Here We Go Again New Zealand

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Well it’s that time of the year! Seems almost every October the US studios start bullying New Zealand into handing over more free taxpayer money or else they’ll pull film work from the country. This time it’s about Avatar:

After the success of movies like The Lord of the Rings and Avatar, the New Zealand film industry is now facing crippling losses.

There are new calls for the Government to review tax incentives for foreign productions as the industry faces losing a billion dollar blockbuster.

Industry rumours about Avatar have been flying thick and fast – that production is moving to Australia or even Mexico.

Is Fox really going to pull Avatar from NZ? No way. However the idea here is to deliver a few threats, scare some people into protesting to save Avatar, and chich-ching: Politicians start handing over the free money to the studios. It was almost 3 years ago to the day that Warner Bros pulled the same shenanigans:

New Zealand: Casualties Of The Film Subsidy War – The real reasons Peter Jackson almost took the Hobbit out of NZ.

US Studio Warner Bros. Leverages NZ – What NZ had to do to keep The Hobbit.

Back in 2010, New Zealand was experiencing a record high .75 NZD against the US dollar making it far more expensive to do The Hobbit there than the last time they made the Rings films. Given that NZ’s 15% film subsidies were much lower than UK, AUS, and Canada, Warner Bros. figured it could leverage the NZ government into handing out more money. After a bunch of protests by citizens to “Save the Hobbit!”, the Prime Minister of NZ held emergency meetings with the Tea Party… err I mean Warner Bros. and surprisingly NZ handed over larger subsidies to keep the Hobbit there.

Now in 2013, the same dynamic persists under much more pressure. It’s now almost 15% more expensive for US studios to do work in NZ with the NZD now hitting another record of .85 to the US dollar. The subsidies are still much less than other countries and with Peter Jackson contemplating slowing down, New Zealand is unfortunately a good target for another round of leveraging.

Soldier On.

41 Responses to Here We Go Again New Zealand

  1. foxly007 says:

    Why do they need the U.S. to make films?

  2. contessa12 says:

    The NY Post headline would read the following: serial rapist at large, first Vancouver, now in New Zealand!
    The US movie moguls are as bad as the ceo’s in the banking industry. They are greedy bastards who go from country to country raping the taxpayers on the promise of an industry only to have their hopes dashed. The face of the ugly American. Just disgusting!

    • OccupyVFX says:

      Is it the moral and ethical responsibility of the heads of major movie studios to not take advantage of generous tax subsidies in foreign locations to the detriment of the foreign tax payer?

      Absolutely not. These people run a business, and are wholly-owned subsidiaries of publicly traded companies. As a result, the heads of major studios report to their bosses – the shareholders. Their only mandate is to turn a profit and maximize shareholder value. If they do not fulfill their mandate, they get fired. It’s that simple.

      I think that we should focus our anger, instead. on the governments that choose to offer this type of corporate welfare to the movie studios, at the expense of their own taxpayer’s well being. I’m not sure how it works overseas, but in the US, you had better believe that politicians who favor film industry incentives receive large campaign contributions from organizations affiliated with the major studios and the MPAA.

      The system is fraught with corruption and disease, but if states, provinces, and sovereign nations either did away with these laws or never enacted them in the first place, the studios would not be able to leverage New Zealand, or any other place, in such a fashion.

      • vfxmafia says:

        I don’t mean to play the devil’s advocate, but it is an international free for all right now. It is country vs country.

        Subsidy’s are good for these countries. (just ask all the neebie artists that now have work). Subsidys do work in the short term. In the short term their tax dollars are buying jobs…..(although essentially taking tax payer money and giving it away). How cost effective it is to their tax payers……is another debate……But it IS creating jobs for their own country.

        But in the long term….the subsidys have a far more sinister effect. Subsidys are desimating the companies in the US….and eliminating competition. I don’t think LA will recover. The longer the subsidys last the more US vfx workers leave the business or leave the country.

        You are correct that these countries are waging “economic warfare” against us.

        Im sure the US is engaged in economic warfare against other countries as well (but not in the VFX industry). The US subsidizes the oil industry, the bank industry, the farm industry, and auto industry. The US government doesn’t see US VFX workers worthy of saving…..and that’s the plane and simple truth…we are not “economically viable”.

        A billion dollars in subsidy money in a trillion dollar economy is nothing. During the government shut down we waisted $24 Billion………man couldn’t we just used a billion of that to fight BC or the UK?

        You can argue all you want about how subsidys are a waste of BC tax payer money….but our own Congress pisses away more tax dollars on the most egregious shit. (like a government shutdown)

        Im more pissed at the US government than other countries governments. (Least BC and UK and New Zealand are looking out for their own people).

        The US wastes more money on planes we don’t use…..or tanks that sit in some parking lot….or tax breaks for GE, Bank of America, and Exxon. US VFX workers just picked the wrong industry to be in. We should have been defence contractors.

