A Heck of a Year

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It’s been a heck of a year with a number of significant changes that affects many of the things we do in the screen sector.

The first of major import was NZ On Air’s move to its single media fund model in July of 2017. Already an avenue for aspiring content makers who couldn’t or didn’t want to get their content seen via traditional channels and a way for traditional players to put their toes in the digital waters, NZ On Air’s reshaped approach now sees a whole raft of new and much bigger players push through the gates to create an even greater level of competition for the organisation’s capped funding. NZME, Fairfax and Vice amongst others are now competing with bedroom web series makers, and often throwing their weight around in doing so. But some things have remained the same. Adding to the gatekeepers in broadcast, we now have a new bunch of gatekeepers in digital platforms with their own sometimes onerous demands for letting you play in their playpens if you want funding.

One of the players in both the old and new spaces, TVNZ has had another shake up and, surprises of surprises, things there actually seem to have changed this time. A new Head of Content and a new Digital team, together with a ‘we’re-going-to-have -to-do-something-or-die’ reality pushing them along, has transformed their attitude and approach. A clear example of this is HEIHEI, the new digital platform for children, a joint initiative between TVNZ and NZ On Air that will launch in 2018. It seems to me that TVNZ from the top down is now open particularly in the digital space to new ideas, approaches and teams with an open-door policy that’s refreshing.

The most fundamental shift we observed this year that has major impact on us was the change in government from National to a Labour-led coalition. National never saw the cultural benefit in the Arts; Labour does. National put employers to the fore; Labour puts employees (or in our case contractors for the majority of us). We are going to see shifts in Arts funding, as exhibited by the Government’s commitment to add $38 million to Radio NZ and NZ On Air’s pots. We will experience changes in workers’ terms and condition of contracting and employment as the miss-start with the Hobbit Law indicates. More important though will be the psychological impact of a government that supports artistic endeavour and also understands that artists need to be financially supported to express themselves in a way that allows them to have a sustainable career doing so. If the government can encourage creative expression and risk-taking, protect intellectual property rights and provide opportunities to channel creative output into revenue-generating product for international markets, we’ll all be better off.

Amidst this sea of change that’s upon us, only some of which I’ve mentioned here, we need to do our own bit to ensure the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of not just directors and editors, but everyone in the screen industry. This is why DEGNZ initiated and is driving the establishment of a Code of Ethics. We want to stop exploitation, create an environment where everyone is protected mentally and physically, and ensure that the work we do creatively sustains us. The other guilds and associations are on board with this and we hope to bring the funding agencies and government in on this, too. If you haven’t filled in the small survey that we have circulated through every guild and association, please do so. This is an important step for us to be able to move ahead.

On the more tactical front we have had some good wins this year. As part of our efforts to address gender inequality particularly for women directors, we completed our first Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator, closing out the fifth and final workshop in August. We have 10 women directors raring to go from this. We saw two of our TV drama attachments payoff big time with Helena Brooks going on to direct a block of two episodes on 800 Words, while Aidee Walker will direct a block of Westside next month. These talented directors made their attachments work for them, and our other attachments have proven themselves or await the opportunity to do so as they all came through their attachments with flying colours.

In the year ahead we have another Incubator to look forward to with a call for applications out now. We will continue to do TV drama attachments, and are excited about the new dramas that just received NZ On Air funding as well as those that were already planned. We have our full programme of other professional development to implement in 2018. And with the change of government, our advocacy and lobbying efforts on your behalf have already ramped up and will do so even more next year.

At all the screen-related Xmas functions I have been attending this month (and there have been a few), I can say that there is an air of positivity about. It’s shaping up to be a great 2018.

I wish all of you safe, happy and relaxing holidays so you, too, are in good mettle for the year to come.

Mere Kirihimete!

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Call for Applications: DEGNZ Women Filmmakers Incubator 2018

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DEGNZ

The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ is pleased to announce that applications are now open for the second round of its Women Filmmakers Incubator.

Background

The overall vision of the DEGNZ Women Filmmakers Incubator is to empower the participating directors with the confidence, knowledge and connections that they can use to go on and direct a feature film, drama or scripted series.

