Comedy Directing

The real skill of a comedy director is working out what kind of funny suits each project. There are so many different flavours of comedy, and it moves so fast, that deciding on your tone – then being able to execute it – is crucial.

This workshop presented by the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ and taught by award-winning comedy director Jonathan Brough, will be a deep dive into the how of making a scene funny, but also the why – not just how you get the laughs, but where you put them.

The sessions will have a particular emphasis on ‘serious comedy’ – shows like Fleabag, Search Party and Please Like Me – the evolving genre that’s rapidly becoming an audience and broadcaster favourite. We’ll analyse scenes and look at the laughs from all sides, so you can develop your own comedy storytelling taste and style.

About Jonathan Brough

Jonathan is a New Zealand-born director of film & television, based in Melbourne, Australia. Equally acclaimed for his work in comedy and drama, his television credits include The End, a black comedy about assisted dying featuring Frances O’Connor & Harriet Walter that will screen on Sky Atlantic (UK) and Foxtel (Aus) early in 2020, Rosehaven Series 1,2 & 3, Ronny Chieng: International Student, The Family Law, The Unauthorised History of New Zealand & Eating Media Lunch and Outrageous Fortune. With a great affinity for working with comedians, he has won two Australian Directors’ Guild Awards for Best Director, Comedy – in 2016 for his work on Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane and again in 2018 for Rosehaven.

He has also made several acclaimed short films including The Model (Official Selection Cannes Film Festival), Permanent Wave (London & Sydney Film Festivals), No Ordinary Sun (‘Best Short Film’ New Zealand International Film Festival 2005 / Official Selection Edinburgh / Hof / Slamdance) and Snowmen (in competition, Interfilm Berlin/ Pacific Meridian Film Festival).

 

 

Workshop Details

When:
Saturday 13 June, 9:30am – 12:30pm
Sunday 14 June, 9:30am – 12:30pm

Saturday’s session will have a more structured approach, followed by a more fluid and activity-based session on Sunday. Some homework will be sent out to participants to prepare before the workshop.

Where: Online workshop hosted on Zoom

Size: Up to 16

Price: Workshop offered at a discounted rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
DEGNZ member – Free
Non-member – $50

To Apply

DEGNZ invites practitioners with a keen interest in directing comedy or comedy drama to apply. You need to have some prior experience directing and/or creating comedy. This doesn’t have to be extensive, and can include short pieces made for online or work that hasn’t been broadcast.

The workshop would benefit emerging directors (with short film/commercial/web series credits) through to more experienced directors looking for fresh insights and inspiration.

DEGNZ will select up to 16 participants. Applicants will be notified.

Applications Close: Tuesday 2 June, 1PM

STEP 1: Complete the registration form below.

STEP 2: Send in one PDF to tema@degnz.co.nz:

  • your CV or bio with filmography, including any links to your comedy work, and
  • a brief, maximum 1-page letter that summarises:
    • why you would like to participate, and
    • your experience directing/creating comedy and any relevant project(s) you might be working on.

Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Registration Form

 

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This initiative is brought to you with the generous support of the New Zealand Film Commission.

NZFC

Screen Industry Workers Bill

The Screen Industry Workers Bill

We are just over a week away from the Monday 25 May deadline for public submissions to the select committee.

In order to see pay and working conditions improve for you and others working in the industry, we need every DEGNZ member to have their say on the Screen Industry Workers Bill that Government has introduced to Parliament. It’s vital for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow DEGNZ to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors.

Consider this: in its first reading in the House, 63 MPs voted for the bill, and 57 voted against. Your submission will help MPs understand what it’s like working in the industry and why this law change matters.

The law change would replace the controversial ‘Hobbit Law’, an amendment rushed through Parliament that classified all film workers as ‘independent contractors’, unable to bargain collectively and receive other benefits associated with being an employee.

To help you make your submission, we’ve published information and a submission template on this campaign page.

Hobbit Law Cartoon

Screenlink: The Editor, a Composer's Friend or Foe?

