It’s Up To You (Unfortunately)

In the past couple of weeks I have been contacted twice about director terms and conditions. The first was from a director who had worked on a number of projects that required out of town travel and no allowances were paid for per diems, accommodation or mileage for the use of a personal vehicle on the job.

The second was from a director disturbed about the rates being offered for a contract directing position, which from the director’s perspective devalued the creative contribution they would make as an experienced director.

As we all know and I’ve said this before, NZ is a deregulated labour market and in the screen industry all negotiations over contracts are done on an individual basis. We are unable to collectively bargain at this time to set rates and terms and conditions, and any guild standard contracts are used on a voluntary basis by production companies (and usually adapted).

Each individual must try to set the terms and conditions under which they will work. In such an environment, the individual is at a distinct disadvantage.

On the DEGNZ website, we have a guide to pay rates for directors and editors. We are revamping one by one our outdated standard contracts, which is a very slow and involved process. We look to have the first new one available in the first quarter of 2017.

The Blue Book, which is a guide to terms and conditions set by the NZ Film & Video Technicians Guild, is the defacto standard for screenworker contracts in New Zealand.

Funding contracts from the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air expect producers to adhere to the guidelines in the Blue Book.

Te Māngai Paho, the Maori screen funding agency, is the only major screen funding body that does not reference the Blue Book in its contracts. This essentially allows unscrupulous production companies working with TMP funding to avoid what are generally accepted as fair terms and conditions for screenworkers, and has I believe institutionalised what I term the ‘poverty production’ levels of a number of Māori production companies making projects for Māori Television. DEGNZ has specifically requested to TMP that their contracts include a clause requiring producers adhere to Blue Book T & Cs and been turned down.

Essentially contract negotiations fall to you, so here’s what you should do:

  1. Read your contract it before you sign it.
  2. Check the Blue Book here to see what standard terms and conditions are if you don’t know them.
  3. If you don’t understand the contract or are uncertain about it, get a knowledgeable friend, your guild, or your lawyer to read it and discuss it with you.
  4. If there are specific items you want addressed, request amendments, additions or deletions.
  5. If you remain unhappy with the contract terms on offer, decline the work if you can afford to do so. (By accepting, you essentially endorse the conditions.)

John Key resigning is not going to make any difference to NZ labour laws anytime soon.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director