Former Xena Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless took to Twitter objecting to the NZ government’s refusal to increase subsidies for what she calls NZ’s dying film industry. What spurred her objection was NZ’s Minister of Economic Development referral to Auckland film companies losing work after her husband, NZ producer Rob Tapert, moved production to South Africa for larger film subsidies.
I engaged in a twitter conversation with Lawless on how routine this behavior is by US studios where they pit various governments against each other in a bidding war for free taxpayer money for their productions. As I pointed out in previous posts, the NZ government has paid over a billion dollars to US studios to lure productions to their country in the hopes of building a sustainable local film industry. Now that is all at risk as the purchasing power for US producers diminishes as the NZ dollar rises and other governments have increased their bids over what NZ offers in the subsidy race to the bottom.
So what is NZ to do? Given how small the country it is, it’s unlikely they can afford to match or beat the $635 million a year larger countries like Canada offer to US studios.
I suggest making the subsidy exclusive to local producers and keep US studios out. US studios offer no promise of continuing to do work in NZ while receiving millions of dollars in NZ taxpayer money. They will continue to ask for more money from other countries to entice larger bids from NZ.
Secondly, once the subsidy is exclusively localized, create a provision where if a local NZ producer who has received subsidies later takes production away to another location for tax incentive reasons, they will be obligated to pay the NZ taxpayer back the amount they receive from foreign coffers.
I believe this is a cost-effective way for NZ to discipline the behavior of local NZ producers who were built by NZ taxpayers and potentially shutting down the NZ film industry in the event they are able to receive larger subsidies from countries like the UK and Canada.