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Detail emerges on NZSPG

NZFC Chair Patsy Reddy, PM John Key, filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau celebrate

On Tuesday, two government ministries, the NZFC and Film NZ revealed the – almost complete – detail on the incentive scheme to rule them all. It`s clear a huge amount of work has gone into getting the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) ready in time to farewell SPIF, the LBSPG and the gaps that used to exist between the two.

It`s clear because the NZFC`s NZSPG web page comes with no less than 10 PDF attachments to download to cover the scheme`s many permutations (and no single zip file bundling the lot).

The headline information remains as it was when the Ghuznee Street Nativity Players unveiled JC and the 25% Avyatax sequels shortly before Christmas.

The incentive is a 20% grant for international productions, plus 5% for productions that pass an economic benefits test. A 40% grant is available for NZ productions (as per SPIF) but with both an increase to the range of productions that can qualify and a looser definition of “New Zealand production”.

The fine print is plentiful, and it`s that detail industry has been waiting to get its eyeballs on since late last year.

This article takes a look at the changes for NZ productions. Later in the week, we`ll take a look at the implications for inbound productions.

The first of the documents on offer is the Visual Overview flow diagram, the newbie producer and mainstream journalists guide to what`s what.

It offers little that most producers won`t already understand, except of course it outlines support for productions budgeted at more than $15 million and up to $50 million. These will, of course, be few and far between … the World`s Last Indian might (if made now) fit that range.

The only areas which aren`t straightforward yes/no are around subjective calls that need to be made, one of which is “Does the production have export potential?”

Looking through the key technical changes, there are a few that make one pause for thought.

Gone is the requirement for features to guarantee a 20-screen release in NZ. There is still a requirement for “genuine commercial cinematic distribution in New Zealand”, although – without a number of screens to hang it on – what might constitute a “genuine” release will be open to interpretation.

Assessing the New Zealandness of a NZ production now extends more strongly into the area of who`s making it, courtesy of a change in the regulations around who and what entity can apply for the NZSPG.

No longer can some shady Johnny Foreigner set up a single purpose vehicle here and scoot off back home with all a production`s income. The new regulations specify

“the applicant shall receive a share of the income from the production that is generally commensurate with the expected value of the NZSPG, with the position for the recoupment of such share of income to be generally similar to that of any other equity investors”

To access the incentive on productions budgeted in the $15-50 million range, there are further requirements, such as the producer having produced work of a similar scale and value.

Some will argue that will make it hard for producers to step up to that level, and it`s not immediately clear whether previous credits as a co-producer, associate producer or executive producer, on a production budgeted above $15 million, would qualify a producer to apply under the scheme.

The Significant Content Guidleines and points test remain largely unchanged, with features still aiming to corral 20 of 32 available points and TV productions 15.

The discretionary aspects of the test`s scoring will continue to rankle with those they annoyed previously, and won`t bother those previously satisfied with the way they were applied.

The “creative material” segment of the test has been widened to allow points to be awarded for “significant creative connection with New Zealand”.

The full NZSPG Criteria are to come in mid-May, with SPIF criteria standing in for now. Those criteria, a 17-page application form, mucho supporting documentation and, of course, a production will get you over the line.

In reality, it looks little different for film producers beyond that there`s a higher upper limit to which productions can be supported.

For TV producers, there are more significant changes but – given the per hour minimum spend threshold of $800,000 for drama productions – the NZSPG seems unlikely to be used much by domestic productions.

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