What Does 2019 Hold for NZ Film?

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I hope everyone is well and rested after the Christmas and New Year break.

As we kick off the year, I’ve been forced to ponder what 2019 holds for NZ film both personally and because it’s something we should all be asking ourselves with the changes in the global screen industry.

To come up with my answer, the first thing I decided to do was look back and see how NZ films performed at the Box Office domestically in 2018.

Box Office numbers in NZ as one indicator of performance are available and reliable, but they don’t paint a true picture for a number of reasons, including:

  1. NZFC’s mandate is as a cultural funding body not a commercially driven investor. A film doesn’t have to return its investment to make it worthwhile for them to fund it.
  2. International Box Office numbers are difficult to obtain and can be inaccurate.
  3. Other international revenues, such as a sale to a streamer like Netflix, can go unreported.

True returns on film investment, therefore, are difficult to determine.

Of course, like the Swedish with the Quadrant B films I’ve written about previously, we’d all love to have critically acclaimed box office successes, but they are few and far between anywhere.

However, to get NZFC funding you must have local theatrical distribution, and local Box Office is one measure used to rate the performance of a NZ film. So for starters, here are I believe all the NZ films that got theatrical distribution in 2018 with their box office (If I missed anything or am incorrect, please let me know):

  Title Genre NZFC Prod. Investment NZ Box Office
Narrative Fiction
1 Vermilion Drama Y $21,329.00
2 The Stolen** Drama Y $38,716.00
3 Human Traces Thriller Y $63,182.00
4 Stray Drama N $83,259.00
5 Kiwi Christmas** Family Y $301,494.00
6 Waru Anthology Drama Y $400,747.00
7 Hibiscus and Ruthless Comedy N $496,096.00
8 Broken Faith drama N $753,118.00
9 Mortal Engines* Fantasy N $1,428,448.00
10 The Breaker Upperers Comedy Y $1,776,484.00
Documentary
1 Wayne Doco Y $22,164.00
2 Maui’s Hook Doco Y $23,376.00
3 Yellow Is Forbidden* Doco Y $44,137.00
4 She Shears* Doco Y $132,512.00
5 Born Racer: The Scott Dixon Story Doco N $155,588.00
6 No Ordinary Sheila Doco N $356,243.00
7 They Shall Not Grow Old* Doco N $685,969.00

*Still in theatres at the end of 2018
**Received New Zealand Screen Production Grant funding—numbers were only available to 30 Sept. 2018; so one or more films in the table may also have received NZSPG but the info. hasn’t been released yet.

We can take a number of things from this table (with some added facts):

  1. Seventeen films received a release in 2018—a good number.
  2. Five of the 10 narratives were helmed by first-timers: Vermilion, Human Traces, Stray, Waru, Broken, and The Breaker Upperers (one of two co-directors). (Waru as an anthology film made up of eight shorts with first timers counts as one first time female director.)
  3. Three of the seven docos had first-time directors: Maui’s Hook, She Shears, and No Ordinary Sheila.
  4. Four out of the 17 films were female-led projects written by women with female protagonists: Vermilion, The Breaker Upperers, Waru and Yellow Is Forbidden.
  5. Waru and Maui’s Hook are Māori films and both address important social issues.
  6. Yellow Is Forbidden was NZ’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
  7. Local box office numbers range from poorly performing to bona fide hits.

We should remember that we are not comparing apples with apples here. Budgets vary wildly from a few hundred thousand for Stray and Waru to US$100 million for Mortal Engines. Distribution and marketing spend is equally varied. Budget size is a significant factor in profitability.

Stepping back a little, we can say that if 2018 is anything to go by, certainly output-wise, the NZ film industry is in good health.

So what about 2019?

Output
Output is likely to be over 10 films, both narrative and doco. We’ll hopefully have one box office winner. There’ll be a mixed bag of other films when it comes to quality and NZ Box Office, some of which will be critically acclaimed. Like the Australians, we do generally struggle to get NZ audiences to NZ films.

First-timers
We’ll continue to see films from first-timers, as NZFC looks for the next Jane Campion, Pietra Brett-Kelly, Peter Jackson, Annie Goldson, Niki Caro, Leanne Pooley or Lee Tamahori.

Female driven films
NZFC’s initiatives to address gender inequality should see more female-driven films coming through this year and certainly next.

Maori & Pacific Island films
Anthology film Vai is opening NATIVe at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival with eight female directors, seven Pacific Islanders and one Māori. NZ had one film in 2019 Sundance in Heperi Mita’s documentary about his mother Merata (Australia had 6).

Maori and Pacific Island stories and filmmakers are also receiving additional attention from NZFC, so there will be a flow through, but more likely from 2020 on.

Narrative and documentary
Ten narratives (58%) out of 17 is quite high. There may be a rebalancing with a more even percentage between narrative and doco.

