Location, location

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Around the same time the NAB Show ran in Las Vegas in April, the AFCI Locations Show ran in Los Angeles. The event brought together film commissioners from around the world, along with a good number of (mostly US-based) producers.

Flying the flag for NZ were Film Otago Southland’s Kevin Jennings, currently the Chair of the AFCI, and the NZFC’s Catherine Bates, who presented in the session Around the World in 90 Minutes. Other NZFC staff represented NZ on the stand at the show.

A large part of the energy people expend at the show goes into trying to compare apples with apples. Is one location’s 20% incentive offer worth more or less to a production than another location’s equivalent offer, once all the other factors like tax rates, local labour costs, etc, are taken into account?

It’s something the AFCI is looking at, to help local commissions find ways to gather data consistently – for their own benefit as well as that of producers. If data is gathered and assembled in a consistent manner, then a commission can make arguments to its own supporters about the offer it presents, with data on what similar offers are delivering elsewhere.

NZ’s offer since the 2014 changes to incentive schemes here has served the country well. Some of the factors helping that are nothing to do with the financial incentive, but without that incentive – as the industry experienced in 2013 – there’s very limited activity.

Made in Auckland, Starz's show Ash vs Evil Dead

Made in Auckland, Starz’s show Ash vs Evil Dead

NZ’s seasons are the opposite of those in northern hemisphere, which has long been a driver of business, TVC activity in particular. The quality of crews is respected, as is the variety of landscapes on offer. The general ease of access to locations, practical considerations such as travelling times, compare well with more densely-populated American and European centres.

Internet capability remains somewhere between a joke and source of frustration for many international visitors, and the lack of studio space – in Auckland especially – is causing productions to go elsewhere.

To do better, we need to be able to present a better case, Jennings suggests. In places without an incentive scheme in operation, there’s rarely any data collected. Even in NZ, where there is a scheme and data is collected – both directly from productions and by extraction from information supplied as part of the incentive approvals process – that data doesn’t always tell the whole story.

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