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The NZFC have announced that 19 successful projects will receive funding as part of Ara ki Te Puna Kairangi – The Premium Development Fund, with a total of 1.5 million offered. The successful projects represent a broad array of ideas with the potential to engage both local and international audiences, and includes projects by our very own DEGNZ members.

Hannah Marshall will go ahead with another season of drama series Alibi with her production company Plus6Four Entertainment Limited.

Roseanne Liang, Ally Xue, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau, alongside Creamerie Ltd, have received funding for a second season of the post-apocalyptic black comedy Creamerie.

Max Currie with Autonomouse Limited, has received funding for another season of Rūrangi, a queer and trans-positive drama.

Congratulations to all our members. We can’t wait to see the projects come to life.

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Thanks to the Doc Edge Festival, I was able to attend their opening night film The 7 Years of Lukas Graham, a story about Danish pop sensation Lukas Graham’s lead singer Lukas Forchhammer’s wrestle with fame. It got me thinking about the woeful state of documentary in New Zealand, something the guild identified at the 2019 NZ On Air Factual Summit in 2019 and sought to generate conversation about. COVID unfortunately disrupted our plans, but it’s back on our agenda.

One-off documentary internationally is in a strong place, although former Amazon Studios film head Ted Hope cautioned at the Danish doc fest, CPH:DOX, recently that the big players prefer documentary with mass appeal. Hope did go on to say however that with the proliferation of niche platforms catering to specialised audiences, there are greater opportunities for more distinct fare.

From Variety’s article:

One of the key things to recognize is the streamers’ need for a “targeted audience at a low price point,” [HOPE] stressed. “That’s basically the equation for efficiency. The most valuable type of audience member for a streamer is the new audience member. How do you attract new people to the platform? People that are not only passionate about something but have actually displayed their passion in a predictable way, are ripe precisely for that acquisition.”
Hope emphasized how different the business goals of streamers are from the world of exhibition. “It’s not profit and loss so much as customer acquisition. Drilling down to what that means I think reveals a lot.”

New Zealand documentary however is meant to target New Zealand audiences first, although with NZFC its international appeal is also taken into account when funding decisions are made.

In taking a look at the TV market for one-off documentary in New Zealand it’s pretty easy to see… there really isn’t one. NZ broadcasters on the whole aren’t interested in one-off documentary as they often tell us, although Māori Television does occasionally commission them.

Feature-length documentary suffers pretty much the same fate with the channels. While short form doco. has found its place with platforms and does attract NZ On Air funding, there’s nothing longer format for these documentary makers to go onto in TV, so they have to turn their heads to theatrical documentary features if they want to move to longer form.

Reviewing the latest figures/films available for NZFC-funded documentary feature for the  NZSPG/SPIF* and non-NZSPG/SPIF documentary films back to 2015 provides some interesting insights.

Please note: The funding totals are for NZFC administered funds only and do not take into account ‘market money’—Distributor/Sales Agent MGs, private investment, broadcast/platform fees or other non-NZFC investment. The box office totals are for NZ only and do not take into account Australia or Rest of World revenues.

In these latest stats:

  • NZSPG/SPIF films with higher budgets and commensurate marketing spend and screen numbers tend not to reach NZ theatrical audiences well, Chasing Great aside.
  • Non-NZSPG/SPIF films in general deliver a better Return on Investment (NZ B.O./TTL NZFC FUNDING) for every NZFC-administered dollar than NZSPG films in the NZ theatrical market.
  • Although the ROI of NZSPG/SPIF films is generally not great, the top two NZ documentaries by box office are NZSPG films, and four are in the top 10.