The Incubator is intended primarily for emerging debut directors of feature film (drama or documentary), but will also consider those wishing to establish careers in TV drama and scripted content.

Applicants must apply with a project, but the Incubator is primarily focused on filmmaker development, not project development.

The objectives of the Incubator are:

  • Improve writers and or directors’ understanding of the business of film and television drama.
  • Increase the number of women directing features and TV drama.
  • Connect producers, broadcasters and funders with female directors with a view to getting more female-centric stories into and through development..
  • Create networking opportunities for women directors to further their projects and careers.
  • Inspire and encourage women directors to passionately pursue feature film and drama directing careers through interaction with successful women who serve as role models .

The Incubator comprises five one-day workshops across an approximate 12-month period with the first scheduled to take place in March 2018.

The workshops are individually themed to provide specific knowledge, networks, skills, and inspiration that enables participants to advance themselves and their careers.

 

Eligibility

All applicants will be expected to have a good level of directing experience with scripted content such as acclaimed web series, shorts with festival success, TV commercials, or broadcast content.

Applicants must:

  • Have an active project (feature film, documentary feature, telefeature, TV or web drama or scripted series) in development that has NEVER been presented to a broadcaster or funder. It is preferable that the project is at least at first draft script, but if not available there must be a detailed treatment for the project.
  • Have experience as a director of scripted content (drama, comedy) or documentary in the form of the project they are submitting, i.e.if you are applying with a narrative drama project, you must have experience directing narrative drama or if it’s comedy, experience directing comedy, etc.
  • For feature film, be a debut director.
  • Be able to participate in all workshops.

A selection panel comprising DEGNZ board members and senior industry practitioners will shortlist candidates. Shortlisted candidates must be available for a one-on-one interview either in person or via Skype to be held around the end of January 2018.

If shortlisted, you will be expected to supply prior to the interview a detailed treatment (different to your 1-page synopsis) of your project a minimum of two and a maximum of ten pages long.

The decisions will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. The Incubator participants will be selected from the shortlist following the interview — getting an interview does not imply that you have been selected for the Incubator.

Every Incubator participant must be a Full DEGNZ member for the full duration of the Incubator course.

The workshops will be held in Auckland. A travel allowance will be available for those successful applicants coming from other regions.

 

Application Requirements

  1. Completed DEGNZ Women Filmmakers Incubator Application Cover Sheet. Available here on the DEGNZ website, under RESOURCES.
  2. A one-page synopsis of the project with the ending revealed.
  3. A maximum two-page letter stating what your career goals are and why you want to participate in this Incubator.
  4. A one-page bio (not a CV).
  5. A filmography and links to completed work that supports the project you are including with this application.

How to Apply

Compile your documents into one single PDF in the order matching requirements 1 – 5.

Give the single PDF the following naming convention:

(YourName)_DEGNZWomenFilmmakersIncubator_2018

and send it to admin@degnz.co.nz with DEGNZWFI2018 in the subject line.

 

The deadline for submissions is 9AM, Monday 8 January 2018.

 

This initiative is made possible with the generous support of the New Zealand Film Commission and the Vista Foundation.


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What’s Up Doc?

As we approach the end of another hectic year like many I’m sure, I’m feeling a little low in energy from the stress and strains of work, the knocks or outright rejection that are a staple of our industry, and the long hours that our passion for the creative sector often demands of us.

I was having a conversation recently about mental health in Film & TV with the head of another guild as we all know someone if not ourselves who has been adversely affected in either a minor or major way by mental health issues.

Ben Neutze writing in the Daily Review in October 2016, cited statistics from a report by Entertainment Assist and Victoria University that revealed… almost half of the people working in Australia’s entertainment industry have moderate to severe anxiety (a rate ten times higher than the general population) while even more suffer from depression, and almost 60% have sought professional assistance for mental health issues at some point in their lives.

