Academy welcomes new members from Australia and New Zealand

Day and Date Down Under

It does not seem to be widely publicized, but the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a large number of international members. Three New Zealanders and four Australians have been invited to join the organization this year. They are producers Bruna Papandrea and Rebecca Yeldham; sound technicians David Lee and Jason Canovas; visual effects specialists Tim Crosbie and Daniel Barrett, and Kiwi writer-director Niki Caro. Caro’s most recent film was McFarland, USA with Kevin Costner. She is currently in pre-production on Callas, a biopic about the affair between opera diva Maria Callas and Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, with Noomi Rapace to star in the title role.

Kiwi director Toa Fraser has just started directing the action film 6 Days in Auckland, New Zealand. The New Zealand/U.K. co-production focuses on the six-day siege of the Iranian embassy in London in April 1980, when six armed gunmen took 26 people hostage. The film stars Mark Strong (Kingsman), Jamie Bell (Fantastic Four) and Abbie Cornish (Bright Star). Filming moves to London in August for location shots.

A recent survey commissioned by the British arm of HBO Entertainment asked more than 2,000 people about whether film or TV influenced their travel plans. About one-quarter said it influenced them. Top choice, according to the survey, was New Zealand because of the locations used in the Lord of the Rings films. New Zealand tourism said that in the year ended March 2015, more than 80,000 visitors said they came to Kiwi land because of Peter Jackson’s fantasy epics. The Hobbit movie set near Matamata in the Waikato is the fastest-growing tourist attraction in New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings series has also attracted more filmmakers to New Zealand.

Now for the strange tale of Ice 2020, a $21.5 million movie made in New Zealand in 2009 and unseen in many major territories. Halfway through shooting, one of the production companies ran out of money and extra funds were released by a U.S.-based completion-bond company to complete filming. According to reports, the film had been presold to 65 international companies, but not a New Zealand distributor.

New Zealand, like many countries, has a tax incentive for international films in which a percentage of the budget spent in New Zealand is reimbursed to the production company. The New Zealand government paid $4.1 million under this scheme for a film that has never been seen in New Zealand. Apparently, the demise of one of the production companies has made obtaining rights very difficult.

Although made as a feature, the film appeared in several European countries as a two-part TV miniseries under the title Ice. IMDB has no release dates for either the U.S. or the U.K. and both Amazon U.S. and Amazon U.K. are only selling a Dutch release.

Ice 2020 was shot close to Sam Neill's winery in Otago and he stars alongside Richard Roxburgh, Simon Callow, Ben Cross and Stephen Moyer. Based on the book Ice by James Fottett, the setting is 2020 and the world is running out of oil. Sam Neill is a businessman who wants to drill for oil in Greenland under the glaciers despite environmentalists’ objections.

The New Zealand Film Commission would like the film, made by a largely New Zealand crew in New Zealand, to be shown in its home country, but five years on does not believe the cost of a cinema release would be economical. They are hoping for an eventual TV or DVD release.

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