08/10/12
by

We Have So Much Creativity Our Production Company Is Named After The Working Title of Star Wars

why getting noticed doesn’t mean selling ourselves short

“We are keen on high-concept genre shorts because they are a solid stepping stone into commercial features…NZ is a small place and we need to be making films that have an eye on the world market.”
— Paul Swadel, Media Design School senior 3D lecturer

In early August, three ‘industry professionals’—Media Design School lecturer Paul Swadel, ex-NZ Film Commission Distribution Manager Daniel Story, and ‘Hollywood veteran’ Steve Barr—announced the formation of Blue Harvest Shorts, a producer pod funded by the Film Commission’s Premiere Shorts fund. In a video that wantonly abused the word ‘kick-ass’, the trio laid out their plans for the $180,000 at their disposal.They also distances themselves from the commercial poison that is the “dark drama” (“If you’ve got a film about a solo mum in a wheelchair living in South Auckland, it’s probably not the right script to bring to us,” Story gravely intoned).

I’m not going to tell them how to spend their money, though it would be within my rights to given their government funding. They want to sink their money into ‘kick-ass’ zombie apocalypses, more power to them. But it’s revealing that they think, to “have an eye on the world market”, New Zealand filmmakers must make genre films and only be identifiable as New Zealand films through an NZFC title card.To Blue Harvest, it seems we are the reason our films aren’t viable commercial products—it’s the fault of our hang-ups, our lives, our culture.They’re here to save us from ourselves.

That’s absolute horseshit.

First, it’s patently false. Of the seven films the NZFC lists on their ‘Latest Feature Films’ page, five are genre works – horror (The Devil’s Rock), rom-com (My Wedding and Other Secrets; Love Birds), action (Tracker), and dark comedy (Predicament).We’ve also seen national and international success with dark dramas (Whale Rider, In My Father’s Den, Out of the Blue) and socially-conscious comedies (Boy). It’s not like the films Blue Harvest wants to make aren’t being made—and it’s not like the films they disparage aren’t being noticed.

But that’s a distraction.The point is not that we already make Blue Harvest’s coveted ‘world market’ films (a lot of them awful—for every How to Meet Girls from a Distance, there’s a Ferryman or an Under the Mountain).The major problem is Blue Harvest’s insinuations that our own stories aren’t interesting to anyone but ourselves.

Fuck that.

The idea that a filmmaker shouldn’t tell the stories they want if they want to be noticed is ridiculous. Blue Harvest would have us play a perpetual game of cultural catch-up, trying to mimic what’s popular in a lame attempt to get Hollywood’s attention. If the film industry were a playground and the Hollywood studios were the popular kids, Blue Harvest would be the kids dressing like them in a desperate attempt to be ‘accepted’. Nobody likes those kids.

Our stories are important, need to be supported, and will be supported – if we tell them.We don’t ‘get noticed’ by being
pale imitations of things that already exist, and we, as a creative community and a film industry, don’t benefit from those imitations, those Ferrymans and Love Birdses…ses.When we start being honest with ourselves, when we take ownership of our stories and stop acting like they’re something to be ashamed of, we benefit – we make films that look good, are good, and get attention. If we don’t care about what we have to say, if we only want to say what other people are saying, why even say it?

Besides, we tell good stories anyway.

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  1. Steve says:

    I’m sorry but I think you’ve misread the point of BH and are looking way too deeply into other parts of it because of feeling put out by what you think it is.
    People need to being so very precious about their culture and stories. BH isn’t saying those things suck or not to do them, they’re saying they want to give some truly wacky creativity a shot. Have fun, think outside the box, and not get laughed out of the pitch room for doing so. There are plenty of avenues for selling your heart-warming drama, this just isn’t one of them. I know many creative types in the industry that got very excited about BH’s set-up and how it’s been exactly what they’ve been looking for. It’s not for us to say those folk aren’t right to be excited or their love of genre isn’t valid. The intent of BH’s message is a positive one.

