Robert Sarkies' new movie, Out of the Blue, has spent the past few months travelling to film festivals around the world, a journey that began at the Toronto event and culminated with its appearance at the Hong Kong International Film Festival this week. It is the 10th most successful New Zealand movie in terms of box office receipts generated in that country, one rank lower than Sarkies' feature-length debut, Scarfies, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2000. Such a pedigree should have guaranteed open doors everywhere he turns. Not for the Dunedin-born filmmaker, however: as shown by the six-year gap between Scarfies and Out of the Blue, getting his projects off the ground remains a challenge. 'I also make commercials - and that's how I fund what I do,' Sarkies said. New Zealand's cinematic profile might have been lifted by the success of Peter Jackson and his decision to film King Kong and The Lord of the Rings trilogy in his home country, but less well-known filmmakers are still struggling to find backers for their projects. Sarkies and Jonathan King, whose Black Sheep also received critical acclaim in the Toronto International Film Festival and - like Out of the Blue - has secured an American distribution deal with IFC Films and Weinstein Brothers, said government support was 'totally crucial'. 'The numbers just don't add up,' King said. 'The revenue from New Zealand audiences alone couldn't fund films.' Increasing exposure of New Zealand films around the world - pushed by the occasional breakthrough hits like The World's Fastest Indian and Whale Rider (which generated an Academy Award nomination for its star, Keisha Castle-Hughes) - has brought changes, however. More overseas parties are involved in co-productions today. Black Sheep, for example, was funded by Korean commercial giant Daesung, which has struck up a partnership with Park Road Post, one of New Zealand's most high-profile post-production companies. Both Sarkies and King said the key to success for New Zealand's filmmakers, however, was in the artistic credentials of the movies themselves. It is present in large doses in both films, which carry strong narratives and an exploration of the country's own cultural identity. Out of the Blue is a gripping account of a notorious mass murder in 1990 in Aramoana, when a gunman killed 13 people and roamed the town's streets for another 22 hours before he was shot dead by the police. Black Sheep, meanwhile, is a piece of 'comedy horror' that sees mutant sheep turning into bloodthirsty beasts - a play on an animal that is largely seen as one of the symbols of New Zealand's culture. Their efforts were boosted by support within New Zealand, they said. 'The problem about watching New Zealanders on screen was that we have a strange accent - and people were brought up on a diet of American and British movies,' Sarkies said. 'There has been a sea change - the thing that did it was the recognition of New Zealand films internationally. For something to be culturally accepted, we tend to look for recognition overseas - and we tend to be very self-critical about our own.' Out of the Blue is screening tonight at 9.30 at UA Langham Place, and Black Sheep tomorrow at 9pm at City Hall Theatre.