Blog: The allure of New Zealand’s market opportunities

Paula Devonshire-1

This year, five TIFF 2012 Studio participants are attending the Cannes Film Festival and market. They have been blogging about their experiences and insights gained from conversations with international producers and industry execs, and navigating the festival market. In this installment, Devonshire Productions producer Paula Devonshire attends a roundtable on collaboration and market opportunities with New Zealand and supporting First Nations film development.

I landed in Nice last Wednesday for my fourth consecutive visit to the Cannes Film Festival and market. Eight of us rushed through the Munich terminal to make, barely, our very tight Munich/Nice connection. Our luggage however, was not so lucky, arriving 11 hours later– in the middle of a torrential rain storm that continued to rage through Saturday. The sun finally came out on Sunday and remained for the rest of the week. Who would have guessed Toronto would be warmer and sunnier than the French Riviera?

Along with the standard running back and forth between meetings, this year I was one of 10 producers invited to join the Canada-New Zealand Producer Roundtable session organized by the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC). Participation in the session required a genuine interest in a future collaboration rather than a coproduction in development, and participants were welcomed by NZFC’s CEO Graeme Mason, and Telefilm Canada’s exec director Carolle Brabant and projects financing director Michel Pradier.

The one-hour roundtable began with introductions by NZFC and Telefilm Canada representatives, followed by nearly an hour of facilitated discussion covering information about each respective market, suitable film and story types, funding opportunities, budgets, domestic audience share, the challenges facing domestic producers and more.

Of particular interest was the discussion regarding the development, production and marketing support for aboriginal films in New Zealand. Maori films such as Boy, Whale Rider and Once Were Warriors, received not only tremendous support via NZFC, but also had unparalleled audience support. Boy was the highest-grossing film ever shown in New Zealand, with box office returns of approximately $9 million – in a country with a population of only 4.4 million.

Why is this not the case of First Nations projects developed in Canada? With the now-defunct Telefilm Canada and National Screen Institute’s Featuring Aboriginal Stories program no longer an option, there are few places to turn for First Nations development support.

True, Telefilm’s portfolio development system allows and encourages portfolio producers to mentor up to two aboriginal projects per year with a cap of $25,000 in development funds. As well, as fellow roundtable participants Jeremy Torie and Jim Compton explained, they have been in ongoing discussions with funding institutions to build First Nations film support in Canada. Hopefully the information revealed in this session will further encourage those Canadian institutions to follow in the footsteps of the very successful New Zealand Aboriginal film initiative model.

Meanwhile, producer Jan Nathanson was also in attendance to speak about the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) Producer’s Lab Toronto (PLT). In 2013 the lab, to be held just prior to the Toronto International Film Festival in September, will include producers from Australia and New Zealand – four slots have been reserved specifically for producers from the latter – to further broadening the opportunities for international relationship-building and coproduction. Applications can be accessed via the OMDC portal and are due June 7.

Following the roundtable, attendees moved to the Producers Network Happy Hour, where we wrapped things up, as usual, with a glass of rosé.

The Studio program is TIFF Industry’s first year-round program, open to Ontario-based producers and aimed at developing next-level creative and business skills and knowledge of the global marketplace through panels, programs and seminars with Canadian and international film experts.