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BayBuzz09 April 2010

With support from Venture Hawke’s Bay, Film Hawke’s Bay has made its debut.

Starting modestly with an office at VHB and a website nested within the VHB site (www.filmhawkesbay.com), the purpose of Film HB is to promote Hawke’s Bay as a destination for film, television and commercial productions, and to facilitate the production needs of crews coming into the Bay to film or videotape. Productions can range in scale from a Bollywood film destined for India to a segment for a Australian TV series to a high budget American TV commercial.

The direct economic benefit of bringing a production to Hawke’s Bay can be quite substantial. For example, a German TV production recently came to town for about a week. A project like that might typically involve a crew of 40-50 for five days and nights. Spending on accommodation, catering, vehicle hire and location fees might amount to roughly $60,000, not taking into account “extras” like security, special equipment hire, entertainment (and film/TV folks entertain themselves generously!), costumes & make-up and props.

That’s a bit more than Grandpa and his caravan coming to town!

And of course the bigger indirect value can be the positive image of Hawke’s Bay projected through the films, programs and commercials that are viewed by millions, more often than not abroad. This HB brand promotion can stimulate ever more interest in the Bay as a place to visit, work and live.

Given these benefits, the competition is hot to attract productions. Auckland, Wellington and four other regions in New Zealand already have similar offices, most larger in scale, to attract film and broadcast media productions. Hawke’s Bay must fight for its share … and this marketing is best placed in experienced hands.

Currently, the Film HB operation is managed by production pros Tessa Tylee, Mirabel Brook and Gilly Lawrence, each devoting a bit of their time. Mirabel worked for years in television in England for the BBC and as an independent production manager. Many of the documentary and drama/documentary productions she worked on involved extensive travel across the world, often to remote places. Tessa for the past fifteen years has been a television director and producer based largely in Auckland. Lifestyle series and documentaries have been her specialist field, as well as covering a few corporate videos since moving to Hawke’s Bay. Gilly has long worked in film production as a gaffer – lighting. Getting Film HB up and running has been a passion of his for years.

Important benefits will derive from having pros like Tessa, Mirabel and Gilly “sell” the region to other pros in the business. As creatives themselves, they speak the same language as their “customers” and can anticipate the locations that will best serve the visual and technical needs of a production, as well as the logistical challenges that must be met. As Mirabel puts it, “We know the sun will be right at that location in the late afternoon.” And once the outside team is on the ground in Hawke’s Bay, they operate with the same urgency as hyper-active production crews and can facilitate the permitting and cooperation needed from local councils (mediating a certain amount of culture shock on both sides).

From the standpoint of an outside filmmaker or TV producer who must be able to concentrate on their creative product and budget (location shooting days are expensive), Film Hawke’s Bay offers the peace of mind of “one stop shopping” – from where to hire a cherry picker to where’s the best bar in town!

The local permitting requirements (e.g. to use public spaces, close roads, make noise, etc) are made easier by the fact that Hastings, Napier and Wairoa Councils have officially made their jurisdictions “film friendly”, signifying that the Councils are prepared to facilitate film/TV productions.

Now that they “exist” officially as Film Hawke’s Bay (about to be recognized in Film New Zealand’s new promotional material), Tessa, Mirabel and Gilly plan to build out their presence. That includes building an online database listing all the various vendors in Hawke’s Bay who can provide typically required services to producers, as well as creating a photo and video library of HB locations to assist in promoting the Bay as a shooting paradise.

However, this will require additional funding beyond the seed money and office support furnished so far by VHB. Going forward, the core budget of a part-time staffed Film Hawke’s Bay is in the $70k per year range. These funds must still be raised.

Once World Cup Rugby arrives, there will be all sorts of television crews wandering around the Bay, following the teams and producing the “local colour” features that will bring Hawke’s Bay to life for foreign audiences. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that the Bay hopes to leverage for long-term benefit in terms of future tourism. Hopefully our Council and business leaders will see the huge value to be gained by having Film Hawke’s Bay on the scene … and well-resourced.

BayBuzz09 April 2010

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