NZFC should be restructured: Jackson report

By Sam Dallas

An official review by legendary filmmaker Peter Jackson has criticised the New Zealand Film Commission, labelling it as “intimidating” and “distant and unapproachable”.

But the Lord of the Rings director says in the report, also undertaken by AFTRS’ David Court, that the Commission – which provides funding for filmmaking – needed to exist.

The report, which was based on opinions of many in the industry, found a common theme among filmmakers, with one person saying: “There’s almost an ‘us-and-them’ attitude. It’s death to creativity”.

Another says: “Hollywood can be very tough but they don’t treat you with the level of contempt that the Film Commission does”.

“The Film Commission can be very intimidating – that’s the perception,” one source said.

“They’re seen as gatekeepers.”

The report, commissioned by NZ Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson, said these concerns raised by filmmakers were “perhaps the most worrisome”.

“There is not only a lack of trust; it would appear that both sides have lost respect for the other,” the 87-page report said.

“There doesn’t seem to be a vision or long-term game plan and it’s hard to unite the industry without a clear idea of the ultimate goal.”

Jackson and Court recommended the NZFC be re-structured so staff made funding decisions, as opposed to only the board, which meet several times per year.

Other recommendations include:

  • being more talent-based in its policies and practices
  • relax commercial imperative in the development process, especially for first features
  • ease rules that allow the writer to have more creative control
  • review its distributor policy
  • recover control of its short-film program

The NZFC board chairman Patsy Reddy welcomed the report, saying in a statement: “It’s a tough position we’re in – there’s never enough money to go around. But we believe we can do better”.

“We have already been talking to filmmakers during the course of this review about ways to improve our work with them,” Reddy said, acknowledging they were pleased to see constructive solutions to helping the industry.

“The board and staff will now focus on how best to develop a long-term game plan which takes account of the report’s recommendations to focus on identifying, supporting and rewarding talent.”

To see the report, click here.