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A couple of days ago on The Spinoff, South Pacific Pictures Managing Director Andrew Szusterman decried the loss of drama Head High from Discovery Three. Lead director and co-lead writer on the show is a DEGANZ member, Tim Worrall.

Szusterman pointed out the difficulty and cost of getting NZ drama funded and made. He said that without NZ On Air, there would be little drama produced at all because it provides the majority of the funding for such projects.

He went on to call for the Government to say, “It’s time” to streamers, such as Netflix, Amazon and the others, and to put money into New Zealand programme production. Szusterman quite rightly stated that New Zealand’s market is not big enough to warrant streamers voluntarily investing significantly in New Zealand content.

“None of these services have commissioned any New Zealand premium drama content directly for New Zealand audiences, and there is not a chance that they will unless change is forced upon them.”

I’m glad that Szusterman is adding his voice to SPADA’s recent activity in this space. SPADA has finally given up on saying, “We can’t levy the streamers because of GATT*”. I’ve been calling for levies on streamers in this column for years: Show Me the Money, Time for a Reset, An Answer to NZ’s Broadcasting Industry Dilemma? I point this out not because I want to say “I told you so.”, but to highlight that we have been mired in a time warp for too long while the Golden Age of TV drama sails on by.

I’m aware that there are a number of NZ producers who are pushing hard to crack the international door open for ‘high-end’ TV drama. But you need the budgets to do it. And you need the policies to make it easier. At the moment both are a barrier.

Good drama requires a lot of development funding. So does the production. When many of the shows appearing on the streamers are being made from an absolute low of US$2 million per episode to the stratospheric heights of The Crown or Ozark at US$13 – 14 million per episode, an NZ show at US$ 0.7 – 1.2 mil. per episode doesn’t cut it. As long as the Government keeps NZ On Air and NZFC funding at the levels it has for the last 10 years or so, we have to find money elsewhere to supplement the budgets. This is outlined in the Screen Sector Strategy 2030.

So where to get it from and what needs to change? It’s time to levy the streamers. They’re an obvious source. Even though our market isn’t big, it still provides incremental income for them, and they should pay to get it.

We also need to remove the block to going behind a paywall for NZ On Air funding, as is currently the case. And we need to allow, as I’ve said before, Drama and Factual to access both the New Zealand Screen Production Grant and NZ On Air funds, which is only allowed now for Children’s and Animation. The Premium Production Fund has been given a temporary reprieve concerning this. It’s time to make this permanent, and the Premium Fund, too. If we had to, we could accept a 30% NZSPG for behind paywalls instead of the 40% available now for free-to-air.

In the meantime, we wish Szusterman luck in finding a new home for Head High. It has a place on NZ screens.

 

The Spinoff article here.

*General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

Last updated on 23 October 2021

Edited by DEGANZ member Chia Chi Hsu, web series Inked is a milestone in Aotearoa’s television history — our first funded Chinese bilingual drama. That may seem surprising given that Chinese have been in New Zealand since the 1860s, the first non-European and Pacific Island immigrants to arrive. Although Inked reflects the lives of more recent Chinese immigrants, it speaks to generations of Asian New Zealanders.

The eight-episode series follows Jiayue, a 1.5 generation pharmacy student secretly apprenticing at a tattoo studio while she struggles to connect with her unhappy father. Technically, Inked contains four dialects of Chinese: Mandarin, Cantonese, Nankinese and Shanghainese. It has subtitles in both English and Simplified Chinese.

Chia cut the web series while completing a DEGANZ Drama Editor Attachment with editor Dan Kircher. When we spoke to Chia about her attachment, she said, “Bit by bit, what I had picked up from the attachment, I was able to apply them directly to what I was working on: from how to organise a project for a drama, how to tackle the notes, to tactfully dealing with tricky situations.”

Chia was part of a diverse, Asian-led cast and crew. Playwright Renee Liang, who had a small cameo, wrote on why Inked is significant for Aotearoa and what it was like behind the scenes.

According to Renee, “There is comedy throughout, but the observations in Inked – especially of the complex negotiation of family relationships when those involved are trying not to fall into the gaps between cultures – are insightful, deep and above all, real.”

The series debuted as a single package on Prime in late September. It is now available to stream on Neon and Sky Go.


Last updated on 21 October 2021

Writer and director Nic Gorman (DEGANZ) has received funding towards his second feature film The Letting Go.

Nic’s 2017 feature film Human Traces premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. He hopes to shoot his next film in present-day Christchurch over six weeks in Autumn next year.

The Letting Go is a science fiction film set in the near future where 50% of the world’s children become ‘shells’ once they hit puberty, falling into a permanent catatonic state with no hope of return. The story centres around Tess who negotiates the uncertainty that comes with parenting a pre-teen child in this world.

Nic Gorman’s film is one of five projects that received local funding from the Screen CanterburyNZ Production Grant round. Launched in July 2021, the purpose of the fund is to encourage screen productions to locate themselves and film in the Waitaha Canterbury region, at the same time stimulating sustainable economic growth for Christchurch. The second round is now accepting Scripted and Factual content from national and international filmmakers (closing Oct 28).

Last updated on 21 October 2021

View of a beach coastline

Congratulations to our members who have been selected to take part in this year’s Story Camp Aotearoa — director Max Currie with Refuge and documentary director Gwen Isaac with Siouxsie with an X.

Story Camp is a development lab tailored to meet the needs of independent filmmakers and their feature film projects. This year Script to Screen received 76 applications and, after a rigorous shortlist process, nine projects made it in.

Read more

Last updated on 21 October 2021

19th October 2021

ScreenSafe has been seeking clarity about the practical implications of Alert Level 3 (Phase 3) in Auckland.

We have done an in-depth comparison of the available public guidance compared to the ScreenSafe COVID-19 Protocols and have also sought WorkSafe and Legal advice.

See information here.

Ngā mihi,

Kelly Lucas

Executive Officer
Screen Industry Guild Aotearoa New Zealand Inc.
(Previously the NZ Film & Video Technicians’ Guild Inc.)

Last updated on 20 October 2021