  2. Neal says:

    Holy cow, do you even KNOW how our film industry works?! Check your facts dude.

    “I’m not going to tell them how to spend their money, though it would be within my rights to given their government funding.” Government and taxation doesn’t work that way. Got a problem, take it up with your MP, not with the people who are given the money.

    “Horror (The Devil’s Rock)” was produced for $600K based on the strength of having a major overseas distributor express interest in the script. It was not developed as part of the NZFC’s talent growth agenda. It was an out-of-left-field project helmed by an English director living in NZ and greenlit because of its super-low budget. Incidentally it was the ONLY film produced that year which turned a profit.

    “Rom-Com (My Wedding and Other Secrets; Love Birds)” Both films have not turned a profit to date and have not sold well internationally. Love Birds only screened theatrically in Israel in limited theaters and the film went to DVD and Blu-Ray in Australia and the US.

    “Action (Tracker)” Helmed by non-NZ based directors, producers and writers. A NZ production as far crew goes, but no creative filmmakers were behind this one. Barely counts as an NZ film though the NZFC put some money into it.

    “dark comedy (Predicament)” Oh, just like ‘dark drama’. Yeah sure, this just screams ‘genre’ to overseas audiences. At least it would if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie sold to NO countries. ANYWHERE.

    “dark dramas (Whale Rider)” 2002. Ten years ago.

    “(In My Father’s Den)” So here’s the FIRST FILM on your list that’s actually broken even and it stars an American and an Aussie actress, both relatively famous and is partially an ‘outsiders’ perspective on a NZ small town given that the protagonist left NZ and grew up overseas.

    “(Out of the Blue)” Great film. Only got a wide release in the UK. Didn’t turn a profit. Sarkies himself admits that his films are not the most financially successful model as far as NZ filmmaking goes, though I still love his work.

    “and socially-conscious comedies (Boy)” Only recently just turned a profit after slow release in 5 international territories over 2 years.

    So out of that list, when it comes to successful films that actually return money back into our film industry and economy, we’re looking DEVIL’S ROCK for Genre and WHALE RIDER, IN MY FATHER’S DEN and BOY for ‘Kiwi drama’. So much for the self-sustaining industry.

    I suppose you also don’t know that the amount of money available for NZ features has now shrunk to the point where movies costing more than a couple of million dollars will be very, very rare in the future? I suppose you also don’t know that the art house market has imploded due to the recession, the death of small cinemas and the rise of the VOD market, which means that the kinds of film we’re ‘good’ at (i.e. festival aimed content, dramas, meaningful slice-of-life, Kiwiana projects) are finding it harder and harder to sell overseas and to find financing? I suppose you also aren’t aware, or haven’t bothered to crunch the numbers, to know that with an average Kiwi cinema box office attendance for NZ films, any locally produced film costing more than $500K CANNOT turn a profit in this country and so has to RELY on overseas sales to see any kind of return? I suppose you also aren’t aware that an overwhelming majority of SHORT FILMS financed by the NZFC are not strict genre films (as typified by the examples the Blue Harvest people on their website), but are distinctly Kiwi, slice-of-life, culturally idiosyncratic and personal films? The kind which perform VERY WELL in overseas festivals, which is why we make so much of it and with very few complaints?

    “It’s not like the films Blue Harvest wants to make aren’t being made—and it’s not like the films they disparage aren’t being noticed.” Um, I think if you look at the New Zealand films produced in the last ten years, the number of countries they’ve actually been sold to and the amount of money they’ve earned, you may want to reassess this assertion. ‘Being noticed’ has a broad range of value. ‘Fart in the wind’ is a narrower range of value. And if you disagree, please explain why financing opportunities for NZ films are still so low compared to that of other countries who are also vying for position in the arthouse/festival feature market?

    “The major problem is Blue Harvest’s insinuations that our own stories aren’t interesting to anyone but ourselves.” Yeah sure, that’s why so many of our own New Zealand films earn record box office numbers. Because New Zealanders are so in love with their own cinema.

