Peter Jackson to lead NZ commission review

Industry to regulate itself, with federal leadership

SYDNEY -- Peter Jackson will lead a wide-ranging review of the activities of federal agency the New Zealand Film Commission, Christopher Finlayson, minister for arts culture and heritage, said Thursday.

The review will look at the structure of the Kiwi industry and how the commission functions in what's been described as a rapidly changing industry. Its terms of reference include looking at the commission's legislation and the constitution, function, powers and financial provisions it provides.

"The film industry has been one of New Zealand's highest-profile successes of the last 15 years. This review will ensure it is receiving the support needed to continue that growth," Finlayson said.

The NZFC is the country's main feature film production investment, development and marketing agency. It administers the key production funds including the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme, the Screen Production Incentive Fund and the Post Production Fund.

It provides financing for local films of about NZ$10 million ($6.24 million) annually, and has a total budget for 2008-09 of NZ$21.5 million, one-third of which comes from the government and the rest from lotteries and other sources.

Recent films made with financing from the NZFC include local boxoffice hit "Second Hand Wedding," U.K. co-production "Dean Spanley" and upcoming releases "The Vintner's Luck" and "Under the Mountain."

Finlayson said that "Lord of the Rings" helmer Jackson, as "the most successful director and producer in New Zealand film, is uniquely qualified to lead this review."

"The commission plays a part in every stage of the industry from funding startup productions to helping market and distribute the end product. It's vital to establish how the commission has been performing in each of these mandated areas, and whether it has been providing the best value to industry."

"The NZ Film Commission is a vital and indispensable component of our film industry," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to making positive and constructive suggestions to ensure that it remains effective in what is a rapidly changing international movie climate."

David Court, the head of Screen Business at the Australian Film, Television & Radio School, will work with Jackson on the review.

The organization has received criticism from some parts of the industry in recent years with John Barnett, the CEO of South Pacific Pictures last year criticizing the commission's development schemes, saying its funding choices were poor and it was unaccountable for its decisions.

Longtime NZFC CEO Ruth Harley left the organization last year to become CEO of new Aussie agency Screen Australia. It was announced Thursday that the organization's longtime head of sales and distribution, Kathleen Drummond, is leaving in September to become head of marketing and industry development at Screen Australia.