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

Over the next few months some of the creditors changed their position, most moving to accept, many citing a need to move on and the belief that Inns should have the chance to finish his film.

At least one group of creditors tried to renegotiate. They presented a counter-offer to Stewart, and tried to position themselves ahead of others should the completed short generate income, be developed as a feature or be further exploited in other ways. With commitments close to $250,000 and some creditors demanding interest be applied to outstanding debt until settlement, it’s hard to see a way in which everybody could be paid out to their satisfaction.

Mills disagrees, saying he offered to find the money to pay everyone the full invoiced amount for their labour, but was turned down.

Among the other requests made to Stewart during that period were that Dodds be removed from the production. Emotionally, that would have given some satisfaction to a number of those who blamed her for the situation. Less emotionally, it could have caused unintended problems.

From the point at which the NZFC, the EPs and Bronwen Stewart got involved, Dodds was shut out of any decision-making, and of the bank account. So why keep her around? Removing her as a director of Little Dragon Pictures (the only effective way to formally remove her from the production) would have exposed Inns to the full extent of liability if anyone took legal action to recover debt.

While she remained a director of the company, she remained liable.

The Ballad of Maddog QuinnPhoto: Tammy Williams

The Ballad of Maddog Quinn
Photo: Tammy Williams

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and with it lots of people have opinions on how things might have been done differently. Gibson now believes the NZFC might have paved a smoother road forward if it had organised a creditors’ meeting soon after it became aware of the problems.

While it’s possible that an open forum might have discouraged some people from holding out for a solution which wasn’t on the table, it’s also possible it might have encouraged more people to believe that the NZFC was driving everyone towards its own preferred resolution.

Barr and Story also say that, had they known then what they know now, they would have have been more hands on. They also may not have plumped for a film on which Melissa Dodds was a producer.

One thing that did come out of the problems uncovered on Maddog Quinn was that Robin Scholes was alerted, and able to be more hands-on with Dancers before significant problems arose on that production.

Tracking back through the events and decisions between June 2014 and February 2015, Gibson says that although they weren’t able to resolve the Maddog Quinn situation at that time, the NZFC has put certainly some effort into making it less likely that such a situation could occur again.

All the filmmakers shortlisted for the Fresh Shorts scheme (which attract $10,000 and $30,000 of NZFC support) now attend a workshop to help prep them for a production.

“We are openly more hands-on both in our attitude towards the role of short films and how we support them,” Gibson said. “We’re upskilling people, not just giving them the opportunity to make a film. We feel it’s a better process.”

The Premiere Shorts scheme under which Maddog Quinn was supported is no longer in operation. It’s been replaced by Premiere Pathways, which allows a wider range of outcomes than just a short, and is much more focused towards assisting filmmakers towards a feature. Premiere Pathways is operated by the NZFC, and not devolved to EP pods.

(My Wedding & Other Secrets director Roseanne Liang talks about her current Premiere Pathways project, Do No Harm here.)

The changes aren’t only internal, Gibson notes. New Health & Safety legislation introduced in April this year (2016) also pushes responsibility for safety further up the chain, so the NZFC (and many other organisations) are now more conscious of keeping across what’s happening with productions they’re involved with. As has also happened at NZ On Air, the NZFC’s contracts with productions have been amended to accommodate the new legislation.

On location: The Ballad of Maddog QuinnPhoto: Tammy Williams

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

When the sun set on 2014, 39 of Maddog Quinn’s 43 creditors were on board, willing to accept the offer Stewart had presented in August. Some people were happy to chalk it up to experience, some weren’t happy but were prepared to live with it. Some were willing to walk away if it helped the film to be completed.

Four weren’t.

As things do in New Zealand, discussions and progress slowed considerably once summer arrived. While the issue was one that was consuming time and energy for a small number of people, others were losing interest – especially with no sign that anybody was open to making further concessions to get things moving again.

“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had an unhealthy amount of anger and frustration,” Matt Inns said. “But I decided early on that the best course for myself was to look forwards.”

At the beginning of February 2015 he contacted those still holding out for a different resolution than the one on the table, to try to encourage them to change their positions.

Gibson said, “Matt has behaved extraordinarily well. He retained his enthusiasm for the project and was always looking for a way to finish the film.”

One of the four decided to accept the offer. The other three didn’t.

Early in February 2015 the NZFC drafted a statement, which outlined the situation at the time and concluded, “Unfortunately, despite our efforts to assist with a resolution, our involvement has now come to an end. The situation has been difficult for all involved, and it is unfortunate that a resolution could not be reached.”

The statement wasn’t released, but made ready in case the story became public.

On 8 February 2015 Bronwen Stewart sent out a final update to creditors, informing them that not all creditors have agreed to the terms of the offer. As the film could not be guaranteed a clear litigation-free run through post to release, the offers of private money had been withdrawn.

It seemed Maddog Quinn was a goner. Brett Mills suggested the NZFC be renamed the Film Decommission.

Matt Inns said, “I told people that, although I didn’t feel the responsibility should fall on me to do so, I’d do my best to find some kind of resolution.”

Over 18 months on, is The Ballad of Maddog Quinn still without a happy ending? Not necessarily. In next month’s edition, we’ll conclude the journey.


Written by Keith Barclay

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


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