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Are We Missing the Streamer Boat?

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It’s hard not to bang on about streaming services when they are continuing to upend the screen industry as we know it.

Media intelligence service FilmTake recently reported that Disney, WarnerMedia, and Apple are expected to spend between US$8 million to $20 million per episode on new drama series.

Amazon has supposedly set aside over a billion US dollars to bring a five-season Lord of the Rings series to Amazon Prime.

There are other epics planning to cash-in on the void left after the conclusion of Game of Thrones include WarnerMedia’s Dune series, Showtime’s Halo, and Apple’s fantasy series See.

Disney+ is also producing a Star Wars series, Mandalorian, which is costing $15 million per episode.

And these are just the TV blockbusters.

The Financial Times reported that in Europe, Netflix will make 221 projects in 2019, including 153 originals.

Netflix has launched its first European production hub in Madrid, targeting Spanish-language production and drama series, which have been a priority and a large source of success for the U.S. streaming giant.

In July of this year, it also announced that it is creating a dedicated production hub, featuring 14 sound stages, workshops and office space, at Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom.

In the last year alone, over 25,000 cast, crew and extras have worked on almost 40 Netflix originals and co-productions across Britain.

New Zealand is certainly not missing out on service production for streamers as witnessed most recently by the noise about the Lord of The Rings TV Series potentially being shot here for Amazon. Netflix has already been here with Letter For the King and is currently shooting another.

But are we missing the boat with local IP to satisfy the booming global appetite for content, particularly drama?

Yes, local producers do continue to sell their NZ ON Air and TMP funded content internationally, but that’s been the case for many years now.

NZ formats for the international market have made headway, as most recently attested to by Filthy Productions’ sale of Filthy Rich to the Fox Network.

It’s easy to forget that Rob Tapert has been making TV shows here for the international market for over 25 years—everything from Hercules and Xena to Spartacus and Ash vs Evil Dead.

But there’s nothing new in all this, as it was happening prior to the advent of Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services like Netflix and Amazon.

While NZ On Air continues to do the best it can with limited funds for local drama, it’s essentially locked into a myopic approach by its adherence to the Broadcasting Act, and it doesn’t look like it will change that anytime soon.

But there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Screentime has forged into Scandi Noir with its Danish coproduction Straight Forward, now on TVNZ OnDemand, and its soon to be released copro The Gulf, with Paula Boock and Donna Malane’s Lippy Pictures and a German partner.

And we have seen one Netflix Original in Auckland-based Razor Films’ Dark Tourist, while See-Saw Films and Jump TV are into their second series of The New Legends of Monkey for the ABC, TVNZ and Netflix. Almost going unnoticed is Pango Production’s 2018 production All Or Nothing: New Zealand All Blacks for Amazon Prime.

But really! Can we survive the onslaught of service production work from streamers in New Zealand and get our own IP out there in more than an occasional way?

There are a number of factors holding us back and one of them is writers. We don’t have enough skilled writers with the experience required to get internationally-focused shows across the line. The NZFC/NZ On Air Raupapa Whakaari Series Drama Lab initiative is seeking to address this by bringing in international-calibre mentors to work on local show ideas with teams here. Hopefully this will bear fruit.

Another is lack of funding. NZ On Air production funding caps out at $6 million, and you can’t access the NZ Screen Production Grant and NZ On Air Funding for the same project. When even middle-of-the-road Aussie shows are being made for the international market at AUD $1.5 to 2 million or more per episode for 6 to 10 eps, you can see the problem. But before you get to production you have to go through development, and the cost for that is going to be anywhere between $300,000 to $500,000. Again, there’s not the funding here for that. Raupapa Whakaari’s matched funding is limited to NZ$50,000 per year.

You might well ask why do we need to create our own IP anyway, and not just be service providers for international productions?

For directors and editors there’s going to be more work on local shows than international ones. The post production is generally not done here for international shows, and there’s only a very small pool of Kiwi directors with the credits to get themselves hired on international productions. That will expand slowly over time, but local shows hire locals, and we are increasing the numbers of Kiwi directors working on NZ On Air dramas.