        How do you fight “International economic warfare” without the help of the US government? I’m more pissed at the US government for not passing trade laws that protect US jobs or opening its pocket book for US subsidys.

        Maybe we should be more pissed at the US government for not protecting its economy.

      • Rob says:

        “It’s that simple.”

        I’m not sure. After all, big corporations dictate politics. And they define what rules everybody should follow. Neither politicians, nor average citizens have much of a say in those matters. Unless some politician grows a spine or people start a revolution (or at least unionize).

        Which is why I’d put greedy corporations right on top of the blaim-chain. Followed by average citizens. Because by being the unquestioning followers many are, blindly accepting one bullshit excuse after the other and their acceptance of capitalism as the one and only true and right doctrine (“A company simply has to make as much money as possible. That’s the way it has to be.”), they make it possible for corporations to act the way they do.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Rob I agree……

        US studio interests, VFX owners interests, The US governments interests, and US labor interests are all different.

  3. VFX_Reckoning says:

    That’s to bad.

    NZ and many other countries need to take the initiative and invest that tax money into their own studios and distribution.

    No, they won’t be able to compete against that U.S. stranglehold on international box office at first, but they sure as hell could build their industry and compete domestically. Even the U.S. studios had to do that at first. Eventually they would be able to compete internationally as well.

  4. vfxmafia says:

    Hate to say it. You HAVE to have subsidys to compete…unless some miracle the CVD ruling happens. Producers won’t let you bid unless you have a satelite office in a subsidy zone.

    Los Angeles now can’t compete in this environment without subsidies. I hate to be the harbinger of doom….but Los Angeles is dieing fast….and no help is coming. Sad but true.

  5. boba fett says:

    Where have you been? LA is already dead.

    • vfxmafia says:

      been surviving off 3 week commericals…..while planning my move to Vancouver…thats where I been.

      • hector says:

        don’t go Vancouver. Try to change and do something else. It is sad, but sooner or later you will do this. Going for Vancouver, you gonna lose the battle. Working for a subsidies location, this means: YES to subsidies, even if you are against.
        Change the field – it is dead anyway.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Many of us are in the same boat.

      • CanadaVFX says:

        As a Canadian, who has read all of the BC bashing on this site for a long time now, I just have to say I find it the ultimate hypocrisy that so many of you who slam subsidies and rally against what’s happening day after day don’t have the balls to stand by your convictions. If you are against subsidies and are so angry about BC offering them to film makers, then by all means PLEASE don’t come to Vancouver to take jobs away from Canadians. Stand by your priniciples and go on this site and rally against it. Work on the CVD. But please don’t go to New Zealand, London, or BC and take jobs from citizens in those countries when you are so adamantly opposed to the work being there. Don’t be a hypocrite. If you’re fundamentally opposed to subsidies and are going to change the world then do it. But don’t come up here to suck off the teat and then slam the country you’re making a living off of. Because you know what? We don’t want you.

      • Dave Rand says:

        When the subsidies end will you stay put then?

        A better plan would be to petition BC to invest in a sustainable future.. or when the subsidies end or Montreal’s government or some other government out bids you….you’ll then realize you’ve really built nothing.

        Rather than lash out at other artists, we are thinking of ways to help build their own futures based on talent and branding rather than political schemes for votes and artificial economies that burst at pin prick.

      • CanadaVFX says:

        First off, the subsidies won’t end, because no US based Coalition is EVER going to have the right to tell Canada what industries it’s allowed to subsidize. Sorry, but we’re not about to tell the US what they’re allowed to subsidize and I guarantee you the reverse ain’t happening. So let’s get that on the table now.

        Secondly, I don’t rally against subsidies. I see it as part of the global nature of the industry. Do actors get to whine and moan about having to travel the world because their film is shooting in Zimbabwe, Croatia, or Mexico? Do grips and DP’s get to tell Sony/Universal/etc that they have to shoot films in Los Angeles because they don’t want to travel the world? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in live action, and the reality is it’s never going to work that way in visual effects again either. It’s a global industry and that’s the train I’m on. I’ll go where the work is, period.

        Imagine the crew on Breaking Bad saying they refuse to work in New Mexico because it’s subsidized and they’ll only work in LA. Or the cast/crew of Oz refusing to work in Michigan. Or all of the crew gearing up to head to England to work on the new Star Wars films. Do you think because it’s subsidized anyone in live action gets to tell film makers where they can and can’t shoot. That’s ludicrous. Studios will go where the work is cheapest and they can put together the best production for the money. Period. And I’ll follow because that’s the industry I’m in. If I didn’t want to, then I’d choose a different industry. If I was an actor that didn’t like travelling I guess I’d just do gameshows and local LA television. What I wouldn’t do is go on websites and try to change the global industry.

