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BSS2015: Dave Gibson’s State of the Nation, Part 2

Having addressed the NZFC’s relationship with the industry in the first part of his speech this weekend, Gibson took time to note some of the successes and, hopefully, upcoming successes for the industry, before moving on to where to from here.

All four companies supported under the Business Development Scheme that arrived in the last year of previous CEO Graeme Mason’s tenure are now involved in features in production. A staggering 21 features with NZFC support are in pre-production, in production or in post.

Touching briefly on statistics around diversity in where NZFC support is going, Gibson announced that Gaylene Preston would lead next year’s CineFem scholarship (after fellow BSS speaker Jane Campion’s headed up this year’s). The numbers around diversity were mostly encouraging, and where they were clearly weak – funded features directed by a woman, for example – Gibson noted, “We’re not not funding them. We’re not getting the applications.”

Without reliving the pain, Gibson reminded that the industry was now in a much better state than it had been two years ago. It’s always good to act from a position of strength. Although many in the industry have a talent for not looking to the future (whether things are good or bad), Gibson devoted the latter part of his presentation to encouraging people to be more active in making sure things continued to go well and get even better.

As the NZFC has “successfully begun the integration of Film New Zealand into the NZFC” (a statement that brought some cheers from the audience), Gibson noted there would be a more coordinated approach going forward to dealing with the rest of the world. In particular, he noted an intention for the NZFC to have more regular engagement and activity in Los Angeles and in China. That activity won’t necessarily be NZFC- or even film-specific, some of it might be broader NZ Inc promotional activity that screen is a part of. That approach has done well in China especially for producers joining mayoral delegations.

Gibson also spoke of the need to lobby locally. The NZFC has been doing its bit to offer support to Auckland’s desire to see Hobsonville become home to new purpose-built studios and other screen-skewing facilities.

He touched on work with the Department of Conservation, with which Film Otago Southland’s Kevin Jennings has also been engaging, to develop national protocols for shooting on DoC land.

As is blatantly clear, much of the industry’s success or failure is down to the ability or otherwise to influence government. It took a long time to get the horse to drink, but the results since the incentives tap was turned are hard to argue with.

Going forward, Gibson claimed, the industry (not just the NZFC or NZ On Air but everybody) needed a cheat sheet, talking points backed by solid research to demonstrate and communicate (repeatedly if necessary) that successful screen industries deliver “growth of companies that employ people at above average wages, and companies that develop intellectual property and income stream”.

“We’ve known that for years,” would be the response from the Game Development community. As another of the weekend’s speakers said, “Nobody cares where a good idea comes from.”

The important thing, Gibson suggested, was that people got behind the message of the value of a healthy industry, since everybody stood to benefit from it.

In the Q&A, picking up on Gibson’s point about the importance of research and a comment that the industry had turned out a kids’ feature since Kiwi Flyer, Screenies festival organiser Janette Howe asked about work being done in audience development.

Gibson noted that we are “statistically very impoverished”. In broad terms, the most recent year’s figures show that NZ films put 10 million bums on cinema seats (up from eight million). He noted that Jasmin McSweeney and Selina Joe were currently working on data that goes beyond box office numbers.

Craig Parkes threw a curved ball, asking whether the Commission should include piracy figures when looking at titles’ reach. The timing wasn’t coincidental with the Ant Timpson-produced Turbo Kid topping the illegal download charts for the weekend.

Gibson’s response, that it wasn’t the Commission’s job to give any form of support to piracy, was a fair attempt to navigate through treacherous waters.

A less difficult question to answer was one asking what the NZFC was looking to support at present.

“Anything that’s good and has an audience,” Gibson said.

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