In the end though, it’s our distinctiveness as Kiwis with Kiwi stories to tell and landscapes to show that provides cut through in the international market. I’m paraphrasing Paula Boock of Lippy Pictures who participated on our Screenlink panel this week along with Mark McNeill of Razor Films and Steven Zanoski of Filthy Productions to discuss ‘Screen Content for the Global Market’. Locally owned IP also brings revenues back to New Zealand when it’s successful, long after production has finished.

I don’t think we are going to miss the boat entirely when it comes to creating our own shows for the streaming giants. But it does sometimes seem like we are standing at the end of the pier watching the ship sailing away and wondering how the hell we are going to get onboard.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

What Does 2019 Hold for NZ Film?

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I hope everyone is well and rested after the Christmas and New Year break.

As we kick off the year, I’ve been forced to ponder what 2019 holds for NZ film both personally and because it’s something we should all be asking ourselves with the changes in the global screen industry.

To come up with my answer, the first thing I decided to do was look back and see how NZ films performed at the Box Office domestically in 2018.

Box Office numbers in NZ as one indicator of performance are available and reliable, but they don’t paint a true picture for a number of reasons, including:

  1. NZFC’s mandate is as a cultural funding body not a commercially driven investor. A film doesn’t have to return its investment to make it worthwhile for them to fund it.
  2. International Box Office numbers are difficult to obtain and can be inaccurate.
  3. Other international revenues, such as a sale to a streamer like Netflix, can go unreported.

True returns on film investment, therefore, are difficult to determine.

Of course, like the Swedish with the Quadrant B films I’ve written about previously, we’d all love to have critically acclaimed box office successes, but they are few and far between anywhere.

However, to get NZFC funding you must have local theatrical distribution, and local Box Office is one measure used to rate the performance of a NZ film. So for starters, here are I believe all the NZ films that got theatrical distribution in 2018 with their box office (If I missed anything or am incorrect, please let me know):

  Title Genre NZFC Prod. Investment NZ Box Office
Narrative Fiction
1 Vermilion Drama Y $21,329.00
2 The Stolen** Drama Y $38,716.00
3 Human Traces Thriller Y $63,182.00
4 Stray Drama N $83,259.00
5 Kiwi Christmas** Family Y $301,494.00
6 Waru Anthology Drama Y $400,747.00
7 Hibiscus and Ruthless Comedy N $496,096.00
8 Broken Faith drama N $753,118.00
9 Mortal Engines* Fantasy N $1,428,448.00
10 The Breaker Upperers Comedy Y $1,776,484.00
Documentary
1 Wayne Doco Y $22,164.00
2 Maui’s Hook Doco Y $23,376.00
3 Yellow Is Forbidden* Doco Y $44,137.00
4 She Shears* Doco Y $132,512.00
5 Born Racer: The Scott Dixon Story Doco N $155,588.00
6 No Ordinary Sheila Doco N $356,243.00
7 They Shall Not Grow Old* Doco N $685,969.00

*Still in theatres at the end of 2018
**Received New Zealand Screen Production Grant funding—numbers were only available to 30 Sept. 2018; so one or more films in the table may also have received NZSPG but the info. hasn’t been released yet.

We can take a number of things from this table (with some added facts):

  1. Seventeen films received a release in 2018—a good number.
  2. Five of the 10 narratives were helmed by first-timers: Vermilion, Human Traces, Stray, Waru, Broken, and The Breaker Upperers (one of two co-directors). (Waru as an anthology film made up of eight shorts with first timers counts as one first time female director.)
  3. Three of the seven docos had first-time directors: Maui’s Hook, She Shears, and No Ordinary Sheila.
  4. Four out of the 17 films were female-led projects written by women with female protagonists: Vermilion, The Breaker Upperers, Waru and Yellow Is Forbidden.
  5. Waru and Maui’s Hook are Māori films and both address important social issues.
  6. Yellow Is Forbidden was NZ’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
  7. Local box office numbers range from poorly performing to bona fide hits.

We should remember that we are not comparing apples with apples here. Budgets vary wildly from a few hundred thousand for Stray and Waru to US$100 million for Mortal Engines. Distribution and marketing spend is equally varied. Budget size is a significant factor in profitability.

Stepping back a little, we can say that if 2018 is anything to go by, certainly output-wise, the NZ film industry is in good health.

So what about 2019?