    “Blue Harvest would have us play a perpetual game of cultural catch-up, trying to mimic what’s popular in a lame attempt to get Hollywood’s attention. If the film industry were a playground and the Hollywood studios were the popular kids, Blue Harvest would be the kids dressing like them in a desperate attempt to be ‘accepted’. Nobody likes those kids.” Nobody’s vying for Hollywood’s attention, there’s no benefit, no profit from it. Hollywood is here in NZ every year making their own movies, they’re not interested in local writers or directors. I don’t know where you’re getting these ridiculous notions. What people are vying for is financing, MONEY. And that comes from all sorts of places and what makes a difference isn’t the purity and honesty of a film’s cultural identity, it’s with its ability to connect to audiences and earn some kind of a return on investment, WHETHER OR NOT its a genre film. With the financing market shrinking for NZ films, there are already many discussions in many people’s camps about how to reinvent the NZ film for modern overseas audiences (and hopefully for Kiwi audiences who don’t have less interest in local cinema than they do in the next big studio blockbuster). If we can’t learn to make our genre films (and our festival/arthouse films) connect with a broader audience, we’re sunk. It’s as simple as that. What’s been predicted all through the 90′s and early 2000′s has come to pass, it’s crunch time and people are trying very hard to think outside the typical NZ box. And that goes for short films. It seems to me that the Blue Harvest people want to also think outside that box.

    “Our stories are important, need to be supported, and will be supported – if we tell them.” NOW who’s talking horseshit. Prove it. Show me the numbers. Show me the box office receipts. We’re not left wanting for NZ feature films, apart from the NZFC there’s at least between 5-10 amateur features produced in this country every year, but they don’t get picked up by distributors and when they do not enough people turn up to watch them. You’re spouting feel-good platitudes now, not reasoned argument.

    “If we don’t care about what we have to say, if we only want to say what other people are saying, why even say it?” First thing you’ve said that makes sense. If people won’t turn up to watch it, why are we making it? But we in the industry already KNOW this. Now we’re trying to figure out WHAT WILL people turn up to watch from our own country, our own stories. As far as I’m concerned, that’s every filmmakers responsibility now; to help us out of this mess. And since REAL genre shorts, funded by the NZFC, is a non-event in this country…I’m glad that Blue Harvest are putting themselves out there to see what falls out of that tree when they shake it.

    Look. ART IS IMPORTANT. It’s REALLY important. We SHOULD be telling unique, New Zealand, stories. We SHOULD be putting Kiwi culture up on the big screen. But when that art isn’t self-sustaining as an industry, it needs subsidy. And right now, that culture of subsidy is GONE. No more. Well is dry for the time being and the politicians are saying “we don’t have money for art right now.” And when there’s no subsidy, you can’t keep making art that doesn’t sell. And we have enough experience, enough history, enough statistical numbers, to show that being true to our Kiwi culture is NOT ENOUGH to sell our films. We need to compete at an international level and so we’re embarking on a whole new process. Yes, our genre films have been pretty crap lately and that’s no surprise because WE DON’T MAKE GENRE SHORTS in this country and we don’t export our talent overseas to learn how to make international quality genre features. So we have a knowledge gap in that area. And now we’re trying to fill it the best we can.

    Your perspective is about 5 years out of date at least. Platitudes won’t fix this industry. We’re well past that “c’mon mate, get stuck in, do the yakka, it’s all good, she’ll be right mate, script is king buddy script is king, it’ll all be right on the night” mentality. Now we’re up to our armpits in shit and we’re desperately relearning how to swim.

    Don’t like it, talk to your MP.

  3. Kirk says:

    Yes, we tell good stories, and it’s not that our NZ stories aren’t interesting to anyone, but more like not interesting enough to everyone, everywhere in the way we currently present them.

