No Better Way to Spend the Weekend: Director’s Toolkit with Peter Burger

,

In the weekend, 18 DEGNZ member directors came together to hear from Peter Burger at the Director’s Toolkit Workshop held in Auckland. Peter worked with the directors and gave great advice, drawing on his knowledge and experience as a multi-award winning director of television, film and commercials. His credits include ‘Go Girls’, ‘Outrageous Fortune’ and telefeatures ‘Field Punishment No. 1’ and ‘Operation Overdue’, which were both nominated for NZOnAir Best Television Feature at the New Zealand Film Awards 2014.

We’d like to say a big thanks to everyone involved – Peter Burger, the directors, and actors Josh McKenzie and Olivia Tennet.

12274278_964836953579392_6992667241965083787_n

Networking with the Cinematographers

,

A great evening was had at Networking Drinks with the NZ Cinematographers Society, talking projects and sharing knowledge.

Thanks to everyone who turned out!

IMG_2495 IMG_2496 IMG_2498 IMG_2488 IMG_2492 IMG_2493

 

Unsung Heroes and Heroines

I went to the Show Me Shorts Festival opening night this week and had the chance to reflect on recognition. A number of awards were handed out to very deserving recipients including some of our guild members: Alyx Duncan, James Cunningham, Chris Pryor – talents who stood out because of their work, which was put very visibly in front of people to see.

DEGNZ sponsored the Best Director Award and Best Editor Award because we wanted to acknowledge excellence in the arts we represent. Also, we want to raise our profile with emerging filmmakers, many of whom were in the room. A good number are at the beginning of their careers, or already on the path but not too far down it.

It got me thinking about those who do outstanding things in our industry, but far from the limelight.

I decided I needed to look back over the boards of the guild to see who had been involved. And I talked to one of the original founders of the guild, Keith Hunter, who together with some other altruistic individuals, left what was originally the Screen Producers and Directors Association to set up the precursor to the DEGNZ, the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand.

The past boards of DEGNZ are a roll call of directors, and later directors and editors, who are leaders within the industry and excel at their craft. People like Pietra Brettkelly, Peter Bell, Dan Salmon, Leanne Pooley, Annie Goldson and Mark McNeill to name a few more recent practitioners.

Why do they do it? It’s voluntary. There’s little recognition. They are really working for their colleagues and not themselves.

Like most non-profit organisations that depend on volunteers, on the whole our board members have done it because they want to give back. There’s something bigger than themselves within their area of interest that they have a strong affinity to and they want to make a contribution.

It often seems like it is left to those who are already well established in their careers and have the wisdom, experience and or the capacity to do something for others who put their hands up. But that’s not always the case. And it’s certainly not what DEGNZ wants to limit itself to. Enthusiasm and passion, which you must have to survive in any creative sector, is highly prized and comes from all ages.

In the times ahead we will be looking to members—emerging filmmakers and established—to provide input into what we do and how we do it. There will be opportunities to participate in more active ways to help shape the guild as it adapts to the ever-changing environment we exist in. We will want fresh blood and ideas. And information. One such opportunity for you to contribute will be the survey we will conduct shortly to gauge where everything is at for members right now.

While we look to the future, we also want to look to the past and acknowledge those individuals who have made significant contributions over many years of dedicated service to the guild.

Keith Hunter was the first to receive life membership to DEGNZ a few years ago, recognising the work he did over many years in getting the guild set up and functioning effectively. Keith is a writer, director and producer who worked across drama, documentaries, arts programmes and current affairs. You can read an extensive bio on him here.

John Reid was the second to receive life membership more recently in recognition of his work for the guild.  John’s bio here outlines his vast experience in commercials, TV and feature film.

At the Annual General Meeting in October of this year, DEGNZ conferred its third life membership. It was given to George Andrews. Like Keith and John, George has had a distinguished career in the screen industry, particularly as a writer, director and producer of documentaries, as a review of his bio here will reveal. And also like the others, George has put in countless hours on behalf of the guild’s members in our efforts on advocacy, lobbying and other work.

There are many others who have served on the board of DEGNZ over the years. Over time, we will do our bit to shed light on them to acknowledge their efforts in keeping the guild solvent, relevant and serving the creative, cultural and financial well being of all directors and editors in the New Zealand screen industry.