The trend reflected in the NZ results reflects what is going on globally: drama, particularly arthouse drama, struggles to get box office (and financed) unless you have name cast or directors the likes of Debra Granik, Lynn Shelton, Alfonso Cuarón or Pavel Pawilkowski, or have built in audiences.

That said, first-timers or other directors with drama without name cast might well score the coveted Cannes slot that New Zealand hasn’t had for over 15 years. I predict, though, that we will see more genre and elevated genre projects coming through.

Documentary is low cost in comparison to most narrative films, and the market globally for docos is strong even though Netflix has cut right back on them. We will continue to see good documentary numbers going into production.

International Financing
I haven’t touched on this till now but it’s too important in today’s market to leave out. It’s been a tough film market out there, but reports from Sundance say the buyers are back in play and spending up big.

I’ve just seen a report out of Europe saying streamers will spend north of US$20 billion on film and TV in the coming year. This is new money that wasn’t around before Netflix arrived on the scene in 1997. A good chunk of this will go to TV series but film will definitely get some, so the world is awash with money at the moment for financing… for the right projects.

Considering the incredible change that has occurred in film particularly over the last five years, you could say things are somewhat positive for NZ filmmakers. And that’s not a bad place to be.

Of course if you want to make money, you should be in TV drama because it’s better than it’s ever been. Internationally anyway.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

First 2019 Table Read Now Open for Applications

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Applications open today for the first 2019 Table Read.

A core cast – max six actors – together with a writer+director team OR writer/director will collaborate on each script-in-development table read. The script must have a director attached and have been through a development process.

Four Table Reads per year on Saturdays @NZWG HQ in Grey Lynn.

2019 Table Reads

Table Read #1

Open: 21 January
Close: 15 February
Table Read: Sat 23 February

Table Read #2

Open: 15 April
Close: 10 May
Table Read: Sat 18 May

Table Read #3

Open: 8 July
Close: 2 August
Table Read: Sat 10 August

Table Read #4

Open: 21 October
Close: 15 November
Table Read: Sat 23 November

A Joint Initiative brought to you by:
NZWG, DEGNZ & EQUITY Foundation
With warm thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission

How to Submit a Script

DEGNZ and NZWG members are invited to apply for the script component.

Submit a full-length draft feature film script for your name to go into the draw for a day-long table read (names remain for subsequent draws).

WRITER + DIRECTOR* (OR WRITER/DIRECTOR) – Submit script via email to GuildHQ@nzwg.org.nz – Please check these details before you enter:

*Both must be a member(s) of NZWG and DEGNZ:

  • A solo Writer/Director must be a member of both NZWG and DEGNZ.
  • In a Writer-Director team, the Writer must be a member of NZWG, AND the Director must be a member of DEGNZ.

When you enter, please include this information:

  • name of writer, and if they belong to NZWG
  • name of director, and if they belong to DEGNZ

Actors: Call for Applicants for Table Read #1

We are looking for actors to work together with writers and directors on a script-in-development table read. Actors must be members of Equity New Zealand.

Actors, please register your interest below and the NZWG will contact you if you are cast. You will receive a Prezzy card as a nominal appreciation for your participation.

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Summer Giveaway: Whatever It Takes by John Reid

Whatever It Takes_John Reid

This summer, we’re celebrating the release of the much-anticipated new book by filmmaker, writer and DEGNZ Lifetime member John ReidWhatever It Takes: Pacific Films and John O’Shea 1948-2000.

In Whatever It Takes, Reid tells the true story of a man and his vision, and of the entrepreneurs and dreamers who gathered around him in pursuit of films that would define New Zealand cinema. In a career spanning fifty years, John O’Shea nurtured a generation of filmmakers.

Pacific Films was founded on the belief that without locally made feature films, a country imperils its very identity. Led by its idiosyncratic producer John O’Shea, the story of Pacific Films begins at the emergence of a New Zealand national cinema in the second half of the twentieth century, when Pacific was virtually the only independent voice, beholden neither to the government nor the establishment, but determined to establish the value of its production with both.

Win Yourself a Copy of Whatever It Takes

DEGNZ has one copy of this fantastic book to give away to a lucky member, thanks to Victoria University Press ($60).

Every DEGNZ member with a current membership on 28 February 2019 will be entered into the draw with a chance to win. Members who join or renew their membership by 28 February 2019 will also be in the draw.*

One winner will be drawn on 1 March 2019.

 

*Terms and Conditions of entry:

  • To qualify for this competition, your DEGNZ membership must be current on 28 February 2019. New or returning members must join DEGNZ by 28 February 2019.
  • Full, Associate and Student members are eligible.
  • Your membership gives you one entry into the draw.
  • DEGNZ will use reasonable efforts to contact the winner within 7 days of the Prize Draw date.
  • The Winner must respond and accept the Prize within 14 calendar days from the date of such contact or the prize will be forfeited and another draw undertaken.
  • DEGNZ’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered in to.