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Brand New Zealand in Film

NB: Anna Serner quotes extracted from a Nordisk Film & TV Fund article

 

Anna Serner, the CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, spoke at the Big Screen Symposium a couple of weeks ago on gender equity.

In the short time she has been at the Swedish Institute, she has essentially delivered gender parity in funding for feature film. By parity, that means that 50 per cent of films are written, directed and or produced by women. As in New Zealand now, it was the number of women directing films in Sweden where the numbers were poorest.

At the same time Serner strove for gender parity, she also strove for higher quality.

“Our strategy is basically to have high demands, and clear goals. We look for films that either can reach a high national audience or will go to international festivals. Ideally, we’d love to have both!”

This demand for quality saw an increase in rejections for funding applications from both men and women, rising from 80% ‘no’ to 90% ‘no’.

Serner’s approach upset men and women. The men because they felt it was harder to get funding. The women because they wanted to be considered “directors” rather than “women directors” and because their funding applications were still being rejected.

The quality focus is a very interesting aspect of the changes Serner has brought about. It is linked into a desire to project ‘Brand Sweden’ through film, which ties into the Swedish Government’s policy to project ‘Brand Sweden’ through four key profile areas: Society, Innovation, Creativity, Sustainability.

This from the Brand Sweden strategy document:

Countries are dependent on the esteem and confidence of the rest of the world in their competition for tourists, investors, talent and the attention of others. Sweden is a country with a good reputation, but the world is changing rapidly and competition for attention is growing. A strong image of Sweden abroad is important for achieving political objectives, promoting trade, attracting investment, tourists and talent, and encouraging cultural and scientific exchange.

The Swedish Film Institute has a very interesting matrix for deciding whether or not to fund film and help project Brand Sweden. It takes a four quadrant approach.

– Courtesy Anna Serner, Swedish Film Institute

 

Quadrants A, B and D are the successful quadrants. C is for the duds.

For New Zealand, the number of Admissions would halve as we are essentially 50% the size of Sweden. And if we looked at NZ films, in A you would have films with niche audiences with high critical acclaim, such as the recent Inland Road and Stray. Sitting at the upper end of both axis in B would be Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Let’s not talk about C. And in D you would probably find the latest Pork Pie.

Swedish independent filmmakers target A and B and with considerable success. They had three films in Cannes this year (we haven’t had one since Christine Jeff’s Rain, 17 years ago). The breakout hit The Square is a definite B, as would be another great Swedish film Force Majure.

For Anna Serner, the Swedish brand is equally important domestically as internationally.

“The Swedish brand is very highly regarded internationally but not enough at home. So we have to fight harder to get the films to reach the audience, by branding Swedish films better and having a greater diversity of voices.”

Brand New Zealand is definitely talked about in Business and in some aspects of Arts and Culture, the Venice Biennale being one example. But it’s not integrated into a cohesive strategy. And it’s not consciously focused on in our film output. It’s high time this was done.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

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Time For A Paradigm Shift

At the Annual General Meeting on 6 October, the Guild and its membership voted on two remits from President Howard Taylor for DEGNZ to unionise and to affiliate with the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

The motions passed and DEGNZ will unionise and affiliate with the CTU.

Essentially nothing will change.

We will still be the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ, but we will be constituted as a union and no longer as an incorporated society.

This brings us into line with our guild colleagues in Australia, Canada and the U.S., all of who are unions.

When DEGNZ was formed in Wellington in 1996 as the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand, it was felt that directors weren’t well represented and needed a body that could best speak to their particular needs. Later of course, editors felt the same way and asked to join with us.

Our desire then as now is still the same: to ensure the creative, cultural and financial well-being of New Zealand directors and editors.

Well-known producer John Barnett in a Showtools interview not so long ago pooh-poohed the idea of DEGNZ becoming a union, saying that we’re in a talent-based business and he knows a few directors with vineyards and editors working fulltime, so a union’s no answer for anyone, not even those who don’t have an excess in talent. This was rather disingenuous of John because unions aren’t just about ensuring the wellbeing of the most talented. Rather, it’s the everyday working directors and editors who most need to have their welfares safeguarded and who are often most exploited, particularly those in the first few years of their careers. John mooted the idea of directors and editors using agents, but agents are talent-based and don’t take on everyone who comes through their doors. It is also the Directors Guild of America, a union, that has ensured a number of those vineyard-owning directors are well compensated, have pension plans and healthcare, and could afford to buy those vineyards.

Unions in New Zealand don’t have the power they once had and possibly nor should they. However, their roles are to represent their memberships to the best of their abilities. DEGNZ has been doing this for directors and now editors since its inception. It will continue to do so as a union.

On Wednesday Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway announced the recommendations from the Film Industry Working Group of which DEGNZ was a part. These recommendations may well lead to the Guild taking on the role of a negotiator in collective bargaining.

