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.