Posts

DEGNZ

Some of you may be wondering what we have been up to in the last two to three weeks, so I thought it time to update you all.

Rather than make an effort only under the DEGNZ banner, we quickly decided to join with many of the other guilds, industry organisations and some companies to come together as the Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group. I joined the Action Group and in the last two weeks I have been a part of meetings with TVNZ, Mediaworks, Maori Television, Sky, NZFC, NZ On Air, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment pushing to get development and production funds flowing out to industry.

I have also participated in multiple internal Action Group meetings. We have set up and are working on a number of workflow groups designed in the short and medium term to help get the sector working again, and to plan for the various scenarios that may eventuate. You can see the work going on here. I, Felicity Letcher of Main Reactor and David Brady who is currently doing work for ATEED are  preparing the business case for the Group, so that we can attract desperately needed funding to execute some of the Group’s initiatives.

Rather than flood your Inboxes with messaging from DEGNZ, we have tried to keep our communications to those that are really pertinent and possibly helpful to members, and encourage you as much as possible to go to the COVID-19 Action Group website for highly valuable information: www.screenindustrynz.co.nz

As an affiliate to the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), DEGNZ is under the umbrella of their efforts to protect workers and their rights during this difficult time. I have been participating in multiple CTU meetings where we have been able to have a voice in the efforts the CTU is making with Government to get various types of support including on the wage subsidy, hopefully rent relief and other initiatives.

I am currently working with the other two unions in the screen sector, the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand, preparing for submissions on the Screen Worker Bill now in Select Committee. Thankfully the deadline was pushed from early April to early May because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has given us more time to prepare.

This Bill is the outcome of the work all the screen sector bodies did during the many months of discussion we had in the Film Industry Working Group, which resulted in recommendations to the Government. It’s vitally important for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow us to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors. You will hear from us shortly on this as we will be asking individuals to make submissions as well and have been preparing materials to help you.

Internationally, tomorrow I will have the second of two meetings within the last two weeks with the heads of the American, Canadian, UK, Irish and European Directors Guilds as we all grapple with how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis affecting all our members. This is essentially an information sharing exercise out of which we hope for some concrete initiatives to come. I was also in  touch on the weekend with our colleagues in Writers & Directors Worldwide and the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors for essentially the same purpose.

While the above has been a massive workload across the last two weeks, we have also been moving as much of our professional development online as we can. At the start of the lockdown period, we issued a call for the Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator for 2020, which will take place over Zoom. We ran a Young Creators session with commercial video production company Chillbox Creative on Facebook Live last week. You can catch-up on the Q&A here. We will complete our Directors Toolkit with Peter Burger online this weekend too, which was interrupted by COVID-19. DEGNZ will continue to put out calls for various other workshops and initiatives over the next three months.

Finally, to help with mental health and wellbeing, we introduced a Membership Holiday for people suffering financial hardship and cannot afford to become members or renew their membership. We launched DEGNZ Play to give members a creative outlet during lockdown and continue to assess what else we can do. We are open to ideas — if you do, get in touch with me directly.

I received a suggestion from a member that prompted us to compile a database of DEGNZ editors who have editing equipment and software that allows them to work from their bubbles. The response has been great so far. The database will be pushed out to the sector as there may well be work opportunities.

We are all facing this difficult time together and united we will more effectively improve the situation for everyone. DEGNZ will continue to focus its efforts on behalf of members through the COVID-19 Action Group as this is the most efficient way for us to achieve outcomes. An example of this is the SPADA online interview with Annabelle Sheehan of NZFC and Cameron Harland of NZ On Air, which put forward many of the Action Group’s discussions.

The kaupapa of DEGNZ – to ensure the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of our members – remains the same. From time to time, I will share further updates with you on the work we are doing.

Stay safe, be kind, stay at home, break the chain.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

View from the Top banner

I asked myself and my colleague whether or not I should write about the impact of the coronavirus on our industry in my regular Op Ed. I’d decided not to, then woke up to some news that has changed my mind.

CANNESERIES, the TV version of the Cannes Film Festival, has decided to postpone from April to coincide with MIPTV in October, while the Cannes Film Fest is currently going ahead as planned in May… so far. And the next in the James Bond franchise, No Time To Die (an apt title if ever there was one) has decided to move its opening slot from April to November—the only tent-pole film scheduled for this year to do so at the moment. Perhaps the studios are buoyed by the prospects of Niko Caro’s Mulan, which goes out this month in the US with a projected US$85 million opening.

