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2020 has certainly been a trying year.

We tried to run our professional development programme as we have done each year and the pandemic threw a spanner in the works. A shift to online worked for nearly every element of it. By moving online, we found we could reach into the regions in a way that we previously hadn’t been able to. While it’s not the perfect mechanism for delivery of workshops, it does allow participation that was previously not so easily achieved. We continue to explore how we can incorporate online delivery in our programme.

We together with the other two screen industry unions the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand tried to do as much as we could to get the Screen Industry Worker Bill through the first reading in the House, the Select Committee submissions and onward towards becoming legislation. Of course, COVID interrupted that as well. With it set aside while the Government responded to the coronavirus and then was distracted by the election, we were very pleased to hear a short while ago that the bill is back on the Government’s agenda under new Workplace and Safety Minister Michael Wood. We are, though, not going to see any real progress on it until 2021.

Following a considerable effort back in 2012 that was stymied at the last hurdle by Treasury, we have for the last two and a half years been trying to make headway on copyright for directors with the Copyright Act under review. We did get it included in the terms of reference for the Review and have been working very hard with help from the Australian Directors Guild and The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). Unfortunately, the election again caused a disruption to progress and we are waiting for the new Consumer and Commerce Affairs Minister David Clark to show his face on the issue.

We tried and have been successful in accessing some COVID Recovery funds. Confirmed for 2021 are a series of workshops around the motu on Rights and Remuneration, a series of one-day workshops for South Island short film directors at the new and emerging level, and a series of workshops by experienced directors on Tone: Making the Intangible Tangible. We await the results of a couple of other applications. All these workshops are part of the Government effort to build skills and capability in the sector.

On a more serious note, 2021 has been a trying time for us all because of COVID-19. Individuals, companies and organisations in the screen sector have experienced considerable difficulty— personally, financially, emotionally, psychologically—as we all have had to face the burden placed on us by the pandemic. This of course has affected everyone, not just us in the screen sector. Government and industry responded well to the screen sector’s distress and many of us are extremely fortunate to be back in work. As well, we are able to socialise, intermingle and conduct our lives in a manner not too dissimilar to pre-pandemic times—all when sickness and death from COVID is afflicting other nations much more severely. While 2020 has been hard for everyone globally, we can be thankful that we have survived somewhat unscathed.

Have we because of COVID gone through a paradigm shift in thinking about our place, importance in the world and and what we can do not just for ourselves but for others? I certainly hope so, but it’s down to each of us to make that change.

In the meantime, we wish you a meri kirihimete and ngā mihi o te tau hou!

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 17 December 2020

We have had the great pleasure of running our Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator programme over this past year in spite of a few COVID challenges along the way. Congratulations to our 2020 Incubator alumni Michelle Ang, Charlotte Evans, Pennie Hunt, Stella Reid, Rachel Ross, Jessica Grace Smith and Kathleen Winter!

Many thanks goes to our facilitator Philippa Campbell, all our special guests and speakers and our funder, the New Zealand Film Commission.



Speed dating with producers at the Incubator

Last updated on 16 December 2020

Earlier in the year, DEGNZ member Brendon Chan took part in our Drama Editor Attachment Scheme, attaching to editor Peter Roberts on Matthew Saville’s feature film Juniper. He got to shadow Peter over the course of the edit – from assembly with the director’s intent in mind through to the final cut.

Read on to hear about Brendon’s experience.

 


How did your attachment to Peter Roberts start off?

I think at the beginning of it he did tell me, ‘I’m not here to teach you how to edit, you should know that already. You’re here to observe the feature film process, which is a process that not too many people get to observe at all, as editors.’

 

You were still working while you were doing your attachment, is that correct?

Yeah, I managed to take the time out where I needed to sort of run back and forth on certain days when I wasn’t working. Peter was working at Images, and then shifted to his house during lockdown.

 

You weren’t expecting a pandemic in the middle of your attachment! How did it affect your attachment and the production?

I know that the schedule had to extend somewhat, just because of COVID. They got separated obviously at Level 4; Peter in his household and then Matthew in his household built a bubble in Level 3 just so they could keep working.

