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NZFC Review: Submissions round up

The criteria for the review are reasonably well-known, and we won’t revisit them here, but it’s fair to say they were reasonably wide-ranging, gave plenty of opportunity for people to cheer or moan about the Commission, and lots of people did.

We don’t claim to have read every submission, but we did read most of them, and we found a considerable amount of agreement running through the submissions.

Lots of people suggested the Commission should have a new name on the grounds that, internationally, a national film commission is usually a locations office. As that role forms part of the brief of Film New Zealand, several submissions recommended rebranding the NZFC as something else, and possibly ditching the word ‘film’ in favour of ‘screen’ as the Australians have done.

Lots of people also noted, with varying degrees of unhappiness, that in their opinion the NZFC board doesn’t contain sufficient industry representation and/or knowledge. Various opinions were expressed on how this might be remedied, the most common of which was having industry body or guild representatives on the board.

The board was criticised for participating in operational matters as well as governance, particularly with respect to awarding funding. This point was often made in conjunction with comments on the lack of industry knowledge or expertise amongst board members and the issue of transparency.

Several submissions addressed the (perceived) issues of the NZFC’s removal from the industry and lack of transparency in its decision-making processes. One point often repeated, in such similar phrasing one felt it might have been a coordinated effort, was that the majority of filmmaking (and television making) activity in the country takes place in Auckland.

The Commission, or whatever it might be renamed, should therefore either have an office in Auckland or relocate there, which would save on heating bills if nothing else. Most industry organisations are either based in or have offices in Auckland. Shifting all or part of the Commission north would facilitate more regular consultation with industry bodies, something that all the industry bodies and guilds who made submissions requested.

It was no surprise that submissions from the various guilds promoted their own members’ interests, and they wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they hadn’t taken the opportunity to do that. However, a thread that flowed through a number of them picked up on reviewer Peter Jackson’s comments about a producer-led industry.

Many submissions addressed feeling disenfranchised by the Commission (rather than supported by it) because of the requirement to attach a producer “too early” in order to qualify for development funding. The general opinion was that, with quality support from the Commission’s development staff, many projects would benefit from being further advanced before involving a producer.

Predictably, some submissions felt a degree of unhappiness with the Commission, because their writers were unsuccessful in attracting Commission funding to their little gem of an idea, because they felt the Commission should be more focused on their specific area of interest, or because the Commission is in Wellington and not next door to SPQR.

Now, however, it doesn’t really matter what was said or by whom. The two people whose opinions do matter spent yesterday afternoon sorting out how they’ll actually write and present the report to the Minister. Reportedly Messrs Court and Jackson have – in broad terms – a consensus of opinion on what the Commission should be.

The Minister gets to find out what that is at the end of the month. The rest of us will have to wait a little longer.

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