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It’s hard not to talk about what’s going on in the global screen industry when COVID continues to upend screen life as we know it.

Perhaps the biggest seismic shift that has occurred is Universal Studios and AMC, the U.S. and the world’s largest theatre chain, announcing a historic agreement for the studio’s movies to be made available on premium video-on-demand after just 17 days of play in cinemas. Exhibitors have long fought the shortening of theatrical windows and have been able to leverage their fight off the legislation in the U.S. that prevents studios owning theatres.

Some of you will remember the days when a movie came out in theatres first, three months later on VHS, pay TV three months after that and two years later on free-to-air television. This sort of worked for everyone as first VHS and later DVD was incredibly lucrative. Geographical territory releases are part of the windowing business model and still exist today.

Streaming of course upended all of this with its ability to release in multiple territories simultaneously straight into the consumer’s home. In a recent podcast, director Gina Prince-Bythewood, the helmer of Charlize Theron’s The Old Guard, while lamenting that the Netflix release of the film didn’t give it the cinematic presence that a typical theatrical release would have, also extolled the streamer for putting her film into 190 countries in one day.

It’s easy to understand why AMC caved in to Universal—it’s close to bankruptcy thanks to COVID, as are many other theatrical chains and independents. This deal is a watershed one for the movie business. Variety in an article, poses six questions on what the agreement might mean. Perhaps the most interesting for everyone in the independent film space—and that’s where all NZ films sit—is that the studios may shift away from just superhero films and towards quality fare.

In the second big piece of news for the week, the British Government launched an emergency £500M (NZ$1.17 billion) film and TV coronavirus production insurance fund. This is expected to kickstart production in the country that remains threatened by the pandemic. With this boost, British producers will be able to get back into filming, confident that the fund will effectively underwrite the cost of productions closing due to COVID. We still await a similar response from our government for the New Zealand screen industry.

And finally, across the ditch the Australian Government added A$400 million (NZ$431 million) to its location offset, essentially allowing international productions through their rebate scheme to access a total rebate of 30%, in comparison to NZ’s rebate scheme via NZSPG of 20% with a small number getting an additional 5% through the Uplift. It’s highly unlikely that the NZ Government is going to participate in a rebate race to the bottom, and I’m personally not convinced as some others are that this is going to have a significant negative impact on international productions coming to New Zealand.

Time will tell.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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While the world continues to reel from COVID-19, we sit in our smug little bubble wondering what the fuss is all about. So far, we’ve escaped relatively unscathed the medical turmoil associated with Corona, but are now facing up to the emotional, psychological and economic impact that will be with us for many years to come. Looking across the ditch at Victoria, we see how quickly it could all go pearshaped for us.

Production-wise, all of the offshore projects that were interrupted by COVID are now back. Local production that was shut down is returning as well. Local TV drama will hopefully get a shot in the arm from NZ On Air shortly. TV productions with funding and small crews seem mostly to be on their feet.

The advertising sector, however, is still suffering from nervousness on the part of clients who don’t know if they have the marketing budget to spend or what to do with it and when, if they do.

NZ shorts and features that were interrupted are also getting up again but as mentioned in my last op-ed, without the insurance issue solved, we still have a problem with new productions, Houston.

The numbers of people continuing to take up our COVID-19 Membership Holiday offer tells us, though, that there is pain out there with directors and editors. The Guild would like to get a better fix on this. Within the next two weeks we will put out a short survey to ascertain more clearly what the employment situation is like for members and other directors and editors in the industry.

We ask that you please take the short time required to fill it out. Your responses will help us to better strategically and tactically respond in ways that are meaningful and useful.

It’s hard not to look around at the moment and think that we are in the eye of the storm. Everything is peaceful, calm and quiet, except on the political front. Hopefully we can move with the eye rather than stray out of it where we’ll get a lashing.

In the meantime, I would like to remind you all of the Vista Foundation/Home and Family Counselling offer, which is still available. Information on our website here. If you are having a particularly difficult time right now, please reach out and let us know and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do.

Stay safe, stay strong, be kind.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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On Wednesday evening, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni, together with the Minister for Economic Development, Phil Twyford, and Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, announced the Screen Sector Recovery package. Included was $140 million previously announced in the budget, being $115 million to the international NZ Screen Production Grant, with $25 million to the domestic Screen Production Grant for local productions.

The rest of the announcement was new funding, but how much and where it went was clear as mud. As far as I can figure out it breaks down like this:

  • $15.4 million to NZFC with $2 million allocated to cultural capability funding and the rest to recovery for production affected by COVID.
  • In a guess on my part, $8 million to NZ On Air for production affected by COVID.
  • $50 million in a new fund to be dedicated to high-end drama and film projects, targeting streamers it would seem, with criteria still to be developed.
  • An additional $25 million, which seems to have materialised out of nowhere, for NZ On Air to spend over four years for Pacific, student and disability broadcast media.

The elephant in the room, though, is insurance. Without it, no new high-end drama or feature film will be able to get up without a major studio willing to bankroll the whole thing and take the associated risk that COVID has brought.

How to get insurance and completion bonds for production is a global problem putting the brakes on production everywhere. The insurance industry has already been hit with massive COVID-associated claims. Consequently, insurers won’t issue insurance to cover COVID-19.

Screen industries around the world are hatching various plans to deal with the insurance issue, but they all, to a greater or lesser degree, come down to one thing: government underwriting of insurance.

