Big bucks to be made on small screen

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2013
John Feast and Paul Mainwaring
LOCAL CONTENT: John Feast, left, and Paul Mainwaring at Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt.

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Wellington's screen industry is hoping the Government will increase incentives for international television production to encourage long-form overseas shows to film here.

Raunchy swords and sorcery drama Game of Thrones films many scenes in Northern Ireland, where it received £9.25 million of government grants. Filming of its first three seasons generated £65m for the local economy. (Game of Thrones has run on Sky TV in New Zealand.)

Under the Screen Production Incentive Fund, television series filmed here with significant New Zealand content currently qualify for a grant of 20 per cent of the total local production cost, only half the 40 per cent rebate feature films are eligible for.

With the Large Budget Screen Production Grant, feature films and television series without significant New Zealand content need to have production expenditure of at least $15m to qualify for a 15 per cent grant.

The Government is considering reviewing the incentives, seeking advice from Film New Zealand. It has "an interest in encouraging more international television production", according to Film NZ chief executive Gisella Carr.

She said Game of Thrones' economic impact on Ireland showed what television production could do for a region and countries around the world were targeting international television production work.

"Television builds infrastructure, as has been evident in New Zealand's own international television history. Rob Tapert's television production in Auckland starting with Xena and Hercules has been vital to growing the industry.

"Spartacus injected more than $200m into the Auckland economy. Jane Campion's Top of the Lake [filmed in the South Island] . . . shone the spotlight firmly on New Zealand."

Screen Production and Development Association chief executive Penelope Borland said current incentives were only "marginal".

She believed long-form television being made in New Zealand for international markets was hugely important for ongoing work and the sustainability and growth of the local industry.

"You only need to look at the employment and economic impact of four seasons of Spartacus in Auckland - 350 permanent crew, 400 casual crew, 1000 New Zealand and Auckland specific suppliers," she said.

" The sooner incentives are improved to attract more longform TV the better. There is huge competition internationally.

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"The relatively high New Zealand dollar for the United States and elsewhere and lack of standing stage infrastructure in Auckland to meet the needs of any production of scale are also barriers.

"In Wellington, Avalon Studios could be adapted for long-form TV production."

Investor John Feast, who led the group that bought Avalon Studios in Lower Hutt last year, said long-form television and feature films should receive equal grants and concessions to provide a location for United States, Asian, European and Australian television production.

WELLINGTON TV

Pukeko Pictures' The WotWots signed up another series with UK Channel 5 Milkshake Lotto is filmed at Avalon Studios Country Calendar and Praise Be are produced at Avalon Studios Thunderbirds Are Go being made by Britain's ITV in a co-production involving Pukeko Pictures and Weta.

- BusinessDay.co.nz

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