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Fair Remuneration Efforts

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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

The Big Picture

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There’s a lot of big picture stuff going on at the moment, so I thought I would take the time to discuss it a little further.

DEGNZ together with other guilds, screen industry bodies and representatives, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand have been meeting regularly to formulate recommendations to the Minister of Employment about how we can restore the right of workers in the industry to collectively bargain, without necessarily changing the status of those who wish to continue working as individual contractors. We are making good progress at this point and are expected to finalise recommendations by the end of June at the latest as required by the Minister.

The Guild has been very active in regard to the ongoing Copyright Act Review now underway. We expect the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to release an issues paper before the middle of the year in what is going to be a multi-year review process. We are working very hard to get Director’s Copyright onto that issues paper and have the support of the Australian Directors Guild, Directors UK and the Directors Guild of America in our efforts.

President Howard Taylor and board member Annie Collins have been toiling quietly away on the idea of a proposed Code of Ethics, instigated by us, and being discussed by all the guilds and other industry bodies. Some of you will have participated in the survey we put out to the screen industry. We have received very valuable feedback from the survey and are redrafting the proposed code now for a second round of consultation. We expect before the end of the year to be able to introduce and promote the Code of Ethics and hope that the industry and funding bodies take it up as an ethical guideline to all behaviour in the screen sector.

We are keeping a very close watch on developments around RNZ+, meeting key players to try and determine what the potential outcomes might be, and also working to determine the Guild’s position on public media broadcasting and the best way to ramp it up. We would be interested in hearing from members’ views on the following:

  1. If RNZ+ as a platform receives a specific funding increase from Government to deliver better public service media including audio visual content, should it as a platform also be able to seek funding from NZ On Air? Or, should the the funding streams and content be kept entirely separate, i.e. NZ On Air funding used only to create content for commerical broadcasters/platforms?
  2. Should RNZ+ commision audio-visual content from outside suppliers, or create it inhouse?

Could members address any thoughts you might have on this to admin@degnz.co.nz with RNZ+ Thoughts in the subject line. Thanks in advance and hope it’s all going well for you out there.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Hello 2018!

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We’re into the year and we’ve got a significant period of change coming.

The Government’s first hundred days are up in two weeks and it has already made good progress or is about to in terms of tertiary education, housing, child poverty, mental health and other social issues. Yet, it’s in the area of workplace relations that progress had been slow, and understandably so because the shift will be significant. However, today the Government announced a slew of employment law changes in favour of workers. Labour’s Fair Pay Agreements, which are still to come are potentially contentious with a fear that they’ll bring strikes and economic decline. Labour’s adamant they won’t.

In regard to the screen sector, following the attention-grabbing announcement that the Hobbit Law would be repealed, the government scrambled quickly to assure everyone that it did not want to affect attraction of international production to New Zealand. Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced the formation of a working group to consider options for replacing the legislation. The Film Industry Working Group will meet shortly and DEGNZ is a member. So for the moment,  film workers will not be able to collectively bargain, although the government fully intends for those workers to have that right.

Clare Curran confirmed at NZ On Air’s year-end celebration in December that Radio NZ will get a significant funding increase of around $20 – 30 million, and that NZ On Air and a new overarching public media funding commission would share the remainder of the $38 million fund, intended primarily for news and current affairs programming. This should start to flow this year.

The commitment has drawn the ire of Mediaworks CEO Ian Anderson, who complains it will weaken media diversity and hasten the end of Free To Air TV. Instead he suggests, turn TV1 into a true public broadcaster—Talk about flogging a dead horse. He also suggests that TVNZ has the TV business talent that Radio NZ does not. Many in the industry would think that puts Radio NZ in a good place not a bad one. And try telling that to former Maori Television CFO Alan Witherington and former MTS Head of Programming, and TV news and current affairs producer Carol Hirshfeld, both of who hold top management jobs at Radio NZ.

