Last night's announcement of the Government’s new support package for the screen sector will provide another significant boost to Auckland’s world-class screen industry, which is already up and running following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
The region’s economic development agency Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) – which houses the film office Screen Auckland, attracts screen projects to the region, and operates major studios across the city – welcomed the news.
Pam Ford, General Manager Economic Development at ATEED says: “The screen production industry is hugely important to our region, consistently earning more than a billion dollars annually in gross revenue and providing thousands of jobs.
“While our screen businesses and crew obviously suffered the financial setback and stress of no production being allowed during the lockdown, productions are starting up again under new workplace protocols, allowing many of Auckland’s 4000 skilled crew and 1700 screen businesses to get back to work safely.
“But the recovery will take time, and new costs have to be met due to COVID-19, so the funding boost is fantastic and timely news. The Government’s renewed funding commitment will provide confidence domestically and continue to signal to international studios that our industry is in a strong long-term place,” says Pam Ford.
Last year, Auckland was announced as the production base for Amazon Studios’ streaming series based on The Lord of the Rings – with the first two seasons confirmed. It’s also the location for Netflix’s Cowboy Bebop, Hasbro’s long-running Power Rangers and numerous other domestic and international projects.
Along with crew and companies involved in production and post-production, the region’s key studios have a ‘halo’ effect on surrounding business districts including Kumeu, East Tamaki and Henderson – with companies that supply everything from catering and security, to wood and paint supplies for set construction, all benefiting.
Pam Ford also applauded the inclusion of new funding for local content as part of Government’s package:“Domestic productions have been, and will always be, the foundation that our screen industry is built on and the source of our world-renowned talent, so it’s great to see the Government providing further support to that foundation.
“While our region adapts to a period of unprecedented demand, we’re focused on innovative solutions to increasing studio space, and on a core contribution we can make by working with industry to support skills development.”
Last December, ATEED partnered the Ministry of Social Development on a new initiative to help develop employment and training opportunities in the screen industry, with MSD funding 20 paid internships in the screen sector to kickstart the career of MSD clients and other people who are disadvantaged in the employment market.
ATEED also pioneered a skills programme based in the region’s west Auckland screen heartland.
“While this work was paused due to COVID-19 impacts, it’s crucial that we regain momentum and we have re-engaged with industry as the region heads into a busy production period,” says Pam Ford.
New Zealand’s progress at tackling and emerging from the COVID-19 crisis – which has allowed production to resume here while many other film hubs are still in disarray – has spurred a wave of new inquiries from international studios keen to explore filming in Auckland.
“Our screen attraction team is in discussions with a number of potential new projects, helping them go through feasibility and logistics. While there are challenges such as border restrictions to take into account, that points to an exciting and solid future pipeline,” she says.
“We were pleased to contribute to the national collective effort to develop new workplace health and safety rules for the screen industry. They provide assurance that cast, crew and supplier company staff are working in an appropriately safe environment.”