8 Oct 2012

PM considers Hollywood lobbying on TV productions

9:59 pm on 8 October 2012

The Prime Minister says the threshold for television production companies gaining a 15% tax break in line with big screen productions might be lowered, but it is unlikely to change for blockbuster film-makers.

John Key has returned from a whirlwind visit to Los Angeles, during which he met executives from Hollywood studios including Warner Brothers, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Paramount to promote

New Zealand as a film location. Tax subsidies were a feature of the discussions last week.

Blockbuster films such as the $500 million Hobbit trilogy, currently in production in Wellington, get a 15% government subsidy.However, the starting point for TV shows to secure a similar tax break is by spending $15 million on production costs.

Mr Key said on Monday he has asked for advice from Film New Zealand on whether that threshold should be lowered, but says it is not likely to change for big screen film-makers as their productions normally cost several hundred million dollars.

The Prime Minister told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme that studios raised the issue of tax subsidy schemes for film-making.

"They're aware we've got a pretty good scheme already at the moment. Every scheme around the world is slightly different but then every country that makes movies outside the United States has a scheme, so it's just sort of a fact of life if you like."

Mr Key said the 15% large budget screen production grant was, for the most part, seen as fair. However, he said studios wanted to discuss changes to the subsidy in relation to TV productions.

"There's a little bit of logic in what they're saying - I can understand one of two of the issues, but we'll need to go away and think those through carefully."

John Key said his meetings all aimed at jobs for New Zealanders and his campaign won't shut New Zealanders out of jobs.

Recent reports say large numbers of foreign workers have been recruited to work in the New Zealand industry, including at Weta Workshop, which has applied to bring 300 post-production workers from overseas.

Mr Key says that will happen from time to time, but he would expect most jobs in movies made in New Zealand would go to locals.

Wrong focus, says mayor

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn says the Government should be injecting cash into small towns with proven industries, rather than attracting investment from Hollywood.

Mr Kokshoorn said on Monday that trades and traditional industries still have potential but need financial assistance from the Government.

He cited Solid Energy as an example of a company which could do with a cash injection.

But John Key said his Los Angeles trip would benefit New Zealand in the long run. "(Director) James Cameron was there at a dinner promoting New Zealand with his producer Jon Landau - I mean it doesn't get much better than that."

James Cameron recently moved his family to Wairarapa.