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Requirements of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 for Film-makers

Does my film need to be classified?

Under the Act, films must be classified if they will be publicly exhibited. This includes:

  • films that will be publicly exhibited but no admission will be charged (eg films exhibited at the end of film-making course)
  • short films as well as feature length productions
  • films made as a result of an arts grant
  • films shown as part of a festival
  • films on commercial release

Exemptions: Trade screenings

Under section 7 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, you do not need to have your film classified for a trade screening. A trade screening is a private screening, for commercial purposes, of a film by the maker, owner or distributor of the film to any person engaged in the film industry or in any industry closely associated with the film screening. In practice, this can include the cast and crew of the film and journalists attending in their capacity as film reviewers. It does not apply to other members of the public.

Exemptions from Labelling

Under section 8 of the Act, you may not need to have your film classified if it falls into one of the categories listed in section 8(1). It is important to note that even if it does fit into one of these categories, it may not be exempt if it contains material that is likely to cause it to be classified as restricted or objectionable under section 3 of the Act. For more information on whether your film may be exempt from labelling, go to the Exemptions page.

The Classification Office cannot grant exemptions – it is up to the distributor of the film to read both section 8 and section 3, and then decide if their film meets the exemption criteria.

What is involved in the classification process?

Your film needs to be submitted to the Film and Video Labelling Body, which is based in Auckland. The Labelling Body is the organisation responsible for rating unrestricted films and issuing classification labels. If the Labelling Body can assign an unrestricted rating of G, PG, or M, then your film will not come to the Classification Office. For information on the Labelling Body’s processes and costs please visit their website at or phone them on 09 3613882.

If the Labelling Body decides that your film may require a restricted classification, they will submit it on your behalf to the Classification Office. Once your film has been classified, the Office will direct the Labelling Body to issue a New Zealand classification label for your film.

What will it cost?

See our Fees Information Sheet for information on classification costs, including information on fee waivers and requests for having your publication classified urgently.

How long will it take?

This will depend on whether your film can be given an unrestricted rating by the Labelling Body (contact the Labelling Body for more information) or if it will need to come to the Office of Film and Literature Classification. If it comes to the Office, the time taken to process your film will depend on the number of publications in the queue at that time – for a more specific timeframe contact the Office directly. You can also request to have your film classified under urgency, which involves an increased fee.

Obtaining classification labels

Some retail chains, libraries or distributors may require you to obtain a New Zealand classification label for your film even if it is exempt from labelling under section 8. In order to obtain labels you will need to apply to the Film and Video Labelling Body.

Advertising films

Under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993, trailers for feature films are films in their own right, and therefore must carry a New Zealand classification label when being supplied or exhibited to the public. This applies even if the feature which the trailer is advertising has not yet been classified.

The same submission procedure applies to trailers – they should in the first instance be submitted to the Film and Video Labelling Body, who will forward them on to the Office of Film and Literature Classification if they contain material that may warrant a restricted

Advertising material, such as posters and fliers, should be submitted to the Film and Video Labelling Body for approval. Once a film has been classified, its classification should appear on all advertising material and should obscure any overseas ratings. For more information on classification requirements for film advertising, go to the Advertising page.

Short films and batched publications

If you would like to have a short film classified, you can submit it with other short films and apply to have it classified as a batched publication for fees purposes. For more information on submitting batched publications, see the Fees Information Sheet in the Downloads section of our website.

For More Information:

Check out the following pages in the Industry and Law sections of our website:


For more information on the classification process contact the Information Unit.

To download this information in a pdf document (PDF v7.0, 120kb) click here.



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