'Rings' locale eyes 'long term startegies' for shoots

AUCKLAND — Foreign productions wanting to use New Zealand’s stunning locations may have to cut the local biz in on the action if they want tax and other incentives, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report was the result of 10 months of work by a group of producers, directors and TV network prexies and was commissioned by a Government keen to capitalize on the international success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

“New Zealand must be seen as a talent-rich country, not just a diverse physical landscape with a cost-effective environment,” said the report. “The task force wants to see long-term strategies that ensure … a much closer business relationship between the New Zealand industry and the foreign producer than the relationship common in runaway productions.

“The formalizing of these relationships must be a prerequisite for any incentives and assistance available.”

The Government assisted New Line’s “Rings” project by allowing the studio to form shell companies that got tax breaks and then “sold” the finished film to New Line. That cost the New Zealand taxpayer more than $100 million and the loophole was closed as soon as the “Rings” films wrapped and is highly unlikely to be reopened.

But the task force has said that benefits ranging from “tax incentives to rebates and grants” should be available if productions that shoot here work in partnership with a domestic producer, as already happens in Canada, Australia and Morocco.

“The benefits are passed to the overseas production but they run through the local production,” the report says. “The local producers and local service providers ensure that the production’s employment and expenditure makes use of local resources.”

The report also criticized the profusion of regional film offices that cause “confusion in the international marketplace” as they try to sell their locations. It suggested that they all be brought under the umbrella of the national office, Film New Zealand.

The task force was led by Julie Christie, the founder of Touchdown Television that developed hit show “The Chair” for ABC, and included John Barnett, producer of hit local pic “Whale Rider,” which was has been performing well on the international fest circuit, and “Rings” visual FX whiz Richard Taylor.

The report has been put out for industry and public comment before the Government decides how it will respond.

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