It’s impossible to imagine anyone better qualified to undertake a review of the New Zealand Film Commission than the country’s most prodigiously successful filmmaker, Peter Jackson. The Minister for Arts Culture and Heritage, Chris Finlayson, announced this week that the maestro from Miramar will lead a ministerial review “to ensure it is best able to serve the needs of the local industry and community”.
In an ideal world, the commission would long ago have sought advice from one of the most successful filmmakers in history, especially since he is just round the corner. But that would have required some pride-swallowing – and a corporate decision to feed the hand that had bitten it.
Jackson, it will be remembered, has occasionally been a trenchant critic of the commission. He even publicly “disinvited” its then chief executive Ruth Harley and chairman Barrie Everard to the Wellington premiere of part two of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, calling them “self-serving bureaucrats”.
Jackson is not a diplomat.
The terms of reference are a mixture of bureaucratspeak (“facilitative role”; “cultural content objectives”) and noble-sounding phraseology, which are unlikely to bog down Jackson, who is a plain speaker and a man of action. The fact that he is charged with working out how “active industry professionals” can be more involved in setting the commission’s direction is heartening. And it is something he has plainly taken on board: pointedly, he has said he will consult local filmmakers, “so the review reflects the thoughts and opinions of the writers, producers and directors the commission was created to support”.
Bottom up consultation – always good.
Assuming that the review is sincerely motivated and that the Government is not looking for findings that will justify later funding cuts, Jackson’s presence is encouraging. The prolific moviemaker is not notably short of things to do, so he plainly thinks he has something to offer and will tackle the review with the passion and vision that are his trademarks.
The commission is now more than 30 years old: as John Barnett remarked this week, when it was established movies screened with intermissions and no one used the word “digital”. It is high time for a rethink – and there is no better man to be doing the rethinking.
The good thing about having Jackson do the review, is it will be almost impossible for the Government to ignore.