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With the Big Screen Symposium about to kick off tomorrow, it’s yet another recent event at which to be thankful for, for our Government’s response to COVID. We can gather in big numbers will little concern for the spread of the virus, while in many other places around the world the statistics of COVID sickness and death are horrific. I was extremely pleased to hear yesterday that our Trans-Tasman cousins can now travel interstate, relatively freely.

 

And talking of our Aussie cousins, we have a new head at the Australian Directors’ Guild in Alaric McCausland. Alaric has a screen executive background in Australia and internationally, bringing a slightly different focus over his last two predecessors. As always, DEGNZ seeks a strong relationship with the ADG, with my first call with Alaric cordial, informative and supportive.

 

NZFC, NZ On Air and TMP obviously got more feedback than they bargained for in regard to the Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund. They are now late in getting the final criteria out—perhaps they will show at BSS. I have to imagine the number of applications to the fund is going to be as voluminous as the feedback was.

 

I heard yesterday that TV3 is now officially in the hands of Discovery. A Stuff article here. Being run as an Australasian service, it will be interesting to see what opportunities come for local content makers in the trans-Tasman tie, with Discovery’s global network and the planned launch of a streaming service here making for exciting possibilities.

 

Over at Sky they’ve got a new CEO in Sophie Moloney. Martin Stewart wears the blood splashes of his restructuring as he heads back to the UK, and Moloney offers an experienced, friendly, female and kotahitanga approach as she takes Sky forward. Unity is certainly needed in an organisation reeling from job losses.

 

TVNZ’s GM Local Content Nevak Rogers came with Drama and Scripted Comedy Commissioner Steve Barr to talk to our Emerging Women Filmmakers participants at their fifth and final workshop. Nevak was pleased to tell me that TVNZ is now spending around $100 million on local content, which is besting the highest spend during the Charter years at TVNZ. For those not old enough to know what the charter was, this from Wikipedia:

 

The Labour Government introduced a “TVNZ Charter” in 2002. This was a list of objectives for TVNZ which specified it must broadcast a wide variety of New Zealand-made content; the broadcaster was given public responsibility to provide news, drama, documentaries and “promote understanding of the diversity of cultures”. In 2008 the Government announced that the broadcaster was to become “more public-service” like. TVNZ responded by launching two commercial free channels; TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. By 2011 Prime Minister John Key announced the closure of these channels. 6 in 2011, and 7 in mid-2012, with much of their content put into TVNZ Heartland and TVNZ Kidzone24 which are only available behind a Sky TV paywall. The National Government abolished the Charter in 2011. Political opponents accused the Government of reducing TVNZ’s commitments as a public broadcaster.

 

Just this week at the NZ On Air end-of-year function, Broadcasting Minister Chris Faafoi reaffirmed his commitment to public broadcasting via a video address. Back in October, Faafoi announced that the TVNZ – RNZ merger discussion was back on the table. The partially completed and partially redacted PWC consultant’s report released in September, however, didn’t outline the benefits of combining the broadcasters into a single entity or state how TVNZ or RNZ’s services would change if the proposal was approved. Just what is going to happen and when seems entirely open to discussion. Dealing with COVID and its impacts provides wonderful cover for doing nothing for quite a while yet. Let’s hope something good comes of it sooner.

 

Finally, the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide, driven by board member and  long-time, drama and documentary editor Annie Collins, continues to win rave reviews. If you want to save your production time and money and yourself stress, become very familiar with the content, available on our website here.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

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It’s with great sadness that I heard of the passing of New Zealand International Film Festival Director Bill Gosden.

I knew Bill professionally but not personally, and always watched with great admiration the way he orchestrated NZIFF with aplomb.

It was because of Bill and NZIFF that I developed a love of independent cinema and arthouse film.

Every year I made a point of catching 15 to 30 films at the fest in Auckland. Bill and his team showed us that there was more to film than the hero’s journey and Save the Cat.

I remember in 2017 going to see the 5.5 hour Japanese film Happy Hour by Ryūsuke Hamaguchi, and being captivated for every minute. Or watching in 2016 the astounding Columbian film Embrace of the Serpent by Ciro Guerra, an artistic feast for the eyes and mind. Or sitting in 2014 with Ruben Östlund’s Swedish masterpiece Force Majure and British director Steven Knight’s tour de force Locke. Then there was in 2012 German director Christian Petzoid’s simply beautiful Barbara and Denis Villeneuve’s powerful, moving Incendies in 2011. I could go on—Lebanon, Page One: Inside The New York Times, I Love You Phillip Morris, Four Lions, Frank, The Hunt, etc., etc.

