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NZFC hits the road

The Film Commission’s latest Roadshow kicked off in Wellington on Friday, followed by Auckland’s turn on Monday.

Many of us in the screen industry were very happy to see the Commission under Graeme Mason’s stewardship begin to reach out – trying to connect with the filmmakers and to break down a “Them versus Us” mentality that seemed to prevail before his reign. But many of the events the Commission staged during his time were basically social get-togethers – a brief introductory speech from the CEO and then mostly milling around on the off-chance that one might get an opportunity to grab half-a-minute with one or other of the Commission team.

Under Dave Gibson, these events are much more purposefully structured, and therefore considerably more productive for everyone involved.

The way the Commission has set up this Roadshow, with its team divided into four groups, each entertaining 10 or 15 people each at a time, and with each filmmaker asked to introduce themselves to each group, giving their background and offering whatever questions they might have, the purpose of making connections is fulfilled as well as I can imagine.

That said, it is probably fair to say that one wouldn’t have gleaned much more, if any, hard information from this Roadshow than from a judicious browsing of the Film Commission’s website. But as Dave Gibson and his team were happy to point out, there are other bonuses earned by attending – including some useful tips.

The one fundamental element to any relationship between a government funding body and a filmmaker, be they producer, director, writer or whatever, is the recognition that it is indeed a relationship – and relationships are based on and nurtured by familiarity. If you know the face of the person you are dealing with, and have some notion of their personality, whether you’re dealing by email, Skype or face-to-face, a significant hurdle is already overcome, whichever side of the table you are sitting at. Especially for new players on the scene, a roadshow like this is the perfect starting point. So it was not surprising that the majority of attendees, certainly at the afternoon session, were of the emerging variety.

After every funding round, one hears a number of comments along the lines of “Why didn’t they choose my project – its brilliant!” Thinking about this (and having not long since missed out myself), I once had the temerity to ask a Commission member what proportion of project applications they received were actually worth a second look. Or in other words, what percentage would be dropped straight away?

The answer I was given was that, generally, about 40% would be worthy of further consideration. Then consider a statistic mentioned more than once on Monday afternoon, that only between 4% and 9% of all applications, depending on the particular fund involved, can ever be funded. That’s as far as NZFC resources presently stretch. The reality is that many good, even excellent, projects are always going to miss out.

There was one particularly good piece of advice regarding improving one’s chances for receiving funding that was offered in more than one group. Before you submit an application, well before if possible, engage in communication with the appropriate person within the Commission about how your application might be improved.

Then, whether your application is successful or not, and without overdoing it (“No stalking, please”, joked one), provide reasonably regular email updates regarding your project to the Commission.

Clearly Gibson was gratified to hear one novice filmmaker say at the end of the afternoon that she had found the whole event “…really inspiring!”.

The NZFC Roadshow continued in Dunedin today, and will visit Christchurch tomorrow (Thursday) and Queenstown on Friday.

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