Mike Preece

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Brent Chambers, Creative Digital Content Auckland

I am writing to you on behalf of Creative Digital Content Auckland. Founded in June 2008, CDC-Auckland is an industry organization representing the interests of creative digital content companies in the greater Auckland region. Our organization brings together around 50 companies with activities across the animation, gaming, visual effects and education sectors.

Thank you for the invitation to provide comment. We believe the review being undertaken by Mr Jackson and Mr Court is an important opportunity for the New Zealand Film Commission to develop its understanding of the digital content space, in particular animation and visual effects. We also believe it is vital that our sector receives greater acknowledgement and focus given its rapidly expanding role and significance to global film industry today.

* Animation and visual effects is a multi-billion dollar global industry

Feature film animation has enjoyed uninhibited prosperity since its revival with Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in 1991. Commercially, this film genre has been highly successful with five to ten of the top grossing films produced each year since 2000 being animated features. Similarly, the visual effects industry has exploded over the last 20 years, paralleling the exponential growth of the computing and software industries.

In 2006, commentators predicted global “filmed entertainment” revenues to reach $100b by 2010. Today, figures show animation and visual effects related projects represent around 25% of screen content produced each year. Internet sources suggest that 18 of the top 100 grossing films of all time are full animated features, and a large majority of the remaining 82 contain significant elements of animation and visual effects.

*In order to establish a foot hold, the New Zealand animation and visual effects industry relies on funding sources such as government, as do the vast majority of film production companies here

New Zealand producers are small by global standards and making it difficult for us to draw direct comparison to global figures. With some notable exceptions, New Zealand producers don’t have ready access to large-scale private investment or global distribution channels that our US and Canadian contemporaries enjoy.

Budgets and distribution issues aside, representation of animation and visual effects has been disproportionately low when it comes to Film Commission board representation and funding decisions.

We note a number of short films have been supported however, since its inception in 1978, the Film Commission has not granted funding support for the production of an animated feature, with the possible exception of development funding for Bro’Town the movie.

* How do we clear the way for the Film Commission to support the New Zealand animation and visual effects sector?

While considering the review questions put forward, a number of issues were raised by the members of the CDC group, including:

  • SPIF and LBSPF - historically, these programmes have been put forward as a solution to funding issues, however we have found them to very difficult to access and, in particular, we believe the SPIF can be used in better ways

  • International co-productions – co-productions are our most likely path to success, given the budget requirements of a digital feature, however there are issues surrounding the Film Commission working with production companies to put together a co-production deal that need to be addressed

  • Auckland represents two thirds of the national production industry - we would like to ensure there is fair representation of Auckland production interests on the Film Commission’s board

* We wish to highlight that animation and visual effect projects vary considerably from traditional live action films and need to be treated differently

It has been suggested that animated projects are higher risk and costly. It’s is accurate to say differences lie in the production process - longer lead times and greater investment per minute of output - however it would be inaccurate to equate this to less value for money.

An animated feature represents a potentially better commercial model than film, with greater downstream revenues possible for a number of reasons, not the least of which are:

  • Digital assets can be easily repurposed and more immediately delivered across multiple platforms such as web, mobile, video games and other entertainment channels

  • Animated features are more likely to be character based, family oriented and of a nature that is more readily exploitable in terms of secondary revenue streams, including merchandise

We note that NZ On Air’s policy is to support television projects with cross-platform potential.

* CDC-Auckland believes one of the most effective things the review team can do is to commission formal research and analysis of the genre of feature film animation, including visual effects, with a view to being better informed and equipped to assist with new animated feature projects.

We recommend that a review of this nature would require a high degree of international and local expertise. There is considerable expertise available, with the likes of John Barnett, Richard Taylor and Andrew Adamson to call on, as well as members of the national animation and visual effects community, many of whom are uniquely qualified. As the Chair of CDC-Auckland, I would be pleased to be involved.

We recommend that research should be conducted with brevity, and should focus on the following key aspects:

  1. The macro worldwide environment

  2. Local issues including co-financing, quality of projects, length of commitment of funding before green light

  3. The cross-media nature of production and finance – taking into account television, games and the wider entertainment industry

From this research, analysis and review process we would anticipate the following outcomes:

  • The development of a Film Commission structure that is more aligned and better equipped to evaluate and support animation and visual effects related projects

  • The inclusion of an animation and visual effects industry representative on the Film Commission board

  • The forming of a concrete and transparent policy on animation and visual effects industry and projects

  • A more cohesive and cooperative approach across all government agencies for the production long-form content, in particular animation and digital content

  • A better structured international co-production policy that addresses the unique aspects and needs of the animation and visual effects sector

In summary, CDC-Auckland believes animation and visual effects is a pinnacle issue of the Film Commission review and we would like to arrange a time to meet with the review team to engage in further discussion.

Thanks and regards

Brent Chambers

Elected Chair

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