A Lot Going On

There’s a lot going on in the NZ screen industry at the moment, so I thought I would touch on a number of subjects.

First up is the NZFC’s Ramai Hayward Directors’ Scholarship for wahine Māori. A lot has been made of the fact that there hasn’t been a Māori woman director since Merata Mita 30 years ago and this award is looking to change that. The big elephant in the room in regard to this is why? Is it because there hasn’t been a decent script from a female Māori writer/director or writer and female Māori director to date that would get across the line? Or is it the bias that has seen so few women get to direct features in New Zealand? Or just a total lack of support for Māori women? Whatever the case it’s fantastic news that two absolutely talented wahine who deserve it have received the award. Rachel House is a gifted director in film and theatre, a great actor and is coming to the fore as an acting coach as well. Briar Grace-Smith is already well established as one of our premiere playwrights and screenwriters. I’m expecting both will prove themselves eminently capable as film directors with their debut features and look forward to seeing their stories on screen.

While talking about the Film Commission it hasn’t gone unnoticed that producer Chris Hampson and former radio exec. and businessman Ross McRobbie have reached the end of their terms on the board. They’ve been replaced by former production exec. and producer Paula Jalfon and ex ATEED CEO Brett Riley. Look at the NZFC board now and it’s obvious there’s a massive hole. Witi Ihimaera was the last active creative voice on the NZFC board representing artists. The previous one prior to that and the only feature film director in the last eight years if not longer was Vanessa Alexander. It’s high time there was an experienced feature film director on the NZFC board advocating for creatives amidst the board’s incredibly business and bureaucrat heavy make-up. We’ll be putting some names forward for the next board seat vacancy.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment announced last Thursday that they are launching a review of the Copyright Act. As any of you who read the op-eds by me will know, copyright is dear to our heart… cause we don’t have it and should. We were an active participant in the MBIE and MCH Copyright In The Creative Sector Study, and intend to be more active as the review takes place. As an aside it was pleasing to see Google taken to task by EU regulators with a $2.7 billion anti-trust fine for abusing its dominance by giving illegal advantage to its shopping comparison service. Google is using its massive power to weaken copyright law here and elsewhere.

NZ On Air has introduced its platform agnostic funding strategy, and there are apparently hands being extended out of the woodwork old and new. This is putting pressure on NZ On Air’s funds as they haven’t had a funding increase in 10 years, which many of you would know because it’s pretty much getting shouted from the rooftops these days. Online platforms particularly are queuing up to get funding for audiovisual content, and from our point of view exploiting content makers along the way. As I said last week and will say again, don’t sign a contract with an online platform without talking to your guild first.

Speaking of online content makers, I see Duncan Grieve is having an open spat with Gavin Strawhan, one of the writers of Filthy Rich. Grieve has gotten personal saying what many are thinking about NZ TV as they watch Netflix, Amazon, Neon or Lightbox. We all wait with bated breath to see what comes from the first round of NZ On Air funding under the new system. Will it be more of the same from TVNZ for drama and comedy or something else?

And that brings me to the worst kept secret in town, which is the management shakeup at TVNZ. Everyone knows it’s happened, and depending on who you are you know who’s still got a job and what the job is. But TVNZ seems to be keeping their head down about it as nothing has come out through their comms channels. Is it fodder for their next reality series? Time will undoubtedly tell.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director