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On Wednesday night, DEGNZ got together with Ngā Aho Whakaari for a Collaborators Series event with Wayne Blair. The topic? Getting Indigenous Stories to the Screen.

Wayne Blair, an actor and director, is well known for his directing work on The Sapphires as well as Redfern Now, Cleverman and recently Septembers of Shiraz.

At the Collaborators Series, Wayne was open and forthright about his film-making and explained how telling Indigenous stories is central to his work. He also spoke of how he feels fortunate to work with so many talented and Indigenous people in the industry.

Many thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission for supporting this event.

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Saturday’s Rehearsal Room with Oliver Driver was a great success, with four directors and eight actors working together to bring their scenes to life.

There was a bit of everything in the scripts workshopped on the day – comedy, drama, romance and action. By the end of the experience, everybody felt they had come a long way developing their scenes, and Oliver offered great practical tips and advice to all of the groups.

A highlight was definitely playing back the work at the end, seeing what everybody had produced and hearing about the journey they took to get there.

Sign up for the next Wellington and Auckland Rehearsal Rooms on EventBrite. More will be added as we schedule for 2016! Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission for supporting this event.

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Professional development is an important part of the guild’s activities. A number of the opportunities have limits on participants, so we are constantly having to screen applications and respond to questions about what’s required, and “Why wasn’t I successful?”

While there are many factors that come into play when decisions are made by us, and those who help us select or who do the choosing for us, the two key questions that are first asked are: “What has the person done?” and “How good was it?”

The screen industry is all about turning out product, whether it be a video, documentary, commercial, TV episode, film, web series or other. At the bottom end it can be an audio-visual sausage, at the top end a piece of art. Intellectualism can have a big part to play, or not as Michael Bay has proved, but success comes firstly from creating the product, and then is hopefully followed by critical acclaim, box office success, increased sales, high ratings or whatever else is the measure that defines that particular product’s success or failure.

What strikes me with the screen industry is that it’s in the doing rather than in the knowing that success comes.

Recently, we had a Collaborators Series event at which director Lee Tamahori spoke. And last night I attend the NZ Cinematographers Society’s event with cinematographer Michael Seresin. Both are highly acclaimed internationally for their work. I was struck by the similarities between the two. But even more so by how they got into the industry—at the bottom. Lee was given a job by Don Reynolds as a boom operator even though he admitted he didn’t know what a boom operator did. Michael’s father got him a job with John O’Shea at Pacific Films as a gopher to save him from a wayward lifestyle. Both worked their way up with no film school education or knowledge of the industry to being at the top of their careers internationally by being on-set, being smart and doing it. Their learning came on the job.

Before film schools came along, TVNZ and the National Film Unit were the training grounds for people aspiring to careers in the screen industry. People learned there by doing.

Today, with education a massive business, we have courses, diplomas and degrees for people wanting a career in the industry.

I was asked a week or so ago to attend an industry focus group organised by an educational institution that is looking to respond to the industry by shaping their screen degree for the future, and melding it in a way that responds best to industry needs. Admirable.

But as often happens when seasoned industry people sit around and discuss work opportunities for new people entering, it wasn’t long before moans about the attitudes of film and media school graduates surfaced. Most criticisms centre on the sense of entitlement graduates have with their piece of paper in hand, which to most of those there means little or nothing. Getting in and doing it with smarts and a proactive, can-do approach on even the lowliest of tasks still counts over a formal screen education it seems. Just like Lee and Michael and many others in the screen industry have done as they worked their way to lofty heights and good pay packets from the bottom of the ladder.

Old school attitude. Sure. But one that still matters when it comes to those hiring and firing in the industry today. Which brings me back to the guild’s professional development programme.

Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission, we offer a comprehensive professional development programme with a wide variety of opportunities. We have added to this with our latest Drama Director Attachment initiative, supported by NZ On Air and local drama production companies. We hope in the future to offer others.

These are presented by people in the industry doing it. Passing on skills and knowledge—much of it practical— that many of them use on a daily basis.

We always get a good response to our professional development opportunities. But we’d like to see more. It shows to our funders that what we are doing offers real value. And we believe they bring real value to the participants who can leverage off the learning experiences to help them go further with their career and next project.

Formal education does have its place these days. Our professional development programme goes a few steps further we feel. But it’s hard to go past the Nike maxim in the screen industry. Doing it really does count. Making it good, even better.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

For Immediate Release

4 August 2015

The Directors and Editors Guild of NZ (DEGNZ) has received NZ On Air Industry Development Fund support for its DEGNZ Drama Director Attachment Initiative, which will see up to three paid director attachments to New Zealand drama productions in 2015/2016.

The initiative is designed to develop and up-skill new television drama directors, contribute to the ongoing production of quality future drama, and provide another training pathway to those currently available by placing emerging directors as attachments on local drama one-offs or series.

“We are focused on maximizing the work opportunities for established and emerging DEGNZ member directors in drama,” said DEGNZ Executive Director Tui Ruwhiu.

“We are extremely pleased that NZ On Air has come behind this training initiative at a time when the environment is buoyant for both local drama and international drama shooting here.”

“This domestic scheme enhances the already successful director attachment programmes DEGNZ has run on international productions Spartacus and Ash vs. Evil Dead thanks to producer Rob Tapert and the New Zealand Film Commission,” he added.

The cost for the attachments will be split between NZ On Air (60%) and the production company (40%), with DEGNZ administering the scheme and monitoring the directors through the attachments.

Working together with local production companies, DEGNZ will identify upcoming drama productions that could take director attachments. Calls for applications will be made with DEGNZ and NZ On Air feeding into the final selection, with the successful candidate ultimately being chosen by the production company.

While the attachment is primarily a director shadowing opportunity through preproduction, production and post-production across a maximum 12-week period, the attachment will get to direct on the production if he or she proves herself.

DEGNZ has already had initial discussions with some local production companies regarding the initiative and expects to make a call for the first attachment opportunity in the near future.

The criteria and calls for applications will be made available on the DEGNZ website when attachment opportunities become available.

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For further information, please contact:

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director
Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
tui@degnz.co.nz
021-659-950

Calling all past, present and potential DEGNZ members! Join as at our Open Night for Directors, where you can network with fellow film-makers, chat to current members and ask any nagging questions you have about DEGNZ membership in an informal setting. We provide the delicious nibbles – just bring yourself!

Please indicate your attendance on our Facebook event page.

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