Libertine Pictures was the first beneficiary of the NZFC’s Business Development Scheme – one of the last initiatives put in place by the former CEO, Graeme Mason. Earlier this week they held a meeting with screenwriters in Auckland ahead of the 14 April deadline for the Big Break, Libertine’s “search for the writer of New Zealand’s next great movie”.
Libertine’s Richard Fletcher and Paul Davis presented (writer Neil Cross being overseas) alongside Head of Development Emily Anderton and Head of Literary Acquisitions Nadya Kooznetzoff.
The turnout of just under 20 was slim, especially given that this was Libertine’s first round of looking for fresh meat. Even the NZFC, which isn’t often announcing new opportunities to earn new money, draws substantial crowds to its public meetings.
But the intimacy of a smallish group sitting around a couple of tables pulled together made for relaxed and easy conversation.
Fletcher and Davis outlined their backgrounds in production, distribution and finance, and expressed a desire to produce extraordinary Kiwi films “that excite audiences at home and around the world”; they then quickly moved the meeting into Q&A mode.
For the Big Break, Libertine are seeking ideas expressed in the form of a one page outline and a sample of script from that idea (a completed script is not necessary). They are an independent production company who, if they like your idea, will help you develop the script and, with luck, eventually put it into production. Kooznetzoff pointed out that this search is as much for writers as much as it is for projects.
Unlike most producers and production companies, Libertine claimed to have no preconceptions regarding genre, style or even a number of films they hope to make. However, budgets will be realistic by NZ norms, so CGI or animated features are unlikely to come to fruition.
What they are after is exciting, original ideas. In response to a question, they explained that they are a commercial company, and therefore not interested in making short films. A documentary? Yes, but the Big Break is focused principally on drama. The key points are the quality of the idea, and the quality of the writing.
The company is interested in television, but any TV series work will probably be developed in-house – given that one of the originating partners is Neil Cross, a writer with a pretty decent CV including Spooks, Luther and an upcoming US TV show.
While the projects Libertine will pick up must have international sales potential, New Zealand content is important – otherwise one major funding source is shut down! The films they wish to make need to have “a sense of place” – a point of difference from films made in other countries.
At present the NZFC’s Business Development money is the major source of funding for Libertine’s activities, including the Big Break at this stage.
Libertine reports to the commission quarterly and has the freedom to spend up to $65,000 on developing an idea with NZFC money. After at point, development must be funded either by application the NZFC or by another, non-NZFC source.
The team were at pains to point out that any work optioned or purchased would be properly paid, and would be happy to negotiate the “selling of your child” with an agent, lawyer, or wi
the Writers Guild acting on someone’s behalf. The scheme has already received 60 submissions.
Applications for the Big Break is April 14, with info on the Libertine website. More detail regarding applications can be found on their website and Facebook page.