China, NZ sign co-production treaty

Treaty covers features and TV films, could expand

Updated 10:02 pm Beijing time

SYDNEY -- New Zealand and China signed an official film co-production treaty Wednesday, NZ Prime Minister John key announced during a trade mission in Beijing where he met with Chinese premier Wen Jiabao.

The film co-production agreement between New Zealand's Ministry for Culture and Heritage and China's State Administration for Radio, Film and Television gives co-production filmmakers access to funding and incentives in line with those available for national films in each country, according to a statement from Key's office. Parties will also be able to facilitate temporary immigration and importation of equipment, within existing regulations.

The agreement covers feature films and made-for-TV movies, with the countries planning to further the agreement to cover TV productions, in what would be the first such agreement for China. 
The agreement will offer greater certainty to investors looking to fund New Zealand-China film co-productions, Key said.

"New Zealand filmmakers are increasingly interested in partnering with Chinese filmmakers and in telling stories of interest to both cultures," he said.

NZ film and entertainment lawyer Michael Stephens recently predicted that once a treaty was signed, New Zealand and China could get to the point of making as many as half a dozen co-productions per year. 

The treaty comes as China's film business is taking off but few of its movies are succeeding overseas, facing the hurdles of language, production quality and a relationship with Hollywood that is fraught with trade politics.
China's boxoffice is dominated by the limited number of Hollywood imports allowed into the country and Beijing is under pressure from a U.S.-led World Trade Organization push to let more in still.
Agrainst that backdrop, Pete Rive, a board member of regional advocacy Film Auckland says New Zealand is a welcome new partner for China.
Rive recently led a sizeable New Zealand delegation to Beijing and to the Shanghai International Film Festival that included Richard Taylor, the head of WETA Workshop ("Lord of the Rings"), and representatives of Park Road Post Production and Digipost.
"New Zealand can be a conduit for Asian productions that want to go international. We understand the production and management techniques used in the U.S. and can teach them," said Rive, who also helped secure New Zealand's film treaty with South Korea in 2007. "We can help China to make international productions while being a modest voice for cooperation."
It wouldn't hurt if Kiwi films got a piece of China's growing business, either. China boxoffice rose 43% last year to $909 million and is expected to keep going up.

NZ producer Michelle Turner, is hoping to make “Little Dragon” – the story of an 11-year-old Shanghainese girl whose family moves to New Zealand and takes over an uncle's restaurant in the capital of Wellington. As an official coproduction, it could skirt China's annual limit of 20 imported films allowed to share in boxoffice revenues.

France and China signed a co-production treaty in May but so far no films have gone into production under its terms.

Australia and China signed a co-production treaty in 2007 but only one feature has been made under that agreement, “Children of Huang Shi," directed by Roger Spottiswoode and starring Chow Yun-fat and John Rhys-Davies.
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