Hollywood on NZ

David Fisher in the Herald reported:

Avatar producer says the Prime Minister’s visit to Los Angeles helped the put a face to the country’s pro-film initiatives and was one of the reasons he will be back to make the sequels. …

“It’s not just two old film-makers,” said Landau, recalling the October dinner with Prime Minister John Key. It included some of Hollywood’s most influential players from major studios including Disney and Warner Bros at “chairman level”.

“People in Hollywood were able to see there is a face behind government, a face behind initiatives. We’ve all gone to countries where things get muddled in bureaucracy.

“He was very personable. He spoke about the big picture of New Zealand, and not just about the film industry, and the role the film industry could play in that.”

“It really spoke to the studio heads and said New Zealand is a country which is committed to making production work. The evening went extremely well from a Hollywood standpoint.”

And the impact on NZ:

It is a section of the community which, according to the briefing given to Mr Key before his trip, helps contribute $3 billion revenue to the economy. While the figures appear to include everything from television broadcasting to cinema works, the briefing said the area attracting the biggest grants and most publicity – screen production and post-production – grew from $313 million (0.25 per cent of GDP) in 2005 to $638 million (0.47 per cent of GDP) in 2011.

And that is excluding any tourism benefits.

Landau said those working in the industry were the driving force for him and Cameron to return to New Zealand for two sequels to Avatar.

While scenery and incentives were often cited as the greatest inducement, with Mr Key highlighting a “workforce which is not heavily unionised”, Landau has a simpler explanation.

“We didn’t come here for the location. We came here because of the industry and the support it gets from the Government. Avatar – we didn’t film on location at all. We’re coming back to New Zealand to film Avatar [2&3] because of the people.”

He said there was an excellence which, for example, was reflected in work done by Sir Peter Jackson’s Weta studio. He urged a visit, saying “you owe it to yourself” to see cutting-edge, high-quality work. “They’re continually advancing everything here.”

I’ve heard this from a lot of people, that the NZ way of doing things is a major attraction.

Landau said the growth was to the benefit of the communities in which the films were made. “The spending is so diverse. When a film comes to New Zealand, they might hire 200 local crew. But they might also put up 100 people at local hotels. Those people have to go out and eat.

“People on the production have to go and use the local stationery store. They have to go buy lumber to build with. They have to bring in a caterer on the set. It goes on and on and on.

“This isn’t just someone coming in making widgets and the spending only goes to widgets. The economic impact of a film on a community is quite significant.”

He rejected claims of low wages. “When we came here, we looked for the best of the best.”

He rattled through names of those he had met and hired, listing those outside Wellington brought in to work on Avatar. He also rejected concerns about youth workers being vulnerable.

“We’re not looking to find the youth but for those who might be out there doing that, and to those who are criticising it – the youth are your future.

“If those people don’t have the opportunity today, they will never have the opportunity in the future.”

Almost all destroyed by an Australian union that only represented a few dozen New Zealanders.

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