Covid-19 caused an ‘entire shutdown’ of NZ screen industry

By Jessica Tyson

The New Zealand screen industry is facing major economic challenges due to the impact of Covid-19.

Prior to lock down the industry was thriving, with a large number of local and international projects about to begin production but the situation has changed, says chair of Ngā Aho Whakaari Hineani Melbourne.

“What happened is that New Zealand was gearing up for five years of unprecedented production work and we were scrambling to find workers. Within two weeks the entire industry shut down. So it was a real shock for our industry and not just New Zealand but internationally.”

A screen sector Covid-19 action group has been set up in response. Melbourne is one of the members in the group.

“We’re working with the government advising and suggesting packages or how we could work with the government to help our people.”

Melbourne says most of the people in the film and television industry are contractors so unless they’re working they’re not getting paid.

Fortunately last week the government announced a $50 million package to help the media industry get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So we made sure that they knew about the packages that were available, that they took advantage of the packages.”

Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi says within the package was $11.1m allocated to specific targeted assistance to companies as and when needed.

Melbourne says a number of production companies, therefore, received support.

“The media industry is a multi-pronged beast. It goes from major international feature films like Lord of the Rings or Avatar to small short films that are made for $10,000,” says Melbourne.

A second package of support is being developed and will be submitted for the Covid-19 budget discussions in May, says Faafoi.