Following the announcement over the weekend of the new service offered by Libertine Pictures and partners, to assist productions seeking NZSPG support, allegations of conflict of interest have emerged.
One of Libertine’s joint Managing Directors, Paul Davis, is also a staff member of Film NZ – the body whose mission it is to attract those those international productions likely to want to access the NZSPG.
The concerns, which have been expressed by more than one individual, are that Davis (wearing his Libertine hat) is a position to benefit because he (wearing his Film NZ hat) has access to information about productions potentially coming to NZ before they’re common knowledge. Therefore, it’s been suggested, he may have the opportunity to pitch Libertine’s services before anybody else has the same opportunity.
It seems hard to argue that the potential for conflict of interest doesn’t exists, and Libertine hasn’t attempted to suggest that. Davis’ fellow MD Richard Fletcher told screeNZ that the partners in offering the NZSPG service (Grant Thornton, Tim Thorpe, Matt Emery plus Davis and Fletcher)
are all seasoned industry professionals and very familiar with handling potential conflicts of interest. In an industry as small as NZ it is inevitable problems may arise but in this instance it is a non issue.
Film NZ offered a considerably more detailed response on the issues of the extent of any potential conflict of interest and how the organisation has addressed it.
The agency called Davis “a distinguished and senior member of the New Zealand industry, with direct international experience and extensive knowledge of the international screen sector in which he has worked for 30 years” and confirmed that he “contracts to Film NZ on a part time basis as our Auckland representative”.
It also explained that his role was
“not to deal with international enquiries and he does not do this. Paul is not employed by FNZ on project enquiries. He does not have any input into enquiries, he does not have first knowledge, he attends no meetings or calls related to enquiries projects and he does not see the FNZ enquiries report. He does not deal direct on any international projects with any of our US customers, nor does he deal himself direct with the Studios or other major NZ customers.
Davis does represent Film NZ at the Cannes Film Festival, and has dealt with one company on Film NZ’s behalf at Cannes.
Film NZ doesn’t attend Cannes because “the likelihood of finding production at that market which would have wanted to shoot in NZ is relatively slight”. The agency directs its spend on attending markets elsewhere.
In the years Davis has been on contract with Film NZ, he has worked on two specific enquiries at Film NZ’s request.
One was The Wonder, the other was an unspecified title wanting information on financing.
Prior to establishing Libertine Davis assisted The Wonder to find a NZ distributor to satisfy a requirement under SPIF. Fletcher, named as a producer on The Wonder in its announcement out of Cannes this week, was approached about the project in January 2013 (again, before Libertine was in business). Fletcher’s involvement with The Wonder remains as an individual. Libertine has no involvement with The Wonder.
On the second project, Davis provided advice on financing after consulting with Film NZ. Davis has also attended meetings as Film NZ CEO Gisella Carr’s second with Studio and mini-major personnel in relation to the television incentive and NZSPG work.
Prior to his visit to Cannes this year, Davis discussed the potential conflict of issue with Film NZ. According to Film NZ,
We agreed that he could not utilise any contacts he has through our work, nor could he have contact with Studio personnel in relation to this. He has his own international relationships of course in this regard, from his own long career, as do others in his company, and he is in the same position as the individual line producers and NZ companies who will get direct (ie not through us) offshore approaches on projects and who also work for us on enquiries from time to time. As a result of this new service, we agreed that if he undertook any future hypothetical work for us that might bring him into conflict – there is none planned – that undertaking this work would need to be subject to consideration of any conflict of interest position before it was agreed.