    I get the impression that the Blue Harvest team are looking for film makers who could go on to write and direct films that compete on a scale of the likes of say Star Wars or Avatar. As in, a world wide audience of hundreds of millions. (I’m not talking about dollars, but eyes watching the screen)

    I’m sure those guys, like me, are all for the Boy’s, Piano’s and Blue Rider’s of our country, but why is Taika having to crowd source funds to get his film (which I think is great) on screens in the States? What does that say? If we want to compete in this playground at that level, then we are going to have to dress a little similar.

    I was excited to hear their plans the Blue Harvest guys put out. I submitted a film script to them for funding last week and it has nothing of what traditionally we would think is “Kiwi” about it – other than I wrote it and if funded, I’ll make it here and use Kiwi actors and crew.

    You say “The idea that a filmmaker shouldn’t tell the stories they want if they want to be noticed is ridiculous” Well – that’s exactly how I’ve felt when looking at the NZFC and what i’ve had the impression they’re looking for – these dark, ‘New Zealand stories’. I was ready to stop trying altogether. Not able to tell the stories I want.

    I grew up in 1980′s white middle class Christchurch. 95% of the TV and films I saw were all American. The first non-white friend I had wasn’t really until middle school and he was Asian, not maori. My ‘culture’ is this odd generic western type of thing. (you may think that’s sad, but it’s true.) The films I will make will reflect that. What does the NZFC expect?

    So, I may be desperate film maker (hell, the world is over-saturated with films for any one person to watch in a life time) But I’m not trying to dress up and pretend to be a popular kid – I am a popular kid, just from a few streets over is all, wanting to make the films I’d want to watch (and think a huge audience out there might too)

    At the end of the day, a good story, one that can be commercially viable, needs to be at it’s core, some sort of universal theme around the human condition. eg: About a boy looking for his father – then sure, wrap it up in what you want either 1980′s rural north island, or a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Me personally, I preferred the latter as did hundreds of millions of others.

  4. Adam says:

    So I appear to have started a fire with this, so let’s clear a few things up.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make genre films, and I’m not saying that something like Blue Harvest shouldn’t exist to fund them. The problem I have is with the attitude they have towards New Zealand filmmaking, as presented in the video and the press release they put out to sell themselves to young filmmakers. I even say that the point about whether these ‘world market’ films are being made is a distraction – though I’m skeptical about whether this represents any kind of significant change in the culture that has led to us making ‘world market’ films that don’t get noticed in the first place.

    I’m also fully aware that the New Zealand Film Commission is stuck in a situation where arts funding is drying up to a trickle and that their funding requirements – not just the ‘significant New Zealand content’ requirement, but others both spoken and unspoken – are bizarre and difficult to navigate for up-and-coming filmmakers. It’s a problem that typifies all New Zealand arts funding (something I myself am currently experiencing). And I’m also fully aware that the majority of NZFC shorts are what falls under Blue Harvest’s concept of ‘dark dramas’. But I don’t think that, in order to rectify this situation, we need to do a complete 180 and write off what’s come before, which is honestly what the video comes off as. You don’t characterise the types of films we make as ‘grandmas in wheelchairs in South Auckland’ without being incredibly dismissive of the people who make those films, and you don’t say “we’re not interested in directors who want to say something about their personal life” without being incredibly dismissive about those who do. I’d prefer that we fund films that are good films, regardless of their genre – problems with Film Commission funding make it hard, I get that, but that doesn’t mean that we then are obliged to sell alternative avenues of funding as “COME OVER HERE GET AWAY FROM THOSE STODGY DRAMAS.”

