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Bruce Hopkins

Hi. May I first of all congratulate those who have taken this decision to conduct the review, as I feel it is long overdue.

At last years Screen Production Industry election forum I asked a question in relation to one area of the film financing process. Unfortunately this forum was attended by representatives of only 4 parties and paled in comparison to the previous elections forum, where there was healthy debate and discussion, and my question regarding the potential for back end tax incentives for private investment in low budget digital film making was greeted with a unanimous " no we would rather give the money directly via the NZFC as tax incentives are always ripped off".

My vision is that NZ film makers are provided with tools to attract private finance.

In particular this would take the form of a tax incentive for investors. From personal experience I know that there are wealthy people in our society who would be willing to invest in low budget ( this could be under NZ$500,000 ) digital features if they had some small incentive themselves.

These investors don't want to just take a blind punt, but based on a good pitch, both in terms of the film and the business model being used, they are interested in being involved in the film industry.

The films I am referring to would not be competing for screenings in major cinema multiplexes which obviously require massive marketing budgets, instead they would be marketed into the international DVD and online distribution arenas.

This process can provide projects with a profitable financial return. A great example of this being Ketzal Stirlings High Octane series of DVDs, the 5th of which sold 500,000 copies worldwide to a niche market of boy racers.

Within the music industry Fat Freddies Drop created another great example of independent creative industry. This form of production/distribution ensures that most of the money made from a project is returned to NZ and enables the creatives to focus on their craft. It also gives a greater chance of a profitable return for local investors.

I think the NZFC could play a role in establishing marketing opportunities for independent film makers to distribute these projects, outside of the major festival circuit that is currently used.

Another area I feel that has been over looked is the backing up of the various people involved in creating successful projects. A major example was the astounding opportunity that was created by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh et al with Lord Of The Rings. It seemed that there was a wonderful 3 year window for the NZFC to get the profiles of the key creatives, crew and cast, out into the global film making arena, be it through networking them with established contacts offshore during the awards seasons etc when many of the crew/cast were travelling to experience and capitalise on the success of the films.

I'm not sure whether or not I have been able to get across what I was meaning however, again it is great to know that this review is happening. All the best for the journey ahead!

Bruce Hopkins

Amit Tripuraneni, Unkreative Artists Ltd

Hi there,

This is my comment on the NZFC review that was sent across to all members of SDGNZ. To provide a context and background to where I am coming from while answering the questions let me introduce myself. My name is Amit Tripuraneni and I consider myself an independent film maker since I've made 2 self-funded digital features that have been distributed in NZ/Australia as well as internationally. I've had no support or financing from any government funded bodies organizations for making those movies and I am still on the fringes with no real support or interest from NZFC in any of my future projects. I am currently making my third digital feature - again self funded.

Now onto the questions- that have been put forward for the NZFC review.

How can the NZFC most effectively act in a facilitative role to enable the industry to develop and produce high quality film projects that meet New Zealand cultural content objectives and reach a domestic and international audience?

I have a problem with this question in the sense that whenever the question of NZ cultural content comes into question NZFC has a rather undefined view of what cultural content means. NZ is now has a very broad cultural demographic and the definition of culture depends on who is assessing it. To me - culture is not just about what happened with different ethnicities in the past but also on what’s happening in the country right now and when you are making a movie cultural content should be a secondary factor. The primary factor for the success of any movie is the story. A good story is what makes a good movie and a good movie is what sells nationally and internationally. A case in the example is one of NZFC's own funded films - 'Black Sheep' - I am hard pressed to find any cultural content in the movie but it sold very well domestically as well as internationally. In such a case would you say that NZFC met its cultural content objective? There are a variety of other examples that fall into the same category and the problem is that cultural content is used as an excuse to reject stories or concepts that don't fit well into NZFC's scheme of things. Also going back to the question about NZFC being a facilitator - at this point - NZFC is more of a controller than a facilitator. The process is not transparent and the channels for getting NZFC's attention are very limited, especially for independent film makers like me.

What impact has the introduction of the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme and the Screen Production Incentive Fund had on the public funding environment and the role of the NZFC? What is the role of the NZFC in helping New Zealand production companies take advantage of these new incentives?

I am not well placed at all to answer this question as both the schemes are beneficial only to big productions wanting to shoot movies in NZ. Such schemes create jobs and work within the industry but for development of local talent at grass roots level - it really has no relevance.

What is the NZFC’s role in providing assistance to ensure that New Zealand films reach an international market? Are there tensions between the NZFC’s own interests and the interests of filmmakers and third party investors in marketing and selling New Zealand films domestically and internationally?

NZFC is currently geared and encouraging only to NZ films that have either been accepted into a film festival that they recognize or if the project has come through them. So any films that have been made outside of 'their system' don't have access to any assistance or support or even information on how to reach and sell to an international market. For both my movies it was hard to get info from NZFC on how to sell internationally and I ultimately had to find my own way learning some bitter lessons and reality check in the process. My feeling is that NZFC doesn't have the experience and expertise to provide that kind of assistance or the only other factor could be their own agenda for whatever they are planning or doing.

