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BSS2015: Dave Gibson’s state of the nation, part 1

Dave Gibson gave a wide-ranging address on Sunday to the NZFC, ticking off a bunch of things that needed talking about and getting in and amongst it.

The importance of getting in and amongst was rather the point of the first section of his speech, addressing the results of the NZFC’s stakeholder survey before outlining and promoting some of what’s happening right now – such as the announcement of who’s been supported by the Boost fund.

There was also the politics, some of which had been touched on by Jon Landau in his session on Saturday, and the plans (which will be covered separately).

The session kicked off with a reel, a reminder of how little NZFC-supported feature fare has hit the release point in its cycle this year – although later a slide listed over 20 narrative and doco features at some point in the production cycle.

Gibson focused on the stakeholder survey, skipping lightly over the positive comments that not so long ago would have been the sum total of any such NZFC presentation. Carving the criticisms into ones the Commission agreed with, ones it had a different take on, and ones it disagreed with, Gibson started in on the thorny old chestnut of accessibility and communication.

Should the Commission be more approachable? Yes it should, Gibson said. Should it communicate better? Not necessarily, although some staff (possibly those doing the itchy-bum shuffle at that point) should certainly get better at responding to communications more quickly.

To be more accessible, Gibson announced that the NZFC would go on a bit of a tiki tour before Xmas. Rather than putting on formal presentations, the Commission will run a series of slower than speed dating sessions with staff from various departments available for rolling one-to-ones over the course of a day. Dates were announced for five centres in late November and early December with more info to come via the NZFC website.

Sticking with communication, Gibson also noted that new funding application guidelines (in plain English) were now on the NZFC website.

One potentially tricky criticism was that NZFC staff were “not expert or experienced enough”.

Gibson disagreed with the assessment, saying, “I think they are, but I accept that we have not promoted them and their expertise enough.”

Citing some team members by name, Gibson reckoned 18 of the NZFC’s staff had worked in development, production, post production, exhibition, distribution or marketing. Most of the others worked in Business Affairs or Finance – where you’d hope they’d be qualified lawyers or accountants rather than DoPs or editors.

Gibson also noted that in his 22 months at the NZFC the Incentives team had grown considerably – to three full-timers plus contract consultants. Gibson also acknowledged some trimming of budgets (other than production spend) over the last year, and said he wasn’t keen on a larger number of NZFC staff disbursing smaller amounts of cash to support projects. However, while the Lotteries Grant that provides most production investment is fixed (a percentage of whatever’s been spent on Lotto tickets over the preceding period), incentive spend is a percentage of in-country spend and not capped. More inbound work, more inbound spend, more work and money in NZ.

So, if the NZFC staff numbers are getting bigger, we should all be happy when those people are needed to keep up with the incentives workload.

The second part of this article, covering the politics and plans, will be published Wednesday 14 October.

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