        My point was, don’t go on sites like this, hold town halls, join protests, and claim that subsidies are “illegal” and you’re going to change the laws, and then move to Canada when the going gets tough. I respect people who have a point to make and will stand their ground in making it. As ultimately futile and misguided as I find their efforts. And I respect those who just admit it’s a global industry and go where the work is. Pragmatists if you will. What I don’t respect are people who go on sites like this, slam the Canadian industry and it’s government, and then hop on the next Bus up the I-5 to Vancouver when they want to cash in and take advantage of those same subisides they claim were illegal and immoral. Pot? Kettle?

      • vfxmafia says:

        @ canadaVFX….

        Let me get this straight. Your one provence alone (BC) dumps $1 billion dollars in subsidys over 2 years……effectively driving 5 US companys to go bankrupt and displacing 2500 US VFX workers.

        Then you have so little VFX workers in your own provence that you can’t staff your companys…….but I’m the asshole because Im looking for a job in YOUR “global” industry.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Your are right. We can’t tell Canada what to do with their taxpayer’s money!!

        We CAN however impose a tariff for goods created in subsidized locations like Canada and brought back into the US that have almost destroyed our own local VFX industry.

        Canada has a strict tariff schedule of its own to protect its local industries.

        I encourage people to read previous posts on the CVD effort and discover what it’s really about.

  6. Andreas Jablonka says:


    the actors and crew get flown there on STUDIOS dime. they are not asked to relocate themselves and pay for it.

    you cannot staff the satelites offices there were forced to open. hence foreigners being imported. noted that i did not even say missing skill in existing workers, i said missing workers.

    i agree its a bit hypocritical to rally against subsidies and then relocate to work in canada. but since you do have to work and the job just moved there you follow it. i can see your point though.

    • Charlie Don't Surf says:

      The artists I have met ( myself included ) who have had to relocate internationally for work, have had their visa expenses and flights paid, hotels provided ( for a certain period ) and a relocation package, usually in the thousands of dollars.
      This is true of NZ,/Canada/UK/Australia/Singapore and even China.
      You’ve worked in Canada and NZ. Are you telling me you didn’t get these packages?

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Re read my post. I said actors and crew. Film set people NOT vfx artists.
        We get a flight and minimal startup help for 2 weeks. Not because they are nice but otherwise nobody would do it. You still have double rent, double tax, etc.
        it’s a horrible way to treat your artists.

        Actors and crew get paid all accommodation, they even get a per diem to spent as production knows the extra cost of traveling. They also get paid in their home. In the same way. No new bank account. No double tax.
        They get respect!

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        why would you get double taxed? you’re not american.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        and why would you have double rent? if you take a gig in a foreign country shouldn’t you give up your lease or at the very least, sublet for the duration of the contract?
        PS: I’ve been on shows where the vfx crew that was flown in from overseas got put up in a hotel for the duration of the gig. it’s not unheard of.
        mate…of all the things we should be discussing…. this strikes me as a particularly unimportant issue.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        Your opinion is only one on here. So I don’t care if you don’t find it troubling. It’s a respect thing.

        For short gigs say up to 3 months you get housing in
        Special cases like IMAX or weta. Most if the time you are on your own.

        Double rent because many if us own houses in our town. Not suitcases like you seem to own. It’s not always fesable to break a lease. And it’s a hassle. Something artist should not have to deal with. LA had a sustainable work environment where you could have a home to keep. You are just one of the guys who drank the cool aid and enjoy being displaced all the time for work. If you are happy great. Many of us are not!

        Double tax because you pay taxes in Canada (or wherever) and in the us. Doesn’t matter that I’m not American. Also irrelevant as I post for the general artist not about myself.
        And since you have a narrow point if view as usual I’ll add that yes I know done country can have you tax exempt (nz) if it’s under 6 months while other country’s can be your tax home if you stay over 11 months per year. Then you won’t get taxed in the us. But many gigs are for 3-8 months and that screws you. If you were paid through the us office like crew and filmstars are this would be a non issue.

        Anything else you wanna nitpick?

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        nah, that’s alright. I’ve noticed you don’t like being challenged so there’s really no point in debating anything with you.
        good luck in your silly crusade.
        ps: don’t presume to know me or my motivations.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        I dont mind being challenged but you assume i argue for just my situation which is wrong and the above you cannot dispute so I rest my case here. Also anonymous challenges are lame.

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        I have nothing to say to you other than adding that I hope you see the irony of your statement being posted on a website run by an anonymous vfx artist.

    • vfxmafia says:

      What is hypocritical is you use subsidy money to generate Canadian jobs……but the population and talent pool is so small that you create and excess of jobs that can’t be staffed. And then you pay out the subsidy money to foreign workers…….

