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NZSPG a boost for inbound production

NZFC Chair Patsy Reddy, PM John Key, filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau celebrate

Earlier in the week, we took a look at the implications for local and co-productions under the new New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG). This article takes a closer look at the picture for inbound international productions.

Even before the NZSPG had nailed down all its criteria, the changes did the job of allowing Avatar sequels to be confirmed for production in NZ shortly before Christmas last year.

NZFC Chair Patsy Reddy, PM John Key, filmmakers James Cameron and Jon Landau celebrate

The Ghuznee Street Nativity Players celebrate Christmas coming early

The NZFC overview page is here, containing links to all the documentation currently available.

The headline numbers remain as announced before, an increase in the base rate of the scheme from the Large Budget Screen Production Grant`s 15% to the New Zealand Screen Production Grant`s 20% for international productions, plus a further 5% for productions that pass an economic benefits test.

Last week, Film NZ was in Los Angeles for AFCI`s Locations Show and promoting the increased incentive rates.

Gisella Carr told Screen Hub today, “The move to 20% as a baseline was very positively received at the LA Locations Trade Show, and in LA in general. While it is a fiercely competitive business, New Zealand’s screen industry has a great reputation, and people are actively interested in working here.

“While in LA Film NZ also hosted an extremely successful function on April 1 to celebrate the introduction of the new Screen Production Grant with some of our business partners in the US, as well as our Kiwi actors and creatives working there. Response to our release of the incentives information this week has also been very positive, with queries in relation to specific projects immediately coming back.”

Here, the document addressing changes from the LBSPG is brief as, essentially, there`s only one major change.

The additional incentive payments for films spending over $200 million in NZ, introduced informally for The Hobbit and later formalised to make it more widely available has gone. In its place is the additional 5% grant for productions delivering Significant Economic Benefits (SEB).

The main criterion to change from the previous additional incentives is that the threshold drops. The previous threshold was $200 million for features. The new thresholds are Qualifying New Zealand Production Expenditure (QNZPE) of $150 million for features and $80 million for TV series or other formats.

The intent is similar to that which triggered the deal around The Hobbit, but is now a little more specific and informed by the activities engaged in for The Hobbit.

Promoting the line “made in and with New Zealand” is the thrust of the intent behind offering the additional 5%, whether that`s achieved by upskilling crew, contributing to local screen-related infrastructure, showcasing landscape, and marketing the heck out of everything … expect more of those DVD extras.

There`s enough wiggle room in the criteria to deny money to productions which are deemed, for whatever reason, not to align with with NZ`s interests.

The SEB test is, like the NZ content test, is a relatively straightforward box-ticking exercise, requiring productions to score at least 20 of 30 available points. Like the content test, there are also sections within the test for which minimum scores must be achieved.

There`s a fast track option for returning producers who`ve met certain thresholds for NZ production over the last five years – although they still have to meet some specific criteria. It is, if you like, encouragement to commercial producers such as Jackson, Cameron and Tapert (and the studios and networks backing them) to keep their business here and not shop around for the best deal for each individual project.

As with the detail released around the incentives for domestic and co-production titles, there`s still more to come. The full NZSPG criteria will be published in mid-May, with LBSPG criteria and an interim document serving until then.

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