*NZSPG – NZ Screen Production Grant   SPIF – Screen Production Incentive Fund

 

NZFC FUNDED DOCUMENTARY FEATURES RELEASED 2015 – 2021

YR TITLE (In alphabetical order) NZFC EQUITY NZSPG/

NZSPIF

TTL NZFC FUNDING NZ B.O. ROI
21 Dawn Raid $1,715,000.00 $1,317,490.00 $3,032,490.00 $332,074.00 $0.11
21 James and Isey* $365,345.00 N/A $365,345.00 $522,101.00 $1.43
20 Six60 Till The Lights Go Out $580,000.00 N/A $580,000.00 $535,402.00 $0.92
20 The Girl On The Bridge $690,000.00 N/A $690,000.00 $21,855.00 $0.03
20 We Need to Talk About A.I.** $1,044,783.00 $1,044,783.00 No NZ Release
19 Capital in the Twenty  First Century $804,224.00 $2,010,560.00 $2,814,784.00 $85,458.00 $0.03
19 Herbs: Songs of Freedom $824,897.00 N/A $824,897.00 $97,015.00 $0.12
19 For My Father’s Kingdom $385,543.00 N/A $385,543.00 $63,762.00 $0.17
19 The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillips $600,000.00 N/A $600,000.00 $73,157.00 $0.12
18 Merata Mita: How Mum Decolonised The Screen $129,999.00 N/A $129,999.00 $39,039.00 $0.30
18 Maui’s Hook $100,000.00 N/A $100,000.00 $23,376.00 $0.23
18 She Shears $220,302.00 N/A $220,302.00 $133,474.00 $0.61
18 Born Racer $1,087,136.00 $2,717,839.00 $3,804,975.00 $155,588.00 $0.04
18 The Heart Dances – The Journey of The Piano: The Ballet $437,500.00 N/A $437,500.00 $33,502.00 $0.08
18 Wayne $574,980.00 $1,437,449.00 $2,012,429.00 $22,164.00 $0.01
17 McLaren $1,426,397.00 $3,565,992.00 $4,992,389.00 $768,248.00 $0.15
18 Yellow Is Forbidden $338,631.00 N/A $338,631.00 $46,716.00 $0.14
17 My Year With Helen $446,000.00 N.A. $446,000.00 $281,949.00 $0.63
17 Kim Dotcom: Caught In the Web** $1,010,628.00 N/A $1,010,628.00 N/A
17 Pecking Order $200,000.00 N/A $200,000.00 $538,378.00 $2.69
 

16

Chasing Great $1,026,678.00 $2,566,697.00 $3,593,375.00 $1,828,941.00 $0.51
16 The Free Man (AKA Welcome to the Thrill) $1,024,086.00 $2,560,216.00 $3,584,302.00 $18,817.00 $0.01
16 Poi E: The Story Of A Song $921,984.00 N/A $921,984.00 $1,199,830.00 $1.30
15 25-Apr $1,783,348.00 $4,458,369.00 $6,241,717.00 $19,390.00 $0.0031
*Still in theatres
  **No mainstream theatrical release

 

TOP 10 NZ DOCOS TO 2021

YR RANK TITLE TTL NZFC FUNDING NZ B.O.
16 1 Chasing Great (NZSPG) $3,593,735.00 $1,828,941.00
09 2 Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls(SPIF) ($1,900,000.00*) $1,820,000.00
16 3 Poi E: The Story of Our Song $921,984.00 $1,199,830.00
13 4 Beyond the Edge (SPIF) $3,799,385.00 $884,743.00
11 5 Billy T – Te Movie $1,000,000.00 $794,816.00
17 6 McLaren (NZSPG) $4,992,389.00 $768,248.00
17 7 Pecking Order $200,000.00 $538,378.00
21 8 Six60 – Till the Lights Go Out $580,000.00 $535,402.00
21 9 James & Isey $365,345.00 $529,270.00
13 10 Gardening with Soul $15,000.00 $489,931.00

*SPIF figure not available for this film so NZFC Equity Investment only.

 

Of course, the first question in examining the success or not of any film is “Did it reach its target audience?” And the next question could be: “How much was spent in doing so?” Target audiences can vary from niche small audiences to mainstream large audiences but budget level is generally meant to be reflective of expected audience reach. Looking at funding investment and ROI only, NZFC hasn’t done well with its documentary funding decisions over the last six years—One more thing on the list the new NZFC CEO could turn his head to when he arrives.