For now, I’d just like to say thanks to all the unsung heroes and heroines who have served the guild. They know who they are. And hopefully, you will get to know some of them too if you don’t already.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Tell Us Your Story

I’ve been in a seminar this week with film and television producers from New Zealand, Australia and Denmark, lawyers and finance people from New Zealand, Australia and Sweden, and a major sales agent from the UK. At this point in time, the future is not looking rosy for filmmakers.

It’s tough out there in television drama, too, as many of them attest.

Financing is difficult, budgets are ever tighter, it’s hard to bank fees and make margins, and with business models in upheaval as people struggle to survive in the upended paradigm of exhibition, distribution and production, keeping a smile on the dial is difficult. But people are. Even in the midst of the maelstrom, there are ways through for the astute and the lucky.

Bringing it all back to earth, what does it mean for the working director and editor?

Well there are opportunities and obstacles.

We are fortunate that the incentives are working overtime. Variety confirmed this week the rumour that Ash vs. Evil Dead has been renewed for another season. Power Rangers and Shannara are likely to be back. And there are other international drama productions confirmed and in the offing. These will bring jobs and not just for techos.

NZ On Air still has funds, although they are being fragmented by what’s happening with digital.

We are happy to announce the next DEGNZ TV Drama Director Attachment that comes wit NZ On Air support will be on Filthy Productions’ Dirty Laundry. A call is now underway.

On the other side of the coin, NZFC is under pressure to cut costs while maintaining production output. But with the tightening of the market internationally and the proliferation of product, Kiwi producers are likely going to find it more of a challenge to finance films.

Amidst all of this, the guild remains concerned about the well being of directors and editors.

It’s crucially important for us to assess pay rates, working conditions and the general environment for those working as directors and editors in the New Zealand screen industry. Detailed information informs our dealings with funding bodies and the government as we advocate on your behalf.

We will be launching shortly a comprehensive survey of our membership to better understand what it’s like for you in your work and career right now. We need to get a clearer fix on what is going on within the screen industry for directors and editors. So tell us your story. It will be anonymous.

We have some critical discussions and negotiations coming up at DEGNZ and we need statistics and facts to back up our arguments. They will also help us in shaping pay rate recommendations and contracts. Please take the time to respond to the survey. It will help us all.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

More Like the Luvvies!

Thanks to DEGNZ member Leanne Pooley for this guest editorial.

I recently attended a play in Auckland and while looking at the audience it struck me how many of them were members of the theatrical community. Like dancers and the musical fraternity they were there because a) it was a great show and b) theatre people support each other’s work. It occurred to me at the time that the film industry could learn from this.

At the recent Big Screen Symposium I was at a session with Dave Gibson during which he mentioned the box office success of the recently released BORN TO DANCE. I looked around the room and I wondered how many of those present had been to see the film? Sadly I suspect had Dave asked for a show of hands, the response would have been disappointing.
I am not a hip-hop fan, but I have seen BORN TO DANCE (I was blown away by the dancing despite my unhip nature). I’m a scaredy cat but I took my teenagers to HOUSEBOUND. I’m nervous about violence but I watched THE DEAD LANDS on the big screen. I don’t love rugby but I loved THE GROUND WE WON. My point is I try to see New Zealand films…in the cinema. This is in part because I think it’s a good idea to see what’s what from a professional point of view, but also because I believe strongly that as a community we need to support each other, just like theatre people do.
I cannot tell you how soul destroying it is when friends and colleagues come up to you months after your film has finished its cinematic run and say “I’ve been meaning to go to your movie!” By then it’s too late, and while most people say this from a place of love the truth of the matter is, if they really meant to see it, they would have.
This is even more relevant now given the difficult movie marketplace. The viewing window is short. You can’t wait six weeks and assume a film is still going to be there. You need to go as soon as possible, preferably opening weekend, because that really helps the producers keep the movie alive.
I know it’s not always convenient but we only release around half a dozen films a year; I believe strongly that as a community we need to make a bigger effort to go along, pay for a ticket and be there for each other. They’re our filmmakers, our actors, our designers, our cinematographers, our technical people…they’re our films! If we don’t support each other how can we ask the taxpayer to support us?

Leanne Pooley
Director: 25 April