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Fair Pay

On Tuesday the government announced the appointment of former prime minister Jim Bolger to head a 10-person working group that would report back on the design of Fair Pay Agreements.

This is welcome news to me as those of you who have read my blog posts will know—I personally and also as the ED of DEGNZ, have long railed against poor pay in the screen industry, particularly for many directors, especially in the online content area and at Māori Television.

The Fair Pay Agreements that were part of Labour’s manifesto going into the election are workplace laws setting minimum terms and conditions of employment for workers in the same industry or occupation.

I along with a representative group of the screen industry have been grappling with such issues for some months. As the Film Industry Working Group, we are working to respond to Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway’s objectives for the group to restore the rights of film production workers to collectively bargain, in a way that:

  • allows film production workers who wish to continue working as individual contractors to do so;
  • provides certainty to encourages continued investment in New Zealand by providing certainty to film production companies; and
  • maintains competition between businesses offering film production services to promote a vibrant, strong and world-leading film industry.

The Government’s intentions with the Fair Pay Agreement is, quoting from a Stuff article, “to lift pay and conditions by preventing a ‘race to the bottom’ by preventing employers from competing with each other by lowering wages.”

This is exactly the situation we have been faced with for directors in the screen industry and one the Guild has long sought to address.

Bringing Bolger in to head the panel is both ironic and considered a Labour masterstroke. It was Bolger’s government that introduced the Employment Relations Act that was considered damaging to workplace relations and, according to Economist Brian Easton, advantaged employers over workers, did nothing to raise productivity, and had next to no impact in raising real wages. See The Spinoff article here).

There is obvious concern from employers and businesses about what the Fair Pay Agreements will mean, but there does seem to be an understanding on their parts that a rebalancing is required—a sentiment that is also gaining traction with some producers and production companies in the screen industry.

National certainly seems to have come to the party… with a party, or more accurate with a concert—a benefit concert—in a spoof from the Spinoff—a cynical send up I’d welcome if it were true because the disadvantaged do need help.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Hopes and Dreams

Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission, I was fortunate to attend the Cannes Film Festival 2018 where hopes and dreams are realized or not, and was reminded of where we Kiwis sit in the global film industry with our 5 – 15 films each year—somewhere towards the back unless someone has been good enough to put themselves in the front row.

The film industry remains dominated by two territories—North America and Europe. In 2016, 2,123 feature films were produced in Europe alone, in the US 789, while the total worldwide for that year for the top 10 markets was approximately 7,973. India with its massive output including Bollywood films tops the list with 1,903. China is clearly a major player now, too, with 944 films, but it is still grappling with how to be most effective with its money and create films with international appeal.

Although Europe is a conglomeration of cultures, in fact in film they have a shared sensibility. European films dominated European sales agents’ catalogues at Cannes, although films from South America, Africa, and the Middle East vie for space as Europe looks to other territories for the next great filmmakers. Saudi Arabia has recently thrown its film doors open and both the commercial and cultural film sectors are queuing to get in.

It’s this attraction for the new that’s possibly one reason New Zealand has been thrust aside at Cannes. In many respects we’ve already had our time in the Cote D’Azur sun. Vincent Ward, Jane Campion and a couple of others preceded Christine Jeffs with Rain, which was the last NZ film selected for Cannes in 2001. A more likely reason is that we just haven’t had a filmmaker and film with Cannes appeal. That doesn’t stop us from trying, though.

Each year thousands of films including those from NZ seek selection at Cannes. It’s hard to get in and when films do, the filmmakers, their film bodies or investors, and their sales agents celebrate. Director’s Fortnight, International Critics Week, Un Certain Regard and the most prestigious of all, Official Competition, are the sought after sections. Repeaters who are Cannes darlings often dominate official competition. This year it was Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s turn to take the top prize, the Palme d’Or, with his seventh Cannes selection.

While we all dream of a film in competition, what most Kiwi filmmakers attending Cannes are doing there is hoping to secure international sales and distribution for films that have yet to be made. A fantastic script, unknown but talented director, internationally renowned cast, commerciality, festival potential—all or a combinations of these things are what sales agents are after.