In February, Paramount Pictures postponed a three-week shoot in Venice for the latest in the Mission Impossible franchise, while at Berlin, Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke (Ash Is Purest White, A Touch of Sin) told media that his next film slated for a start in April is delayed indefinitely.

The number of major entertainment companies pulling out of the SXSW Festival, due to start tomorrow, is increasing daily.

With the movie theatres empty in China, Korea and Japan, and undoubtedly so in Italy and Iran, I know I’m not the only one thinking about what this all means for the film business.

The Hollywood studios have already assembled coronavirus strategy teams and many are in contact with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in Washington and the World Health Organisation (WHO), monitoring the situation. As with the James Bond and Mission Impossible films, the studios are having to consider what it all means to their production and releasing schedules, but more importantly what the overall impact is going to be to their business.

In China where the virus originated and has been impacting the longest, there have been rapid moves to deal with the theatrical ramifications. Huanxi, distributor of the Chinese blockbuster Lost in Russia, premiered the film online for free, while Enter the Fat Dragon becomes the second major Chinese film to premiere online.

I’m sure the streamers aren’t rubbing their hands with glee, but they are and will be an obvious benefactor of theatres shutting down and people being forced to stay at home… as long as subscribers can continue to afford to pay for their subscriptions.

A lot of my European film colleagues attended this February’s Berlin International Film Festival. I have already given consideration as to whether or not I will go to Cannes this year. I’ve gone for the last three, and this year the head of the new Australian Directors Guild wanted to use the opportunity for all of the English-language speaking guilds to gather. I’m most likely not going to attend as I pretty much get sick with a cold or the flu every time I come back from a European trip. I have already cancelled my trip to Seoul in April, which was to attend the second gathering of the Alliance of Asia Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors—an event that was postponed in February after the coronavirus outbreak in China was becoming more serious.

Back home, I was talking with a New Zealand filmmaker whose feature is due out soon and COVID-19 was certainly on his mind in regard to what, if any, effect it could have on his box office. I just learned this week that NZFC has instituted a conservative travel policy for its staff.

Officially, I haven’t heard of any strategic thinking going on in regard to New Zealand’s film and TV industries in relation to the virus, but it’s undoubtedly weighing on a few minds including ours. We will update you if any news comes in.

As I sit writing this I have just learned we have a fourth confirmed case of COVID-19. I, therefore, am providing a link here to the Ministry of Health website about the virus and what to do should you display any kind of symptoms.

Take care out there.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

View from the Top banner

I had the good fortune to attend the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) for the official launch of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors (AAPA) last week. Guild president Howard Taylor signed the MOU for DEGNZ’s participation in this alliance in Tokyo in May.

AAPA is dedicated to serving as an independent and impartial advocate on behalf of the audiovisual creators community in the Asia-Pacific region and seeking to strengthen copyright protection.

Already we are benefitting from belonging to this Alliance with considerable support coming from Writers & Directors Worldwide (W & DW) and the International Federation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), under whose umbrellas the Alliance sits.

Present at BIFF were two guild members with their films: David Stubbs with his feature Daffodils, and Sam Kelly with Savage, which had its world premiere in Busan. It has been a while since a New Zealand feature was selected for BIFF, so it’s quite a coup to have two here. Congratulations to David and Sam for their achievements in getting their features into what is arguably still the most prestigious film festival in Asia.

While there, I took the opportunity to look at the feature film projects being pitched from around the Asian region, both by young emerging filmmakers and those more established. It was interesting to note the similarities and differences between what is happening across Asia and in New Zealand.

One of the first things that struck me was that like many aspiring New Zealand writer/directors, many Asian writer/directors expect to write a script from their treatment and have it move into production within one year. The average time for a film to move from initial idea to completion (if it does get made) in New Zealand and Australia is five to seven years. Case in point is Sam Kelly’s film Savage, which spent over six years in development. I asked Professor Darcy Parquet, who lectures in Korean film at the Busan Asian Film School, if in Asia it was unrealistic to expect such rapid progression. He agreed that it was.

Budgets also vary considerably. In speaking to one Japanese producer, I was told that indie film budgets in Japan typically sit in the range of US$30,000 – 300,000. Korea is a highly commercial market where indie films struggle as they do in Japan. Korean independent films have slightly higher indie budgets than Japan, but nowhere near the typical US$5 million budget a Korean commercial film gets. Elsewhere in Asia, indie film budgets seem to range from US$200,000 to US$600,000 – 750,000. An important consideration to remember is that there is not a lot of government support for film around Asia, unlike in New Zealand and Australia.

