New Zealand's film industry blossoms with Jackson's help


In New Zealand, they call it the Peter Jackson effect.

Since the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy showed off the Kiwi landscape -- and film production capabilities -- to a worldwide audience, the country's film sector has taken off.

"It gave New Zealand a position on the world map," says Ruth Harley, CEO of Screen Australia and a former CEO or the New Zealand Film Commission. "It gave NZ infrastructure and it gave NZ filmmakers ambition and aspiration."

The country commissioned a "Rings" economic impact study in 2002, which revealed that investment in New Zealand features grew from NZ$16 million ($14.5 million) in 1999 to NZ$308 million ($280.1 million) in 2001. Gross revenue from the New Zealand film sector has since soared to NZ$1.3 billion in 2008 ($1.2 billion), according to Statistics New Zealand.

In addition, Jackson's insistence on filming on his home turf, as well as his investments in his effects and postproduction houses, have helped build a sophisticated workforce in the country.

"There are deep layers of the film business that have been enabled because of Peter's entrepreneurial stance," Harley says.

Aggressive production incentives have helped.

New Zealand offers two major programs: The Large Budget Screen Production and Post/Digital/Visual Effects incentive, which provides a 15% rebate to productions shooting in New Zealand, while the Screen Production Incentive Fund is a grant of up to NZ$6 million ($5.5 million) per production designed to assist domestic film and television projects (as well as co-productions) that contain significant New Zealand content.

Recent local productions include "Tracker," a U.K./New Zealand co-production starring Ray Winstone and Temuera Morrison, as well as Jackson's upcoming "The Lovely Bones" and 2008's "The Day the Earth Stood Still."

To help spur future growth, Jackson has been commissioned by the New Zealand government to review its film commission, which is good news for local filmmakers.

Jackson "does get your films noticed," says Jonathan King, whose sophomore feature, "Under the Mountain," will be released next month. "It's placed a little bell in people's minds that New Zealand is where fantastic stories happen."
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