Summary of the information gathered from interviews
Interviews, via Teams, were held with representatives of the following organisations:
Film production studios party to MOUs
- Warner Bros
- South Pacific Pictures
NZ signatories to MOUs
- Tourism New Zealand
- Education New Zealand
- Screen Wellington
- Australia and New Zealand Screen Association (ANZSA)
- Kumeu Film Studios
- Screen Auckland
- New Zealand Screen Infrastructure Group.
It should be noted that, although the interviews were structured, they tended to flow freely, and this meant that not all the interviewees answered all the questions put to them. It was also the case that some of the interviewees did not clearly distinguish between the MOUs and other aspects of the Uplift scheme, including the grant itself and the design of the SEB points test.
Interviews with the studio representatives
It should be noted one of the respondents was responsible for 2 of the productions.
How much of what was delivered was over and above what would have been delivered in the absence of the 5% grant Uplift?
In response to this question, one respondent said, “Very little”. Another said “Some, but nowhere near the same extent”. The third respondent said “Most would not have been delivered”, noting that, without the MOU, there would have been fewer interns and little, if any, promotional material transferred.
In other words, the interviewees considered that activities and deliverables that flow from the MOUs were largely additional. That is to say, they were directly attributable to the MOUs. However, it should be borne in mind that this conclusion, like others in this report is based on a small sample size.
Were there any difficulties in delivering what was promised in the MOUs? If so, what were they?
The responses here were mixed.
One respondent said “Most was easy. However, the script needed to be revised to satisfy the MOU. There were also some communication problems, and some of the marketing deliverables were a bit of a hassle.”
Another said “Some of what was promised was difficult to deliver because COVID restrictions made it difficult for personnel to travel to New Zealand. COVID also made it difficult to provide the technology transfer that was promised”.
The third said that “It was an added layer of work, for example finding interns who had the potential to be in the industry in the long term and providing all the promotional and press materials”
How easy was it to work with the other MOU signatories?
All 3 respondents indicated that it was easy to work with the NZFC on the productions in question. One also commented that the NZFC was demanding in ensuring that the conditions of the MOU were fully observed, although this was not unreasonable. Another commented that it had experienced frustration when trying to negotiate in relation to other productions that did not receive the 5% Uplift.
Did the 5% grant Uplift cover the cost of fulfilling the terms of the MOUs?
One respondent said that the cost of the activities and deliverables was small relative to what the studio received in grant funding. Another said that it did, but that it was hard work. Another said that the cost was fairly close to the grant received.
It was evident, however, that the respondents were talking about the effort they expended, as well as the money they spent.
How has the NZ screen sector benefitted from the MOUs?
One respondent found it difficult to say, but another mentioned that the profile of NZ as a tourism destination, and as a good place to make movies, had been raised. Another mentioned that the infrastructure developed as part of their MOU had subsequently been used by other studios for other productions. The third commented that New Zealand’s reputation for film production talent had been enhanced.
What difference, if any, did the 5% grant Uplift make to the decisions to bring the productions to NZ?
One respondent said that the 5% Uplift was “Absolutely critical. The 20% rate of NZSPG is not enough by itself, and NZ has lost productions because of it. However, the grant funding is not everything. Other things have to be in place – infrastructure, production staff, crew”.
Echoing this, another respondent said that the extra 5% was “a factor, but not necessarily the deciding factor”, again mentioning the importance of production staff and crew.
Another said that “The Uplift was important in terms of choosing New Zealand. I can’t say that the extra 5% swung the decision, but I can point to productions that didn’t come to NZ because they were not invited to apply for the 5% Uplift”.
Overall, there was a strong desire for greater certainty on the amount of funding that would be available, and one of the respondents commented that “Productions need certainty in deciding where to locate, but New Zealand doesn’t offer this”.
However, it was clear from the interviewees’ comments that an attractive grant regime was not, by itself, sufficient to make New Zealand a competitive location for international screen productions. The respondents either hinted, or directly stated, that having both the right calibre and quantity of production professionals, and good filming infrastructure, were equally important conditions.
Interviews with NZ signatories to the MOUs
The responses summarised here were from TNZ and ENZ. TNZ was a signatory to the MOUs for Ghost in the Shell and Pete’s Dragon. ENZ was a signatory to the MOU for Mortal Engines.
Did what the MOUs actually delivered match what was expected?
The answer was Yes in both cases. One of the respondents said that what was delivered was “beyond our expectations” and that they were “spoiled for film content” that they could use in their promotions.
How were the MOU deliverables used?
In both cases film content and behind-the-scenes/location footage were used to promote NZ as a place to visit or study. However, the advent of COVID 19 and the subsequent had limited the effectiveness of the promotional activities.
What have been the benefits to NZ?
Both the respondents referred to the Equivalent Advertising Value (EAV) of what was delivered to them as a result of the MOUs. In the case of one MOU, the EAV was more than 70 times the agency’s spend (Total spend by Tourism NZ and Education NZ). In the case of another, the EAV was around 35 times the agency’s spend. The actual EAV for the 2 productions was around $15 million. The agency concerned was clearly pleased with the EAV that had been achieved.
One of the agencies was able to measure how their promotional activities had raised awareness of NZ in its target markets, but neither was able to indicate whether, or to what extent, enhanced awareness had translated into decisions to visit or study in NZ. However, it was also commented that the onset of COVID had had a severe impact on the number of tourists and international students coming to New Zealand.
How could the MOUs be improved to enable them to deliver greater benefits?
One of the respondents did not have sufficient insights to answer the question, but the other made 3 suggestions. The first was that compliance with the terms of the MOUs could be stricter. Related to this, the second was that the studios could be required to nominate a representative to ensure that what was promised was actually delivered. The third was that greater emphasis should be placed on providing access to key cast members, and on providing clear visibility of NZ filming locations.
One of the respondents commented that lack of box office success was a major factor in limiting the benefits from the MOUs, but recognised that this was a problem that didn’t have an obvious solution.
Interviews with the other informants
The other informants were mainly from organisations nominated by MBIE or the NZFC, because it was thought they might have relevant insights to share about the MOUs. As was stated in section 1, all of the organisations had a role or a stake in the promotion of the New Zealand screen sector.
All of the informants said that they were familiar with the Uplift component of the NZSPG and the contents of the MOUs in general. However, they were a diverse group, so the interview questions tailored individually.
The discussions tended to flow freely and touched on issues that were beyond the scope of the assessment. Like the studio representatives, the other informants did not necessarily differentiate clearly between the effects of the MOUs and other aspects of the Uplift scheme. The summary here focuses on the question of how well the MOUs have worked in terms of delivering economic benefits.
One respondent noted that a particular MOU had resulted in some vital filming infrastructure that had been used subsequently for other significant international productions, and this was confirmed by another of the informants. A brief case study of the effects of the MOU in question is presented in 'The Meg' case study.
The same respondent also highlighted the important contribution of the MOUs in helping to develop production talent in NZ, via internships and mentorships. Another respondent commented that “it is a mixed bag. The Uplift generates production expenditure that might otherwise have gone elsewhere. However, the productions that obtained the Uplift did not necessarily generate ongoing benefits, such as the development of enduring strategic partnerships to bring further productions to New Zealand”.
2 other respondents were distinctly negative in the appraisals. One said that “The scheme isn’t working well. The funding is vital, but it is not enough by itself”. The other said that “It hasn’t worked well for the studios (i.e. where the filming takes place) or for New Zealand. There needs to be more focus on using the MOUs to develop the screen sector”.