Minister of Economic Development Simon Bridges and Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage Maggie Barry have announced that $303.9mil from Budget 2017 will be allocated to support the continuation of the New Zealand Screen industry grants, both globally and domestically.
The popularity of Māori filmmakers on the international circuit is growing steadily but a large portion of the fund has been set aside to draw international productions into New Zealand.
- $222 million has been allocated over four years and $18 million in 2016/17 for the International Screen Production Grant.
- $63.9 million over four years will remain to be available to ensure the domestic component of the grant continues.
Ngā Aho Whakaari, the national representative body for Māori working in screen production, say the announcement of the budget boost to Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga (New Zealand Film Commission) is welcome however they do not think that $63.9 million over four years is enough for the anticipated growth and development of a healthy and innovative local industry.
The New Zealand Film Commission currently supports Ngā Aho Whakaari and its members by funding short films, workshops and masterclasses.
At the Ngā Aho Whakaari national hui last year, they announced the Ramai Hayward Scholarship- a fund of $50,000 on offer for the development of two wāhine Māori directors to develop a feature film script.
Ngā Aho Whakaari explained that they are involved in the selection process and appreciate this will be a boost for Māori women directors.
However, Ngā Aho Whakaari believes more needs to be done to further develop the Māori screen industry, and they say that it begins with more Māori involvement in decision-making to ensure authentic authorship of Māori stories.
Māori producer/director Lanita Ririnui-Ryan says, "I think drawing international production to Aotearoa is key to providing more work and increasing experience for us working locally. Increasing people's skill is just as important as increasing money. Aotearoa has proven its ability to make, host and support the film/television/digital storytelling industry so more investment is always good to enable us to develop our entrepreneurial skills and share them to the world."
Ms Ririnui-Ryan's Poi360 project alongside Amomai Pihama and Ngatapa Black was a first of its kind, bringing the home of Poi stories and histories to an interactive digital platform.
She explains, "There is never enough money when it comes to creativity. It will be interesting to see how that money is delegated in an ever-increasing digital industry. Development via the various guilds and Ngā Aho Whakaari do a great job and could do with more support for film-makers to attend, present and support their films/projects here and internationally."
There's no doubt that New Zealand's "clean, green" scenery for filming purposes is a major attraction to international movie giants.
Two of Disney's recent films were filmed in a number of locations around the country; Pete's Dragon (2016) took over Tapanui's township in the South Island, as well as areas in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty.
Photo: McLaren Falls, Bay of Plenty / Disney
Earlier this year, Hollywood movie star Reece Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and TV personality Oprah Winfrey were on location in the South Island filming a new Disney film, A Wrinkle in Time.
Photo: A Wrinkle In Time crew / Ava DuVernay, Twitter
Minister Simon Bridges said, "Since 2014, the grant has supported around 50 international productions. The industry now employs 14,000 people working in over 24,700 jobs or contracts." He said there are also flow on effects for other industries like tourism and technology, "18% of visitors say they chose to come here following the Hobbit Trilogy."
Film director, writer, actor, painter and comedian, Taika Waititi (Te Whānau-a-Apanui) understands the demand for "Kiwi" talent within the film industry. In an earlier interview with Te Kāea, he said, “When I was shooting [Hunt for the] Wilderpeople, I was writing other things, you know, I've been known to kind of spread myself out across different projects, to try and handle everything at once. What's happening at the moment is that I'm saying no to a lot of stuff."
The 2016 film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which Waititi directed, is currently the highest-grossing film to be made in New Zealand. Last year, it grossed $12,181,582 at the box office.
1. Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016)
2. Boy (2010)
3. The World's Fastest Indian (2005)
4. Once Were Warriors (1994)
5. Whale Rider (2003)
A full evaluation will be completed this year of both the International and New Zealand Screen grants.