SCGNZ and DEGNZ present “The Editor, a Composer’s Friend or Foe?”

A special event that looks at the importance of communication and teamwork between an Editor and a Film Composer… Will they be friends or foes by the end of the mix?

Join us for a discussion between acclaimed New Zealand editors Annie Collins (One Thousand Ropes, The Great Maiden’s Blush, Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story) and Jonno Woodford-Robinson (Mortal Engines, Pork Pie, What We Do In the Shadows), chaired by Andrew Hagen from the Screen Composers Guild. There will be time for audience questions from Facebook in this sure-to-be interesting evening, so come join us live and see how you can avoid falling onto the wrong side of the (musical) tracks.

As part of the Q&A, they’ll be discussing some film clips, provided by the editors. These won’t be played during the session. We suggest watching the clips at 5pm, before the beginning of the live event at 5:30pm. Links to these clips will be made available on this post, the day before the event.

WHEN:  Thu 14 May, 5:30pm
WHERE: Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand Facebook page. If you don’t have a Facebook account, please refer to the information further down on how to watch the live-stream.

This event is presented by the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ and the Screen Composers Guild of NZ as part of the Screenlink series.

Watch the Live Recording

Screenlink: The Editor, a Composer's Friend or Foe?

A special event presented by SCGNZ and DEGNZ that looks at the importance of communication and teamwork between an Editor and a Film Composer… Will they be friends or foes by the end of the mix?Andrew Hagen from the Screen Composers Guild chairs this discussion with acclaimed NZ editors Annie Collins (One Thousand Ropes, Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story) and Jonno Woodford-Robinson (Mortal Engines, What We Do In the Shadows). With time for audience Qs, come join us live to find out how you can avoid falling onto the wrong side of the (musical) tracks.🎬🎧 Watch the discussion clips before the start of the live event. These will be provided at: https://www.degnz.co.nz/screenlink-the-editor-a-composers-friend-or-foe-wellington/

Posted by Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand on Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Discussion Clips

Watch these before the event. Clip length in brackets.

  1. Clips from Annie Collins [15:12]
  2. 3 Mile Limit Excerpt [2:50]
  3. The Warrior’s Way Excerpt [1:27]

Jonno’s composer recommendations

Sharing Jonno’s list from the Q&A:

  • Graeme Revell (Dafur Now, The Negotiator)
  • Calexico
  • Johan Soderqvist (Let the Right One In)
  • Agnes Obel – a pianist
  • Yann Tiersen (Amelie)
  • Penguin Cafe & Penguin Cafe Orchestra
  • Lisa Gerrard (The Insider)
  • Carter Burwell (Fargo, Burn After Reading)
  • Danny Elfman (Men in Black)
  • James Newton Howard (6the sense, Unbreakable, King Kong)
  • Henrik Górecki (Fearless)

For Non-Facebook Users

Follow these steps to watch the live-stream:

  1. Tune in at this link on Facebook.
  2. Click to play the live video once the broadcast has started.

You do not need to create a Facebook account to watch. Simply ignore any Facebook prompts to Log In / Create New Account, or click ‘Not Now’ if the option appears. Prompts will look like so:

Log in prompt e.g.

Notes:

  • Non-Facebook users can watch the live-stream without an account, but won’t be able to ask questions/comment.
  • Firefox may not support Facebook Live. We recommend using Safari or Chrome.

With COVID-19 upon us, it’s even more important than ever that we get a strategy for the screen sector right. DEGNZ is hosting a panel discussion on Facebook Live to be moderated by business journalist and commentator Rod Oram on Friday 1 May at 2PM.

Senior screen industry practitioners Bailey Mackey, CEO, Pango Productions; Philly de Lacey, CEO, Screentime; Stephen Knightly, Board Member, NZ Game Developers Association; Mel Turner, Producer, Ground Control; Duncan Greive, Managing Editor, The Spinoff, and Julia Parnell, Director/Producer, Notable Pictures, will share their thoughts on the draft and what now needs to be taken into account to forge a sustainable and successful future for NZ’s screen industry.