Equally, I suffered through a few of my own personal dislikes, such as Chinese director Jia Zhangke’s Ash is the Purest White, Portuguese critical hit Tabu by Miguel Gomes, or American director Frederick Wiseman’s interminable Ex Libris.

All these films just an example of the masterful programming of NZIFF that Bill led.

Then of course is the incredible support he gave to New Zealand filmmakers, both feature length and short, from Gaylene Preston to Florian Harbicht, Yamin Tun to Hamish Bennett, Daniel Borgman to Aidee Walker, Tim van Dammen, Becs Arahanga and Jack Niccol to name a few.

DEGNZ has had for a number of years an official connection with Bill and NZIFF through our hosting of visiting directors and introducing their films, to more recently running director masterclasses with them, like those with Debra Granik and Thom Zimny.

Bill Gosden made every wintery August a month to look forward to, and he enriched the cinematic life of New Zealand with his choices. I for one will be eternally grateful.

Bill Gosden’s memorial service will be held at the Public Trust Hall, 131–135 Lambton Quay, Wellington, on Monday 16 November, at 2:00pm.

Also an official memorial page is also being created for Bill, and you are invited to email your messages to tribute@rememberingbillgosden.nz.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

 

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We are in the midst of election turmoil both here and in the United States.

Pork barrel politics are in full swing here with promises from all sides intended to sway voters.

We are fortunate, though, that the Arts has already received funding from Government due to COVID in the $8 million-dollar Cultural Capability allocation over two years ($2 million each) to New Zealand On Air, the NZFC, the NZ Music Commission and Creative New Zealand.

Additionally, from the total $150 million allocation it’s managing for the Government’s COVID 19 Sector Regeneration Fund for Arts, Culture and Heritage, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage (MCH) is sorting out now how to best spend the other $12 million in Cultural Capability funding. A number of us in the screen sector and from other Creative and Arts-related organisations have been in focus groups with MCH to discuss this.

Participating in these focus groups has made me very aware of how fortunate the screen sector is in comparison to other Arts sectors. There are many creative organisations and individual artists who are barely hanging on in the COVID environment. It was particularly poignant to hear of suicides in the music sector.

Another very clear reminder of the screen sector’s difference for me in these meetings was the fundamental blending of art and commerce that is central to our sector. Our art comes about as the result of tens or hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars in investment to generate a work. The annual budgets of NZ On Air at $150 million, NZFC at $26.4 million and with a New Zealand Screen Production Grant Budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars exhibit this.

In television, there’s no real tension between art and commerce. It’s a business. Everybody knows it. That’s not the case in film. Film still remains the domain of the auteur director, whether they are making an art house film or a Hollywood blockbuster.

Director Christopher Nolan has been given the authorial right by Warner Brothers to bet the bank on a cinema release with the $200 million film Tenet. Why?

Nolan exhibited his artistic talent with his first film Following. His second feature, Memento, on a $9 million-dollar budget grossed $40 million worldwide. His Batman trilogy, Man of Steel, and Interstellar have generated billions. That’s why. Nolan is now an established blockbuster auteur.

Nolan’s debut feature Following was made on a budget of £3,000. Most of the cast and crew were friends of the director, and shooting took place on weekends over the course of a year.

Of course, not everybody who’s a director has the talent or will take the path of Christopher Nolan. But we should celebrate every New Zealand film that gets made whether its self-funded or the beneficiary of NZFC financing.

Sam Kelly and Guy Pigden, two of the latest DEGNZ members to finish films, took different paths to the same result.

Sam’s NZFC funded Savage is knocking it out of the park at the moment, having taken over a million dollars at the box office in two weeks. Guy’s film Older, funded through Pledge Me, had its official premiere last weekend, and is available to stream on Prime Video. Streamer reviews are looking good too.

As well, we have DEGNZ member directors Armagan Ballantyne in production on her sophomore feature Nude Tuesday, Michelle Saville on debut feature Millie Lies Low restarting after a COVID shutdown, Linda Nicol wrapping up on her debut Poppy, and Leanne Pooley with feature documentary Girl On A Bridge, which has finished its cinema run and is now available online.

Even amidst these COVID-created tough times, we have much to celebrate with the success of our members in the feature film arena and the funding our sector’s received.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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I was fortunate to be invited as a guest to the New Zealander of the Year Awards last night. It was an eye-opener for me. It brought home how myopic I have become with the screen industry essentially consuming my every waking hour. When I’m not thinking about and doing my job here at the Guild, I’m more often than not working on moving my own projects forward.