In our 2017 survey of directors and editors, which was independently conducted by Trace Research, at least 84% of respondents were interested in DEGNZ negotiating collective agreements with minimum rates and conditions. As a union, we will be better positioned to do so effectively with CTU support than if we had to shoulder the responsibility on our own.

The long and the short of it is: nothing much has changed and yet, everything has. As a union, DEGNZ will be well able to continue its role of representing the best interests of New Zealand directors and editors.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Screen Turmoil Across Tassie Causes Concern

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was thrown into turmoil last week when Managing Director Michelle Guthrie was fired. Chairman at the time, Justin Milne, a political appointee and personal friend of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, questioned her leadership style and her relationships with Canberra.

Milne was then ‘forced’ to resign when it became clear that he had allegedly asked Guthrie to get rid of two ABC reporters who had written negatively about the Conservative Government.

While Guthrie won few friends inside the ABC for being a distant and absent MD, it seems she was doing a good job protecting her employees from the political pressure exerted on her.

The ABC has long been under pressure, with global media disruption, funding cuts, complaints of bias from government and attacks from the commercial media sector. With five years of government with the Conservatives at the helm, it is perhaps the accusation of left-wing leanings that has most brought the ABC to its current position.

In his opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, Vincent O’Donnell, honorary associate at the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University, found some fault with the ABC, but stressed that its role as a public broadcaster with bias is not a vice but a virtue.The ABC, especially ABC radio, devotes airtime to issues that are largely ignored by other media: religion, feminism, Indigenous issues, Muslim and other minorities’ interests. In doing so it paints a picture of an Australia that is at odds with some people’s beliefs about Australia, for whom Australia is white, European, Christian and male.”

There’s an abject lesson for us in NZ from all this.

As reported in an NZ Herald story back in 2003, former magazine and Radio Liberty journalist and ACT MP Deborah Coddington accused our leading public broadcaster Radio NZ of bias in her Saving Public Radio report.

In his 2015 piece, RNZ Mediawatch presenter Colin Peacock took a look at bias in the NZ media without coming up with a conclusion, although he does cite the survey of NZ journalists that found 62 percent of them lean to the left.

With the change of government to Labour in 2017 came a focus on strengthening public broadcasting. This brought forth criticism from the commercial media sector when Fairifax CEO Sinead Butcher questioned Labour’s “… approach of piling more money into state-owned media, and their plans to turn Radio NZ into a super-media platform and broadcaster.”

In an unusual about face from the commercial sector, Mediaworks boss Michael Anderson supported public broadcasting with a call for TVNZ1 to become a public broadcaster. He was transparent with his reasoning here, being to allow Mediaworks access to the advertising revenue TVNZ takes from the declining piece of the free-to-air advertising pie.

These currently timid pokes by the NZ commercial media sector at public broadcasting pale in comparison to the Murdoch empire’s all out war against the ABC in Australia and the BBC in the UK, outlined in an opinion piece by Martin Flannagan in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2014. This railing against the ABC by Murdoch’s Newscorp continues unabated, with calls for its and SBS’s charters to be reviewed because of unfair competition.

The NZ Labour-led coalition government has a focus on enshrining public broadcasting. Former Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran said earlier this year in an address to the Public Media Trust that “I am a firm believer in the value of independent public media – both as a means of holding our institutions to account, and for its contribution to our national identity.”

Curran obviously didn’t read her own memo about political interference when it became obvious that Radio NZ’s CEO Paul Thompson and Chair Richard Griffen disagreed with her plans to turn RNZ into a TV broadcaster. She stumbled over her ‘clandestine’ meeting with RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld, and then fell on her own sword after her discovered get-together with Derek Handley over the Chief Technology Officer job.

If the ructions across the Tassie are anything to go by, we can expect that political and commercial pressure on public broadcasting in New Zealand won’t let up, no matter who’s in power. There’s a lot at stake and we can thank the Aussies for giving us a heads up on what’s coming.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive DIrector

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Celebrating Women

Womens’ roles in New Zealand society have come a long way. We were the first to give women the vote, we’ve had three female prime ministers and finally the Black Ferns have gotten professional contracts.

However, in many industries women do not receive equal pay (including the Black Ferns). There are few women sitting in governance positions in the New Zealand business world, and as we learned at the Sexual Harassment Workshop recently, the statistics on violence against women is horrific.

But in this week’s column I would like to help celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage, by highlighting some successes in and around our industry.

Before I do, though, I want to first acknowledge the country’s most well-known suffragette Kate Sheppard and some of her colleagues, including Margaret Bullock, Meri Mangakāhia, Ākenehi Tōmoana, Anna Stout, Elizabeth Yates and Polly Plum. To honour our past, NZ On Screen has released their Pioneering Women collection that celebrates women and feminism in New Zealand.

I know that the statistics for women directors in NZ are still poor, and we are addressing this, but female directors have made great contributions to New Zealand film and television, from Ramai Heyward to Jane Campion, long-time Guild supporter Gaylene Preston to the achievements of Niki Caro.

