Issue date: 
Monday, 21 December 2020

Below is a transcript of the presentation the NZFC gave at the 2020 Big Screen Symposium held 4-5 December 2020.

Annabelle Sheehan

"Ko Annabelle Sheehan Toku ingoa. From Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga

E rau rangatira o te motu

Kātahi te tau poro taikaha nei  - ko tēnei,

Nō mātou te mihi maioha ki a koutou katoa

kua huihui mai mō tēnei kaupapa whakahirahira,

Tēnā koutou, Tēnā koutou katoa

Good afternoon

In today's presentation you will be hearing from myself, Chris Payne, Dale Corlett and Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka Tibble.

It is a great privilege to be here with you all in person. A major meeting of New Zealand filmmakers and the broader industry is a time when we can acknowledge together the hardship and the challenges of the year we have just had.

We can also celebrate the successes and achievements of our industry and everyone who works in it, and those who aspire to. The NZFC presentation today underlines the success of the screen sector both in this challenging year and seeing those in context with past results and new trends.   

The BSS theme of Transforming Culture is apt for this very moment as it asks us to consider both how we respond to change and how we can drive change. Culture will be impacted by forces external to each of us – no matter what your opinion – change will occur – but culture also changes from within because of the people who have committed themselves to change.

The building of the resilience and sustainability of the New Zealand screen sector is a project many here have been committed to and contributed to for some time. Further, so many here also believe that expansion must come with a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. A nation’s screen sector is built on the richness of the voices who have a platform to speak and on the diverse excellence and capacity of all its collaborators.

External forces have been changing the screen sector’s culture for some time – with streaming services impacting consumer habits, sector structure and financing.  Consumer choice – coupled with data analysis - has focussed attention even more on audiences and has fuelled the acceleration of a longstanding call for greater diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera. 

COVID only increased the embrace of streaming and the passion for the local  – a greater appreciation of our neighbourhood, our own stories. It also reminded us of our global connections – the stories told by a whole world in lockdown – memes, funny videos, heartfelt testimonies of struggle, songs of thanks. A global vigil that reminded us of our connections more than our divisions. And our need to balance the local with the global in a much more thoughtful way.

Every BSS the NZFC runs a showreel to look at some of the NZFC-supported films created, crewed, post-produced and championed by our industry. This really does come in the spirit of celebration of success at the core of what we all do – making screen stories. The reel today draws from those films made since we last gathered at the Big Screen Symposium in 2018. You will see a kaleidoscope of New Zealand talent and creativity – a mixture of local productions as well as some of the international productions that were shot or post-produced in New Zealand by New Zealanders since late 2018

Please note that this reel was made earlier in the year, when the BSS was to be held in April, so it does not cover ALL the activity since the last BSS.  

That’s impressive!

Gorgeous, sublime, funny, extraordinary, excellent.

The reel is a testimony to the balance of local and global – exemplifying the synergy of our local production industry creating and crewing both domestic New Zealand-driven stories as well as international work.  90% of crews on international productions are New Zealanders.

The images we saw also speak of the values that the NZFC seeks to match and to operate by – creativity, professionalism, courage, excellence, diversity, heritage.

This slide is a visual representation of our NZFC Statement of Intent – the values of our organisation – via our governance document. We are all in this waka together.

Our objectives - the five paddles of this waka - are what drive our daily work and create results for the screen sector in partnership with industry.

Our goals often intersect,and so too do the ways we look at and measure success in achieving these goals with the industry. 

Today I and our staff will navigate through a range of slides that speak to the way we serve these objectives. I will talk about some of the measures of economic success and then move to measures of maximising audiences. Chris Payne will talk about the economic growth that comes from successful partnerships when he speaks about co-productions. Dale Corlett will share some stories of the dynamic pathways that filmmakers have followed in the past year.  Te O Kahurangi will speak to a key aspect of our commitment to strong, authentic, cultural stories when she updates you on the Rautaki Māori achievements and its next phase.

So -----Economic Growth

This first slide covers the number of New Zealand jobs across both local New Zealand and international projects over five financial years. In this last financial year there were over 5,000 jobs for New Zealanders on international and local productions, up from just under 2,000 in 2014/15. The spikes and shifts don’t tell the whole story. Some projects will be of larger scale in crew numbers but have shorter shoots. Some will have smaller crews but last longer with higher spends etc.

