The Story of the Saga of The Ballad of Maddog Quinn, part two

At the end of June it was clear that the production couldn’t meet the obligations Dodds had taken on and couldn’t guarantee to deliver the film. The NZFC said that, in those circumstances, it wasn’t prepared to hand over the remaining $25,000 of its $90,000 commitment due on completion of the film.

The NZFC’s position was that it had a moral, and possibly a legal, obligation not to spend public funds on a production that looked like it couldn’t be completed. The NZFC was prepared to put up some money so that the necessary information could be put together to give everyone a clear picture of where they stood at that time – and what courses of action might follow.

That decision became part of the problem going forward. Some people said the NZFC wasn’t doing enough. Others said it was interfering.

While productions do go belly up from time to time, the resolution is sometimes not open to discussion. If a creditor issues a statutory demand for payment, it triggers legal proceedings to wind up the debtor’s affairs if the debtor doesn’t either file for bankruptcy or make payment.

That didn’t happen on Maddog Quinn because nobody issued a statutory demand, although things might have been more cleanly and quickly resolved if someone had. With $4000 in the bank, negligible assets, and well over $100,000 of debt, Little Dragon would have been gone by lunchtime and creditors would have got a couple of cents on the dollar if they were lucky. Anyone could have picked up the assets (essentially the unfinished film) very cheaply and got it back on track free and clear of any previous commitments and free and clear of any further threats of legal action.

While everybody spoken to was clear that they wanted Inns to be able to finish the film, nobody tried to make that happen by bankrupting the production company.

Gibson believes that what the NZFC did, it did with the best intentions. By appointing and paying for someone to go through the books to establish the scope of the problem, and then appointing and paying for someone to try to broker a deal that would allow the film to be completed, Gibson hoped there’d be a resolution that everyone could live with.

The NZFC was trying to be hands-off and not impose a solution, Gibson said, although he’s happy to say that he wanted a solution that would allow the film to be completed and for creditors to receive some money.

Some understood the NZFC’s decision and agreed with it, some understood and disagreed. Most agree there wasn’t a solution that everybody would walk away from feeling happy.

Nobody’s accused the NZFC of not wanting to find a solution, although Mills claimed that the strings the NZFC attached to releasing the remaining $25,000 were tantamount to imposing their solution or none at all.

On location for The Ballad of Maddog QuinnPhoto: Tammy Williams

On location for The Ballad of Maddog Quinn
Photo: Tammy Williams

Melissa Dodds invited production manager Bronwen Stewart, who’d worked on Top of the Lake, to join the production and move it towards completion. In early July Stewart came on to try to find a resolution, with the NZFC committing to pay for her services. Stewart put out a statement to creditors acknowledging the situation, saying that she was seeking a way forward, and including a statement by the NZFC.

The NZFC statement outlined the situation and made its position clear. “Under the terms of our own funding contract for the project we have no obligation to provide any further funds towards the film. Further, as a government agency, we do not believe it is appropriate for the NZFC to step in to pay unpaid creditors to the production in these circumstances.”

The statement also made it clear that the NZFC was working with Little Dragon Pictures to try to find a resolution. Stewart asked for future correspondence to be directed to herself, not the NZFC.

That decision, which Gibson says was part of the NZFC’s attempt to be hands-off, was characterised by some of the crew as the NZFC washing its hands of the production.

It’s not hard to see that someone owed money by a NZFC-supported production might wonder how the Commission could find money to pay someone – presumably at a fair rate – to tell everyone else that they weren’t going to be paid for work they’d agreed to do and had done at heavily-discounted rates.

Mills was one person who argued that the NZFC should demonstrate a stronger commitment to and/or better protection for crew in such circumstances. Mills had known Inns for a number of years while Maddog Quinn was in development, and his Queenstown Camera Company supplied heavily-discounted gear to the production. His producer credit was in part a recognition of that.

Everybody spoken to for this article kept coming back to the point that Matt Inns should have the opportunity to finish the film. Barr said, “We believe Matt Inns is a really talented dude. He didn’t do anything wrong and he got screwed over the most.”