Sunday, 30 March 2008

X-Men producer praises subsidy for blockbusters


Government grants are essential for hooking big budget movies into coming back, the producer of the latest Hollywood blockbuster to film in New Zealand says.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine producer Ralph Winter, who cut his teeth on the Star Trek films and has produced the other three X-Men movies, told The Press from Sydney that the New Zealand Government's grant of 15 per cent made a huge difference.

"Particularly when the US dollar is taking a beating around the world and you're spending $15 million to $20m in New Zealand.

"We keep track of those things very, very carefully in our accounting department because those are big dollars."

Economic Development Minister Pete Hodgson said the Large Budget Screen Production Grant ensured New Zealand remained internationally competitive in the film sector.

"Since 2003 the Government has paid out just over $100m, which means that an additional $800m has been brought into the New Zealand economy."

Film New Zealand chief executive Judith McCann said the grants, introduced at 12.5 per cent in 2003 and lifted to 15 per cent last July, were crucial and had been hugely effective.

"Essentially it's to attract production here which generates more than 15 per cent of expenditures - it means you're attracting 85 per cent you wouldn't have had anyway."

McCann said the X-Men blockbuster was the first to be based out of Fox Studios in Sydney and filmed on both sides of the Tasman.

Location shooting in New Zealand for Wolverine finished at Easter. Filming will continue in Sydney until June, when post-production will move to Los Angeles.

Winter said he would love to work in New Zealand again.

Before filming, he talked to Wellington-based visual effects companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, co-owned by Peter Jackson, about working on Wolverine after using them on Fantastic Four and Rise of the Silver Surfer.

However, the companies were busy making Avatar and The Lovely Bones.

The producer said he could tell why the Narnia movies and Lord of the Rings were shot in Kiwi landscapes.

"The stuff in New Zealand is just extraordinary - it is unlike any other place on the Earth," he said.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine will be released in May 2009.

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