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Vista flashes the cash

At its annual conference in Auckland, Vista Group International yesterday announced the Vista Foundation, which will manage a fund for the benefit of the local industry.

Vista Group Chief Executive Murray Holdaway

Vista Group Chief Executive Murray Holdaway

The Vista Foundation was established when cinema management software company Vista Entertainment Solutions went public last year, forming the Vista Group. The original shareholders of the Group endowed the Vista Foundation with c$750,000, to be used for the benefit of the local screen industry.

Speaking at the Foundation’s launch on Thursday, Vista CE Murray Holdaway said that the size of the fund going forward would be determined by the success of Vista’s businesses, which have done pretty well so far, and by the programmes and initiatives the Foundation’s board chose to pursue.

Welcoming the Foundation, DEGNZ ED Tui Ruwhiu said that any initiative which encouraged development of filmmakers was a good thing, especially one that created an additional revenue stream which wasn’t government cash.

Ruwhiu also said he was interested to see how Vista looks to build relationships with other industry bodies, including guilds, to develop further initiatives.

One of the quieter NZ screen industry success stories, Vista has been producing cinema management software since the mid-nineties. Back in 2013 Vista was noted as “one to watch” in NZ’s digital report, before the launch of its boutique cinema management solution Veezi and before buying into Movio. Established in 1996, the company’s software now drives almost 40% of the world’s larger exhibition companies (20 screen+) and operates in over 60 countries.

As well as setting out to raise $40 million for expansion last year, it rolled out its flagship Vista software into the world’s largest cinema chain, Regal.

Not surprisingly, the Vista Foundation will stick to its knitting in its first initiative, which focuses on the business side of film marketing. This is an initiative that sits well with the NZFC, whose Dave Gibson has more than once suggested during presentations to industry that many NZ filmmakers, producers in particular, need to improve their business skills.

SPADA’s Sandy Gildea and the NZWG’s Steven Gannaway both welcomed the Foundation and Film Marketing Programme. Gannaway called it “a positive, refreshing thing to be happening” in an area of the industry where filmmakers need help. He also appreciated that this was new money coming in, not robbing Peter to pay Paul to introduce a new scheme at the expense of an existing one.

Gildea said it was “really positive” that a company was reaching into its own pocket to support the industry. She also added that the proposed duration of the Film Marketing Programme, which will run for up to 10 years, meant that a lot of producers, writers and directors would have the opportunity to benefit – which had to be good for the industry as a whole.

The “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality also formed part of Vista’s belief in the importance of contributing to the industry. Although NZ films traditionally contribute less than 5% of NZ box office, Holdaway noted that wasn’t a holistic measure of their value.

“Local film industry activity influences the profile of movie-making and movies, and that influences the size of the cinema exhibition audience,” strong local filmmaking increased the general awareness of and interest in films.”

Rhys Darby MCed the event, which addressed both the launch of the Foundation and the announcement of the training initiative with the NZFC. Keeping the proceedings light and skipping along, Darby noted his own experience of films as something of a mixed bag but praised the success of the very savvy campaign supporting festival screenings and wider releases of What We Do in the Shadows – a campaign which is still in motion 14 months after the film’s premiere.

Roger Donaldson and Richard Taylor spoke in support of the Foundation and its aims. (Click image to play video)

Dialling in from Los Angeles was veteran NZ director Roger Donaldson, who’s the patron of the Vista Foundation. He’ll lend his reputation and experience to the Foundation’s board, which is in the process of being formed, rather than function as an active participant in delivering its programmes.

“When we made Sleeping Dogs, there was no Film Commission and we simply made it up as we went along. I’m amazed at what we created, but I also wish I knew then what I know now… The Foundation will help [filmmakers] develop those skills and I’m honored to be asked to be the inaugural Patron,” said Donaldson.

However, Donaldson is likely to be more active in the local industry in the none-too-distant future, having scored not one but two cheques from the first NZFC board meeting of 2015. The Smash Palace and World’s Fastest Indian director was supported for his doco McLaren, to be produced by Matthew Metcalfe and Fraser Brown, and historical drama The Guinea Pig Club about New Zealand plastic surgeon Archie McIndoe, which Tim Sanders will produce.

The SCREENZ article on the Vista Foundation’s Vista Film Marketing Programme, is here.