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Film NZ to become part of NZFC

From 1 August, Film NZ will cease to operate independently, its work to be done within the NZFC from a week on Monday. The announcement was made by Ministers Steven Joyce (Economic Development) and Maggie Barry (Arts, Culture & Heritage) as part of a broader announcement about incentive schemes.

Gisella Carr (centre) and the Film NZ team

Film NZ CEO Gisella Carr (centre) and the Film NZ team

Change at Film NZ has been expected for some time, with the NZFC administering the government incentive schemes on which Film NZ’s attraction work strongly depends. Last year the two agencies, along with NZ On Air, formed “virtual agency” Screen NZ under which umbrella various collaborative activities were undertaken.

Assuming the responsibilities of Film NZ does mean that the NZFC will finally be (among other things) what most international agencies understand by the term “film commission”, a locations office.

Welcoming the Ministers’ announcement, NZFC chair Patsy Reddy said, “Our two agencies have worked very closely together for many years… This announcement builds on and formalises that approach, by creating a one-stop shop.”

Film NZ chair John McCay echoed Reddy, saying, “The announcement formalises the ongoing collaborative work between the two agencies and will deliver positive results for New Zealand’s screen industry and our international clients.”

Film Auckland was the first body to welcome the announcement, its statement expressing support for the merger, and noting “the great work done by the regional film offices” in attracting and supporting inbound productions.

NZFC CEO Dave Gibson yesterday praised the work that Film NZ had been doing in the US. Until now, the NZFC has focused a lot of its energy on building international relationships at markets including Cannes and Toronto and, this year especially, in Beijing and Shanghai.

Gibson also noted that the number of enquiries had risen substantially since government made improvements to incentive schemes, which became active on 1 April last year.

Although an industry briefing took place on Wednesday and the formal announcement came yesterday, just over a week before the changes are implemented, negotiations have been ongoing for some time. As well as addressing the practical issue of ensuring that Film NZ’s ongoing work continue without disruption, there have been legal and funding issues to resolve.

Film NZ is constituted as a limited liability company, from which government’s MBIE contracts services. Currently the NZFC receives its government funding from MCH (and Lotteries). Going forward, the NZFC will continue to report to MCH. MBIE has indicated it’s likely to transfer its contract with Film NZ to MCH.

The shareholding in Film NZ has been transferred to the NZFC. Once the changeover is completed, hopefully before Christmas, the entity Film NZ will be wound up and its independent identity will disappear.

As for the personnel, the Film NZ board will disband and CEO Gisella step down. Carr will depart at the end of next week. Film NZ staff, who not so long ago moved across town to premises close to the NZFC, will move into the NZFC’s offices. When Film NZ as a legal entity is closed down, its staff will then be engaged by the NZFC.

Philippa Mossman and Laurie Wright will work alongside the NZFC’s head of International Relations Chris Payne and Head of Incentives Catherine Bates. In addition to its work administering government incentives, the NZFC has long been working on building relationships internationally through its presence at market events, so it’s not difficult to see Mossman and Wright’s work on enquiries from overseas fitting into that team.

Roxanne Gajadhar and Tess Rencen will join Jasmin McSweeney’s Marketing team.

Both agencies are keen to get the message out that, regardless of any cosmetic changes, it’ll be business as usual for all parts of the new whole. Film NZ’s enquiry and attraction work will continue, and the NZFC will continue to support and develop the local industry to create great NZ films. Where there has been any overlap to date, it’s hoped that in time that will generate savings which can be directed into frontline activity.

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