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Peter Jackson tries to figure out how to fix New Zealand film.

Peter Jackson tries to figure out how to fix New Zealand film. (photo)

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In between creating increasingly gigantic films, Peter Jackson got together with David Court, an Australian academic, and issued an 87-page report on the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of the New Zealand Film Commission. It’s a compendium of every cliché ever uttered by a frustrated filmmaker, confirming that the development process is long, tedious and discouraging pretty much everywhere in the world.

Even if you’re not Jackson-obsessed, the report’s surprisingly readable and filled with anecdotes, despite some heavy charts of statistics appended to the end. The thrust is that New Zealand needs the NZFC (without it, a young Peter Jackson would never have gotten started), but it needs a different NZFC, one that (presumably) is no longer acting the same way it did when Jackson was getting off the ground.

That conclusion is based off interviews conducted anonymously, so that no one feels intimidated from speaking — and, attendantly, it’s light on specific case studies and horror stories. Still, you know what you’re getting into when “Table one” (on page 17) invites you to contemplate the differences between the current model (deemed “arts patronage”) and what Court and Jackson would like to see (dubbed the “talent partnership” model).

07022010_kong.jpgAdjectives tell the tale. In the category of “relationship to film makers,” “aloof” should become “involved”; accountability should go from “low” to “high,” the management culture from “controlling” to “co-operative.”

The gist is that the NZFC means well but is staffed by terrified bureaucrats who don’t know how to read screenplays and do everything too slow. These insights will be familiar to anyone who’s followed horror stories of the Hollywood development process (“The Commission tends to use drafts as a way of avoiding decisions,” reports one anonymous soul. “If in doubt write another draft. It’s a momentum killer.”)

Everyone seems to agree that it’s important to nurture young talent, though it’s unclear what the best way to do this might be. There’s an endorsement of conventional screenwriting wisdom that would warm Robert McKee’s heart: “We need to get past the cultural cringe of imagining ‘we don’t want to tell American stories’. A good story tutor teaches principles that have driven storytelling since the ancient Greeks.”

On the other hand, there’s a lot of stuff like this: “it is our recommendation not to put too much focus on financial returns. Removing the need to make profit will lead to more creatively interesting projects – which ironically, may well lead to greater financial returns.”

07022010_time.jpgSo, while they’re obviously not bottom-line driven in the way of the Hollywood studios, film commissions have their own conflicts — the current UK set-up means a master like Terence Davies (“Distant Voices, Still Lives,” “Of Time And The City”) has to kowtow to younger admins and prove his artistic worth after 20-plus years of repeatedly doing so. And they have their own sense of obligation to investors: “Film-makers must also remember that they are the recipients of taxpayer funding,” scolds the New Zealand Herald. “This should not be dispensed lightly.”

Filmmaking everywhere is hard, and always for the same reasons.

[Photos: Peter Jackson via Wikimedia Commons, taken by Natasha Baucas, July 28 2009; “King Kong,” Universal, 2005.; “Of Time and the City,” Strand Releasing, 2008]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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