It is not meaningful or helpful to assert that Canada or a particular US state is more attractive than South Africa, the UK, or any other popular location, that’s according to two Australians whose business it is to assist producers to secure financial incentives across the world.
‘Circumstances, including financing plans, are never identical, particularly in the case of independent films,’ said Brett Thornquest, who owns Contrarian Vision with Timothy Driver. ‘There is a tendency not to look at the whole but to compartmentalise.’
The pair told ScreenDaily that they have long been frustrated at the industry’s propensity to make - and accept - comparative generic assertions about countries.
The underlying assessments have often only examined factors on face value rather than properly taking into account the flow-on effect on budgets of the nature of the banking and tax environment of each country, for example, or the different conditions applying to government incentives, such as whether rebates are paid on a staggered basis or only on completion.
For much of 2008 Thornquest and Driver have been developing a management program that they say accurately predicts the true worth of national tax and other incentives on individual films.
It also models the financial implications of interest rate and currency shifts - and of creative changes or compromises - as they happen. The program is made up of a series of compliance and reporting procedures and approaches; they say it is saleable but have no intention of taking that path as yet.
They admit it is in their interest to speak out, but insist it is about time the worldwide industry did a reality check on its financial procedures and projections for the sake of everyone involved.
With the present unpredictable financial climate and currency volatility it could well be necessary as the pool of financial institutions willing to work in film shrinks and security requirements are increased.
‘There is a lot more caution around the business paradigm in terms of lending and it is making it much more difficult for filmmakers,’ said Driver.
Another motivating factor behind Thornquest and Driver forming Contrarian Vision last year was to service producers wishing to claim the 40 per cent incentive that now exists in both Australia and New Zealand for local projects.
They say that if foreign producers mistakenly believe they can claim the 40 per cent on a certain film, only to find upon completion that they only qualify for the 15 per cent location offset, the ramifications on both country’s reputations will be far-reaching.
Contrarian Vision is structuring rather than sourcing finance and is separate to but closely involved with Jane Corden’s production accounting film Moneypenny, which has offices in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and, now, the UK. Thornquest and Driver will continue to work as consultants to Moneypenny.
They facilitated most of the studio films that have shot in Australia and NZ in the last few years and consulted on many co-productions, including director Scott Hicks’ Australian/UK film The Boys Are Back, which stars Clive Owen and is currently in post production.