(Part one of this article is here.
Part two is here.)
It seemed Maddog Quinn was a goner. Brett Mills suggested the NZFC be renamed the Film Decommission.
Later that month, Dave Gibson sent an email to Matt Inns, outlining what monies could still be available if the film were to be completed. An important part of the email was to clarify that any funds from the NZFC could be used only to complete the film, not to settle creditors’ accounts.
The main stumbling blocks to moving forward remained the possibility of legal action against the film by creditors to secure monies owed, and the ownership of the rights.
Brett Mills was also keen to see the film completed, and was making his own representations to try to get things moving after it seemed the project would not advance.
One of the few people who had been paid out from Maddog, Mills did offer to return funds, saying in an email to Minister for Culture & Heritage Maggie Barry, “I would be happy for any money l was paid to be clawed back when we get to have a creditors meeting.”
He wrote to Minister Barry alleging that the NZFC had mishandled the aftermath of the production. Late in 2015, Mills met with then NZFC board chair Dame Patsy Reddy to voice his concerns – some of which were about Gibson’s handling of the situation and the fact that a young filmmaker would not be able to meet the conditions the NZFC had attached to the release of the remaining funds.
According to Mills, Reddy said that the Commission wanted to see Maddog Quinn completed, but suggested Mills should step away from the production “due to his animosity towards Dave Gibson”.
It was around this time that producer and NZFC board member Chris Hampson became involved. “It came up at a NZFC board meeting,” he told Crewed. “I said I wanted to look at the film. It seemed to be an appalling situation.”
“It seemed like it would be a good idea to get the cash together,” he said. Another of the NZFC’s board members, Park Road’s Cameron Harland, also got involved and volunteered Park Road Post’s services free of charge to complete the video and sound post.
The NZFC accepted that, with only two people holding out against the settlement offer (and with neither of those people appearing onscreen), any threat of legal action was sufficiently diminished that it shouldn’t prevent the film advancing. Even so, it took what Hampson described as “months of buggering around” to get to the point of moving the film forward.
Through Head of Business Affairs, Chloe McLoughlin, the NZFC put in considerable effort to draw up contracts that would transfer the rights to the film to Inns, and to end formally any involvement producer Melissa Dodds had with the production, future exploitation of the material, and the Maddog production company, Little Dragon.
“Working it all out took as long as doing it,” observed Hampson. “There are people to thank. All of the cast and crew who worked on it and accepted the deals offered, which allowed Matt to finish the film.” Hampson also credited Gibson as “enormously constructive and positive” in applying NZFC resources to try to find solutions to the problems around Maddog Quinn.
At the time the agreements were put in place to allow Inns to complete the film and receive the NZFC support, a major part of the film still needing work was the VFX shots. In between other commitments and day jobs, Inns and Frank Rueter of OHUfx have been working their way through those.
Maddog was locked in early November 2016, and now has its grade and mix to do.
Mills did withdraw from further involvement with Maddog, but not with Inns. Earlier this year Inns shot another short – which he’s self-funded – in Invercargill. Mills provided a camera package free of charge to the production.
While disagreements remain about how Maddog could or should have been handled, everybody involved with the production is keen not to see such a situation occur again. As noted earlier, the Premiere Shorts scheme under which Maddog Quinn was funded is no longer in operation. Although he believes that good films were made under Premiere Shorts – not least the other films Blue Harvest brought through – Hampson thinks that’s the right move.
The NZFC’s new structures around short film offer support and guidance, a boot camp, advice, and mentors. The NZFC production department oversees the films. Such measures should have been in place for donkeys’ years, Hampson believes. Given that short film was one of the first areas of NZFC operation Gibson addressed after his appointment, one would assume he’d agree, although it isn’t just short film that has seen changes, and it isn’t just Gibson who’s pushed for changes.
Over the last six or seven years there’s been a shift towards supporting more commercial projects through the NZFC and a greater emphasis on bringing other money into productions. The introduction of the pause clause and requirements around test screenings for features are also having an effect.
“What we’re getting now,” Hampson says, “is more films that are more ready for an audience.”
For Inns, it’s important to complete Maddog, to clean the slate, and to be able to move on. “He’s dealt with everything very calmly,” Hampson believes. “While there’s been a lot of downside, he’s been subjected to a situation where he’s now got huge experience of getting a production through enormous problems. It wasn’t good but it’s valuable and it’s something we should be capitalising on, something the Commission should be capitalising on.”
Keith is the editor of SCREENZ, and the co-creator and founding editor of CREWED.