Film subsidies – worth it?

Joel Hernandez
Insights Newsletter
6 July, 2018

After missing my chance to meet Scarlett Johansson last year, I was distraught and confused over the weekend as I read the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) findings and conclusion on film subsidies in New Zealand.
In three reviews commissioned by MBIE, the reports concluded that without the film subsidies (New Zealand Screen Production Grants), the New Zealand film industry would disappear.
I was distraught because my chances of meeting Scar-Jo would fall to almost zero without the grants and I was confused because the three reviews reported that it was difficult to know how much New Zealand really benefited from the multi-million-dollar grants.
I thought the benefits were obvious, we have a giant Gollum sculpture in Wellington Airport to prove it. Not only do we have a Gollum, but we also have Gandalf the Grey riding a flying eagle and Smaug the dragon lurking in Wellington Airport too.
The benefits of international filming in New Zealand go on.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Hobbiton every year spending millions of dollars in Matamata and central Waikato. We already knew New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes attracted tourists, who knew hairy Hobbit feet did too!
Thousands more visit Weta Workshop in Miramar to get a glimpse into the studio that created the award-winning costumes for Blade Runner, King Kong, and Lord of the Rings. If you’re lucky you might even find Peter Jackson dressed as Rocketeer at Roxy Cinema just down the road.
In my opinion, the reports completely missed the most important benefit of international filming in New Zealand. That is, it increases my chances of meeting celebrities.
If MBIE gave out more grants, we could have grabbed Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s latest blockbuster, Skyscraper. The Sky Tower would have been the perfect location for me to accidently run into The Rock.
If Mamma Mia 2 were filmed on Stewart Island, it wouldn’t have been totally unreasonable for me to run into Meryl Streep while bird watching.
It also wouldn’t have been a stretch to film Disney’s Christopher Robin in Redwood Forest either. I could have met Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh while mountain biking over a long weekend.

I suspect MBIE will continue to subsidize international filming in New Zealand, at least in the short term, so my chances of meeting George Clooney are still alive for now. 

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