    This article has clearly provoked a discussion, which is great – we need to have a discussion about how we make, and fund, genre fare and films in New Zealand generally, especially after Peter Jackson’s report on Film Commission funding landed as more of a damp squib than anything. But I’m pretty irritated that people characterise me as some kind of genre-hater, when I’m not and the article indicates as much (even if I am dismissive about ‘kick-ass zombie apocalypses’, which I think are ridiculously overplayed – I cite How to Meet Girls From a Distance as a perfect example of New Zealand making great genre films, and we can do more like it). I’m also pretty irritated that people think I’m saying we shouldn’t provide some kind of funding body for genre work that carries a filmmaker’s identity in it, that says something about the people who make it. We should absolutely have that, but the way Blue Harvest has represented itself to the public thus far is not that. They spend 15 seconds of a six and a half minute video saying that they’re interested in “characters we care about” and that they think the arthouse shorts that succeed at European film festivals are ‘wonderful’. Their press release is focused on their being a ‘springboard to the world market’. Perhaps I am naive and think that we should be making films because we want to tell those stories, because we want to say something about ourselves, rather than because it’s the best story to get us in with Hollywood and if we care about it that’s a plus. But as a film reviewer who thinks we should be focusing on telling stories that matter to us, I resent the implication of the video’s tone and focus that we have to do a 180 to get noticed and that nobody wants to hear our stories.

    It’s not the funding. It’s not the genre. It’s the way the funding and the genre are being packaged and what that says about our attitude to New Zealand film.

    I fully admit, and regret, that I was disrespectful before. I apologise for that. But disrespecting what we have made – glibly writing it off as grandmas in wheelchairs in South Auckland – pisses me off. That video, and that press release, was the wrong way to sell your alternative, in my opinion.

    • Tinuviel says:

      Your response is almost entirely a tone argument, Adam. You now seem to be saying ‘oh, okay, they are not doing anything terrible per se, but I don’t like the way they said it. That is a completely different point from the one you made in your initial post though.

  5. Adam says:

    And Neal – if talking to our MP was the only way to make our voices heard about issues, then nothing would get done. The fourth estate exists for a reason.

  6. Neal says:

    Blue Harvest is a premiere shorts pod; you cannot apply to them unless you’ve already produced a significant body of work which means that you’re already indoctrinated and aware of the climate within the New Zealand film industry. While I don’t disagree that the Blue Harvest video can come across as dismissive as your own article, I contend that a large portion of their audience already knows the ‘lay of the land’ in terms of the ins and outs of filmmaking in New Zealand, particularly for the shorts arena. ‘Story tropes’ exist in any medium and in any style, not just genre films, and our traditional cinema has them as much as any Hollywood blockbuster. The fact that the analogies made about ‘filmmakers with personal stories’ or ‘dark drama’ actually pretty much nails the aesthetic and thematic undertones of NZ’s Cinema Of Unease (even getting a reaction out of you) and shows that those tropes are justified. If, as a film reviewer, you feel insulted by their attitude then I can only express that the message wasn’t intended for you. No filmmaker to date, as far as I’m aware of, has found their comments insulting and – as you can see from the feedback on this thread – quite a few have come to defend it. And, as others have pointed out, there are TWO OTHER PODS available who have no issue with producing traditional New Zealand stories in the traditional New Zealand aesthetic.

    Most of New Zealand’s most successful feature filmmakers (Roger Donaldson, Geoff Murphy, Peter Jackson, Andrew Niccol) who have gone on to produce movies that are both artistically resolute and offer genuine financial returns HAVE been filmmakers who didn’t traditionally make ‘stodgy dramas’. Perhaps it may be worth someone’s time to experiment further in that area more than we have in the past? It’s not the filmmakers fault that ‘stodgy dramas’ don’t make financial returns, but at the same time you can’t blame filmmakers from stepping away and thinking critically about their own content when we are in the middle of a film-financing crisis. Especially since – in the areas of short films – slice-of-life, inter-personal, character-focused, drama/comedies are the majority output of our industry.

    As for having a discussion about how films are funded, we’ve been having these discussions for quite some time now; at the NZFC meet-and-greets and through their regular reports, newsletters and many of the NZFC sponsored development events such as Script-To-Screen and the recent Big Screen Symposium. And the NZFC has already implemented many of the changes suggested in the Peter Jackson report, it’s just that they don’t have much money left to implement them autonomously. The stage we are at now concerns issues like “How can NZ Filmmakers attract more financial investment into our projects outside of the government funded model.” This is Blue Harvest’s solution as far as I can see; step away from the Palme d’Or and step towards a broader audience through high concept storytelling. If you don’t like their solution, there’s two other pods to apply to. Simple as that.

