Using the Bay of Plenty's idle kiwifruit storage spaces in summer is being promoted as a way to overcome a lack of film studio space, that is seeing the country miss out one lucrative overseas film projects, says BOP Film.
Auckland and Wellington have insufficient production and facilitation capacity to accommodate the scale of demand from international film production companies – which represents a significant untapped economic growth opportunity for Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty says BOP Film's pitch to the Tauranga City Council for funding.
BOP Film is approaching Tauranga City Council's Economic Development and Investment Committee today for a $75,000 annual investment, to establish a regional film office that will be able to promote the Bay area initially for filming locations, and later for studio and post production.
The New Zealand screen media industry is currently worth $3 billion per annum. The North Island, outside of Auckland and Wellington, currently accounts for only one per cent of that.
Auckland Film Studios are booked out until 2018, Wellington's Stone Street Studios are pencil booked until 2020. Last year NZ lost two $100 million productions because of the lack of available studio space.
Auckland Film Studios was 20 years ago an Apple and Pear Marketing Board coolstore that Sir Bob Harvey helped establish Renaissance Pictures in.
While kiwifruit cool stores are used during the six-nine month packing season, BOP Film trustee Anton Steel says they are empty for 3-6 months a year - the same three to six months that overseas productions look to base themselves in New Zealand to take advantage of the southern hemisphere summer during the northern hemisphere winter.
Basing itself on the successful Film Otago Trust, BOP Film says film work is unlikely to be captured without local government support due to the immaturity of the sector, the co-ordination requirements and the risks for a private enterprise in this space.
Film Southland-Otago makes use of public funding from across TLAs in those regions and has been successful in attracting major film and television production and in supporting the development of the local screen media sector, to an estimated value of $35 million in 2014/15.
BOP Film would join an existing network of regional film offices. The total annual investment sought is $261,000 per annum; Tauranga's $75,000 plus per capita input from the other Bay of Plenty local authorities and the regional council.
The plan is for the film office to work in partnership with the NZ Film Commission to provide on-the-ground support for international film companies and work with a range of partners to grow local capabilities and capacity in the screen media industry.
The screen media industry is rapidly growing in New Zealand and internationally and has significant potential for both high and low-skilled job creation across the supply chain.
An immediate market opportunity for domestic and international films in the $5 million - $30 million range has been identified by BOP Film Trust.
In establishing a Film Office, the short-term goal would be to secure $2 million - $4 million of net inward investment into the region by 2020.
The initial focus would be on location filming, with a target to secure larger films and more post-production and full-production opportunities thereafter.
According to Statistics NZ, gross revenue for production and post production services In New Zealand was $1.5 billion. Fifty eight per cent of that work was in Auckland, 37 per cent in Wellington, four per cent in the South Island – and one per cent in the rest of the North Island.
A US television series filmed in New Zealand results in on average $40-$60 million per season in production spending. A recent NZ example in this range is Shannara. Production budgets for US feature films can range from $2 million to $200 million, with Megaladon with a budget of $100 million.
And there are also television fiction and reality based series, web content, TV commercials, documentaries, virtual reality, animation as well as pre and post production.