10 November 2016

New Zealand On Air’s recent announcement of changes to its funding strategy and to a lesser extent the mooted desire of TVNZ to take over Freeview have brought discussion of public service broadcasting once again to the fore.

Public service broadcasting has had a chequered history since 1989 with both the Labour and National Parties ensuring Television New Zealand’s ability to operate as a commercial public broadcaster.

The doing away of the charter in 2008 by National let loose the commercial beasts at TVNZ forever and public service content has diminished significantly as a result.

NZ On Air was set up to ensure a broad range of NZ content on screen. While they have fought their fight, they do not control the broadcast platforms that operate at the behest of advertisers. Consequently, it is difficult to get a broad range of public service content screened because broadcasters shoot for the lowest common denominator and are unwilling to take creative risks in case they affect advertising revenue.

Now NZ on Air is proposing a new funding strategy that essentially expands the content gatekeeping from the commercially-driven broadcasters to include the commercially-driven online platforms, the likes of NZME and Fairfax Media.

Some look to Radio New Zealand as the great online hope. But like NZ on Air, Radio NZ hasn’t had an increase in funding for the last eight years. Yes, they have developed the Wireless, revamped their website and are now generating screen content with the filming and broadcasting/streaming of Checkpoint. They’re also engaging in providing independently produced digital content with a platform as they did with Christchurch Dilemmas. It’s likely that they’ll start commissioning more independently produced content. But they can’t compete with the media giants of the world in the online space without a lot more funding.

Could Radio NZ be the home for public service TV? Unlikely. Funding issues aside, the shelf life of linear TV is up for debate and the infrastructure costs are high. Without deep pockets, nobody wants to take on the voracious content beast that is a linear TV channel, which has to chew up and spit out content non-stop. Viceland, a new TV channel from digital hipster Vice Media and partners A & E in the U.S. and Rogers Media in Canada illustrates what’s needed for a linear channel start-up: distinctive content, lots of it, and piles of money to make it or buy it and play it out.

It’s clear that a lot of people still watch linear TV as NZ On Air’s recent Audience Report showed. It also identified the significant increase in online services, particularly SVOD, such as Lightbox and Netflix. This trend is reflected internationally as well.

David Abraham, Chief Executive of Channel 4 in the UK, claimed that the future of TV lies “not with either linear or on-demand, but a creative and visual integration of the two worlds, blending the strengths of both into a single brand.”

NZ On Air’s refocusing of its funding strategy is necessary in light of the impact of the digital world. But it doesn’t address the real issue that lies at the heart of screen content delivery in New Zealand—When TVNZ 7 was shut down by the National government, we lost what potentially could have been our non-commercial, public service content TV broadcaster. And now with the growth of digital content providers looking to satisfy the need of content consumers after whatever they want, whenever they want it on multiple screens, we don’t have a non-commercial, public service online platform to guard against the total commercialization of content in that space.

With our current business-driven government, what we need is a bright spark or two to put a convincing case forward that meets the need of public service content on TV and online and the government’s desire for a return on investment that’s attractive–not necessarily a monetary one.

Until we get a public service content provider fit for the digital age, we are going to continue to wince and grimace our way through the majority of what’s on offer just like we’ve done with the US election coverage.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 21 February 2018

Table Read

9 November 2016

While the Rehearsal Room was happening down in Wellington on Saturday, the third round of the Guild Table Reads for 2016 was taking place in Auckland at the NZ Writers Guild headquarters.

The feature length script that was read was written by DEGNZ member writer/director Paula W. Jones thanks to a cast of 6 actors who really brought the characters off the page. Check out some pics below!

The Table Reads are a joint initiative between DEGNZ, NZWG and Equity Foundation.

Table Reads will return for more rounds in 2017! If you have a feature-length script in development you’d like to have read, you can apply to go in the draw for future rounds by contacting NZWG: guildhq@nzwg.org.nz.

Open to members of DEGNZ / NZWG. Names remain for subsequent draws.