    “Perhaps I am naive and think that we should be making films because we want to tell those stories, because we want to say something about ourselves, rather than because it’s the best story to get us in with Hollywood and if we care about it that’s a plus” <— Again with this 'gets us in with Hollywood'. Nobody wants to 'get in' with them. Anybody who's even visited Hollywood in the last ten years knows that even the studios don't have any actual money for anything except for their own tentpole projects. And if you don't get that then it's abundantly clear that you don't understand how and why films are made, bought and sold. We're not trying to get Hollywood to buy our films, we're trying to get ANYONE IN THE WORLD to buy our films and most people are telling us 'no thanks'. You only have to look at the stats on the IMDB, Box Office Mojo and in the NZFC annual reports to see that.

    And, for the record, New Zealanders are CONSTANTLY making their own films and telling their own stories; there are now more self-financed/amateur digi-features floating around this country than there are actual theatrical features. These films don't get a look-in because they don't attract distributors and those that succeed in that don't attract New Zealand audiences. Kiwis are not supporting their own cinema, the government is also cutting back on their support. So are filmmakers to blame for failing at their jobs AND for being brutally honest in their self-critique as they try a new approach towards building a self-sufficient industry? I've always maintained one of the biggest problems in the NZ Film Industry is that nobody actually ever critiques each others films or is willing to accept the responsibility for making something that doesn't sell or make a return-on-investment. Anyone who dares to question the calibre of NZ filmmaking gets hushed down and told off for being unsupportive and critical.

    "But as a film reviewer who thinks we should be focusing on telling stories that matter to us, I resent the implication of the video’s tone and focus that we have to do a 180 to get noticed and that nobody wants to hear our stories." <— If only the resentment of film reviewers alone could get more New Zealanders to go and watch our movies and/or overseas distributors to buy our films. Sadly, this is not the case. It's up to filmmakers to figure this problem out. You're not the first person in NZ to say we should be focusing on telling stories that matter to us. You're probably not even the ten thousandth. Even when distributors WERE buying our feature films and NZ box-office takes and DVD sales were 'less important', there were still people intoning this bit of wisdom despite the fact that we had (and still have) a plethora of films about the NZ way of life (look at THE STRENGTH OF WATER, MATARIKI, THE HOPES AND DREAMS OF GAZA SNELL, COMPOUND, DREAMER BY DESIGN, THE INSATIABLE MOON, THE MOST FUN YOU CAN HAVE DYING, THE FALL GUYS, REST FOR THE WICKED, THE HOLY ROLLER, RUSSIAN SNARK, CURRY MUNCHERS, HUGH AND HEKE and AFTER THE WATERFALL — all produced in the last 24 months). These distinctly New Zealand voices and New Zealand stories are not being snuffed out or suppressed, but they're also not bringing financial returns into our industry either. And yet people complain that NZ stories aren't being told and insist that "if NZ stories were told then NZer's would flock to the cinemas, ya-boos to Hollywood, who needs them anyways, Go Kiwi Films" and a thousand other lazy platitudes. More often than not, the phrase "stories that matter to us" is actually a code for "stories that matter to ME" because everyone – audience and filmmaker – likes to think that their tastes are better than others. It takes experience and effort to understand that you can't please everyone, least of all yourself, but you still have to make a movie that appeals to an audience somewhere. That's why filmmaking is both a business and an art; you have to compromise and live with. The best filmmakers are the ones who turn compromise into opportunity. And we have to re-learn that value.

    "It’s not the funding. It’s not the genre. It’s the way the funding and the genre are being packaged and what that says about our attitude to New Zealand film." <—- If it's an attitude problem then its with the audience, not with the filmmakers. Filmmakers have produced one distinctly New Zealand story after another, but the audiences have not turned up. At least we're being honest about the audience's attitudes towards our own work. We're taking on criticism and embracing it (for a change). We're all trying our best to make a difference and we acknowledge that our cinema has it flaws which we must overcome, even if its by shaking up the status quo and our thinking. Whether New Zealanders take an interest in the quagmire we've found ourselves in, or just heckle us from the cheap seats, is entirely up to them.

