View from the Top banner

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

 

Ita Obrien

Intimacy on Set & Stage with Ita O’Brien

As some of you will be aware, Equity New Zealand is involved in bringing Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien from England to run a series of seminars and workshops in Australia and New Zealand (10-12 December).

The DEGNZ board feels the best option for directors in regard to how best to handle scenes involving intimacy, simulated sex and nudity is education. We also feel that directors should upskill so that they have the capability to deal with such scenes professionally.

We therefore encourage you to attend one or more of Ita’s sessions, in particular session #3 so that you can incorporate the work of intimacy coordinator into your own practice as a director.

Please review the material below and make an application through Equity Foundation should you wish to take advantage of this opportunity.

 

Intimacy on Set and Stage with Ita O’Brien

 

This event series is brought to you by Equity Foundation and the support of their partners.

equityfoundation

View from the Top banner

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

DEGNZ

Recommendations for screen sector workplace relations unveiled

Media release

17 October 2018

A recommended model to allow collective bargaining for contractors in the screen sector has today been unveiled by the Government-convened Film Industry Working Group.

The recommendations, which will now be considered by Government, offer a new path forward for the screen sector, following 2010 law changes to workplace relations in the industry.

“This has been an exercise in collaboration and compromise, and we believe it sets the screen sector on a much stronger footing going forward,” says Group Facilitator Linda Clark.

“The screen industry is unlike any other. The nature of filming means producers require certainty of cost and flexibility of conditions in order to complete a production on time and on budget. Project durations are often fixed, and one worker can be involved in multiple productions during a year.

“The working group is proposing a model that reflects the sector’s uniqueness. It retains parts of the current law, but also allows contractors to bargain collectively and it establishes principles that promote strong, productive relationships. To keep up with current trends, it also applies more appropriately to the overall screen sector, rather than film productions alone.”

The recommendations include:

  • keeping the part of the current law that says film workers are only employees if they have a written employment agreement. This provides the certainty of cost and flexibility of conditions needed in the screen industry.
  • allowing contractors to bargain collectively at an occupation level within the screen industry, such as amongst actors or technicians. The process will be supported by principles, set requirements, and a dispute resolution system. Any resulting collective contracts should apply to all contract work in that occupation.
  • establishing principles that govern relationships in the screen industry, including good faith, protection from bullying, discrimination and harassment, reasonable termination of contracts, and fair rates of pay.
  • applying the model to all screen production work, including film and television, to accurately reflect the industry in New Zealand. The screen sector is increasingly fluid for workers and producers, due to changes in technology and viewing habits. Many workers frequently move between the two, and projects increasingly do not fall neatly into either the ‘film’ or ‘television’ productions.

Ms Clark says the recommendations have the full support of all members of the working group.

“As a sector, the group’s members are committed to a vibrant, strong and world-leading screen industry. All of the members valued the opportunity to work together constructively to develop a model that works for the sector.

“We look forward to the Government’s response.”

The working group’s full recommendations are available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website at https://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/employment-skills/legislation-reviews/film-industry-working-group

The Film Industry Working Group was convened by the Government earlier this year. Its members are:

  • Alex Lee, Film Auckland
  • Alice Shearman, New Zealand Writers Guild
  • Augie Davis, Stunt Guild of New Zealand
  • Barrie Osborne, film producer
  • Brendan Keys, Weta Digital
  • Erina Tamepo, Ngā Aho Whakaari
  • Melissa Ansell-Bridges, Equity New Zealand
  • Michael Brook, Regional Film Offices New Zealand
  • Paul Mackay, BusinessNZ
  • Richard Fletcher, Screen Production and Development Association
  • Richard Wagstaff, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
  • Sioux Macdonald, Screen Industry Guild
  • Tui Ruwhiu, Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand

[ends]

For further information, contact:

Linda Clark
Facilitator, Film Industry Working Group
linda.clark@kensingtonswan.com
027 490 7942

Melissa Ansell-Bridges
Director, Equity New Zealand
melissa.ansell-bridges@actorsequity.org.nz
027 360 1980

Richard Fletcher
Co-President, Screen Production and Development Association
richard@libertinepictures.com
021 655 339

View from the Top banner

Is it Time to be a Union?

In 2000, the Guild, which is an incorporated society, discussed whether or not to become a craft union when the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act making collective bargaining possible. However, because the majority of Guild members continued to see themselves as freelance operators, there was never unified support for unionisation.

The Hobbit Law introduced in 2010 categorised all film workers as contractors, further preventing film workers from collective bargaining as contractors are unable to access collective bargaining mechanisms currently.

In the independently run DEGNZ membership survey of 2016, nearly 83 percent of the membership said that they would be interested in DEGNZ negotiating collective agreements with minimum rates and conditions on their behalf.

Earlier this year, Minister of Workplace Relations and Employment Iain Lees-Galloway gave The Film Industry Working Group (FIWG), which DEGNZ is participating in, the objective of making recommendations to the Government on changes to the regulatory framework for film industry workers 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 encourage continued film investment in New Zealand by film production companies; and
  • Maintains competition between businesses offering film production services to promote a vibrant, strong and world-leading industry.

Now in 2018, we see the nurses engaged in collective negotiations, former prime minister Jim Bolger appointed to head the Fair Pay working group, and the FIWG some months into the task that Lees-Galloway set it.

Labour relations are coming full circle as is clearly obvious just from the newspaper headlines.

Unionisation has been on the DEGNZ board’s mind for more than the last two years, primarily because of deteriorating terms and conditions and rates of pay for directors and editors, even though many of our members are still contractors.

Do we need to unionise? Not necessarily. We are a craft guild and the representative body for working directors and editors in New Zealand. As long as we are endorsed as such by our membership and officially recognised by industry and government in our role, we are well positioned to continue to advocate, lobby and represent those who chose us to do so.

Internationally, the Directors Guild of America has long been a union. In Australia, the Australian Directors Guild became a union in 2014. Directors UK is both a collection society and a non-profit organisation like us that represents directors’ interests there. The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland is also not a union. What are the pluses and minuses you ask? So far we haven’t discovered anything that massively swings the pendulum either way. But we would like to hear your opinions. Does DEGNZ need to be a union to represent you?

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director