A Solution To Save New Zealand’s ‘Dying’ Film Industry

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.

Soldier On.


20 Responses to A Solution To Save New Zealand’s ‘Dying’ Film Industry

  1. Cola says:

    Am confused. All this fight is to keep jobs in U.S right? [ reading your previous posts ]…what’s your role in advising NZ?…sorry, care to elaborate?…I have limited wit =)

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Nope. This blog stands against US studios that pit various governments against each other in a bidding war where they win and VFX workers are forced into a constant cycle of displacement.

      Jobs are lost. Homes are foreclosed. Families are broken.


  2. SH says:

    LOL, well I get it…. Serves the studios right. Pretty soon many of them will not get the money they want. Deduced to simple economics which is something Tapert knows all to well about. Shame on Lucy Lawless for not standing behind her country and supporting their film industry.

    Right after they have taken billions in monies from other Countries (too bad it took so long for them to get a clue), the film studios will most likely subsidize themselves right out of every country in the world . I suppose then there is justice after all. Frankly, I think the film industry is dying a slow death anyway soon to be taken over by other venues:) I think looking to the future is what I would do. Speilberg and Abrams are already getting on the boat.

    Just remember, the pendulum always swings back…..

    • VFX_Reckoning says:

      The people on top would burn your house down, run over your dog, and pimp out your wife and daughters, if the price was right.

      As long as the studio fat cats are driving away in dump-trucks full of cash, they don’t care what kind of devastated wasteland they leave behind…and to top it all off, they will still probably lobby or find away around the wasteland they created. It’s Capitalism grand?

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        oops, I meant “isn’t Capitalism grand?”

      • VFX worker says:

        Capitalism, greed and stupidity. Are three different things. Capitalism, can inflame greed, but isn’t the source.There was greed before, and will be after capitalism. Stupidity feeds greed.

        If everyone (governments) would look back through history they would see subsidies don’t work over the long term.

        Just becuase a greedy film studio wants you to pay subsidies it doesn’t mean you have to do it. It’s the stupid governments that are doing this. Yes the film studios are being greedy, but so are governments. Instead of fostering talent, and great locations to film, they just buy the movies, like rich stupid parents.

        If all governments said no to subsidies then film studios would have to make choices based environment and location, not money.

  3. mattD says:

    What you are describing is not capitalism. There are many definitions of different capitalist systems but for some of the academics who analyse these things, its termed ‘crony capitalism’. It describes a rigged system that is supposed to resemble capitalism on the outside but is infact a centrally planned economic system at the top, with a facist free market bureacratise of corporations and civil servant technicians at the center with some form of communist/socialism for the largest, bottom rung of general workers and population.

    Terminology like socialism and capitalism are outdated concepts but are useful to cloud issues and true control mechanisms for the vast majority of folk with limited time and a need to earn a wage month to month.

    Its the merger of state and corporte powers along the lines of the mousilini economic model, centered around globalised economic trade agreements and central banks coordinating trade, currencies and credit controls. Politicians like Blair in the uk and Bush Mk 1 used the term ‘third way’. A term actually introduced by Lenin to describe a future system that would evolve after the bolshevik revolution whereby state and corporations would merge globally. George orwell described it as collective oligarchy.

    The rational by those who operate global crony capitalism being that they have a better understanding of humans and economics than individuals left to their own devices. The short run pain of detroit car workers or los angeles vfx artists is offset in the longer run by a greater effeciency and productivity of humanity across the globe into the future.

    Note, that is not my opinion, just desribing some background that can be easily researched, if you are interested (univesrity of missouri, MIT and standford all good free sources of information, as well as writers such as chomsky and beaudrart). Blaming general media ideas of capitalism or socialism is pretty irrelevant in terms if the reality of current political and economic systems.

  4. Andreas Jablonka says:

    This is going offtopic no?

  5. mattD says:

    Depends how short your attention span is.

    • Andreas jablonka says:

      Not really. We are not debating life fundamentals. Contribute to the solution or add new facts. Philosophy about what is right and wrong is wasting everybody time.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Obviously, you should be. There’s much more to say and discuss about our problems then just what may be deemed as “business”, it’s partly a fundamental problem within the operations of our society. If you truly want a better world, you need to know what is right in order to build a better solution. Technically, even you wanting to stifle that kind of discussion proves the problem.

        But back to NZ…what else is there to offer toward a solution? We all know subsidies are the fucking devil and as “the little guys” most of us are supporting the CVD on our end, what more can we do against our fight against the giants, but watch, as they destroy another city?

        Short of brandishing a weapon and taking to the streets, sometimes a look into “life fundamentals” and why things are the way they are, can be therapeutic.