    "The fourth estate exists for a reason." <—- That doesn't mean that you can make arbitrary statements without doing the research and expect to go unchallenged. Poor journalism undermines the value of journalism as a whole. Your position is not invalid, but your justifications were founded on an erroneous understanding of the situation as far as I'm concerned.

  7. Adam says:

    That’s fair enough, though as I’ve said, it’s not a question of whether these films exist or not but a question of the attitude we have towards them, and the attitude of the Blue Harvest video and press release riled me up in the way it came across – to me at least – as focused on ‘getting noticed’ and using these films as a stepping stone rather than as genuine works in their own right, while at the same time dismissing a whole bunch of New Zealand filmmakers in the ways I’ve described. Reflecting on the article, perhaps I took a problematic stance in attacking a symptom rather than the source – New Zealand arts funding is fucked up and it’s understandably difficult to create a sustainable industry in a country of 4 million. And perhaps that particular video triggered more wide-sweeping problems I have with the way we talk about films, especially in this country, in general, and they caught the brunt of that because they happened to be the most topical instance I could see of what I perceived as a drive for ‘imitation’ and away from the stories that mean something to us, one pushed in multiple industries (David Cameron’s statements about the British film industry and British film funding are an excellent example) and by audiences everywhere. I apologise to the Blue Harvest guys if they feel like I’ve attacked the very idea of funding genre filmmaking in New Zealand, even though I don’t apologise for calling into question their tone, because I have strong ideas about why we should be making films and theatre and art and music and it appears that I fundamentally disagree with them (and with yourself, Neal). But I still think the tone is problematic and proposes a 180 we don’t need to take and we shouldn’t take, because it problematises the entire discourse around NZ cinema and around funding discussions and it sets one type of filmmaking against another – that there’s such a reaction against ‘cinema of unease’ and ‘dark dramas’ is a case in point.

  8. Halifax says:

    Speaking of 180 degree turns…

  9. Jim says:

    Straight up and down. Genre short filmmakers have felt locked out of the funding system for quite a while now. These devolved EP pods are meant to have singular briefs and not all be stodgy versions of the same damned thing. What is the harm of one pod going for high-concept and genre scripts? For years NZ shorts have gone to Cannes, but when was the last time a feature went? For a short filmmaker it’s pretty much a ticket to the wilderness if you come back to NZ and cannot make feature versions of your Cannes material because of lack of potential audience, distributor interest etc etc. We are not France or Scandanavia – we only get a couple of bites of the apple each year. Box office and International Sales (or the potential of them) DO tend to drive what gets funded.

  10. Adam says:

    I’ve had a week to think about this article, and it’s pretty clear now that I made several mistakes in the formulation of it (and thank you to whoever the first jokester is who comments “WELL YOUR FIRST MISTAKE WAS WRITING IT HURR”). I hadn’t expected that there’d be much response, but the response I have received has made me aware of some of the deficiencies in my presentation and my argument. As it is, I’d like to apologise for a couple of things. As before, I apologise for my tone, which has been (rightly) described as disrespectful and pissy. It wasn’t a subject that warranted such an attitude, and was pretty much downright harmful to the point I was trying to make about the way Blue Harvest was presenting itself. I also apologise to anybody who thought I was attacking genre filmmakers – while I tried to avoid falling into the exact same trap I’ve criticised in the comments, I can see where the tone of the article and the way it was written made such an attitude apparent. It wasn’t my intention and I’m sorry if it read that way.