He goes on to say: While those surveyed reveal a strong passion for their work and creativity, it’s clear that there are severe stressors affecting those workers. The report identifies: “a powerful, negative culture within the industry including a toxic, bruising work environment; extreme competition; bullying; sexual assault; sexism and racism.”

Further: The rates of suicide ideation amongst those surveyed is also alarmingly six times higher than the general population, with suicide planning four times higher, and suicide attempts twice as high, at 7.7%.

Australian actor and filmmaker Ben Steel is making a documentary about mental health in the Australian entertainment industry called ‘The Show Must Go On’. You can learn more about it here.

I can’t imagine we are much better off here in New Zealand.

While mental health issues are commonplace they are still talked about in hushed tones if at all, particularly suicide. It’s a welcome relief when it’s brought out into the open as Sir John Kirwan did. He got his knighthood not as much for his rugby but for services to mental health, having been for several years at the forefront of the campaign to heighten public awareness of depression, an illness from which he suffered.

Mental health in the New Zealand entertainment industry needs some attention, both in terms of assessment and treatment. It’s an industry-wide issue that could go on the agenda for 2019. We have Screen Safe addressing Health & Safety in the workplace. DEGNZ has just started on an initiative for a Code of Ethics that we hope will come to fruition in 2019 and may well address some aspects related to mental health. But a more focused effort on mental health for our sector is overdue. An academic study would be a good first step, so if you know anyone looking for a PhD thesis topic why not make a suggestion.

In the meantime as we head into the silly season, don’t damage your brain too much with Christmas conviviality.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Playing at Rehearsal & Performance

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Directors and actors got the chance to play at Rehearsal & Performance in the weekend.

Taking part were DEGNZ directors Aidee Walker, Louise Tu’u, Ghazaleh Golbakhsh and Ellen Jones-Poole. They were joined by a great group of actors from Equity NZ – Simone Walker, Ariki Erby, Serena Cotton, Nicol Munro, Narelle Ahrens, Jarred Blakiston, Anthea Hill and Alice Pearce.

Participants received insights from director Michael Duignan (The Blue Rose, Go Girls, Filthy Rich). One main take away that Michael emphasised was avoiding results-driven directing and instead playing with different scene objectives for each actor. The more specific and concrete the objective, the better.

The focus of the day was to give directors and actors time in groups to explore a scene and work together.

Saturday’s workshop marked the first in our new Rehearsal & Performance series, the revamped edition of The Rehearsal Room. We’ve improved the format and are excited about the changes, which were positively received by the directors and actors involved, some of whom had taken part in past Rehearsal Rooms.

What hasn’t changed is our kaupapa. We still want to assist directors and actors to work better together by regularly providing a safe and supportive space for them to meet, collaborate and play. We believe this relationship is crucial to achieving the best results on set and on screen.

So… the Rehearsal & Performance series will return to Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in 2018 after the holidays!

 

A Taste of Seresin Estate and a Special Christmas Offer!

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Our first Seresin wine tasting and networking evening marked DEGNZ’s final Screenlink event for the year.

Seresin Estate, founded in 1992 in Marlborough by New Zealand cinematographer Michael Seresin, has been a supporter of the Guild for several years. Pair that with some really excellent and not your typical New Zealand wines (for instance, although many people steer clear from Gewürztraminer, Executive Director Tui Ruwhiu is always recommending Seresin’s), it’s no surprise that the Guild has long wanted to run a Seresin wine tasting for our members.

The stars finally aligned and we were able to welcome Seresin head winemaker Clive Dougall. DEGNZ was in good company with members from the Composers Guild (SCGNZ), Writers Guild (NZWG) and Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) joining us.

With passion and humour, Clive presented half a dozen fine wines to attendees. He shared the philosophy behind their organic and biodynamic winemaking that comes out of Michael Seresin’s desire to make wine as naturally as possible.

All in all, it was a casual and informative evening, and you didn’t have to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy it.

Christmas 2017 One Off Prices 

In case you didn’t know, DEGNZ members receive discounts and special offers on the range of fine wines from Seresin Estate. Currently, you can save on cases of Seresin wines this Christmas if you order before 13 December 2017. See here for more details.