Some seek films that are bright, full of hope, comedic, or genre, and exhibiting clear commercial potential. Others are attracted to the darker side, the auteur vision, the arthouse film that could break out, although it’s definitely harder to find sales agents for such films these days even though it’s what many Europeans are still making.

We are in a sub-category of our own at Cannes, like our Australians and Canadians colleagues, with our English language peculiarities that are neither definitively US indie or European arthouse. UK sales agents although part of the European makeup are obviously more friendly to English language films, but certainly are more driven by commerciality than their European counterparts. The same for those from the US.

Elevated genre is one way for us to break out, whether it’s horror, drama or thriller, but you can’t go past a great script whatever type of film you are pitching. It’s a matter then of finding a sales agent who loves the script as much as you do. But you’ve got to get them to read it first. To do that you and your project will be put through the wringer, sometimes gently sometimes not, to see if it meets that particular sales agent’s yardstick. And the yardsticks do differ.

One key ingredient that gets films made and into the market it seems to me is passion—The passion of the writer, director and producer that’s going to see them go the hard yards across many years to get their film up. And the passion that the sales agent and distributor must have to take a film on—it’s a tough environment for them these days and you hear of as many bankruptcies or close downs as you do successes. One sales agent I know told me that from Berlin in February to Cannes in May this year, he knew of four sales agents that went bust.

Filmmaking ultimately though is about hopes and dreams, whether it’s arthouse, tent pole or something in between. Every filmmaker understands this no matter what genre or budget they are working with. The big question we all confront sooner or later is whether our hopes and dreams can be realized or they just remain pie in the sky. And Cannes can help you find the answer while delivering the spectacle that makes it the most glamorous film festival around.

I highly recommend that anyone who wants to make a film go to Cannes. It’s fun, sobering, hard work, overwhelming, and it will break you out of that isolationist world that we all mostly operate in. And I suggest you go soon. If Cannes doesn’t adapt to the changing screen world, it could end up as just a fond memory of what it used to be.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

NZFC +

The New Zealand Film Commission has just announced its Te Rautaki Māori strategy and that’s a great achievement, even though it comes 15 years after New Zealand On Air’s—better late than never.

It’s no secret that Māori films are New Zealand’s most successful both domestically and internationally. Pākēha producers certainly cottoned onto this a long time ago—John Barnett with Whale Rider, Robin Scholes with Once Were Warriors, and more recently Matthew Metcalfe with The Dead Lands.

There are a number of new initiatives to help drive the strategy with an ongoing fund of up to $2.5 million in investment for dramatic feature films made in Te Reo Māori, by Māori filmmakers; a Te Reo development fund; devolved funding supporting internships, mentoring and professional placements for Māori filmmakers; and rangatahi development in the form of wananga, workshops and programmes for young Māori creatives.

Additionally, a one-off $2 million investment for dramatic features in any genre where the director and at least one other key creative is Māori, which some critics might say is there to allow pākēha to keep dipping their toes in the Māori pie.

Criticism aside, Te Rautaki is a significant stake in the ground by the Film Commission that goes along with the changes they propose internally to address representation, protocols and capacity and capability.

Te Rautaki is warmly welcomed by my colleagues at Ngā Aho Whakaari who I’ve been speaking to. And by DEGNZ.

NZFC must also be complimented for continuing to address gender inequity with the announcement of the 125 Fund.

The fund is open to dramatic features in any genre and is offering an investment of $1.25 million each for up to two projects where the director and at least one other key creative is a woman. Critics would also undoubtedly say that this keeps men in the game, too.

With the Budget soon to be announced by the Government, we can only hope that additional funding will be allocated to NZFC as well as to NZ On Air and Radio NZ. Rather than cutting into the essentially static funding the Film Commish has been operating on in the last few years (Screen Production Grant aside), it would be nice to know that these dedicated initiatives are being resourced with new funds rather than taking from existing.

Congratulations New Zealand Film Commission on these efforts! We look forward to the films that will come from them.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

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The Big Picture

There’s a lot of big picture stuff going on at the moment, so I thought I would take the time to discuss it a little further.

DEGNZ together with other guilds, screen industry bodies and representatives, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand have been meeting regularly to formulate recommendations to the Minister of Employment about how we can restore the right of workers in the industry to collectively bargain, without necessarily changing the status of those who wish to continue working as individual contractors. We are making good progress at this point and are expected to finalise recommendations by the end of June at the latest as required by the Minister.

