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New Zealand Eyes More International TV Production With Incentives Boost

Top of the Lake Elisabeth Moss - H 2012
Jane Campion
Elisabeth Moss in "Top of the Lake," which was shot in New Zealand.

Qualifying budget thresholds for post, digital and visual effects will be lowered in the country.

SYDNEY - New Zealand’s incentives for film and TV production, post production and digital and visual effects are to be boosted, with the aim of attracting more big ticket TV production to the country, the country's minister for economic development, Steven Joyce, and minister for arts, culture and heritage, Christopher Finlayson, said Wednesday.

Under the changes to the Large Budget Screen Production Grant (LBSP grant) and its associated post, digital and visual effects grant (PDV Grant), a new TV specific production incentive will be created with the the qualifying budget threshold for TV series pilots, made-for-TV movies and mini-series to be lowered from $11.73 million to $3.13 million. In addition the threshold for the PDV grant will be lowered from $2.35 million to $780,000.

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The LBSP rebate, which sits at 15 percent for budgets with a qualifying New Zealand expenditure of  $11.73 million or more, with an additional 15 percent capped at $7.63 million for expenditure in the country of more than $156 million, remains in place.

"Attracting more TV production and investment in New Zealand will boost the economy and provide greater continuity of work for Kiwis and their families,” Minister Joyce said.

“We also want to build on our growing strength in high-value post production, digital and visual effects, and enable smaller New Zealand companies to be more successful in attracting work to New Zealand.

Changes to the domestically-focused Screen Production Incentive Fund include ensuring private investment in the sector by requiring a minimum non-government investment in qualifying films of at least 10 percent, with at least 25 percent in the case of television.  The threshold for qualifying animation projects is being reduced from $1 million to $400,000 per hour.

The changes follow a two-year review into the effectiveness of the industry’s two major incentives. The review did not include The Hobbit films.  

The review focused on the Large Budget Screen Production Grant, the Screen Production Incentive Fund, Film New Zealand’s functions, international co-production agreements, skill development, coordinating promotion and marketing of the domestic screen industry and collaboration between the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air.

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“The incentives have ensured New Zealand’s screen industry has continued to grow and employ thousands of New Zealanders despite challenging global economic conditions,” Joyce said.

According to the review, 35 major productions, including US studio fare such as Avatar and King Kong, which accessed the LBSP grant between 2004 and 20011, generated $1.52 billion in qualifying production expenditure. The total grants paid out over the period amounted to $206 million.

The production and post-production sector contributed $638 million to gross domestic product in 2011, up from $313 million in 2005 and total gross revenue for the entire screen industry was $3 billion in 2012, up from $2.6 billion in 2005, according to Joyce.

“This shows New Zealand's screen industry is making steady gains, and is competing on the world stage,” he said.

“Without the Large Budget Screen Production Grant most of the 35 major screen productions such as Avatar and King Kong that received rebates would not have come here.  he Screen Production Incentive Fund also contributed to medium and larger-scale New Zealand productions, such as Boy and Top of the Lake, two excellent examples of New Zealand culture reaching broad audiences here and overseas,” Finlayson said.

“Industry sustainability is what’s driving these changes. We want more international screen productions to come to New Zealand and utilise our world-class expertise and scenery. The changes could also mean more local film and TV producers are able to make content that is attractive to overseas markets,” he added.

Film New Zealand chief executive, Gisella Carr said the results of the review and the changes to the incentives “show that the Government recognises the value of screen to the New Zealand economy, and the role incentives play in attracting large budget productions and in particular international investment into New Zealand”.