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Cannes do Kiwis

Around 50 Kiwis will make the trip to Cannes next week – most from here, some travelling from points a little closer. The NZFC will have four of its team there and will support 17 producers to attend – a hefty commitment and the largest number of people the NZFC has ever supported to Cannes.

As CEO Dave Gibson has flagged in presentations and interviews since taking office, he’s keen to further internationalise the industry – to develop more relationships with people elsewhere that turn into productions. The 50 or so people heading to Cannes is evidence that a good number of industry folk are willing to sign up to that vision.

Gibson pointed out that, although the NZFC is supporting 17 of those travelling to Cannes’ Market, NZFC travel assistance is not a free lunch. The NZFC has agreed clear expectations with those offered assistance to attend – and that practice will be the norm for festivals and markets going forward. Those who don’t deliver on the expectations will probably be buying their own tickets in future.

Since the NZFC has announced it’s getting out of the sales agency business, this year there’s an extra reason for producers with completed titles to be making the effort to attend key market events. Mark Gooder, formerly CEO of Icon and most recently President of Acquisitions and Australian operations for the Weinstein Company, has been assisting the NZFC out of sales. He’ll be in Cannes to generate some activity around some of the NZ Film library of titles.

Producers with more recent titles have a clear understanding of what will happen with those films. Talking about what might happen for all the other material as NZ Film ceases to be, Gibson explained, “Cannes will be a big part of the decision-making process.”

Elsewhere at Cannes, there’ll be plenty of NZ and NZFC-initiated activity. The country will be putting pen to paper on another co-production treaty, this time with Denmark. The treaty follows Daniel Joseph Borgman’s The Weight of Elephants, produced by Leanne Saunders’ Severe Features down here and Lars von Trier’s Zentropa up there.

Zentropa's Lars von Trier

Zentropa’s Lars von Trier might not attend the Denmark-NZ treaty signing

The NZFC will also host or co-host other events formally or less formally addressing co-production activity and potential. These will be with the UK’s BFI (although that organisation has its eyes firmly set on China in the wake of the recently signed China-UK film co-pro treaty); with Brazil, with whom a co-production treaty is in train; and with South Africa, from where a filmmaking delegation came to NZ late last year.

Those meetings are very much about the NZFC opening doors. What activity, if any, comes out of them is very much down to filmmakers and producers.

One of the NZ producers attending Cannes who’s long engaged with international partners is Matthew Metcalfe. Metcalfe has plenty of established relationships, and will be advancing two or three projects at Cannes this year. He’s also currently developing a project with a partner he met at a previous NZFC-organised round table event at Cannes. After a year that has seen two titles Metcalfe produced selected for Toronto (Toa Fraser’s Giselle and Leanne Pooley’s Beyond the Edge) he’ll also be reviewing the progress of current projects.

The NZFC will also present a session in conjunction on Doing Business with NZ with Film NZ whose representative in Cannes will be Paul Davis.

The session will leverage the recently-revamped incentives, although Cannes is a market where possible co-productions are a more likely topic of conversation than major inbound productions. It’s an opportunity to test the waters around the attractiveness of the mid-level budget incentives – those targeted at productions in the $15-50 million range – and the increase in the incentives for TV productions.

There’ll also be some leverage around incentives – as well as other aspects of the NZ offer – to be had from the presence of Jane Campion as head of the jury. Last year, Top of the Lake was screening while she was heading up the Cinefondation and Short Film jury. TOTL producer Philippa Campbell will be among the contingent of NZ producers in Cannes.

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