And they did keep me in the loop as well ‘cause I got sent cuts of the film to view, and I got all of Peter’s notes on them! He would add his thoughts for himself on every piece of feedback that he’d gotten, whether it was from the distributors or the producers or whoever, so I actually got to see a pretty interesting insight.

It was good, because despite the distance through the first lockdown, I was still able to be part of it. I think there were a couple of phone calls here and there as well – that was the best part about being in person – hearing him speak and listening to him talk about his approaches to things.

I think what I liked about him so much is he’s very honest. He’s not really sugar coating things, like that’s what I really wanted in the attachment anyway.

 

And that’s obviously the way he works as well with his collaborators?

Yeah. I mean, he’s honest, but that doesn’t mean he’s arrogant or anything. He’s very willing to admit, ‘Just go through the process.’

It’s almost like, from what I saw, yes, there is a process, but there’s an enormous amount of time you have to spend on the ups and downs and dealing with all the feedback because it has to get done eventually. And there’s only so much time you can spend doing it, that the budget can afford.

 

That must’ve been quite a new thing seeing how much feedback is involved in a feature?

I’d seen it on a very small level on shorts or TV commercials that I’d cut. But obviously this is a lot bigger and everything ‘cause how do you keep track of everything that’s in the film! If so-and-so said to take out this line about that, you’re still trying to be aware of how is this going to affect the rest of the film.

 

You got to sit in and observe the director and the editor before the producer meetings. How was that?

It was good. There were very measured debates that were going on about things. Sometimes it was like, ‘do we need this?’, whether it came from Peter or from Matthew. It was interesting going through their process and I think most of the decisions that were made were ultimately ones they both agreed with in the end. ‘Cause you know, so much in the editing is, weirdly enough, about losing stuff. About getting rid of things that are sort of superfluous.

 

Later, there was also feedback from the sales agent, right?

Yeah, I was looped in. I believe it was only emails through the sales agent because I think they were based in Germany? So there were lots of emails and everything that I was given access to by Peter, which was good. And again, he let me know his thoughts on everything, like how he reacted to it and some of it he would try to interpret.

 

Were you there during the test screenings?

I couldn’t go. But I was given – I think it was a 60-page document – from marketing. It was interesting because I’d never cut anything where the demographic was such a huge consideration.

 

So then you have to figure out what is relevant within that 60-page document?

Yeah, and it’s not just that. Probably while you’re editing, you’re very aware of the target audience and the film. Trying to think about that when you’re cutting was an interesting concept to me.

I believe for this film it was an older audience demographic. With a children’s movie you’re like, ‘Okay, yup, yup. I was a child once.’ But I’m not older than I am! Part of me was like, what would my mum like? [laughs] But you know, I’m not making decisions. I was just trying to picture it in my head.

Ultimately, you’re trying to please the director and you’re trying to appease whoever has the most financial interest in how it’s going to perform. And it’s about trying to strike a balance between that, trying to keep everyone happy, while feeling like you’re not doing something that you strongly disagree with. Ultimately, you want to work on something that the compromises you can live with.

 

What was your experience like observing them locking the film?

I went to Peter’s as it went down to Level 2.5. He’d sent me the last cut the night before to watch, and the next day I went round to his place and he took me through the final cutting to lock the film.

Peter told me that when you get to this stage, you should go back and look at your initial cut. I took this in two ways: to look at your initial instincts versus what you may have taken out to get the film down to a tighter runtime.

He told me that he’d gone back and looked at one of the first cuts on one of the more visually dramatic sequences that bridged the first and second act. He’d realised that the initial pacing of the sequence was far more effective in the earlier version. I don’t believe any of this was part of the feedback, he was simply trying to make the sequence more effective.

 

Did you find doing the attachment beneficial to you?

It was really beneficial. It sort of eased my worries about ever doing a feature a little bit. I mean in theory it’s the same thing, whether you’re doing a short film or a commercial or what have you. Everything has the same philosophy behind it. You cut for the same reason. You cut because you think it’s going to make the audience feel something, and it’s like you’re just applying it to something bigger and way more complicated.

 

What’s next for you?

I’ve got to pay the bills, so I’d like to do work with more of a financial incentive, which would give me the freedom to work on lower budget projects that might get me more exposure.