WHEN:  Fri 1 May, 2pm
WHERE:  Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand Facebook page. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can watch the live-stream below on this post, but you won’t be able to ask questions/comment.

Feedback on the draft Screen Sector Strategy 2030

The Screen Sector Strategy 2030 Facilitation Group is currently seeking industry feedback on the draft strategy. The extended deadline to provide your feedback via questionnaire is Friday 8 May. Find out more

Panel Discussion Live-Stream Recording

Note: Firefox may not support Facebook Live. We recommend using Safari or Chrome.

View from the Top banner

You would think 28 days in lockdown would give you plenty of time to think. For me, it hasn’t as I have been extremely preoccupied along with a number of other industry people in the Pan-Sector COVID-19 Action Group, working on how to get the industry back into work. I can tell you that the weekends, and in particular Easter, were very welcome.

But as we head towards the fateful Day 28 of Wednesday—which could very well pale into insignificance at 4pm today—I would like to reflect right now on what it was like before and what it will be like after Coronavirus.

I’m a Boomer. I’ve never known war, although my brother and his friends did have to give some thought to how to avoid ending up in Vietnam. The closest I’ve gotten to a bomb was when I arrived at my Soho hotel in London the day after the nail bombing of the nearby Admiral Duncan pub by a Neo-Nazi. I was living in Tokyo though when Shoko Asahara and his Aum Shinrikyo cult unleashed Sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 and injuring thousands of others—I got to report it, not experience it, luckily.

Still, none of this compares to the devastation that COVID-19 has wrought on the world. Some have referred to it as the World War of the 21st Century without a visible enemy. Sure, we’ve had to queue for food like they used to during World War II, but we can still choose between a Savvie, a Chardie or a Pinot. Hardship? Not in this sense, to be truthful. But economically, a definite “Yes!”

Of course, like many people I’ve had financially difficult times in my past, but it’s always been up to me to get out of them and it was always possible to do so—the economic environment even during the GFC was never as bad as it is now for all of us.

Most of us in the screen industry, myself included, are contractors. I’m fortunate in that the Guild still has paid work for me to do, albeit on reduced hours that I voluntarily instituted to help out (I’m still working fulltime, though). My wife’s small business has gone from a comfortable sole trader income to almost zero. Many of you have no income right now except for the Wage Subsidy. I hope that you have all applied for and received it. And if you were declined, please ensure you entered the correct IRD number and are classified as a sole trader and not an employee. One of these could be the reason why you were declined.

Can we go back to the old normal? Even with a vaccine, it doesn’t seem possible. So what’s in store for us all in the screen industry in the new normal?

It’s clear now that the world is suffering from a lack of content. Broadcasters, streamers, cable, AVOD, TVOD—they all need it. From Israel to Bulgaria, the UK and the U.S. to Argentina, Australia and to a minor extent New Zealand, development is in overdrive and everyone is getting ready for new production to feed the Content Beast that’s starving.

Andrew Shaw, General Manager Commissioning and Production at TVNZ recently told me that internationally, existing content that had been passed on before is being re-examined in a new light. This means opportunities for sales offshore that producers might not have been able to secure previously. Then there is also produced material that hadn’t yet gone to market. All this will run out in quick time, however, and reruns are reruns no matter how you look at it.

As I’ve said before in this column: With great change comes great opportunity. But you’ve got to grasp it with both hands. Everybody internationally is gearing up to do so.

Jeffrey Katzenberg has grabbed the opportunity with Quibi, the new short-form content platform that’s just launched. Katzenberg took big risk in founding the successful Dreamworks with Spielberg and Geffen when it was considered insane to start a studio without an archive. Prior to that he took a massive punt with Roger Rabbit when he was Chairman of Walt Disney Studios. As a former professional gambler, Katzenberg was used to betting the bank. Being a card counter, you can understand that he always had a strategy to win. So, what about the New Zealand strategy to grasp all the opportunity and win in the screen industry?