  6. mattD says:

    Andreas, knowing who and what the nature of your fight is will very much dictate your success or not in a legal setting. Have you ever been involved in commercial legal battles? I am guessing no because you come across as incredibly naive about wider world issues and systems and mechanisms we live within. Fighting against commercial entities is very different to fighting bureacracies. Both are winnable but require different approaches. You need attrition more than anything against bureacracies, if indeed that is the bigger broker in a CDS action. Lawyers will just keep the meter running for as long as they viably can. It is important to be aware of yours and their focus. I am 100% behind the action, I contributed to it, just hoping it has a decent chance of getting off the ground.

    Andreas, what gives with the bluster and whiny attitude? As I understand, you have been in the nation a few years and already setting yourself up as a revolutionary malcontent. How much have you ever paid into the system? Because you need to leave socialist attitudes at the border. I realy cant why you would hitchup into town and expect a job for life? What else are you doing in the meantime? Trying to inovate? Setting uo a business? Keeping busy with something else? Or seething about how studios are distributing work in an industry the created and control here before you ever turned up? Yup, life is unfair, but you dont stand a chance in any fight if yoy dont educate yourself about the realities of the structures and mechanisms that control your day to day life. Because you wont ever have your own life if you are just a dumb victim with a shop floor factory worker mentality.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      I think you were missing my point. I was simply stating that discussion the nature of humans, the universe etc is really derailing the brainstorming of what we can do to save our industry. you are not wrong in what you are saying, i simple try to keep our discussion solution centered not ethics centered. i would not go so far as calling it spam but you replied with 3 comments and not one has anything to do with our fight. if this was my blog i’d delete them or move em and keep this discussion going. i hope this does not sound mean. also why does my personal life feature into this? when i cam to the us does not matter, its still my industry thats being destroyed. do i have more or less claim because i have not done 15 years in LA? i dont think it matters. the displacement of good artist due to vfxshops being forced to open offices in subside locations is what hurts us. right now more LA, Vancouver a bit and maybe AU and AZ sooner than they think with the rising dollar.

      Its time we stand up and tell the studios we wont be migrant workers anymore, we want some job security by knowing hows gets awarded on merit not tax incentive.

  7. mattD says:

    And where you said ‘discussions about what is rght and wrong is just wasting everyone’s time’ Did you actually read the comment? That was never actually discussed there. Do you just subconsiousoy skim read with a preset emotional response, eager to shoe horn a stock reply that suits your personal circumstances.

    I gave an impartial desription with references of some of the contemporary ideas that underpin legislation and trade agreements. I didnt express an opinion. It was in response to a common meme that is posted here about socialism, capitalism, and more often than not in other threads about justifications peoples and local governments in subsidy nations infact use to justify what they do.

    Do you see the irony in what you say? That fundamentals, philosophies and so on are irrelevant, where infact trade agreements and politician elections are based on what people consider to be fundamentals and philosophies. Trade agreements are based on ‘capitalist free market philosophies’ its not a newtonian law, its a opinion based on the philosphical writings of adam smith, milton friedman, others. The world you live in was developed by philiosophers and if you live in the west, almost all the structures and legal systems you operate within are loose remanents of christian and jewish holy books. The biggest philosophies of all. Any lawyer can confirm the origins of the legal
    systems to you. (No, I am not religious btw).

    None of us can have the time to know eveything. That is why you pay lawyers and elect politicians but cmon man, this is broad level stuff you need some self awarness with. How can you have any opinion on trade agreements and whether they are adhered to or not, if you have no idea or interest on why they exist in the first place?

  8. mattD says:

    So next time you see a common thread that starts with ‘if there was a proper free market, LA wouldnt be suffering … OR ‘here in europe/canada, we believe in subsidies to support people and smmoth the brutalness of unreigned free markets ….’ you can try think of some of the assumptions and origins people have when they say that. These ideas turn up in every thread.

    You can also bet lucy lawless will be lobying furiously to the NZ population across the media to support the best NZ politician that will convince tax payer voters that their philosophies on subsidies, trade and economics wil best serve the region.

    I read the book ‘propaganda’ once by the author edward bernaise, the guy who basically invented madison avenue and the modern advertising industry. Infact, in his day, he boasted that he could get any politician elected not hy reasoning and facts but brass bands and spectacles. And he became one of the richest men in america. Its depressing but humans are driven by knee jerk emotional responses first anf foremost. That was thing he made into a science and became incredibly sucessful with. So I would say an awareness of broad issues is pretty important.

  9. hector says:

    hey mattD, you’re right .
    “humans are driven by knee jerk emotional responses first and foremost” You see?

  10. hector says:

    Tax Credits for Foreign Location Shooting of Films: No Net Benefit for Canada

  11. […] wrote a few months ago that NZ should eliminate subsidies for foreign studios and only invest in local films. That prudent notion seems to be discussed by Kiwi […]

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