At the Awards I got to see and hear about wonderful New Zealanders who work endlessly, tirelessly, and often voluntarily, consumed by their passions to do work that will benefit others.

There were many wonderful characters and stories in the semifinalists and finalists we were introduced to.

Georgia Hale has represented New Zealand in four sports, and uses her position as the Captain of the Womens Warriors Rugby League team to do community work throughout the country, working with young children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled and other charities. Georgia won the Young New Zealander of the Year.

Dame Margaret Sparrow is a long-time advocate of men’s and women’s reproductive rights.  She helped introduce the morning-after pill to New Zealand, has been a trailblazer for legal abortion here and is absolutely thrilled that after decades of effort, a bill to decriminalise abortion will soon go in front of the whole House. Dame Margaret won the Senior New Zealander of the Year Award.

Bill Buckley of Buckley Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of electro-magnets, won hearts and minds with his clear ‘Kiwiness’ and absolute passion for his latest effort. Buckley’s newest venture, Neutron Therapeutics, took on a task many others worldwide thought impossible: to build an accelerator that could be used in-hospital as a neutron source, replacing a nuclear reactor that was required to perform the same function.

Using the accelerator, Neutron Therapeutics has developed Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) that allows the targeting of cancer at a cellular level. Buckley firmly believes that they will be able to eradicate brain tumours with the treatment. He won Innovator of the Year.

And just when you thought I’d completely moved off the screen industry, we come to actor and teacher Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira, who took out New Zealander of the Year. Jennifer was acknowledged for her ongoing dedication to Arts and Culture in theatre, film and TV and her passion for Te Reo Māori, showing through shining example her commitment to bi-culturalism and bi-lingualism in New Zealand. Jennifer, as many of you know, has run workshops for DEGNZ, passing on her knowledge and experience of working with actors. Congratulations, Jennifer, from us at the Guild!

There were other winners on the night and an equally-deserving large numbers of Kiwis who were nominated for the work they do in communities in New Zealand.

It was a breath of fresh air to put the screen industry aside and spend a few enjoyable hours hearing about Kiwi achievements from other walks of life.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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We’ve got the elections this year and that means everything is up in the air.

Simon Bridges says he’ll likely reverse the TVNZ-RNZ merger if National gets back into power.

The Film Industry Working Group’s recommendations around collective bargaining for the screen industry could go out the window.

NZ On Air could get an increase in funding… Or not.

There is some certainty in the media space, though. My predictions:

TVNZ will continue to lose money as long as it stays the way it is, no matter how good a job Kevin Kendrick does (and by all accounts he’s doing a good one).

TV3 will face the same uncertain future it has since it started in 1989, even with a new owner.

The NZ Screen Sector Strategy 2030 will… do something good, bad or indifferent (industry bets seem to be on either of the latter two at the moment).

NZ On Air will have a new CEO shortly—whether it’s a great opportunity for someone new to make a mark or a hospital pass will come clear by the end of 2020.

And the rest of the world, including Australia, will keep capitalising on the demand for internationally-focused TV drama produced locally.

At DEGNZ, it’s very much steady as she goes.

We have a strong board in place who are highly proactive around key issues for us and the industry.

Our focuses strategically will be copyright, collective bargaining legislation, post-production workflow and training, and keeping an eye on the vocational education work being done by various entities, which will get a lot of attention in 2020. There are, of course, always unexpected developments that need a response and we’ll stay alert to these as the need arises.

As a union now affiliated to the Council of Trade Unions, we will have an opportunity to sharpen our skills and knowledge with them in preparation for negotiations should the collective bargaining legislation go through.

We’ll continue to provide membership services including our professional development programme, thanks to the financial support of NZFC, the Vista Foundation, the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collecting Society, accounting firm VCFO, and with the support of Resene, Event Cinemas, Rialto Cinemas, Dominion Law and Handy Training Online.

We’ll maintain our partnerships on various activities with the NZ Writers Guild, Equity NZ, SCGNZ, NZAPG, SPADA, WIFT, Ngā Aho Whakaari, NZCS and look to forge a relationship with the newly-formed PASC.

DEGNZ is committed as we always say to ‘the creative, cultural and financial well-being of New Zealand directors and editors’.

With the shake-ups in our domestic screen industry scene including more SVODs coming online, and on the international stage with Brexit, the U.S. elections, and the novel coronavirus, we hope that you will join with us as we head into what is undoubtedly going to be a tumultuous 2020.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director