Creative filmmaking is a practical business. On this page you can find some practical advice for producing a successful film.

Finance and budget

Once you have a script ready for production, and a producer and director attached, you need to create a budget for your film. Work out how much funding you require, and create a cashflow schedule to show when you'll need it.

First films

First films are often low-budget as new filmmakers are usually unable to attract significant financing. Low-budget feature films are made for less than NZ$1 million and need to be made cheaply without compromising quality (shooting all in one room, or shooting on weekends).  There are a number of low budget initiatives available, including Make My Movie - which we support. You may also  secure your own finance through sponsorship or goods and services support.

Post production financing and prints & advertising grants are available to help some productions that have already been shot.

Getting your film seen

For features it’s important to consider how you’ll get your film seen. You need to ensure you’ve kept enough money aside to be able to deliver your film to the audience and to any festivals here or overseas for which it may be selected. Money will need to be allocated to marketing, a trailer, an electronic press kit, insurances (including Errors and Omissions Insurance), music licenses (world rights will be more expensive than domestic rights), archival footage (can be very expensive) and legal fees. Strong budgets contain roughly 40% for post-production and an unallocated contingency, for emergencies, of roughly 5-10%.

Finding Cast and Crew

A local line producer, production manager, casting agent, acting agency or drama or film school can help you find cast and crew. You may also find websites such as The Big Idea useful. 

New Zealand codes of practice

New Zealand has strict guidelines for employment. We suggest you get yourself a copy of the Pink Book (for cast) and the Blue Book (for crew).  These are the official codes of practice and are available through the SPADA website. The New Zealand Writers' Guild (NZWG), Actors Equity, The Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA), New Zealand Film and Video Technicians’ Guild and the Screen Directors' Guild of New Zealand (SDGNZ) can also offer advice. These organisations, in addition to actors’ agents, may also be available to help with template contracts.  International cast and crew may also be subject to specific Immigration requirements.

Contracting with the Film Commission 

As soon as possible during the writing process you should look to establish a new company to act as the holder of all rights and signatory to all contracts for the film. This company is known as a Special Purpose Vehicle or SPV. You can easily establish one online for a small fee by visiting the New Zealand Companies Office website. Think carefully about who will act as directors and shareholders in this company as this can affect ownership and say in the project. Company directors will be the signatories for contracts for the company.

Chain of title

Chain of title is a technical term referring to the chain of ownership of the idea the project is based on:   

  • If the team picks up a script that has already been started or is adapting another type of work into a film then the SPV will need an option and purchase agreement
  • If the team brings any writers on board to adapt the optioned work, or provide editing or consultant services, then a writer's or script consultant's agreement will need to be entered into with the SPV 
  • If either agreement is entered into with a party other than the SPV then that party will need to enter into a deed of assignment with the SPV prior to receiving funding

All rights must sit with the SPV and form an unbroken chain in order to be considered for our funding or distribution deals.  Templates for these agreements are available at the NZWG website.

Other agreements

If you receive financing from us, we’ll need you to enter into a funding agreement (which we can draft). We may also initiate a sales agency agreement and/or a security agreement and lab access letters. You will need cast and crew contracts for your lead cast and core team. We may also require a bank mandate, confirmation of insurance, completion bond, TV license, legal opinions, and any pre-sale or distribution agreements although many of these requirements are waived for lower budget films.

There are a number of local lawyers who can help with the various levels of contracting that may be required. If you’re seeking financing from us, please ensure you budget for our legal fees.

Preparing for a shoot - cost reports and DPRs. 

You will be expected to prepare cost reports and daily progress reports (DPRs) for the Film Commission and for other investors. Cost reports should clearly show what has been spent and what is expected to be spent against your budgeted spend and any variances. They should also include the contingency that has been spent to date. For any large amounts over and under budget, an explanation can be helpful. 

What does a DPR show?

DPRs should show:

  • call times
  • end times
  • break times
  • people on set
  • scenes shot
  • scheduled scenes not shot
  • rolls of film used/ratios
  • any accidents on set
  • an explanation of any other significant goings on. 

We expect to receive:

  • monthly cost reports during pre-production and post-production
  • weekly cost reports during production
  • DPRs during principal photography. 

These invaluable records are useful to monitor progress and on occasions when disputes arise. 

Recoupment and points 

Recoupment refers to how any income from your film is shared. For traditional distribution, GST, the exhibitors’ fees, distribution fees and distribution expenses will be paid out first along with any advance the distributor may have paid. This may leave some money for equity investors and to repay any deferrals that key creatives have made. The Film Commission often allow private investors to recoup before us. 

Sharing the profit

When we recoup our investment, our standard position is to allow a producer to recoup alongside us to the value of 40%. This means that we would be paid at the same time as the producer, with the producer receiving $4 of every $10 we receive. When the project has returned all money to investors then the project is in profit. We allow producers to take 50% of all profits, with the remainder to be shared between the investors in percentages equal to their share of investment in the film. 

What are points?

Points schedules outline how the producers’ share of profits are to be distributed. Points out of 100 equate to the percentage each individual cast or crew member allocated points will get.  While we operate a collection account for films to distribute the income to investors as per the recoupment schedule, it’s up to producers to distribute any income from their share.

Audience and market 

Filmmakers should make their films with a clear idea of their intended audience. Think about your audience when writing and shooting the film. This will help with implementing a distribution strategy. We expect all films that receive funding from us to have a theatrical release in New Zealand and we want to know how you’ll achieve that when you apply. Teams can approach sales agents and distributors before pre-production and some may even contribute towards the budget. This is known as a pre-sale or sales advance. 

Making an application

If you wish to make an application for financing please go to Production Financing.

If you have any questions on any of the above then feel free to contact:

Business Affairs – 

Professional Development –

Last updated: 
Thursday, 19 November 2015