    I think, most importantly, and something I’ve realised after reading back the article several times, I apologise for the confusion over where I was coming from – a product of rushed and sub-par writing more than anything. As I hope my comments have made clear, I objected to Blue Harvest’s video and press release less as a member of the industry and more as a critical observer of the films we make – a reviewer, yeah, but I think it’s still a legitimate way to view this. The opinion piece was by no means clear on that, and several times positioned itself (inadvertently and unintentionally) as a piece of lecturing on what makes sense business-wise. That shouldn’t have happened and that was sloppy of me. So while I stand by my position regarding the way the video talks about New Zealand films and about why we’re making films, it was a mistake that my admittedly naive view came across as lecturing about how to get audiences. If you want to disagree with my opinion that talking about New Zealand dramas as ‘grannies in wheelchairs in South Auckland’ is harmful and needlessly divisive – much in the same way that, for example, waving away genre films as not capable of having ‘significant NZ content’ is harmful and needlessly divisive – or with my opinion that Blue Harvest presents itself as making films for the springboard, not the film itself (“New Zealand is a small place and we need to make films with an eye on the world market,” “we’re not interested in directors who want to say something about their personal life”), feel free to – we have a comments section for a reason. But because we all appear to have horribly conflicting ideas of what kind of attitude results in better films, and we all appear to have conflicting ideas of what makes a better film in the first place, I have a feeling we’ll just go around in circles and so am bowing out here.

  11. Jim says:

    It’s interesting to note that if you check out Paul Swadel online – he’s actually had films at Cannes & Venice etc. And the last time he EPed NZFC shorts was about 12 years ago with Leanne Saunders. If he’s suddenly gone all high concept and genre then that speech about ‘grannies in wheelchairs’ must be coming from some kind of direct experience. Just my two cents. Add to that that Steve has come from working in LA – and Dan used to run distribution at the NZFC – so those guys must know a few things from the coalface also… Neh?
    Or maybe you’re right – they’re all full of shit and should be completely ashamed of their sorry selves and their outrageous aims.

  12. Losing Interest says:

    Here’s why I won’t watch any NZ-made films (and certainly won’t pay money to do so): They’re shit.

    “HERESY!” you’ll scream. “CULTURAL CRINGE!”, you’ll also shriek.

    Only it’s not. It’s the painful truth.

    The stories are crap. Either pretentious bad trip-like attempts to be “amazingly different and unique”, or tortuously unfunny comedies about guys in ragged League jerseys trying to hide a body while saying “MAAATE!” a lot. Then there are the ultra believable suburban NZ gangstas-with-uzis action thrillers. And, of course, the cookie-cutter flick about, say, some blind but wise and all-knowing elderly Maori woman with the moko who is here to show evil and misguided white devils the error of their ways.

    And that’s just the stories. Let’s not forget the writing. The choice is hilariously florid and poetical verbiage posing as otherworldly prose, usually spoken by a twelve year old Polynesian boy with zero previous acting ability and as much potential; Or it’s of the “And then I woke up and it was all just a dream: my essay by some schoolkid” variety.

    Now for the directing. Does anyone in NZ actually know what a director is for, or what a director does? It’s not just a cool title used solely to impress people at parties. No, seriously, it isn’t. Shocking, right?

    Last but certainly number one: The acting. Sorry, no, it’s not the accent. It really isn’t. You tell yourself it is, because, well, that’s why the ‘Cultural Cringe’ cop out was invented, yes? So that you can scream it at anyone who dares criticise shitty acting?

    Bad news, I’m afraid. Bad acting is bad acting. That’s why most people won’t bother with NZ films. No matter how good the story (and it’s always bad), no matter how good the writing (and it’s never good), no matter how competent the directing (and it never is), the acting will always sink the show. And it does. Every time.

    Look, the whole “NZ film must be culturally, ethnically and politically correct and worthy art or we’re not funding it” has always been the reason the NZ film industry doesn’t actually exist. Nobody will pay money to see that stuff. You’re kidding yourself if you believe otherwise. Crap stories, crap writing, crap direction and production, and worst of all ULTRA CRAP acting is the norm, and Kiwis know it.

  13. Shannon says:

    What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of
    valuable familiarity about unexpected emotions.