And for TV, lobbying NZ On Air to fund one-off documentary would obviously help—something ourselves and others are intent on doing.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

DEGNZ alumni Matthew Saville’s debut feature film Juniper, edited by Peter Roberts (DEGNZ), will be released in NZ cinemas on August 26. Starring Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, the movie follows a self-destructive teenager who reluctantly looks after his alcoholic grandmother as punishment and soon finds himself embracing life again.

As part of the Guild’s Drama Editor Attachment Scheme the production provided an opportunity for an emerging editor to shadow Peter Roberts over the course of the edit. DEGNZ member Brendon Chan spoke with us about his experience shadowing Peter, from assembly through to the final cut, an experience that was “really beneficial” and one that eased his worries about working on feature films.

Saville, who wrote and directed Juniper, spoke with NZFC about how this story is inspired by his own experience with his grandmother and how he “can’t wait for audiences to see this intimate story brought to life”.

Watch the trailer here and save the date!

 

 

 

DEGNZ member Peter Young’s film, The Last Ocean, has been named one of the top 10 best ocean documentaries by ScreenRant.

Released in 2012 and directed by Peter, one of Aotearoa’s leading nature cameramen, The Last Ocean follows activists as they race to protect Antarctica’s Ross Sea from being ravaged by fishermen, and raises the simple ethical question: do we fish Earth’s last untouched ocean or do we protect it?

This question was answered in 2017 when a joint proposal by New Zealand and the United States unanimously voted to make the Ross Sea a marine protected area. Speaking to NZ Herald in 2017, Peter expressed his relief and happiness that this decision “brings closure to an incredible 10-year journey, one that began with a passionate few and grew into an international environmental movement”.

The Last Ocean is available to rent or buy here.

 

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Go back fifteen years and it was pretty easy to figure out what success was for screen content. For the small screen it was the Nielsen ratings. For the big screen it was the box office. The show that knocked it out of the ratings park or the film that pulled significant box office clearly indicated it had found a lot of eyeballs. These measures only account though in essence for popularity.

What about the Māori news or information programme on a Sunday morning that Māori loved? Or the arthouse feature that had its world premiere at the A-list festival in Berlin and then did well at the A and B-list festival circuit but only did $250k at the NZ box office. This content reached its intended audiences, but they were niche not broad.

We all recognised this, though. Figure out your audience, broad or niche, and target your content at them. Even for niche audiences, you could still learn whether or not you were successful.

Nowadays, however, in a fragmented market, it’s not so easy to identify what success really is.

A series intended for Free-to-Air that doesn’t rate could find a much bigger audience when it’s moved to On-Demand. A film that does average box office in New Zealand could end up selling or being licensed to a global streamer and potentially be seen by millions more people than was ever thought possible.

The old indicators still work, but it’s simplistic to use them as the only measures of success, especially when popularity is the only yardstick being championed.

The digital world of content distribution has changed the paradigm and complicated how to measure real success, especially when those who control the means of distribution. Netflix, for example, rarely reveal what the very accurate data they alone have access to indicates about audience specifics.

To define a new measurement for screen content success, New Zealand company Parrot Analytics developed a 360 measurement system to take into account multiple points of digital activity around the world. This system is used by, amongst others, TVNZ, CBS, Disney, Sky, and WarnerMedia. Without the data from the content platforms available, this would seem a very valuable service. Perhaps something NZ On Air might want to consider to support their funding decisions if they don’t already utilise it.

But film sits in a very difficult position amongst this digital measurement system. The shared theatrical experience is considered first and foremost for film, unless you are making a telefeature. Filmmakers want their films to go on the big screen before they find their way to the small. Look at the ructions Warner Bros. created when they decided to send their entire 2021 slate straight to HBO Max at the same time as the theatrical release.

Even with the NZFC playing in the series drama space, NZ film is very much its raison d’etre. But the audience for New Zealand film just isn’t there like it used to be. The writing was on the wall before COVID arrived.

NZ film has had a tropical vacation in theatres while Hollywood has been on hold due to COVID, but winter is coming with the onslaught of backed up blockbusters about to hit us.

Amongst all the other changes needed at NZFC right now, defining success for NZ film is another thing that needs to go on the agenda. A paradigm shift in thinking is required because we can’t rely solely on box office numbers any more. Even more so because film is both art and business. There has to be room for both.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director