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KJ takes chair

Kevin “KJ” Jennings, Queenstown-based Executive Manager of Film Otago Southland (FOS), has been elected Chairman of the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) at its January board meeting. Jennings, who was previously he organisation’s vice president, will hold the post for a two-year term.

During his time on the AFCI board, Jennings has been able to keep locals up to date with international trends and best practice, and also develop best practice policy, particularly around shooting in protected environments. FOS has one of the largest percentage amounts of protected land on its patch, locally and internationally.

That land delivers the industry’s bread and butter. With the FOS region not containing much in the way of studio facilities or post houses, the vast majority of the spend in the region is on location shooting and crew. Those locations drive business. Otago-Southland got a boost from its profile as the location for Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, and hosted a good part of Disney’s Pete’s Dragon shoot last year, although the regular work for local crew is servicing the international TVC market.

Jennings has been working with DOC at local and national levels to establish protocols to minimise impact on the environment while getting the job done efficiently.

“It’s an honour to be in a position of leadership with AFCI and to continue serving the ever changing needs of the TV and Film industry as we have for the past 40 years,” Jennings said. “As the leading resource for location shooting, AFCI members represent the best of the best in trained and knowledgeable film commission professionals around the world.”

Founded in 1975, the AFCI has an advisory board of senior independent producers as well as representatives from Disney, Fox and HBO. Relationships with such players can deliver significant benefits, not just for Otago-Southland but the rest of the country too. Jennings and other regional film offices regularly work together on shoots such as Pete’s Dragon.

The thrice-yearly trips to the US for AFCI board meetings offer other opportunities. Following the AFCI meeting last month Jennings was able to travel to Sundance, where AFCI hosts a lounge and the opportunity to connect with plenty of decision makers. These sort of opportunities “present invaluable opportunities to increase awareness of the region and New Zealand as a film location,” FOS Chair Michael Hesp noted.

The AFCI board meets three time a year, usually in the US. Jennings thanked Invercargill City Council and Mayor Tim Shadbolt for providing additional support to enable Jennings to pursue his AFCI role.

“Contributing to the film industry is one of the most successful investments our city has made,” Shadbolt said. “KJ Jennings is one of the most respected and experienced representatives the New Zealand Film Industry has and we congratulate him on his new role.”

As well as the flow of TVCs avoiding winter back home, Shadbolt noted two under way film projects and others in negotiation.

Jennings heads back to the US for the AFCI’s annual Locations & Global Finance Show, scheduled to run 21 – 13 April in Los Angeles.

“It’s an opportunity for our members to exhibit their locations, promote their infrastructure and the billions of dollars incentives that are available to the TV and film production industry,” said Jennings.

Those keeping track of incentives will have noted some European destinations pushing up their rates as high as 30% recently, which will make NZ’s job a little harder than it’s been since the government raised rates here in 2014. Jennings’ new role with the AFCI will help keep NZ in the minds of those decision makers looking to shoot overseas.

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