I’d really like to cut an indie feature as my first feature with some exciting filmmakers because it’s a good stepping stone. I’m sure I’d like to do more shorts, but I feel I need to step up to the challenge.

 


The DEGNZ Drama Editor Attachment Scheme is funded by the New Zealand Film Commission.

Juniper is set to release in 2021.

Last updated on 2 September 2021

We will be closed from Christmas Day and back on Monday 11 January 2021.

Despite the year we’ve had, we hope you have things to be grateful for. We wish you a well deserved break, may you rest and recharge for 2021. Have a very merry Christmas and, as always, a big thank you to our members, funders and supporters who make our work at the Guild possible.

Meri Kirihimete!

From the DEGNZ team

Last updated on 10 December 2020

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With the Big Screen Symposium about to kick off tomorrow, it’s yet another recent event at which to be thankful for, for our Government’s response to COVID. We can gather in big numbers will little concern for the spread of the virus, while in many other places around the world the statistics of COVID sickness and death are horrific. I was extremely pleased to hear yesterday that our Trans-Tasman cousins can now travel interstate, relatively freely.

 

And talking of our Aussie cousins, we have a new head at the Australian Directors’ Guild in Alaric McCausland. Alaric has a screen executive background in Australia and internationally, bringing a slightly different focus over his last two predecessors. As always, DEGNZ seeks a strong relationship with the ADG, with my first call with Alaric cordial, informative and supportive.

 

NZFC, NZ On Air and TMP obviously got more feedback than they bargained for in regard to the Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund. They are now late in getting the final criteria out—perhaps they will show at BSS. I have to imagine the number of applications to the fund is going to be as voluminous as the feedback was.

 

I heard yesterday that TV3 is now officially in the hands of Discovery. A Stuff article here. Being run as an Australasian service, it will be interesting to see what opportunities come for local content makers in the trans-Tasman tie, with Discovery’s global network and the planned launch of a streaming service here making for exciting possibilities.

 

Over at Sky they’ve got a new CEO in Sophie Moloney. Martin Stewart wears the blood splashes of his restructuring as he heads back to the UK, and Moloney offers an experienced, friendly, female and kotahitanga approach as she takes Sky forward. Unity is certainly needed in an organisation reeling from job losses.

 

TVNZ’s GM Local Content Nevak Rogers came with Drama and Scripted Comedy Commissioner Steve Barr to talk to our Emerging Women Filmmakers participants at their fifth and final workshop. Nevak was pleased to tell me that TVNZ is now spending around $100 million on local content, which is besting the highest spend during the Charter years at TVNZ. For those not old enough to know what the charter was, this from Wikipedia:

 

The Labour Government introduced a “TVNZ Charter” in 2002. This was a list of objectives for TVNZ which specified it must broadcast a wide variety of New Zealand-made content; the broadcaster was given public responsibility to provide news, drama, documentaries and “promote understanding of the diversity of cultures”. In 2008 the Government announced that the broadcaster was to become “more public-service” like. TVNZ responded by launching two commercial free channels; TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. By 2011 Prime Minister John Key announced the closure of these channels. 6 in 2011, and 7 in mid-2012, with much of their content put into TVNZ Heartland and TVNZ Kidzone24 which are only available behind a Sky TV paywall. The National Government abolished the Charter in 2011. Political opponents accused the Government of reducing TVNZ’s commitments as a public broadcaster.

 

Just this week at the NZ On Air end-of-year function, Broadcasting Minister Chris Faafoi reaffirmed his commitment to public broadcasting via a video address. Back in October, Faafoi announced that the TVNZ – RNZ merger discussion was back on the table. The partially completed and partially redacted PWC consultant’s report released in September, however, didn’t outline the benefits of combining the broadcasters into a single entity or state how TVNZ or RNZ’s services would change if the proposal was approved. Just what is going to happen and when seems entirely open to discussion. Dealing with COVID and its impacts provides wonderful cover for doing nothing for quite a while yet. Let’s hope something good comes of it sooner.

 

Finally, the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide, driven by board member and  long-time, drama and documentary editor Annie Collins, continues to win rave reviews. If you want to save your production time and money and yourself stress, become very familiar with the content, available on our website here.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

Last updated on 3 December 2020