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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

Zoom's Gallery Views of DEGNZ's workshops

As life accelerates back to speed, for some, lockdown may seem like a distant memory. What happened in the DEGNZ calendar during April and May, you ask?

Lockdown turned out to be the perfect opportunity for us to test online learning, starting with part two of the Directors Toolkit with Peter Burger after the original weekend got cut short pre-Lockdown. It was great to bring the class of directors back together for further teaching, and to lay off the hand sanitiser.

Acting/directing coach Miranda Harcourt also ran two excellent Directing Actors sessions for the Guild. We received so many applications that it was a real blessing that we could stretch the one workshop to two – thanks in part to Miranda’s normally chocker schedule being grounded. Even then, we sadly couldn’t give every applicant a place.

Zoom's Gallery Views of DEGNZ's workshops

Grids within a grid: Participants in workshops with Peter Burger and Miranda Harcourt.

During lockdown, we enjoyed seeing what members made as part of DEGNZ Play, a creative outlet for members to make and share 1-minute videos from inside their bubbles.

Round 1 of the 2020 Table Reads, in association with the NZ Writers Guild, went virtual via Zoom. A cast of seven actors read and contributed their thoughts on a feature film script being written by Nick Ward and directed by Kath Akuhata-Brown (DEGNZ), the lucky draw winners. We’ve got two more rounds this year, likely around a 3-dimensional table. If you’re writing a feature, these are a great opportunity and exclusive to members only.

DEGNZ also scrutinised a bunch of how-to guides and took events online. If you missed any of our live events, you can watch the recordings for Young Creators: Think Outside the Box, Screenlink: The Editor, a Composer’s Friend or Foe? and DEGNZ Forum: Draft Screen Sector Strategy 2030 Panel Discussion, which were held on our Facebook Live.

Now, looking ahead, we’ll be picking up the workshops that are near impossible to adapt for online – our practical actor-director workshops and a new and improved Assistant Editors Course. Our first in-person workshop is on this Friday with the seven directors of the 2020 Women Filmmakers Incubator. Meanwhile, Melbourne-based Kiwi director Jonathan Brough prepares to teach Comedy Directing online in June.

Based on feedback we received from participants, we feel online learning went pretty well. We are interested in developing our professional development programme to provide a mix of in-person and online opportunities in the future, so that more directors and editors can benefit and come together from across New Zealand.

So thanks to learning with us.

Tema Pua
Events & Marketing Manager

View from the Top banner

When you look at the problems besetting the world, with amongst other things COVID-19 still rampant in many countries, the U.S. a powder keg ready to explode and war raging on a number of fronts, it’s hard not to look at little ole New Zealand, steal the Aussie phrase and say, we’re The Lucky Country. And in comparison to Australia’s, we have to say we’re the lucky screen industry.

No matter what your political persuasion, the New Zealand screen sector has been blessed with a prime minister who is also the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. In Australia, Scott Morrison’s government abolished the Arts Department (our MCH) in December 2019 and merged it with Transport, Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The Federal Government over there has resisted calls for a nation-wide industry stimulus package. In New Zealand, meanwhile, the response to COVID has been:

  • $7.9 million for Careers Support for Creative Jobseekers
  • $70 million over three years for a Creative Arts Recovery and Employment Fund
  • $60 million over three years for a Cultural Innovation Fund
  • $20 million for a Cultural Capability Fund
  • $16.5 million for a New Zealand Music Recovery Fund
  • $16.5 million top up for New Zealand On Air

All this is in addition to other funding for the Culture and Heritage sector announced in the budget. And we are all waiting with bated breath for a stimulus package that will have funding specifically for the screen sector.

When it comes to screen workers, a high percentage of workers here quickly received the wage subsidy. In Oz, the response was slow and according to a just released Australian Directors Guild survey, nearly 50% of their members do not qualify for the Australian Government’s Job Keeper (Wage Subsidy) or Job Seeker (Unemployment Benefit).

Fingers crossed we have at least contained if not eliminated the Coronavirus. This has allowed our domestic soap, small crew projects and this week, our first film back into production. We have 56 international personnel allowed into the country through a special immigration channel, under managed quarantine at Wellington’s Museum Hotel and ready to kick start Avatar back into life and kick off another still-secret film.

With other international projects also likely to start shortly and NZ On Air expected to fund a considerable amount of drama from the recent round, we could well find ourselves back in the situation we were in at the beginning of the year with a dearth of experienced crew and international productions poaching crew off each other with offers of higher rates. Without a Trans-Tasman bubble in place, we certainly won’t be bringing crew in to fill the high demand here as was happening before.

Australia is also getting ready to swing back into production with their Health & Safety Standard & Protocols just released. However, they are faced with a continued blanket suspension of commercial free-to-air content quotas, which their producers’ organisation, SPA, feels smothers commissioning demand at a time when their industry needs it more than ever.

At the Guild, we are feeling lucky too, as we rapidly return to the new normal. Across the last two months we have been running a considerable number of Zoom and or Facebook Live workshops and sessions because of COVID. But this Friday we are holding our first in-person session with the first of five DEGNZ Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator workshops for 2020. We do though need your continued support because as an organisation we haven’t escaped unscathed, understandably, with financial membership down because of the pandemic.

With domestic tourism now key to our tourism sector’s survival and location production an important contributor to transport, food and accommodation providers, we have an opportunity to help out and at the same time see how lucky a country we really are.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

ScreenSafe banner

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.