We are certainly not alone in wanting to tell dark dramas. In a number of pitches I heard, cancer and suicide featured frequently and there were quite a few tough films wanting to be told. This was balanced by genre or genre hybrid projects—a reflection I believe of the lower budgets, lack of government funding and a need to get returns for investors, as well as a desire to tell more genre stories.

Highly obvious at the Asian Film Market that sits alongside BIFF is the European presence. Many European organisations and producers are seeking to strengthen ties with Asia for co-production, which is the mainstay of the European film industry. There is also a fascination with Asia and its stories. Europeans, who are masters of co-production and have access to a variety of soft-funding sources, are searching out talented Asian filmmakers with strong stories to support. It’s such a pity that co-production in New Zealand and Australia is so limited by both attitudes and resources, as well as isolated by geographic distance. New Zealand has co-production agreements with South Korea, Singapore, China and Taiwan, but these are rarely used.

I’d have to say that I’ve never before met as many film festival programmers from other festivals before as I met here. That can probably be attributed to the fact that it’s a smaller market than others I’ve been lucky enough to attend. I think, however, that it’s another sign of the European interest in the region.

Streamers are having the same impact in Asia as is happening elsewhere, with the future of indie film still very uncertain. SVOD still hasn’t picked up the slack that DVDs used to bring in terms of revenue. That doesn’t seem to have slowed the Asian passion for indie features though. Everyone still seems to be rushing forward. But nobody it would seem is yet sure if it’s towards oblivion or a brighter future.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

View from the Top banner

In my last blog editorial I wrote of Fair Remuneration and the meetings DEGNZ President Howard Taylor and I attended in Tokyo at the General Assembly of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and Executive Council meeting of Writers & Directors Worldwide.

Rather than pen more words about this, here is a link to a 10 minute video produced by W & DW and other associated bodies on the discussions at the meetings of W & DW and the Directors Guild of Japan.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive DIrector

View from the Top banner

Last week, Guild President Howard Taylor and I attended the General Assembly of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), and the Executive Committee meeting of Writers & Directors Worldwide (W & DW) in Tokyo.

The primary purpose for attending was to gain international support from the two bodies for DEGNZ’s efforts to win economic rights for directors in New Zealand.

Working with W & DW, we tabled a resolution to CISAC calling on the NZ Government to support the assigning of economic copyright to directors in New Zealand. The resolution was passed at the General Assembly.

Writers and Directors Worldwide Executive Committee meeting.

Another reason for our attendance was to participate in the formulation of an alliance of Guilds and Collective Management Organisations (CMOs—an example being ASDACS, the collection society for directors in Australasia) in the Asia-Pacific to strengthen our international presence in the region, and to work collaboratively with those bodies on areas of mutual interest.

DEGNZ President Howard Taylor signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) together with the Directors Guild of Japan, the Directors Guild of Korea, the Australian Directors’ Guild, The Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collecting Society (ASDACS) and the Australian Writers’ Guild. We expect the number of bodies participating in the alliance to expand to other countries in the Asia-Pacific over time.

The MOU supports the formation of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors (AAPA) for the purpose of:

  1. Serving as an independent and impartial advocate on behalf of the audiovisual creators’ community in the Asia-Pacific region;
  2. Seeking to strengthen copyright protection and to further the interests of audiovisual creators in the Asia-Pacific region.

In order to fulfil these goals:

  1. AAPA shall work with the support of Writers & Directors Worldwide to participate in the campaigns and activities of W & DW;
  2. AAPA shall establish further strategic alliances with similar audiovisual organisations in other territories globally.

DEGNZ President Howard Taylor signs MOU for Alliance of Asia Pacific Audio-visual Writers and Directors.

What became abundantly clear in our discussions with the Japanese and Korean directors guilds was that we are all in the same boat—directors in the Asia-Pacific and in many other countries do not have economic rights in their works, and consequently many struggle to have sustainable careers.

Our involvement with CISAC, W & DW and now AAPA are all geared towards achieving fair remuneration for directors in New Zealand, and elsewhere. This has long been a focus of CISAC and particularly W & DW internationally, and they have had a number of wins, most notably in South America.

Directors guilds and Writers and Directors Worldwide at the offices of the Directors Guild of Japan.

DEGNZ until now has essentially been standing alone in its efforts to win economic rights for directors, although we have received considerable support and assistance from the Australian Directors Guild and maintain relationships with the Directors Guild of America and Directors UK.

Participating collaboratively at an international level in order to win fair remuneration for directors only strengthens our efforts to do so here for New Zealand directors.

We look forward to collaborating with our international counterparts, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, as we continue to push for fair remuneration.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director