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On Wednesday evening, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni, together with the Minister for Economic Development, Phil Twyford, and Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, announced the Screen Sector Stimulus package. Included was $140 million previously announced in the budget, being $115 million to the international NZ Screen Production Grant, with $25 million to the domestic Screen Production Grant for local productions.

The rest of the announcement was new funding, but how much and where it went was clear as mud. As far as I can figure out it breaks down like this:

  • $15.4 million to NZFC with $2 million allocated to cultural capability funding and the rest to recovery for production affected by COVID.
  • In a guess on my part, $8 million to NZ On Air for production affected by COVID.
  • $50 million in a new fund to be dedicated to high-end drama and film projects, targeting streamers it would seem, with criteria still to be developed.
  • An additional $25 million, which seems to have materialised out of nowhere, for NZ On Air to spend over four years for Pacific, student and disability broadcast media.

The elephant in the room, though, is insurance. Without it, no new high-end drama or feature film will be able to get up without a major studio willing to bankroll the whole thing and take the associated risk that COVID has brought.

How to get insurance and completion bonds for production is a global problem putting the brakes on production everywhere. The insurance industry has already been hit with massive COVID-associated claims. Consequently, insurers won’t issue insurance to cover COVID-19.

Screen industries around the world are hatching various plans to deal with the insurance issue, but they all, to a greater or lesser degree, come down to one thing: government underwriting of insurance.

The New Zealand Film Commission commissioned the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) to write a paper for Government to outline the issues and justify the call for Government to come up with a solution that would allow new drama and feature film projects to get up. While the new funding announced on Wednesday night was welcomed by everyone, a significant number of those in attendance at the Beehive waited with bated breath for a Government response to the insurance issue. It never came.

Small productions and those that had existing insurance coverage prior to COVID will get made, but independent production everywhere needs the insurance problem solved. That includes any NZ On Air funded drama soon to be announced from the last round. Without an insurance solution or a studio willing to take on the risk, we could all be watching a lot more low-budget short-form web series to satisfy our scripted desires.

Unfortunately, we are still waiting cap in hand for the Government to come to the rescue. If they do, we will then truly be able to take advantage of the very fortunate position we find ourselves in as a screen industry in comparison to the rest of the world.

Here’s hoping.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Additional Departmental Roles + Small Crew Guidelines

Below are the updated guidelines for the ScreenSafe Health and Safety COVID-19 Toolkit – Department Roles. These guidelines are a best practice guide and have been created to support each department with their Health and Safety planning and to share with crew. These are intended to start each person and department thinking about how they will individually operate to fulfil the ScreenSafe Standards and Protocols as set out in main Health and Safety documents.

Here is the link to the UPDATED Department Roles below:

Casting, Post-Production, Stunts, Suppliers and Transport.

We are still working through guidelines for Actors, Directors and Safety Departments.

Special note: For those of you with smaller crews we have included small crew guidelines

We would like to give a special thank you to everyone who has contributed their time and expertise to the creation of these department roles.

Ministry of Social Development

The following scheme has just been announced, and may be of help to you and/or colleagues and friends.

COVID-19 Income Relief Payment

If you lose your job (including self-employment) from 1 March 2020 to 30 October 2020 due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for the COVID-19 Income Relief Payment. It’s available from 8 June 2020.

You can get up to 12 weeks of payments, to help with living costs after a sudden job loss, and give you time to find other work.

You can apply online for the Income Relief Payment from 8 June 2020. If you need support before this date, we may be able to help you with a benefit or other payments in the meantime.

Find out more from Work and Income.

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Just when you thought we were all stuck in our ways, along came COVID-19. Now changes are flowing thick and fast to adapt to the brave new world this deadly virus has inflicted upon us.

The Resource Management Act is being given the flick to allow for shovel-ready infrastructure projects. Tourism operators are now having to give a toss about Kiwi tourists. (I’m surprised nobody has questioned yet whether we really want all those international tourists to return and put the strain back onto our environment and infrastructure.) The Australian and New Zealand governments are figuring out how to hold hands and sing kumbaya in a Trans-Tasman bubble. We might even have a new National Party leader by the end of the week.

Just look at the changes the NZ screen sector has gone through in two months. We have temporary Terms of Trade at NZFC that say, amongst other things, goodbye to the NZ theatrical distribution requirement and hello to a VOD platform. TVNZ is commissioning Maori and Pacific genre drama with its supernatural anthology RFP. Domestic production has all of a sudden become vitally important to crew.

South Pacific Pictures took the bit between its teeth and developed its own COVID Health & Safety (H&S) protocols signed off by WorkSafe to allow Shortland Street to get back up. We now have the WorkSafe-approved COVID Protocols and Standard thanks to the hard work of individuals from the Screen Industry Guild of Aotearoa (Techos), the NZ Advertising Producers Group and a number of others.

And the draft Screen Sector Strategy unleashed on us during the lockdown? Well after further ‘feedback’ it’s going through some additional ch-ch-changes as well.

