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Waititi drama receives NZ funding hike

Seasons two and three of Mystic go into production this month

A drama series produced by Taika Waititi will be among the first recipients of New Zealand’s fledging NZ$50m (US$36m) fund for premium productions aimed at international audiences.

The Te Puna Kairangi Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund, announced last year, is designed to attract further international investment in New Zealand’s screen sector and give opportunities to local creators and IP owners in the global market.

Annabelle Sheehan

It is also designed to support the local production sector’s recovery from Covid-19 by supporting high-quality productions that tell New Zealand stories for global audiences.

 

The first round of the fund was geared towards production-ready projects and will see NZ$21m put towards two drama series, two feature films and one documentary series.

These include Better the Blood (6×60′), from Hollywood director Waititi and Carthew Neal’s Piki Films, which follows a tenacious Māori cop who must stop a killer before he comes after her family. It will be written and directed by Michael Bennett, who recently co-created and wrote the TVNZ drama Vegas.

The other drama series receiving funding is family action-adventure Mystic, which was renewed recently for two more seasons by TNNZ and CBBC in the UK.

A coproduction from the UK’s Slim Film + Television and Kiwi prodco Libertine Pictures, it is set in the fictional town of Kauri Point and follows a group of complex young characters whose friendship revolves around horse riding.

The third season of documentary series Our Big Blue Backyard (6×60′) will also receive funding. The TVNZ factual show explores six of New Zealand’s spectacular and diverse marine environments to reveal the drama and surprising challenges in the lives of the charismatic wildlife characters who live there.

Across the five projects, which also include the feature films The Guinea Pig Club and The Convert, there is an anticipated collective spend of almost NZ$56m in a range of locations around the country, with an estimated spend on local jobs during production of over NZ$32m. International investment in these projects is over NZ$19m, according to the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC).

“This is an exciting opportunity to tell Aotearoa’s [the Māori word for New Zealand] stories to international and local audiences at a time when there is huge global demand for content, and boost the screen sector’s post-Covid recovery,” said NZFC CEO Annabelle Sheehan.

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