OPINION: The perception of film producers is that we are all well paid and stand to make a killing if our films are highly successful. Not true for most of us, unfortunately.
It is a Herculean task for independent film producers based in New Zealand to get a feature made, let alone deliver a return.
Traditionally, producers apply to the New Zealand Film Commission for the majority of development and production funding and leave it to the commission to handle international sales. The established film-distribution system provides the means to recoup costs and hopefully share the profit should the film prove successful.
The alternative to government funding is to find private development and production investment. Although possible, this is not an easy task.
For the majority of producers, earning some sort of living is a primary concern. Most earn fees in production because there is little or nothing for us in the development process. But, as is often the case, it is the producers who have to defer fees first to get the picture finished.
If we do have to forego fees then the only opportunity for producers to be rewarded for their work is through a slice of the revenues generated by box office, television, DVD, Blu Ray, video on demand, in-flight entertainment and other existing revenue streams. But producers' chances here are meagre if not non-existent. Promotion and advertising costs, international sales agent and distributor fees, deferments, financing, equity recoupment, profit shares with investors, creatives, cast, and the myriad other entities and individuals who get bites of the backend must be paid first.
The advent of the digital age, however, has provided producers with viable alternatives to the traditional business model, primarily for low and micro-budget features. Crowd-funding websites can also help deliver the development and production funding a film-maker requires.
Certain peer-to-peer distribution entities allow a content creator to choose to digitally distribute their content for free and look to viewers to pay what they choose for the viewing experience. But this is a gamble the film-maker takes to recover the production costs and more.
Producers live in the eternal hope of some sort of revenue light at the end of the tunnel, no matter which way we have chosen to go, otherwise we would not be producers. Film investors, whether government or private, see that far-off shimmer too. All recognise film is high risk. But the chances are there for return, no matter how small.
Today, particularly in small markets such as New Zealand, producers have to exploit the full gamut of opportunities - traditional and non-traditional - to fund feature-film development, production and distribution, and to enable us to make a living.
For producers who choose a path where revenue streams from content sales are vital to pay for the film's production and distribution (and hopefully give them and their investors some kind of pay day), piracy snuffs out that light. It takes the money away from those who have earned it-often with blood, sweat and tears-and puts it in the pockets of those who have no claim whatsoever.
Film piracy is theft, plain and simple. Film producers need a world without it.
Tui Ruwhiu has worked as an independent producer, director and writer in the New Zealand and international film and television sectors for more than 20 years. His film project, Wero: Ultimate Challenge, was selected for presentation at the 2012 Beijing International Film Festival, Pitch & Catch.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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