Well, one was mooted before COVID-19 hit. And we have it now in the draft strategy released two weeks ago. Granted, it was formulated prior to COVID-19, so it should be measured upon that. And I’m happy to do so.

My personal opinion—and, I am at pains to point out, NOT DEGNZ’s position—is that it’s a document lacking in vision and the independent spirit of the New Zealand screen industry, being full of bureaucratic intentions rather than specific, entrepreneurial action plans needed to truly move the industry forward. The advent of COVID-19 means it now must be rewritten. And we have once again been provided an opportunity to feed back, which I encourage every single person to take.

So what might the New Normal look like that we need to strategise about?

On the film side, which is so dependent on theatrical exhibition, it’s a changed world. Sales agents are making sales but no longer paying Minimum Guarantees for films—essentially deposits that were used to help finance features, and producers were required to have.

Distributors are selling to streamers, broadcasters and others, but as Elizabeth Trotman of Studio Canal said in a Screen Producers Australia (SPA) interview two weeks ago, they were really dependent on blockbusters to make money because independent film didn’t pay. How to move from that old business model and into the new environment is something StudioCanal are thinking hard about. Paul Wiegard, co-founder of Australasian distributor Madman, said last week in another SPA interview that they are in a fortunate position because they have their own streaming platforms in DocPlay and AnimeLab, and other diversified revenue streams. While passionate about narrative feature film, Wiegard was more optimistic about documentary. In the end, he was clearly uncertain about theatrical exhibition for narrative features at this point.

The future of theatrical exhibition is decidedly unclear, with many exhibitors headed towards bankruptcy. Social distancing won’t help theatrical survivors to persuade customers back into theatres, and it certainly won’t deliver the box office they, the distributors and the studios will need. Independent film—and that is all New Zealand film—has a decidedly sketchy future for the foreseeable future unless it can find a home on a digital platform, pay channel or free-to-air broadcaster. And the NZFC requirement for theatrical release to get financing will obviously have to change.

On the television side, we will likely see a merged TVNZ and RNZ sooner rather than later. It’s clear public broadcasters have an unrivalled position when it comes to News and Current Affairs when the chips are down. And TVNZ did a very good job in building TVNZ OnDemand, a platform they can monetise, and HeiHei in partnership with NZ On Air. They are in a good spot. Let’s hope the Government gets the mix right. Our futures as television makers depend on it.

NZ platforms though are suffering a lack of content, just like their international counterparts. There’s only so much self-isolating content we can all take. With a transition to Level 2, we will likely see an increase in documentary and unscripted first, then drama as we find ways and means to operate safely in larger numbers. The stimulus package for the NZ screen sector now being talked about will absolutely be needed if we are to climb our way out of the hole we are in and back into production.

Private, free-to-air broadcasters and media organisations are struggling with the massive decrease in advertising, although SKY’s subscriber platforms are helping them to weather the storm. Private media is looking to the Government to rescue them and they should hear about their package soon.

Production for the international market in New Zealand is one of the tougher nuts to crack. On the one side, for serviced production we have to get the international talent into the country to complete projects and to start new ones. On the other side, we don’t have sufficient talent here for local production of internationally-focused shows. And the opportunity for locally-produced global shows seems to be rapidly closing. We don’t yet have the funding and processes from our funding bodies to really take advantage of the international opportunities. Hopefully, we will see changes soon enough for New Zealand producers to exploit.

The big problem facing us all is cost and how that’s paid for. Increased Health & Safety should mean new line items to the budget and increased shooting days, not greater demands on directors and editors (and other crew) to do more for less. The funding bodies understand this, and are looking to ask for more. But in an environment when every sector needs assistance, there’s only so much largess the Government can provide. Meanwhile we are back where we were a few short years ago when DEGNZ with the NZ Writers Guild waged a battle against digital platforms and producers working with measly budgets and grabbing all rights.

So here we all are, sitting with bated breath waiting for a Government announcement that will decide our immediate fate and shape our long-term future. It’s not all grim. As Queen Elizabeth said in her address, “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return.”

For all of us, I’m sure that those better days can’t come soon enough.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director