There’s been no mention of any additional funding for the New Zealand Film Commission, but we have to hope that NZFC would have put in a bid for additional funds for 2018/2019. The $13 million NZFC has to fund local production for 2017/2018 and the annual $16 million in Screen Production Grant funding for NZ films for the next four years won’t go far.

A major change at NZFC in 2018 is new CEO Annabelle Sheehan. An educator and bureaucrat with a production background, Sheehan can be expected to bring a different approach to the way the organisation operates from her predecessor producer Dave Gibson. As former head of the highly regarded Australian Film, TV and Radio School (AFTRS), we can expect she’ll have strong opinions on talent development. She will still though be reporting to the National Government-appointed NZFC board, and they were after all the ones she had to convince to get the job. We can expect Labour’s hand will come into play as board members on both NZFC’s and NZ ON Air’s boards reach their ends of terms and new appointments are made.

One of the big shifts at NZ On Air will happen in February or March when they announce their new drama strategy. After the incredible noise generated around the Filthy Rich and Dirty Laundry funding, primarily by Duncan Grieve, and the constant chatter around digital funding and the lack of support of emerging content makers, again very attributable to Mr Grieve, NZ On Air went into a major reassessment of scripted programming. No doubt the cracks that opened will widen. Interesting to note another change in Grieve stepping down as editor of Spinoff to focus on managing the company’s business, which includes two new TV shows.

On the international scene it’s a bloodbath. We are effectively saying goodbye to Hollywood studios and hello to high-tech companies. Once all the mergers and acquisitions are done, it’s likely Disney, who recently acquired Fox from Rupert Murdoch, will be the only one left standing and it’ll be competing with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Google/YouTube. China funding in the US entertainment industry has dried up but the massive players in the Chinese online space are surging. Get used to saying Baidu, Tencent, iQiyi, Youku, Tudou and Sohu. News out of Sundance so far sees only one major acquisition going to new players Neon and AGBO, with a US$10 million spend to acquire all rights for Assasination Nation. Netflix and Amazon have yet to acquire anything.

It’s not looking any prettier for NZ film. The arthouse market where NZ film sits has dried up except for Europe, and its even tough there. Amazon was shedding a ray of light for independent film, particularly US indies, because of Ted Hope, who is a major supporter of auteur filmmaking. But online media intelligence site FilmTake has just reported that Amazon is moving away from small indies and into the $50 million budget space. And Netflix is supposedly proving a harder door to open now that it’s well established with a solid roster of content suppliers it already has relationships with.

On the domestic front it’s hard not conclude that the Australasian distribution system for NZ film is broken. Sure Wilderpeople and some of the more popular docos are still getting over the $1 million mark and small films like the recent Waru are punching well above their budget weight, but if you’re not making overtly commercial films you’re chucked out in two weeks to make way for the next Hollywood blockbuster, so there’s no chance for word of mouth to build up and grow an audience. That is if you can get theatrical distribution in the first place. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. Catering to niche audiences with good light entertainment as the Three Wise Cousins team is doing with their latest self-funded romcom Hibiscus & Ruthless is one model for the way forward.

On the guild front things are a little steadier. We have a lot of big picture work in front of us with the Film Industry Working Group, Copyright and the Code of Ethics to focus on. With professional development we will be running a full programme of training workshops for directors and editors, introducing a drama editor attachment scheme to complement the TV drama director attachment initiative we will do again this year, and putting one more intake through the Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator. We are also planning further events specifically targeted at young creators. To round things off we’ll have our regular networking events where you can hear speakers and connect with like-minded screen industry professionals.

DEGNZ is here to work on your behalves, so make yourselves known to us whether it’s for assistance or just to say hello. We appreciate your support both through membership and patronage at our events and look forward to connecting with you in 2018.

Finally our thanks go out to the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air, Vista Foundation and our other supporters Dominion Law, Resene, Seresin Wines, Pieter Holl & Associates, Event Cinemas, Reading Cinemas, Rialto Cinemas and Hoyts who support us in supporting you.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director