 

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Last updated on 25 June 2018

7 November 2016

Kathy McRae led an excellent Rehearsal Room workshop in Wellington on Saturday. Three of our members -Becs Arahanga, Catherine Bisley and Wendell Cooke – took the opportunity to work with actors on a scene from their current projects. A big thank you to Kathy and all the actors and directors who took part. Check out some photos below.

Last updated on 20 March 2020

In our last DEGNZ workshop of the year, renowned Kiwi DOP Alun Bollinger will examine in detail across a one-day interactive workshop what it means to be cinematic.

Alun’s name is synonymous with New Zealand feature film and Kiwi directors, from the quintessential Goodbye Pork Pie (Geoff Murphy), War Stories, Perfect Strangers and Lovely Rita (Gaylene Preston), Heavenly Creatures, Forgotten Silver, The Frighteners and Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson) to End Of The Golden Weather and Came A Hot Friday (Ian Mune), and Vigil and River Queen (Vincent Ward).

In this workshop Alun will look at the technical and beyond as he explores how to be cinematic to propel story, covering topics including lenses, lighting and camera movement to communication between director and DOP.

Applications are invited for a limited number of positions on this one-day workshop. Selected participants will be asked to bring along one film scene that they feel is cinematic for sharing and discussion with the group.

In one single Word document or PDF, please forward your CV and a maximum one-page statement about what you believe this workshop will contribute to your career as a filmmaker by 5PM Friday 18 November to admin@degnz.co.nz. Please put ‘Being Cinematic’ in the subject line.

What: One-day workshop on Being Cinematic with Alun Bollinger

When: Saturday 26 November 2016

Where: MTG RM, Kingsland, Auckland

Cost: DEGNZ members free, non-members $100

Limited financial assistance will be available to some DEGNZ members coming from outside Auckland.

Last updated on 21 February 2018

26 October 2016

It’s been a helluva busy year, and I’ve been offshore more than once, the latest in October when former head of the Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly died of lung cancer.

I never met Helen Kelly. I only knew her from the media as she fought her fights as a fierce champion of workers’ rights.

In the screen industry, she is probably best known for her intense opposition to Warners Bros’ ultimately successful efforts to get NZ employment law changed to have movie workers classified as self-employed contractors.

Perhaps more pertinently for all of us, Helen Kelly’s fight for improved health and safety conditions for NZ forestry workers undoubtedly helped contribute to the H & S changes that came into effect on 1 April of this year, which will make screen industry workers safer on set.

I wanted to acknowledge Helen Kelly because although the passage of the Employment Contracts Act in 1991 effectively rendered unions irrelevant and put most workers into a situation of selling their labour in a private transaction under an individual contract, she continued to passionately pursue an agenda to make it easier for unions to represent workers and negotiate collective employment contracts.

Helen Kelly’s fight is in essence every guild in New Zealand’s fight.

All of our members negotiate individual contracts for their employment, and most often are at a distinct disadvantage when doing so. They have no job security. And are under increasing pressure to do more for less.

As a guild one of our roles is to seek to ensure a fair and respectful workplace environment for our members. We can only look at the Directors Guild of America’s situation with envy.

The DGA as a union negotiates collectively on behalf of its members, setting pay rates for DGA productions. They protect the creative rights of directors and ensure residuals for ongoing compensation for directorial authorship. Healthcare and pension plans are just some of the other benefits of DGA membership.

Like the NZ unions, the DEGNZ’s efforts for worker’s rights are made difficult by our deregulated labour market. And because of this we can look to Helen Kelly’s approach to making unions relevant for guidance in how to move DEGNZ forward: make it a social movement with a set of values and activities that people will want to be associated with.

All of us at DEGNZ—board members and workers—seek the best working environment possible for career directors and editors in New Zealand.

At board level we are engaged now in discussions that have will have a significant impact on future working conditions for our members. And at the Annual General Meeting this weekend, NZ on Air CEO Jane Wrightson will speak to one such topic—the restructuring of NZ On Air’s funding strategy. As we approach this and the many other current and future issues that we will have to deal with, we can look to Helen Kelly’s no-nonsense approach for inspiration.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 26 October 2016