And these jobs occur all over New Zealand .

This map gives a rough indicator of how these productions spread across the country.  In yellow are those released or shot in the last year.

And this next map shows 2015 onwards for international productions, with those in yellow shooting in this last year. In addition to these productions, there have been over 135 films that drew on New Zealand post and VFX companies.

Let’s now look at the spend triggered by New Zealand projects in New Zealand. This graph shows five years of New Zealand Screen Production Grant data.

The value of New Zealand productions supported by the NZSPG has risen considerably, with the spend triggered hitting $76.8M in the 2019/20 financial year, having started at $38M in 2014/15.

61 New Zealand productions and co-productions have been supported by the NZSPG since its introduction in 2014, including the films Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Mahana, Daffodils, The Changeover and Born to Dance, and co-productions such as 6 Days and Guns Akimbo and also television series 800 Words, Cleverman, The Dead Lands and The Luminaries

What is interesting about these slides is as the spend increases, it currently indicates the increasing use of the NZSPG by television drama since 2014. TV is green. A visceral reminder of the changing opportunities in the global marketplace – the demand and the available finance.

By contrast, the larger spends of international productions have predominantly been feature films.

As we know, that story is changing with significant numbers of international series drama currently in the country: Lord of the Rings, Sweet Tooth, Mr Corman, Cowboy Bebop and so on.

Since the introduction of the NZSPG International in 2014, the grant has supported over 100 international productions and attracted nearly NZ$2.5 billion to the New Zealand economy. 

A recent report by Jonathan Olsberg shows that typically over 60% of the spend productions make in New Zealand is outside the screen sector – in areas such as accommodation and catering. This makes screen production a massive value creator both for those inside and outside the screen sector. 

Several of the slides you have just seen contain data from the NZFC’s new Data Room which can be found on the NZFC website. 

The Data Room includes information relating to funding applications and approval volumes, the gender and ethnic diversity of filmmakers and other research that may be of interest to New Zealand’s screen industry.  The NZFC has made a commitment to capture and publish this information on an ongoing basis to allow comparisons across time.

New funding data will be made available at the end of each financial year.

There will be lots of interest, I believe, in our demographic stats such as for gender, stats for Māori filmmaking support and for diversity. Please visit the site and roam through all the data.

Data on economics is always significant to business sustainability, jobs and wellbeing and are all very important to our stakeholders – the New Zealand government and the New Zealand taxpayer.  But of course, a key driver and the driver of filmmakers and financiers is reaching and maximising audiences.

The NZFC assists New Zealand filmmakers and distributors to make their films successful in local cinemas. 

So let's talk box office...

What a great year at the box office!

We have been so proud to see the success of This Town and of Savage which have each reached great box office highs. Savage will end the calendar year in the top ten and held the number one position in the weekly rankings across many weeks of its release as did This Town. Already the box office figures for NZFC films in 2020 have exceeded 2019. Its great that New Zealanders came out for New Zealand films in a COVID time.

The chart here shows box office success since 2008. Dollars are in purple columns while the red line shows the percentage that New Zealand films represented as a proportion of the total New Zealand box office 

Since 2008 NZFC financed films have taken an average of 2.7% of the overall box office at New Zealand cinemas.  Looking across the ten years you can see lows of 1.7% in 2008 and .90% in 2015.

There have been some notable leaps – in 2016 when Hunt for the Wilderpeople was released that number jumped to 8.7%.  And two other years of highs were the year of Boy and in the other case a great slate of films with The Dead Lands, The Dark Horse and What We Do In The Shadows in 2014

As cinema-going habits change, our benchmark for success must also expand. We do monitor broadcast and on demand figures for NZFC funded projects. And we want to continue to work with filmmakers to find ways to track the success of their films in other viewing settings.

 Box office is part of the success but not all of it.

Film festival selection is another way the NZFC measures the success of the films we invest in. They play an integral role in the film industry and in the careers of filmmakers. The NZFC works hard to ensure the films it invests in get exposure at significant film festivals around the globe.

Festivals introduce new and emerging filmmakers to audiences and to other industry professionals who may be critical to their career pathway going forward.

Selection and recognition at a major festival can lead to invitations to other festivals, sales and important relationships.

If a film is going to reach a wider, global audience, film festival selection is crucial, not just in terms of the reviews and festival buzz it may generate, but in terms of international sales. 

