Film and Media

Film and media image

Making movie magic from behind the scenes

Your film and media advisor in New Zealand

Over the years we have advised legendary productions, blockbusters and long running TV series. Among our experience highlights include the Lord of the Rings trilogy, handling the production work for the Power Rangers series, Spartacus and Ash v Evil Dead series, as well as acting for the New Zealand Film Commission financing numerous productions.

We act in Wellington through John McCay for the New Zealand Film Commission, funding productions.

We act in Auckland through Chris Young for major US and independent studios, producers, distribution companies, financiers and investors across a range of television, film and digital media productions in New Zealand. Chris is regularly on the ground in the US to meet with clients so when the time comes, productions are implemented in the most commercially and legally effective way.

MinterEllisonRuddWatts has been my go-to law firm for Australia and New Zealand for many years. Their work is of the highest quality and their responsiveness is second to none. My only regret is that I can’t hire them for work outside of the region!

- Gavin Wise, Senior Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs Starz (2019)

Our services for film production combine finance lawyers, commercial lawyers, tax, labor, and IP experts. We give comprehensive, practical advice to international organisations wanting to take advantage of New Zealand as a filming destination. We advise on all aspects of film and television productions from financing, co-production, investment, sale and leaseback, and pre-production through to distribution. We have significant experience including structuring productions to comply with the New Zealand Screen Production Grant including PDV and uplift requirements; all intellectual property aspects including copyright, trade marks, licensing and acquisition of rights; production structuring and production agreements, financing, tax, labor, real estate, and litigation.

How we can help

Corporate structuring

  • Structuring the relationship between the local production company to be established (or to be contracted) to carry out production work and the owner of copyright in the relevant production

  • Any special tax structure to be implemented for the transactions between the copyright owner and the local production company

Intellectual property (IP)

  • All IP aspects including cross-border IP advice, copyright, trade mark clearance and registration, chain of title, licensing and acquisition of rights

New Zealand Screen Production Grant

  • Structuring productions to comply with the New Zealand Screen Production Grant including PDV and grant uplift requirements

Production contracts and agreements

  • Preparation and negotiation of all production cast and crew agreements, writer agreements, composer and location agreements relating to the production

  • Assessing overseas producer’s standard production documentation for compliance and suitability with local law

Financing, tax, labor, real estate and litigation

  • Advising across the whole spectrum of issues that often arise under local law. This ranges from corporate / commercial and tax advice on copyright ownership structures and film financing, to the full range of tailored employment, health and safety, property and litigation advice

Work highlights

Auckland team (led by partner Chris Young)

The Auckland team acts for major US and other independent studios, producers and distribution companies advising on production agreements, IP and IP structuring, corporate structuring, financing, and grant applications/qualification.

  • Lord of the Rings
  • 30 Days of Night
  • Ash v Evil Dead: Season 1, 2 and 3
  • Xena: Warrior Princess
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol.1 and Vol. 2
  • Iron Man 3
  • Noir
  • Power Ranges: seasons 12, 13,14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 ,22, 23, 26 and 27
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Vengeance, Gods of the Arena and War of the Damned
  • The Avengers
  • Thor
  • Thor Ragnarok

Wellington team (led by partner John McCay)

Our Wellington team acts for The Film Commission and NZ on Air.

  • Colour of War – The Anzacs
  • In My Father’s Den
  • Jubilee
  • Matariki
  • Mr Pip
  • Mt Zion
  • Once Were Warriors
  • Perfect Creature
  • Perfect Strangers
  • Pete’s Dragon
  • Predicament
  • River Queen
  • Saving Grace
  • Scarfies
  • Separation City
  • Spooked
  • The Changeover
  • The Dark Horse
  • The Dead Lands
  • The Ferryman
  • The Tattoist
  • The Vintner’s Luck
  • The Weight of Elephants
  • Tracker
  • Under the Mountain
  • Whale Rider
  • What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?
  • World’s Fastest Indian
  • The Changeover
  • Capital in the 21st Century
  • Wayne
  • Guns Akimbo
  • Tip Top Taj Mahal
  • Daffodils
  • Colours of China
  • Martin Phillipps and the Chills
  • Come to Daddy
  • Shadow in the Cloud
  • The Patriarch
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • The End Game
  • The Wonder
  • Kiwi Christmas
  • Daffodils
  • Colours of China
  • The Justice of Bunny King
  • Cousins
  • Night Raiders
  • Beyond the Edge
  • Black Knight
  • Black Sheep
  • Boogeyman
  • Boy
  • Bro Town
  • Castle of Lies
  • 100 Men

Our experts

Chris Young – Heads our Auckland film and media practice

Chris advises major US studios, producers and distributors and heads the Auckland film and media practice.

A leading intellectual property and commercial lawyer, Chris’s work includes commercialisation and licensing the intellectual property aspects of mergers and acquisitions, film and television production and other transactions. Chris has significant experience in all aspects of IP including branding, strategy, trade mark registration, licensing and enforcement. He regularly advises on IP aspects of film and television productions. Examples of work include production arrangements for Power Rangers, Spartacus, The Avengers, Evil Dead, Noir, Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, and Thor Ragnarok. He has also handled trade mark registration work for this sector including for The Saul Zaentz Company (The Lord of the Rings).

Chris is consistently recommended as a leading lawyer in directories including Chambers and Partners and The Legal 500 Asia Pacific.

He has been actively involved in the International Trademarks Association (INTA) and the International Bar Association (IBA) for years and served on a range of important committees having chaired INTA’s East Asia Pacific Famous Marks subcommittee, and been on the Parallel Imports Committee, Internet Committee and the Asia Pacific Global Advisory Council. Chris is currently the New Zealand representative on INTA’s Bulletin Committee.

John McCay – Heads our Wellington film and media practice

John is an experienced film and entertainment lawyer and leads the Wellington film practice. He advises film financiers and producers such as the New Zealand Film Commission, Film New Zealand and New Zealand On Air, and has been involved in funding for a range of New Zealand feature films including Whale Rider, World’s Fastest Indian, In My Fathers Den, Mr Pip, Boy, The Vintners Luck, and Two Little Boys.

John is currently on the board of the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand On Air, is a member of the New Zealand Screen Production Grant Panel and the New Zealand Co-production Certification Committee, and has previously served as chair of Film New Zealand.

As a key-team adviser to Te Papa, John has negotiated the licensing arrangements for numerous international exhibitions including the internationally acclaimed exhibition about the making of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also advised New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on its licensing and commercial recording such as the sound records of The Hobbit soundtrack.

A leading TMT, entertainment and information technology lawyer, John is recognised by publications such as Asialaw, Chambers Global, Australian Legal Business Guide, The Best Lawyers in New Zealand and Expert Guide to the World's Leading Technology, Media and Telecommunications Lawyers.

Who can help