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NZ launches $36m production fund

The New Zealand government has launched a screen sector recovery package that includes a new fund to support the production of local stories with international appeal.

Jane Campion

The Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund opened towards the end of 2020, offering NZ$50m (US$36m) towards high-quality feature films or series over the next two years.

The main aim is to attract further international investment in New Zealand’s screen sector and give opportunities to New Zealand creators and IP owners to be competitive in the global market.

Eligible formats include single-episode television or non-feature films and series productions including drama, documentary, children’s and animation. Lifestyle and reality TV content is not included.

The move comes after the country’s screen industry last year launched a 10-year road map designed to grow the sector and make the country more attractive to overseas productions.

As a result of its handling of the pandemic so far, which saw it enter a strict national lockdown in March whilst closing its borders to travellers, New Zealand is currently Covid-19 free and enjoying an unprecedented boom in film and TV production.

Major blockbusters such as Amazon’s ambitious Lord of the Rings series, James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kirsten Dunst, have all shot in New Zealand over the past 12 months.

The Premium Fund is jointly administered by the NZ Film Commission and NZ On Air and is developed in partnership with government agency Te Māngai Pāho.

Annabelle Sheehan of the NZ Film Commission, Cameron Harland of NZ On Air and Larry Parr of Te Māngai Pāho discussed the fund during the Big Screen Symposium in December.

Interviewed by producer Emma Slade, the trio made clear the preference is for the fund to be accessed by Aotearoa New Zealand producers with their own IP, who can potentially bring aboard international coproducers for extra financing.

Preference will be given to those applications that show the highest capacity to develop skills and talent in the local industry, as well as proposals that demonstrate the highest level of New Zealand cultural content.

Preference will also be given to projects that are creatively assessed as having “bold and ambitious concepts” with international reach, and productions that can demonstrate established consultation, engagement with or inclusion of Māori creatives.

Consideration will be given to productions supporting opportunities for new, diverse and Māori talent. Applications that involve a Māori story must have Māori attached in two out of three key creative roles.

The first round of submissions is open until February 17 and more details on the fund’s guidelines are available here.

There will two rounds of production funding decisions, the first available for submission in the 2020/21 financial year and the second before the end of 2021/22.

The first round is intended to provide financial support to production ready projects to help mitigate the impact of Covid-19 for New Zealand production companies in the short term.

The second round will be for projects with longer production lead times and additional guidelines for this, if necessary, will be published closer to the time.

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