Location, location

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Commercials are among the types of productions not able to access the incentive scheme, but form the backbone of industry activity in Jenning’s home base of Queenstown. Before Budget Day, when Jennings spoke with John Campbell on RNZ’s Checkpoint, he spoke with Crewed about the same issues – the lack of hotel beds (or their price) driving jobs away from Queenstown.

The shooting of major productions such as Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, which was in Jennings’ neck of the woods last year, makes a big splash publicly, just as the presence in Wellington of Ghost in the Shell’s Scarlett Johannsen has. There’s usually very limited public awareness of the volume of TVC activity although, certainly in Queenstown, they provide more income for locals than features.

This year Queenstown has experienced a very lean Autumn in comparison with most years – including 2013 when most of the rest of the industry was struggling. The data isn’t telling that story, in Queenstown as elsewhere.

There might be other reasons contributing to the drop off in work this year, but without any data collection, it’s hard to know. Anecdotal evidence might or might not be accurate – especially down the track when looking back to try to identify if shifts in activity were blips or trends. It also makes it impossible to compare the experience of Queenstown with other places in other regions or countries.

Jennings’ concerns don’t relate exclusively to TVCs but they serve as a good example. The AFCI Locations Show is far more concerned with activity around TV series and features – major productions with major budgets.

NZ has seen an increase in that sort of activity recently with Ash vs Evil Dead and Shannara both going beyond one season. It’s evidence the scheme is working well.

With the possible exceptions of VFX and post-production, where changes to incentive schemes don’t seem to have delivered work in the way intended, NZ seems to have it right. If, as the proverb has it, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some of the newer incentive schemes appearing from other countries suggest the NZ approach got it right – particularly around the 5% uplift which comes with strings. There’s a push, in NZ and elsewhere, for the local industry to see some longer-term benefits than short-term engagements on inbound productions.

MTV's Shannara

MTV’s Shannara

In September the AFCI holds its annual Cineposium, its conference sessions focusing on non-location aspects of film commissioners’ work. This year the event runs in the US in Atlanta, looking at infrastructure and crew and using as a case study nearby Senoia (home to The Walking Dead).

While NZ is unlikely to attract the annual $300 million production spend Atlanta attracts (much of it on Marvel features), the city is often cited as an example of somewhere that got it right in matching its incentive offer with appropriate infrastructure.

 
 
 
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Written by Keith Barclay

Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.

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