New Zealand Prime Minister Eyes U.S. growth for Kiwi Film Industry

James Cameron
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"We're not changing a frame. The ship still sinks. It ends the same way."

John Key visits Los Angeles to promote the home of "The Hobbit" as a film making destination.

SYDNEY - Avatar director James Cameron and partner Jon Landau, with agency Film New Zealand, are to host NZ Prime Minister John Key at a dinner in Los Angeles this week with studio heads, CEOs, and other senior U.S. screen industry representatives as Key promotes the nation’s film making credentials ahead of the release of the first of The Hobbit films in December.

Key’s three-day trade mission includes visits to three studio lots: Sony Pictures Studios, The Walt Disney Studios, and Warner Bros. Studios. as well as meetings and industry functions with senior executives from all the major studios.  

“This visit is extremely important for our industry. The screen industry contributed almost $3 billion in revenue to the New Zealand economy last year – and it keeps growing. In simple terms, this visit is about jobs for New Zealanders,” Key said before leaving New Zealand on Wednesday.

“However, there is intense international competition for the business and we need to keep telling our story to movie and television production people.”

“The screen industry in New Zealand supports over 2700 businesses, over 95 percent of which are involved in production and post-production work. We need to keep New Zealand front of mind for those individuals who can bring further investment to New Zealand,” he said.

Film New Zealand CEO Gisella Carr, who is co-coordinating the Prime Minister’s visit, said that U.S. screen production is a crucial part of New Zealand’s overall growth

She said North America contributes between 80 and 90 percent of all international screen revenue in New Zealand, representing an investment in the NZ economy of NZ$387 million ($318 million) in 2011.

“The industry is international and we have created partnerships with many of the overseas companies working here. This visit by the Prime Minister reinforces that importance,” Carr said.

“It could be said the New Zealand international industry has been built in partnership with the U.S. screen industry. Productions are being made here because of our talented and creative companies and people as well as our fabulous scenery. More than 1000 New Zealand businesses contracted services to the feature film industry in 2011.

“Competition is tough, but we are seen as a nation that supports and understands the value of screen production, as a talented and safe pair of hands to handle international production of scale and a country where major filmmakers want to live and work,” she added.

Certainly, James Cameron’s dinner with the PM is more than just a meet and greet.

Cameron recently spent around $16 million buying up 250 hectares of farmland in New Zealand’s North Island, a 15 minute helicopter ride from the film making centre and the nation’s capital of Wellington. He has applied for NZ residency – part of the requirement for buying more than $10 million of land there,  and has indicated that he is likely to spend at least six months of the year there from this fall and may move there permanently.

It is widely expected that Cameron will make the Avatar sequels in New Zealand

And he doesn’t think that The Hobbit director, Peter Jackson, should have to "keep the village fed" on his own.

"I don't think the nation should look to him in total dependence so I'm going do my part to foster and grow the New Zealand film community,." Cameron told TVNZ earlier this year.