With the closure of the NZFC’s sales agency in 2014 many New Zealand producers changed the way they finance their projects and have become even more entrepreneurial as they seek out their own market partners for both feature films and series.

These Screen Production Grant Figures from the last five years show that New Zealand screen projects involve a high percentage of new global finance. The slide shows the percentage ranges from 41% to 68%. This is all new money adding to the New Zealand economy.

The NZFC maintains strong relationships with international sales agents and works hard to connect producers with the right partner for their project.

Even in this crazy year, where travel has been largely impossible, producers have remained connected to the international marketplace through virtual meetings with sales agents, financiers and platforms.  

There have been in excess of 300 meetings held between June and October 2020.

The NZFC took part in the inaugural Cannes Marche online and NZFC supported 100 New Zealand producers and industry practitioners to attend.  Head of Marketing Jasmin McSweeney arranged 121 meetings for New Zealand producers and sales agents.

NZFC’s Chris Payne connected over 50 New Zealand producers to financiers, studios and streamers across more than 200 meetings.

The ambition is that New Zealand will continue to have a very diverse slate – global and domestic stories driven by local filmmakers and fuelled by international co-production financing. These introduce new funds, new international partners and platforms into our ecosystem.

I will now invite Chris Payne to join us and speak to the way in which co-productions contribute to economic growth – creating high impact screen stories drawing on excellent international partnerships while giving great talent new pathways. Four of the five objectives in one strategy."

Chris Payne

"Kia ora koutou

Ko Chris Payne toku ingoa

I’m sure when you got up this morning, you thought the highlight of your day would be treaty-based bilateral co-productions.

You’re in for a treat - hold on to your seats!

I’m first going to provide a quick overview, then I’m going to talk you through a few slides that give you an overview of the state of play.

The good news is, co-production is on the rise.  More on that later.

Aotearoa New Zealand has 18 official co-production arrangements, spanning Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Africa and the Middle East.

“Official” means a project structured and approved under one or more of these arrangements, which are government-to-government agreements (or in the case of Australia and France, screen agency to screen agency agreements).

This slide features a selection of film and television projects that utilised these treaties.

As the posters attest, there’s a huge diversity of genre, talent and treaty partners collaborated with – these projects alone involve Australia, UK, Canada, China, Germany, France and Ireland.

Each co-production is different, but in general terms, they’re all built on the idea that each country’s creative involvement (people), spend and financing is aligned. 

So a 50-50 NZ-Germany co-production would typically involve:

  • 50% of the people involved being New Zealanders/Australians or Germans/Europeans
  • 50% of the spend being against New Zealand costs and 50% against German costs
  • 50% of the financing raised by the New Zealand co-producer and 50% by the German co-producer

Each treaty has its own little nuances, but in general terms this is how a co-production works.

It’s not rocket science, but it is typically a fair bit more complex than a purely domestic production, given the legal, financing and related considerations involved.

Some key reasons to structure a project as a co-production include:

  1. Access to local and foreign incentives and subsidies (in New Zealand an official co-production automatically qualifies as having significant New Zealand content, meaning it doesn’t need to meet the NZSPG 40% points test and is eligible to apply for NZFC funding).
  2. Access to talent from the other co-producer’s country.
  3. Access to the domestic market of the other co-producer(s) (e.g. China has a quota system for feature films, but official co-productions count as local productions and bypass this quota and are entitled to a higher percentage of the box office share than imported films.
  4. The ability to pool financial resources and share the associated financial risk.
  5. The ability to deliver projects of larger scale.

Not all projects are suited to official co-production though – we encourage you to engage early with me or Mladen Ivancic (our COO) to discuss.

We’ve also recently published comprehensive co-production guidelines on our website, so you can head there for more information.

Let’s get into the data...

Co-production typically involves a two-step approval process:  Provisional Approval and Final Approval.

This data set includes all final approvals, along with any new projects that have received provisional but not yet final (because they’re currently in pre-production, production or post-production).

This slide shows the countries New Zealand producers have co-produced with most over the past 32 years.

Blue is film.

Orange is TV.

Grey is web - web series co-production, Fierce Girls co-produced by Rotorua’s Nikolasa Biasiny-Tule of Awatea Tech.

Mustard is the cumulative total for each country.

Since the very first official co-production in 1988, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey through until our most recent provisional approval issued last week, we’ve approved 98 official co-productions – 41 feature films, 56 television productions and one web series.

