For every dollar spent on New Zealand’s screen production grant, the country recoups an additional $6.11, according to a new report.
The report, commissioned by the New Zealand Film Commission, has yet to be released, but an early draft showed the sector’s economic output between 2014/15 and 2020/21 was $10 billion.
It found that in the year 2020/21, spending in the sector reached its highest level on record at $985 million. And it showed that public spending on screens grew at an average rate of 20% between 2014/15 and 2020/21.
Screen Production and Development Association President Irene Gardiner said the $6.11 figure “confirms the value of the screen sector to Aotearoa’s wider economy”, while the President of the Screen Industry Guild Brendon Durey said the conclusion was “without a shadow of a doubt…very positive”. .
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But not everyone agrees.
A senior economist and the Department for Business, Innovation and Jobs, one of the government agencies supporting the display sector, urged caution in its interpretation.
“We think the estimate of $6.11 seems implausibly high,” said the department’s industrial policy officer, Gina Williamson. Infometrics Chief Economist Adolf Stroombergen also called the $6.11 figure “unbelievable.”
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The Film Commission’s Head of International Incentives and Promotions, Catherine Bates, defended the report by Olsberg SPI, an international creative industries consultancy specializing in the screen sector.
“They have extensive experience designing incentives, as well as strong evidence methodologies, in conducting these studies,” Bates said. The commission was still reviewing the initial findings of the report “Economic Impact of the Aotearoa Screen Production Sector in New Zealand”.
MBIE’s Williamson said there was no doubt that the screen industry was economically important.
New Zealand Film Commission chief executive Annabelle Sheehan has stepped down after three and a half years at the helm of the agency. (First published May 2021)
In 2018, it was valued at more than $3.3 billion per year, directly employed more than 16,000 workers, and had benefits for the wider economy, including tourism, reputation, and continued spending in the hospitality, construction, beauty and professional services sectors.
The sector has also provided cultural benefits by telling Kiwi stories that have reached global audiences.
But it was “difficult” to accurately calculate the return on the screen production grant, Williamson said.
The grant administered by the Film Commission represents 75-85% of sector funding and is available for domestic and international film productions.
The international grant offers up to a 20% uncapped discount to incentivize productions to work locally, while the national grant offers a 40% discount up to $6 million for locally-led productions.
Whether the grant is maximized to its potential is under review by the government.
Williamson said it was difficult to estimate the amount of screen work that would occur in Aotearoa if there was no subsidy – which the sector has previously argued is not viable due to competition important world to attract productions.
“[It’s] It is also difficult to calculate the value that would be contributed by the people, capital and equipment used in a screen production if they were instead employed elsewhere in another sector.
Equity New Zealand director Denise Roche said the grant sometimes helps international screen workers build their careers in Aotearoa instead of local artists.
Equity wanted a sustainable local film industry, and this could only be achieved by extending investments to the various professional groups in the sector. The $6.11 figure was not surprising, she said.
Stroombergen said while he didn’t think the grant was a bad investment, the new report also didn’t prove it was a good investment.
In 2018, Sapere Research Group estimated that for every dollar spent, the grant generated a return of $2.04 ($0.68 from domestic productions and $2.35 from international).