As in suffrage there are other less well-known women who have made their mark in the screen industry. I would firstly like to acknowledge those who have contributed to the Guild (DEGNZ and its predecessor SDGNZ) as board members. Apologies if I have missed you out, but our records are incomplete. If you are not included here but should be, please let me know so that I can update our files:

Kristina Anderson

Kezia Barnett

Pietra Brettkelly

Annie Collins

Anna Cottrell

Alyx Duncan

Annie Goldson

Shirley Horrocks

Janette Howe

Louise Leitch

Roseanne Liang

Zoe McIntosh

Briar March

Kirstin Marcon

Fiona Millborn

Diane Musgrave

Aileen O’Sullivan

Leanne Pooley

Rather than go into a screed of copy about other New Zealand women who have stood out or are standing out in and around the screen industry, I am providing links to articles that are available now online. You can learn about some of the wonderful NZ women whose contributions we can all acknowledge:

I’d also like to point to a number of those who have a big influence in the screen industry and show that women are sitting at many of our top tables:

Kathleen Anderson, Head of Scripted, TVNZ

Christina Asher, Chairperson, NAW

Rachel Antony, CEO, Greenstone

Cass Avery, Chairperson, S2S

Melissa Ansell-Bridges, Industrial Organiser, Equity NZ

Karen Baleski, Head of Entertainment Content, SKY

Esther Cahill-Chiaroni, ED, S2S

Jude Callen, TV Commissioner, TVNZ

Sandy Gildea, ED, SPADA

Philly de Lacey, CEO, Screentime

Ruth Harley, Chairperson, NZ On Air

Frances Morton, Head of Content, Vice

Annie Murray, Senior Commissioner, SKY and Prime TV

 

Kelly Martin, CEO, SPP

Juliet Peterson, General Manager Digital Content, TVNZ

Kerry Prendergast, Chair, NZFC

Cate Slater, Content Director, TVNZ

Alice Shearman, ED, NZWG

Annabelle Sheehan, CEO, NZFC

Karla Rogers, ED, SIGANZ

Erina Tamepo, ED, NAW

Patricia Watson, ED, WIFT

Jennifer Ward Lealand, President, Equity NZ

Sue Woodfield, Head of Commissioning and External Production, Mediaworks

Kathy Wright, Head of Digital Creation, SKY

Jane Wrightson, CEO, NZ On Air

This past week has been a celebration of women’s achievements, including the Women of Influence Awards where actor and acting coach Miranda Harcourt took out the award for Woman of Influence Arts and Culture.

But perhaps the last words can be left to Dame Patsy Reddy, former chairperson of NZFC and now the Governor General. In a NZ Herald article earlier this year, she emphasised that while women had made many gains, there is still a long way to go.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Taking Action

On Wednesday evening, together with Ngā Aho Whakaari and the New Zealand Writers Guild, we had a two-hour workshop with Debbi Tohill, Executive Director of RPE (Rape Prevention Education) on Sexual Harassment and Disclosure.

This session had been run recently by Women In Film & Television but we felt it worthwhile to support another, considering the existing gender inequality issues of our time and the massive impact of #MeToo on our industry at large. The paradigm has shifted, and things will never be the same—nor should they be.

It’s essential, particularly for men at all levels of our industry, to examine what has brought us to where we are now and what we can individually do to aid and assist positive change.

DEGNZ already has a sub-committee in place to examine gender issues, discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying. It is made up of board members and directors Louise Leitch, Roseanne Liang and Michael Duignan.

The sub-committee has been engaging with the other guilds, the Screen Women’s Action Group (SWAG), and looking internationally to other screen industry bodies to assess what work is being done and what we can do to ensure equality and appropriate behaviour.

On the equality front, our Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator is a proactive step on our part with the support of NZFC and Vista Foundation to drive more female directors into sustainable careers. Eighteen talented women have been developed through this scheme so far.

Our TV Drama Director Attachment initiative, supported by NZ On Air, has already seen five of seven attachments go to women (one yet to be publicly announced). Two of those women have gone into full time work directing TV drama. We have also assisted other emerging female filmmakers into opportunities designed to further enhance their drama directing capability. There is still more for us to do here.

Education is a key tool the guild can employ in order to help confront discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying. The session with Debbi Tohill is the first of our efforts in this arena. We will be supporting initiatives with other screen industry bodies and doing our own work to transform attitudes and behaviours that are inappropriate to both women and men in the workplace.

I’d like to leave you with some statistics on sexual violence and sexual harassment that Debbi provided us:

  • There are an estimated 208,000 sexual violence offences committed against adults each year.
  • One in five female secondary students say they have had unwanted sexual contact from another person. For male secondary students, it’s one in twenty.
  • In reported sexual violence incidents, 95% of the victims are women.
  • In reported sexual violence incidents, 99% of the perpetrators were men.

On our website here you can find DEGNZ’s statement on sexual harassment and bullying with some options for assistance. The guild is also here to help should you require it.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director