      (essentially giving away your own jobs with your own taxes)

      Im actually for US protectionism…….Im for US tariffs and yes I wouldn’t turn down US subsidy money as temporary help. And I wish I could get some of the $24 billion in wasted money from the government shutdown…….and use to it to push back against Canada and the UK.

      So am I still a hypocrite if I am for California subsidys?

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        Not from my perspective. I am not in California, but I support California subsidies.
        And i contend that the money is not necessarily used to generate jobs for Canadians, but jobs IN Canada.
        Despite both of the US and Canada being nations built by immigrants, Canada currently has a much friendlier immigration policy, particularly for skilled workers.
        These workers, regardless of being Canadian citizens pay taxes and consume in the local economy. In both countries where I have worked, the rebate provided by the government on work done there was between 20 and 30%….yet in both places I paid roughly 40-50 per cent of my income in taxes.
        From my perspective, I can see where and how the government is geting an immediate benefit in my presence in their country.
        Anyway, this is getting off topic. Good luck to you, vfx mafia. Enjoy your time in Vancouver, as I’m sure you will. I hear it’s a great city to live in.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Thanks for the well wishes Charlie ……

        I understand that I will be paying 42% in taxes in BC. I also read a statistic that 50% of BC film workers salaries are paid by the government……

        If the Canadian gov is jacking my taxes………and the taxes are going to subsidys……aren’t I ….on some level funding my own subsidys? LOL

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        sure. as well as universal health care, affordable education and a working social security system, and many other services the Canadian government provides its people.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Im very curious about Canadian Healthcare…..actually…

        What is it like?

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        I have no idea as I’m neither Canadian nor have I lived in Canada.
        I have however lived in 3 other countries where healthcare is publicly funded and free at point of care.
        Essentially you never have to worry about paying insurance premiums, being deprived of health care if you happen to lose your job, or about becoming bankrupted if you happen to require medical treatment that your insurance will not cover.
        These 3 reasons are a big part of why I would NEVER live in a country where health care is not publicly funded and access is universal.
        Luckily, most countries in the developed world provide this as standard.
        The wikipedia article on Canadian healthcare seems like a good starting point for more information:

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Charlie…

        Thanks for the info.

        Im sure you worked inside the US. And Im sure you have heard alot of the anti-socialized medicine bullshit that the US spouts out.

        I wanted to get a sense of how efficient the socialized medical programs are in other countries. In the US they are always trying to scare you about socialized medicine by saying you have really long waiting periods to get critical operations and stuff….

        Is that true? And what are some of the worst lies and misconceptions told by US Medical and Pharma companies about socialized medicine?

      • Charlie Don't Surf says:

        hey vfxmafia.
        like I said I would not live in a country that doesn’t have universal health care… so I haven’t lived and worked in the US and have about zero interest in doing so. I’m not shitting on it, I think it’s a great country,I’ve got tons of friends there or from there, I’ve visited for SIGGRAPH and really enjoyed my time there… I just wouldn’t want to live there, same way I wouldn’t want to live in Singapore where the system is similar.
        So, I don’t really know what myths are propagated there re: health care, only what I’ve read on the news with the hoopla about Obamacare, which from what I understand isn’t a universal health care system, but just a broadening of private insurance to cover more of the population.
        For my experience living in other countries and dealing with their health care systems I can tell you a few stories.
        The one time I required urgent medical attention, after a bike accident, I got it on the spot. Total cost: zero. waiting time: zero.
        The times my roommate in the UK had anaphylactic shocks ( nut allergies ) and had to call an ambulance to hospital to get antibiotics, and sometimes hospital visits, the total cost was: zero. waiting time: 20 minutes until the ambulance came, on average.
        the time I had to get some ( potentially ) carcinogenic moles removed. waiting time: two days for a consultation, a week for the procedure ( it wasn’t life threatening ). total cost: 60 dollars after the rebate.
        Eye checks are also zero, after rebates.
        I’m sure experience varies, but I’ve always received and heard about my friends receiving adequate, low cost care on the spot for urgent conditions, and reasonable waiting times for non-urgent.
        From what I understand, medicine and procedure cost is a lot cheaper in countries where its subsidized too.

        I would suggest you have a look at Michael Moore’s Sicko doco for a comparison between some different systems.


        anyway, dude, I don’t want to go further off topic than what I’ve already gone. this is a vfx site, after all ( even if I understand that access to health care is an issue American vfx artists face that most other international vfx’ers don’t ). the information is out there, if you take the time, I’m sure you will find answers to your questions.
        good luck.

      • vfxmafia says:


        Thanks for the info….really helped. Im really contemplating what life will be like living in Canada these days…

  7. […] payer money is not good for NZ’s future. And the focus of the MSM seems to have been more on keeping Avatar here, than on Auckland’s screen failing […]

  8. […] amazing week for this blog when you consider some of the predictions made here: New Zealand, Prime Focus, and now California. In the California post I argued against lobbying for film […]

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