The New Zealand Film Commission commissioned the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) to write a paper for Government to outline the issues and justify the call for Government to come up with a solution that would allow new drama and feature film projects to get up. While the new funding announced on Wednesday night was welcomed by everyone, a significant number of those in attendance at the Beehive waited with bated breath for a Government response to the insurance issue. It never came.

Small productions and those that had existing insurance coverage prior to COVID will get made, but independent production everywhere needs the insurance problem solved. That includes any NZ On Air funded drama soon to be announced from the last round. Without an insurance solution or a studio willing to take on the risk, we could all be watching a lot more low-budget short-form web series to satisfy our scripted desires.

Unfortunately, we are still waiting cap in hand for the Government to come to the rescue. If they do, we will then truly be able to take advantage of the very fortunate position we find ourselves in as a screen industry in comparison to the rest of the world.

Here’s hoping.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

After unveiling a brand new look and identity, Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival has announced the highly-anticipated programme for its online and in cinema programme.

Congratulations to all of the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ members who have been selected to play in the 2020 festival! We strongly encourage you to support these filmmakers and your film community by packing out limited cinema screenings or renting Kiwi films to enjoy at home. DEGNZ members are eligible for concession prices where offered.

The Girl on the Bridge

Directed by member and NZ Arts Laureate Leanne Pooley and edited by DEGNZ board member Margot Francis, The Girl on the Bridge follows the inspiring journey of 21-year-old Jazz Thornton during the pivotal two-year period she was emerging out of her own struggles with suicide to become a powerful advocate for mental health.

The feature documentary is set to have its world premiere at NZIFF on July 25, 4pm at ASB Waterfront Theatre, then available online and in select venues.

 

The Girl on the Bridge

New Zealand’s Best 2020

This year, director Tusi Tamasese was the guest curator for this competitive short film programme, selecting the top six finalists. Four of the six feature the talents of DEGNZ members.

Set in 1973, Oranges & Lemons tells a bullied girl’s story to find her voice in the strangest place, directed by Robyn Grace and edited by Kerri Roggio.

Anna Duckworth‘s Pain, Claire van Beek‘s Daniel and Cian Elyse White‘s debut short Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) were made through the NZ Film Commission’s Fresh Shorts initiative. Pain explores a young girl’s earth-shattering realisation that her father is not invincible and is edited by member Brendon Chan.

Daniel will have its NZ premiere at Whānau Mārama after its world premiere at MIFF and in competition selection for Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival. The film was edited by John Gilbert and member Conan Mornard-Stott.

Cut by Annie Collins, Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) is a story about the powerful love between a father and his daughter in the face of a painful truth.

The programme will be in cinema at select venues or online from July 26 – August 1. If you watch NZ’s Best, make sure you vote for the Audience Choice Award.

 

Oranges and Lemons, Pain, Daniel, Daddy's Girl (Kōtiro)

Ngā Whanaunga Māori Pasifika Shorts 2020

For the first time, Ngā Whanaunga will be a competitive programme. Purea is written and directed by Kath Akuhata-Brown. Māori elder Hamo must bear the burden of carrying the spirits of her ancestors to their sacred mountain.

Ngā Whanaunga will premiere in cinema on July 26 and is available to watch online from July 27 – 2 August.

 

Purea

Kiwi Shorts

Kiwi Shorts is a curation of six New Zealand shorts that the Festival promises will put a smile on your face. Garage Stories: A Strange Collective Experience of Isolation, directed by Catherine Bisley, captures our nation’s recent experience under Level 4 lockdown.

Two nine-year-old girls find an enterprising way to satisfy their craving for ice cream in Ruby Abbott HarrisTriple Scoop. The programme also features Missy Fishy from director Erin Murphy – a whimsical tale about Miss Fish, a super mum, who struggles to tame her otherworldly urges.

Available to rent from August 1 – 7.

 

Garage Stories, Triple Scoop, Missy Fishy

Rūrangi

Premiering at the Festival and directed by DEGNZ member Max Currie, Rūrangi is New Zealand’s first transgender drama series. Made by gender-diverse talent, the drama is about a burnt-out trans activist returning to the rural dairy community from which he fled ten years ago. All five episodes have been programmed together as a special festival presentation, which will have its world premiere in cinema at ASB Waterfront Theatre in Auckland, on July 26, 7pm. You can also rent it online between July 26 – August 1.

 

 

Tickets for the Festival’s premiere screenings go on sale from July 10 and rental options can be purchased from the first available screening date, starting July 25. If you’re planning to watch at home, NZIFF suggests you start getting ready: set up your account, test, browse and start planning.

Tema Pua
Events & Marketing Manager

Screenlink: Making the Hit Claymation Kiri and Lou

Join us for insights on international hit children’s show Kiri and Lou, directed by LA-based Kiwi director Harry Sinclair, and produced by New Zealander Fiona Copland‘s Filmwork.

A creative team who forged their relationship on iconic Kiwi feature film Topless Women Talk About Their Lives, Harry and Fiona will talk about their long-running and successful director-producer partnership. They’ll also reveal the trials, tribulations and fun that has made this claymation series No. 1 in children’s content on the BBC, achieved sales all around the world and has led to the development of a feature film and merchandising deals.

WHEN:  Mon 3 August, 7pm. Talk starts 7:15pm
WHERE:  Horse & Trap – Loft, 3 Enfield St, Mount Eden, Auckland

Cash bar

Parking: Horse & Trap customer carpark and free on-street parking nearby.

This event is proudly presented by the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ as part of the Screenlink series.


Registration

DEGNZ members – Free
Non-members – $5 (door entry, cash only)

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