The Guild has been very active in regard to the ongoing Copyright Act Review now underway. We expect the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to release an issues paper before the middle of the year in what is going to be a multi-year review process. We are working very hard to get Director’s Copyright onto that issues paper and have the support of the Australian Directors Guild, Directors UK and the Directors Guild of America in our efforts.

President Howard Taylor and board member Annie Collins have been toiling quietly away on the idea of a proposed Code of Ethics, instigated by us, and being discussed by all the guilds and other industry bodies. Some of you will have participated in the survey we put out to the screen industry. We have received very valuable feedback from the survey and are redrafting the proposed code now for a second round of consultation. We expect before the end of the year to be able to introduce and promote the Code of Ethics and hope that the industry and funding bodies take it up as an ethical guideline to all behaviour in the screen sector.

We are keeping a very close watch on developments around RNZ+, meeting key players to try and determine what the potential outcomes might be, and also working to determine the Guild’s position on public media broadcasting and the best way to ramp it up. We would be interested in hearing from members’ views on the following:

  1. If RNZ+ as a platform receives a specific funding increase from Government to deliver better public service media including audio visual content, should it as a platform also be able to seek funding from NZ On Air? Or, should the the funding streams and content be kept entirely separate, i.e. NZ On Air funding used only to create content for commerical broadcasters/platforms?
  2. Should RNZ+ commision audio-visual content from outside suppliers, or create it inhouse?

Could members address any thoughts you might have on this to admin@degnz.co.nz with RNZ+ Thoughts in the subject line. Thanks in advance and hope it’s all going well for you out there.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Editing for Success

The professional development programme for this year is well underway at DEGNZ. I wanted to let all the editors in the Guild know about the opportunities available so that you stay on the lookout for them as they arise.

Editing Workshop
Firstly, we have our Editing Workshop. This is something we have run over the last three years and we currently have a call out now for a workshop with one of NZ’s leading editors and our former president Peter Roberts. This is a hands-on workshop across two days in mid-April, in which Peter will give insight into his process and work, focused this time on editing drama. As well, you will have the opportunity to cut material he has supplied for individual and group review. The deadline is coming up on Wednesday 28 March, midday so if you are interested, get your application in.

Feature Film Editing Attachment
Second, a new initiative launched this year with the support of the NZFC is our Feature Film Editing Attachments. We have one about to start on a telefeature being edited by Paul Sutorius, and directed by John Laing. DEGNZ would like to congratulate Anastasia Doniants for being the successful applicant for this inaugural attachment.

The intention of the attachment is to put an emerging feature film editor who wants to make a career of editing features into the room alongside an experienced editor, and not working in the role of the assistant editor. With the changed nature of the role of assistant editing ushered in by digital technology, we are seeing the assistant editor’s role becoming much more specialized in the preparation and technology arenas, resulting in a lack of opportunities for assistant editors to work alongside and learn from the editor.

There will be more attachments to come as and when we can find a willing editor and production to attach to.

Assistant Editor Workshop – Mandatory Skills
Third, another new initiative targets assistant editors, and the skills and knowledge they need to be most effective in their role. In the second half of this year we will run an Assistant Editor Workshop also supported by NZFC, focused on going through everything an assistant editor needs to know and do to be most effective in their role. The workshop content was planned by one of NZ’s top editors Jonno Woodford-Robinson, who has a particular bent for the technical as well as the creative.

Training with Andy Day
I would like to mention for those who are relatively new to editing or wishing to learn more advanced technical skills that we have a members discount arrangement with Andy Day for creative software training.

Andy is a 25-year industry professional who is an Apple Certified Master trainer for Final Cut, Logic Studio & an Apple Certified Consultant, an Adobe CS6 Certified Instructor and Lead Instructor for Maxon’s Cinema 4D. Andy also taught for many years on Avid. If you want to take advantage of this, just get in touch with Andy via www.handytrainingonline.co.nz and tell him you are a member of DEGNZ.

Finally, I would like to ask all our editor members out there who have festival or award success to keep us updated so that we can celebrate your work and achievements. As you know, it’s often hard to identify editors from festival announcements and we depend on you to make us aware. Help us keep an eye out for you.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director