Canada, UK and Australia feature as the top three by total volume, with differing levels of film and TV co-production activity.

Over the past five years a total of 29 co-productions have been approved.

This five-year period alone represents around 30% of all co-productions approved since 1988.

In the previous five year period (2011-2015) we approved 15 co-productions – basically half the volume.

In short, co-production activity has been increasing, with a particular increase in the past few years – as the next slide will show.

This slide shows the total spend in New Zealand and against New Zealand elements during the 1988-2020 period, by year.

Red is film.

Orange is TV.

Mustard is web.

Green is total value.

Total co-production spend over the 32-year period = NZ$841m

Of this, the total New Zealand spend over the 32-year period = NZ$439m

So around 52% of the total spend is New Zealand spend.

The key thing I’d note with this slide are the rolling peaks and troughs over the period.

There are a range of reasons for this, including specific historical events or otherwise in any given year, whether these relate to the sector (e.g. a new treaty) or outside it (e.g. global financial crisis).

One overarching comment I’d make is that, fundamentally, we are reliant on New Zealand producers choosing to pursue an official co-production structure for any given project i.e. it’s producers and the market that determine the volume of official co-production activity in any given year, and clearly not the NZFC!

As the slide shows, from 2018 onwards we’ve seen a sharp increase in the NZ$ spend of film and TV co-production activity.

Total New Zealand spend of official co-productions over this five year period is NZ$260m.

Noting again that this figure includes both final approvals and provisionals for projects in pre-production, production and post-production.

You’ll see that there was a marked increase in 2018 and 2019.

This is attributable in part to The Power of the Dog (NZ-Australia), but also to a raft of other TV and film productions with significant NZ spends, such as The Kiddets (NZ-China), Mosley (NZ-China), The Sounds (NZ-Canada), Guns Akimbo (NZ-Germany) and The New Legends of Monkey Season 2 (NZ-Australia).

The decline in spend value in 2020 YTD is in part due to COVID-19, though this value will increase with one approval just given and 5-10 additional approvals likely during the remainder of this month alone.

Some of the reasons for the increase in spend and the volume of projects receiving co-production approval over the past few years include:

  • Financial imperative

Despite the rise of the streamers and their need for content, the world of independent film financing and production remains challenging.  International co-production provides a means for producers to create projects of scale that draw on an array of national and provincial funding and incentives structures.

  • More New Zealand producers progressing into projects with larger budgets, which can often be official co-productions

e.g. Fraser Brown, Ainsley Gardiner, Georgina Conder, Chelsea Winstanley, Tom Hern, Catherine Fitzgerald, Emma Slade, Mia-Marama Henry-Teirney.

  • Increasing profile of New Zealand talent and projects

In part through the amazing work of Taika Waititi, but also a raft of others doing us proud on the world stage such as Chelsea Winstanley, Jackie Van Beek and Madeleine Sami, Roseanne Liang, Ant Timpson and Tusi Tamasese to name just a handful, all contribute to positioning New Zealand as an outstanding creative collaborator for co-production.

  • Strong incentives

NZSPG 40% alongside potential NZFC equity is an attractive proposition e.g. growth in trans-Tasman co-production in recent years in TV, and increasingly in film.

  • Greater treaty flexibility and innovation

NZ-Canada treaty as great example – allows for 1-2 non-party key creatives (e.g. American writer and/or director), as well as not needing alignment between per country spend and creative, or per project alignment between financing and creative for each country.

This gives greater flexibility when structuring projects, such as Screentime NZ’s recent telefeatures, A Love Yarn and Together Forever Tea, which both made use of the new treaty to shoot here and post in Canada.

We’re also seeing innovation in co-production structures that reduce the need for international travel, while still enabling international collaboration to occur  e.g. co-directing and remote directing, along with archival-based documentaries.

  • Increased co-production connecting activity by the NZFC

e.g. in-person and virtual speed dating sessions for experienced producers with sister agencies

Increased profiling of New Zealand as an attractive co-production partner

e.g. NZFC having a presence at key co-production markets and hosting panels such as our recent AFM Online panel with SPADA that featured Richard Fletcher, Chelsea Winstanley and Rob Tapert in conversation with Variety’s Patrick Frater.

e.g. meeting with projects in official selection e.g. this year I spoke on co-production panels at Hong Kong FILMART and Durban FILMART, and have taken many project meetings at these and other virtual markets such as FIN Partners CNXN (Halifax), Golden Horse (Taipei), Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event (Tallinn) and Asia TV Forum & Market (Singapore – this week).

