a long-term solution.
Mr Joyce says Auckland in particular has issues and the Government is in talks with the Auckland Council to look at what it can do over and above the incentives offered by the Government.
Mr Joyce admits it is hard to compete with other countries offering better incentives but told Morning Report the key to making the film industry sustainable is more development and control of local stories.
He says key players such as filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson and producer Robert Tapert, who was behind Spartacus, also need to choose to keep making films here instead of going offshore.
NZ, as a small country and economy does have particular difficulties in developing it’s own screen production industries. This is explained in detail by Tricia Dunleavey and Hester Joyce in their 2012 book, New Zealand Film and Television: Institution, Industry and Cultural Change. They argue that, unlike some larger countries like Australia and Britain, New Zealand screen industries are more noticeably impacted by the government of the day,
whose influence is exerted not only through the level of public funding that is allocated by supporting this production but also through the priorities for screen policy that is determined at a cabinet level and enacted by politically-appointed officials. [pp. 19-20]
Furthermore, they argue, that NZ’s small internal market for screen productions means there is a need for a “consistent level of public funding … to insulate production industries from the effects of fluctuation in the general economy, ”and from external economic/financial shocks [p.23]
The authors show how the Clark government re-invigorated NZ’s film industry with both financial incentives for international productions in NZ, and with support for local NZ productions.
Undoubtedly, the NZ screen industries have benefited from the increase in major film and TV productions in NZ, especially those of Peter Jackson and Rob Tapert (the later the prime mover behind productions like Xena, Hercules and Spartacus). The production of Xena and Hercules in Auckland resulted in significant developments in the industry infrastructure, local up-skilling and international opportunities for Kiwis, beginning in the latter half of the 1990s. This skill development then fed into the production on the LotR films in Wellington at the turn of the century.
Now the international economic environment has changed, making it harder for the NZ industry to compete internationally. I wonder if now the NZ industry has become a bit too dependent on big international productions. From the above linked RNZ report:
Freelance television director Jonathan Brough, who has moved to Melbourne, says the responsibility for making the film industry sustainable lies with the Government.
He says the Government is too reliant on big budget film productions, which will go to the cheapest place to make movies, and that is no business model for an industry.
Mr Brough says changes to legislation are needed which would force broadcasters such as Sky Television to make local programmes, as is the case in Australia.
This directly contradicts claims that key’s government has prioritised production of NZ stories. Furthermore, allowing the internationally-supported Auckland screen production industry to go into decline, without already having something more locally-focused to replace it, reeks of government and Council neglect.
The infrastructure, resourcing and skilled local workforce took over a decade to develop, and will take time to rebuild if it is allowed to continue to wither. There will continue to be some value from having some international productions in New Zealand, but this needs to be anchored by the development of a much stronger New Zealand funded, locally-focused screen industry.
SJ, u brilliant db, we shot #Xena for 6 yrs in that studio w. a train next door. The film industry is dying coz U killed it. @stevenljoyce
Bryce Pearce asked:
SA. What’s that got to do with fossil fuels?
That last tweet is a little ambiguous, re-what “NZ Film” refers to. I am very happy for the government providing incentives to prioritise NZ productions over international ones. However, the bigger focus on wooing Big Oil with tax payer money is not good for NZ’s future. And the focus of the MSM seems to have been more on keeping Avatar here, than on Auckland’s screen failing industry.
I would like to see more concrete evidence of the ways the Key government is (allegedly) supporting NZ made and focused screen productions.