The Northern Advocate

Funding could see Film Commission taking cut of They are Us profits

- Thomas Coughlan

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

Documents released on Wednesday show the filmmakers 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 New Zealand 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 that director Andrew Niccol would “maybe” apply for the “Additional Grant”. This would allow the filmmakers 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 filmmakers themselves. Payne’s notes said the filmmakers would “have a better idea of financing structure after Cannes”.

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

According to the Commission’s guidance, producers “must provide the NZFC [NZ Film Commission] with a share of net receipts (including profit) from the production”.

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

Act deputy leader Brooke van Velden, who has been a persistent critic of Government film subsidies, said that “New Zealanders will rightly be horrified to learn the Government could profit from an American dramatisat­ion of a terrorist attack that continues to affect many in our community”.

“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,” she said.

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.

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

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

 ??  ?? Brooke van Velden
Brooke van Velden

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