The New Zealand Herald

Could Govt profit from massacre movie?

Possible Film Commission windfall in equity share with makers of They Are Us

- Thomas Coughlan

One of the funding options for the controvers­ial They are Us film suggested by the film-makers would see the Film Commission entitled to a share of any profits from the movie.

Documents released on Wednesday show the film-makers met with the commission earlier this year and suggested they were keen to apply for a 40 per cent rebate for the costs of the film under the NZ Screen Production Grant (NZSPG). That would mean almost every dollar spent on the film in New Zealand would get a 40-cent rebate from the taxpayer up to a cap of $6 million.

Notes taken from a meeting in early June suggest director Andrew Niccol would “maybe” apply for the “additional grant”. This would allow the film-makers to get a subsidy worth as much as $20 million, providing it met certain conditions.

The notes were taken by the commission’s acting chief operating officer, Chris Payne, rather than the film-makers themselves.

There is a catch when it comes to getting a subsidy above the $6m cap.

Under commission rules for the additional grant, every dollar between the first $6m cap up and the higher $20m cap would allow the commission to acquire an equity share in the film, entitling it to a share of the profits.

The share of the profits would be equivalent to half of the equity share the commission has in the film.

If the commission gives “additional funding” of $4m in a $20m production – the commission would get a 10 per cent equity share, entitling it to a 5 per cent share of the profits.

The money wouldn’t flow into the Government’s core accounts. The commission would “reinvest all income it receives from the NZFC Equity Share in the New Zealand screen industry”.

Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden, a persistent critic of film subsidies, said “there is no sensible reason for the New Zealand taxpayer to fund this, but it’s the logical result of many government­s kissing up to Hollywood that Act alone has opposed for years.”

The film has come under intense criticism since it was announced last month.

The film’s New Zealand producer Philippa Campbell dropped out of the production.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has found herself drawn deeper into the production, asking that the filmmakers listen to the victims of the mosque attack.

The Film Commission said that questions about the film’s funding were “hypothetic­al” and “assumes we have knowledge of the financial structure of the film”.

“The film-makers have not applied for the Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) so therefore it is unknown if the film would meet the specific eligibilit­y criteria.”

The financial structure, if it exists, is yet to be made public.

The production has courted further political controvers­y with three National MPs, Louise Upston, Melissa Lee and Simon O’Connor writing to Labour’s Angie Warren-Clark, calling on her to request Arts and Culture Minister Carmel Sepuloni to come before the committee with officials to explain the extent of the Government and Film Commission’s role in the film.

Recent requests for official informatio­n have shown the Commission knew about the film just months after the March 15 attack.

O’Connor said “the question remains why details from the NZFC about what they knew and when keeps changing and consequent­ly how can New Zealanders have any confidence that we now have the full story”.

The film’s producers have been approached for comment.

 ??  ?? Brooke van Velden
Brooke van Velden

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