Saturday, December 06, 2003

More on Film

Following up on my last post, I came across commentator Russell Brown musing on the virtues of tax incentives for film production. Writing in his
Hard News he says: "The last time tax advantages had a lot to do with movie production decisions here, all we got was Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence."

The problem with this argument is that cinema production has become a much more globalised industry since 1983. Back then, there was no such word as run away production. If anyone wants to see how effective a system of tax incentives can be for the development of a very lucrative industry, look at the British Columbia Film Commission. The scheme in place there encourages film, television and animation production in BC and is specifically targeted to helping studios hire B.C. labour.

And it works.

"In 1978, the film and television industry spent $12 million directly on production in British Columbia. In 2002, the film and television industry spent over $994 million, creating an economic impact of $2.5 billion. On average, more than 90 percent of the production crews are British Columbians. About 50,000 British Columbia residents rely on the industry for their livelihood."

So while New Zealanders argue about whether the Lord of the Rings did or didn't need an incentive to come to New Zealand, they're missing the point. Big productions like Jackson's are not as important as all the other smaller productions, the movies of the week that keep everybody in work. Those are the productions that are most sensitive to things like labour costs.

If you want to have the work, ya gotta stop arguing about orthodox neo-liberal economics and get on with creating the conditions for a viable, sustainable industry.

I'll be away for a few days. Please post a comment or two. I know you're out there.