I hope this gives a good co-production snapshot, and feel free to come and see me after the session with any questions or drop me and Mladen an email at​"

Dale Corlett

"I am going to very briefly talk about one of the key areas of focus for the NZFC Talent development team.

That being talent progression.

We have a focus on supporting new, emerging, mid-career and established writers, directors and producers to progress into long-form storytelling.

As you can see from this slide, there were 53 filmmakers who have previously been supported through an NZFC Talent Development or Rautaki Māori development programme or initiative over the past five years who this year progressed into long form story development or production.

These were the ways in which they did that: through Documentary Development, Early Development, He Ara, Raupapa Whakaari – series development and feature film production.

Of course many other filmmakers progressed over the past year through these routes who hadn’t been supported through our programmes as they are not a pre-requisite to applying for these opportunities.

My final slide shows the talent progression pathway – once again it’s worth noting these are certainly not the only pathways filmmakers use to develop their skills and projects.

These are the films that received some form of feature film production finance in the 2019-20 financial year.

And these are the various Talent Development-funded opportunities and programmes that the key creatives attached to these films have utilised and been supported through over the past five years.

This support is a mix of NZFC Talent Development, Rautaki Māori, International Relations and Marketing support.

The blue-grey circles are devolved programmes like Script to Screen’s Story Camp, Film Up and Strength in Numbers, The pink is Premiere Pathways – which is a previous programme we had that became our Catalyst He Kauahi short films programme, the green is international programmes we support and the black are opportunities that the NZFC directly deliver.

The arrows show the connections between the various opportunities and the talent attached to the films. Each arrow represents a member of the key creative team.

As you will start to see these filmmakers have utilised various pathways to develop both their film projects and their skills.

For example; short films continue to be a key step for talent to develop their skills, craft and to hone their unique voice

Script to Screen programmes like Story Camp and Film Up and our On he Job Development Programme continue to be used to developm skills and craft.

BOOST and He Ara have been used by producers to develop their slate of work.

As I said before, these are not the only ways in which talent progresses. 

For example, there are other devolved routes like SEED through the NZWG, 48hrs and Loading Docs that are also key steps for some talent to develop work and their skills, helping them progress.

We hope by showing you this example of how some have progressed, you will see there are a various ways you can access support, whether you are new, emerging, mid-career or established.

There is more than one door, more than one opportunity, more than one route for you to develop your skills, craft and projects.

If you want more information about any of these opportunities, please get in touch.

Thank you.   Kia ora."

Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka Tibble

"E aku huia kaimanawa o te Ao, tēnā koutou katoa

Te Rautaki Māori is about partnership

The NZFC currently have Māori specific funds under Te Rautaki and Māori can also access any of the NZFC's other funds as well.

Te Reo Māori is a key driver for Te Rautaki funds and in line with the objectives for the Maihi Karauna aspirations of all government agencies role in the revitalisation of te reo Māori.

My next slide shows films that have been supported over the past three financial years with one or more Māori key creative.

Part of the review of the Rautaki Māori is hearing the concerns of the industry especially around the accountability of Māori stories, whakapapa, names, landscapes and te reo in scripts – especially by non-Māori writing Māori perspectives.

These are areas that will be part of the consultation hui early next year.

Above is the proposed consultation timeframe and review of Te Rautaki Māori for 2021-24.  If you would like more information about this, contact us at"

Annabelle Sheehan

"We are currently in a period of ‘peak production’ and this trend looks like it will continue into next year, which is fantastic news for everyone who works in the industry. It’s building waves of new creative filmmakers in all sorts of crew roles.

Five local features are prepping to start production in first half 2021 triggering $21.6M spend and jobs for approximately 430 Crew members.

The NZFC estimates a spend by international live-action productions of between NZ$330 and $445 million in the first six months of 2021, delivering New Zealand jobs numbering between 2900 and 3900. Subject to border exemptions and availability of spaces.

Thank you so much for being here and listening to me this morning. 

Without all your hard work and dedication to the industry we would have far less to celebrate, so I thank you for all that you do to keep the screen sector thriving and growing."


Last updated: 
Monday, 11 January 2021