New Zealand Film Commission 40th anniversary
Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tatou katoa.
Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington.
David and I are really delighted to be able to host this celebration of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the New Zealand Film Commission.
Many of you will be aware that David and I have both been Chairs of the Film Commission. I hasten to add that there was no nepotism involved – our terms of office were actually 16 years apart.
David was a Film Commission member for 15 years from its formation in 1978, and was the second Chairman from 1985 to 1993.Actually, I’m not sure that he’s ever really left.He’s had many different hats to wear over the years and he currently chairs Te Puna Ataata, the New Zealand Film Heritage Trust.
My own term of office was much more modest in length - from 2009 until 2016 - although some of you here this evening may first have come across me as the Commission’s lawyer in the 1980’s when the late great Jim Booth was the Chief Executive. Those were exciting times – fortunately not yet memorialised in film!
The late John Boorman famously described filmmaking as the process of ‘turning money into light’.It’s a very evocative epigram and I know you will all agree that film is unparalleled as a story-telling medium. But it takes more than talent and good stories to make good films.
For New Zealand stories to have their place on screen – our film-making talent had to be supported, developed and funded. Whatever It Takes, the fascinating story of Pacific Films, written by John Reid and launched just last week, tells of the struggles that the veteran filmmaker John O’Shea had taking on this challenge in the fifties, sixties and seventies, with virtually no institutional or government support.
The creation of the Film Commission in 1978, was a sea change – a hugely important step for our filmmakers and our culture.I know Bill Sheat, the first Chairman of the Commission, will have much richer detail of that early period when he speaks shortly.
Suffice for me to say that over the past 40 years, the Film Commission has made possible some of our most successful and important films.
It has given a voice to people from our diverse communities.As in other cultural forms, Māori and Pacific voices and stories, in particular, make our screen productions unique. In a global market that craves authenticity and fresh perspectives, they are a key to success.Indeed, eight of the ten most successful New Zealand content films have been Māori or Pacific stories.
New Zealand films have also enabled us to see and understand much more about what it means to be a New Zealander, to understand our history, and to learn from it.
Film Commission funding and support has enabled many culturally important films to be made where the pure economic rationale has been slim.
One of the perennial challenges for filmmakers everywhere has always been how to fund what is generally an extremely costly art form.For filmmakers to survive, the art of successful filmmaking is changing money into light and then back into money again.And even in Hollywood, that is not easy.
One of the high points for me from my time as Chair of the Board, was seeing changes to the incentives schemes introduced at a time when filmmaking in New Zealand was at a very low point, post GFC.
It has been gratifying to see the resulting upsurge in international productions in New Zealand, along with the significant increases in the number of applications for New Zealand Grants. The economic impact alone has been substantial.
Statistics New Zealand’s screen industry survey found that last year the sector contributed $3.5 billion to GDP, and we are fortunate to have a highly skilled workforce based in New Zealand to support the growing industry. In 2016, there were around 14,000 screen sector workers in New Zealand.
It shows that a career in the screen industry is now not only possible, but can be sustainable and profitable – something that was little more than a pipe dream in 1978. Success has many parents, but I’d like to acknowledge here the contributions of the two Chief Executives that I was fortunate to work with – Graeme Mason and Dave Gibson.
I am also pleased to see that the Film Commission’s gender policy, introduced in 2015, is making a significant difference and has been extended. It’s good to know that in the last financial year, women made up 50 percent of successful applicants for early development funding from the Commission and last week, three successful funding applications were announced for films by and about women.
While its great to see these results, we all know there’s still a long way to go.Cliff Curtis’ call at the recent SPADA conference for more women to have leadership roles and for more Māori to be partners in screen projects, will resonate with many of you here tonight.
I offer my best wishes for a happy 40th anniversary to the New Zealand Film Commission.My thanks to Commission members and staff, past and present, for their work to build the Commission – and the industry – into something that New Zealanders can be extremely proud of.
May the next forty years be every bit as successful, enjoyable – and even more rewarding.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.