But what’s happening out there in the big wide screen world? Iceland, South Korea and Sweden are already in production, with Iceland unveiling details on how international productions can get back up and running there with a special immigration channel and quarantine rules. Some Eastern European countries, which get a lot of US and UK runaway projects, are restarting with the Czech Republic and Poland leading the way.

The UK government is allowing film and TV production to restart. A coalition of Britain’s top platforms have published a guide for TV production, while The UK’s new protocols for film and high-end drama are expected at the end of May. In the US, though, production is still at a standstill. Directors Guild of America board member and Contagion director Steven Soderbergh has been put in charge of the guild’s efforts to address COVID. According to an article in the LA Times, it’s the guilds and the unions that will determine when production will start there.

Across the ditch, Neighbours is up and running and Wentworth is supposedly about to restart. The guilds there have been working hard on their COVID-19 H&S protocols and expect government sign off on them shortly.

Thankfully, Level 2 is allowing production in film and TV here to get going, so we’re in a good place. But there’s much further to go, and more changes that need to occur before we can have the New Zealand screen industry humming again. Each one of us has a part to play in making this happen, whether it’s helping to effect the changes necessary, or just washing our hands, maintaining social distance and staying home when sick.

As we head into this next phase of life under COVID, stay safe, stay well and remember you can call on us here at DEGNZ at any time. We will do our best to help you out.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Cliff Curtis

DEGNZ would like to express our deep gratitude to the Vista Foundation and Home & Family Counselling for providing DEGNZ members with this professional counselling offer.

The recent global pandemic has been particularly tough on the film industry. This collaboration has been created to provide support for the people of New Zealand’s film industry adversely affected by the ongoing social and commercial challenges.

Cliff Curtis, a Patron of the Vista Foundation, had recorded this video in support of the initiative:

 

What’s on offer?

Up to 5 one-hour sessions of counselling. This can be for yourself or a family member.

Who’s eligible?

Anyone who’s a member of the below organisations:

  • Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand
  • New Zealand Writers Guild
  • Screen Industry Guild Aotearoa (Technicians)
  • Screen Composers Guild of New Zealand
  • Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA)
  • Women in Film & Television NZ (WIFT)
  • Ngā Aho Whakaari (Māori in Screen)
  • New Zealand Cinematographer’s Society
  • Stunt Guild of New Zealand
  • Equity New Zealand (Actors)
  • NZ Advertising Producer’s Group (NZAPG)
  • Pan Asian Screen Collective.

* Organisation and membership details will need to be provided to Home & Family Counselling.

Accessing this offer

To take up the Vista Foundation / Home and Family Counselling Offer, a client will make contact directly with Home and Family using this process:

  • Visit www.homeandfamily.org.nz/filmindustry/
  • Click Make An Appointment and telephone or (form) email Home & Family’s central (Mount Eden) or North Shore (Northcote) centres. (Do not use the Hibiscus Coast/Orewa option). If outside of Auckland, choose Central.
  • Once Home & Family makes contact, the client will need to advise their membership organisation and number.**
  • Home & Family will initiate the process of counselling including assigning a counsellor.

For DEGNZ members **

DEGNZ does not issue membership numbers, so members taking up this offer will need to provide your name and membership expiry date to Home & Family PLUS explain that DEGNZ members do not have a membership number. If it’s a family member utilising the counselling, the DEGNZ member name and expiry date will be needed to confirm the session(s). Your membership must be valid at the time of your appointment(s).

You will find your expiry date under the ‘Card’ tab when you sign in to Manage Your Account.

About The Vista Foundation

The Vista Foundation is a social responsibility initiative founded by Vista Group, a publicly listed New Zealand company comprising several businesses and a world leader in providing technology solutions to the global film industry.

A New Zealand-registered charity run by a board of six trustees and with Roger Donaldson and Cliff Curtis as patrons, the Vista Foundation aims to help nurture the continued growth and success of the New Zealand film industry.

The Foundation has put aside a sum to subsidise counselling sessions for film industry workers and their families. The Foundation will make a donation of NZ$50 to Home & Family for each one hour session sought and provided. The $50 subsidy will mean that a donation to Home & Family by the client is non-obligatory; to be clear, a client donation can be at any level dependent on affordability.

Visit https://vistafoundation.co.nz/ and www.linkedin.com/company/vista-foundation

About ‘Home & Family Counselling

Founded 126 years ago in 1893, today ‘Home & Family’ provides counselling to children, youths, individuals, couples and families. With high social services empathy and an obviously impressive track record of achieving positive outcomes for clients, Home & Family counselling is accessible to all in need. For clients, the cost of counselling at Home & Family is by donation and it is voluntary.

Home & Family is an Incorporated Society with charitable status. The organisation is led by an Executive Director supported by a Board of seven. New Zealand’s Governor General, currently Her Excellency, the Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy is the Patron of Home & Family.

Counselling is offered from centres in Mount Eden and Northcote in Auckland. (Under the lock-down terms of Covid-19, online or telephone counselling is working well).

Visit www.homeandfamily.org.nz

Full details about this initiative:

A Vista Foundation and Home & Family Counselling Initiative