Are there changes to the NZFC’s role that are called for given the challenges facing the New Zealand film industry and the NZFC in the international environment?

The biggest change I would like to see is in their attitude toward film makers in general, especially independent film makers. The impression I get is that if you've made films off your own back and are unwilling to get in the queue of people waiting for NZFC to dole out money (once you meet their approval standards), then you are not worthwhile for them to invest their time and money in you. Across the world, with the advent of digital technology and the ongoing financial crisis - it doesn't make any sense to ignore independent films altogether. The number of movies being shot digitally has increased manifold and more theatres are geared up to screen digitally, so NZFC has to start thinking in terms of getting cheaper budget movies into the theatres and also to support the independent efforts since it is a good way to foster feature film making skill sets {which is vastly different from short film making skill set}. For example - a typical NZFC funded short film costs around 100K odd while for that amount you can make a decent digital feature and probably recover some of the money from it's screenings and if it is a break out hit {which you can't discount} then you are looking at a manifold return which will cover the cost of funding the other 10-15 digital feature projects from that year. Also the NZFC has to be more willing and able to disseminate information to tap the international market and also the growing online market.

What are the NZFC’s objectives and strategy for professional development, training and industry support? Examine these in the light of the international and domestic environment and best practice.

NZFC currently seems to adhere to the policy of getting film makers to make short films first. Once the short film gets into an international film festival - they then use that as an indicator of talent to put the film makers in a feature film development pool. And after going through the script development process they are then given the money to make a feature {if you are lucky and have impressed the right people}. This policy completely ignores the fact that making feature films is a completely different art form than making short films and the professional development needed to make features depends on practical work experience by making them -which is where I think low budget digital features are a great way to develop people wanting to tell feature length stories. NZFC does conduct some workshops - which are really helpful but those are far few in between - depending on the area you are specializing in and there is no particular industry support to speak off.  More specialized local workshops would definitely help in the overall development process, so it gives a wider variety of film makers an access to learning new skill sets. Also I wish there was a formal mentoring system where in the mentors who've had considerable experience in film making, get paid for their time to help out upcoming talent - that way both the parties have something to gain from the process.

Examine the NZFC’s current approach to providing information and research and whether any changes should be made in this area to meet the needs of filmmakers and audiences.

Again this question doesn't make any sense since trying to get any information out of NZFC about market conditions or trends or audience preferences or even market opportunities, is ridiculously hard and almost seems like a privilege of a select few. If there are any changes that need to be made - I would recommend that an approach to share information is actually formulated and shared with the film makers.

Examine the relationship between the NZFC, private investors, filmmakers and the international industry with a particular focus on roles in raising finance, developing, producing and marketing New Zealand films. Are there areas where greater collaboration would be desirable and if so how might this be achieved?

The question is again assuming that everyone knows how NZFC functions in respect to private investors or in raising finance or marketing NZ films. One of the things I definitely find hard to swallow is the very limited private investments in local made productions. Compared to other film industries like India {where 95% of the funding is private funding}, we don't seem to really have an inclination to attract private investors and the reason for it is very simple - if you are involving private investors then they need to see  a return on their money and for that to happen the movies that we make have to sell internationally since the local market is too small. And this in turn raises the question of NZFC funding projects which they think meet the cultural requirements rather than picking up projects which have commercial/cross-border appeal. So private investors getting involved would mean NZFC loosing some of the control over feature projects being developed in the country and that is obviously a hard pill to swallow. To turn the situation around NZFC has to try and attract private investors to invest in films being made here and for that they have to provide a return in forms of detailed plans to exploit the movie once it's made. This would mean spending more time and energy exploring newer ways to reach a potential audience using new technologies. For example one of the ways of earning money would be to launch a Video On Demand (VOD) website for NZ films and market it across the world and also licensing the content to other VOD websites. That opens up a new revenue stream and a better chance for the investors to recover their investments. NZFC should also be promoting different film makers with their own unique strengths,to private investors for different kinds of projects - more like right fit for the right project. That way when the project finally comes to fruition - it has a better chance of turning out to be a success. And for that to happen, NZFC has to actually sit down and get to know the film makers and their skill sets and talents.


How can the NZFC be responsive to the needs of New Zealand filmmakers to ensure that active industry professionals are involved in setting its strategic direction?

For one - this is a great first step. The people who should be running NZFC should be people who have been actively involved in film making, that way there is more empathy and understanding of the needs of NZ filmmakers. And to get active industry professionals involved in the process the easiest way is to just ask them. You'll be amazed at the number of people who would love to help out but can't (or won't) because a) there is no financial incentive; b) they are never asked about their views.

Are the NZFC’s strategic aims and objectives relevant to the current international and domestic environment and do they take account of the need to manage future funding demands?

I think my view on that is an ambiguous 'no'. We need to make movies that sell across boundaries and the current strategic aims and objectives of NZFC doesn't take that into account. If we can make movies that can generate a profit then future funding becomes a breeze and it'll lead to the industry actually growing bigger and providing more opportunities for local film makers.

Thanks again for inviting views from industry practitioners about NZFC review and best of luck with it.

Warmest, Amit
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