Output
Output is likely to be over 10 films, both narrative and doco. We’ll hopefully have one box office winner. There’ll be a mixed bag of other films when it comes to quality and NZ Box Office, some of which will be critically acclaimed. Like the Australians, we do generally struggle to get NZ audiences to NZ films.

First-timers
We’ll continue to see films from first-timers, as NZFC looks for the next Jane Campion, Pietra Brett-Kelly, Peter Jackson, Annie Goldson, Niki Caro, Leanne Pooley or Lee Tamahori.

Female driven films
NZFC’s initiatives to address gender inequality should see more female-driven films coming through this year and certainly next.

Maori & Pacific Island films
Anthology film Vai is opening NATIVe at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival with eight female directors, seven Pacific Islanders and one Māori. NZ had one film in 2019 Sundance in Heperi Mita’s documentary about his mother Merata (Australia had 6).

Maori and Pacific Island stories and filmmakers are also receiving additional attention from NZFC, so there will be a flow through, but more likely from 2020 on.

Narrative and documentary
Ten narratives (58%) out of 17 is quite high. There may be a rebalancing with a more even percentage between narrative and doco.

The trend reflected in the NZ results reflects what is going on globally: drama, particularly arthouse drama, struggles to get box office (and financed) unless you have name cast or directors the likes of Debra Granik, Lynn Shelton, Alfonso Cuarón or Pavel Pawilkowski, or have built in audiences.

That said, first-timers or other directors with drama without name cast might well score the coveted Cannes slot that New Zealand hasn’t had for over 15 years. I predict, though, that we will see more genre and elevated genre projects coming through.

Documentary is low cost in comparison to most narrative films, and the market globally for docos is strong even though Netflix has cut right back on them. We will continue to see good documentary numbers going into production.

International Financing
I haven’t touched on this till now but it’s too important in today’s market to leave out. It’s been a tough film market out there, but reports from Sundance say the buyers are back in play and spending up big.

I’ve just seen a report out of Europe saying streamers will spend north of US$20 billion on film and TV in the coming year. This is new money that wasn’t around before Netflix arrived on the scene in 1997. A good chunk of this will go to TV series but film will definitely get some, so the world is awash with money at the moment for financing… for the right projects.

Considering the incredible change that has occurred in film particularly over the last five years, you could say things are somewhat positive for NZ filmmakers. And that’s not a bad place to be.

Of course if you want to make money, you should be in TV drama because it’s better than it’s ever been. Internationally anyway.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

4 Member Films to Look Foward to at NZIFF

The Heart Dances

There’s something magical about experiencing a movie as part of a film festival that beats visits to your local multiplex. It’s one of the reasons why the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF), now celebrating it’s 50th year in Auckland, induces many fond memories and is still an annual highlight on people’s calendars.

For me, it’s also my chance to “binge-watch” some of the best films curated from around the world. But what makes NZIFF particularly special is that it also brings together some of the best feature and short films made right here in Aotearoa.

We know how exciting and rewarding it is for local filmmakers to have their films chosen to premiere at NZIFF and be enjoyed by a New Zealand audience. Here, we celebrate four NZ feature films made by our members – directors and editors – that have already been announced in the festival’s Early Announcements.

The full NZIFF programme launches on June 25.

Angie – Director/Editor Costa Botes

World Premiere

Angie film still

ANGIE / Photo credit: Costa Botes, Lone Pine Films

The compelling new documentary by DEGNZ member Costa Botes (Candyman), who served on the board of DEGNZ between 2013 and 2016. Angie Meiklejohn, prominent and articulate Centrepoint survivor, is joined by her siblings in this lucid exploration of the legacy of sexual abuse, directed without a hint of sensationalism.

“Funny, smart, big hearted, unflinchingly honest, a steadfast friend – whatever her past hurts, Angie is an engaging and loveable human being.” – Costa Botes

Read more  >

The Heart Dances – Director Rebecca Tansley

World Premiere 

The Heart Dances

RNZB dancers Abigail Boyle and Alexandre de Oliviera Ferreira rehearse in their roles as Ada and Baines in the RNZB studio. / Photo: Ken Downie

The Heart Dances promises to immerse audiences in a unique creative experience. The new documentary by DEGNZ member Rebecca Tansley (Crossing Rachmaninoff) tracks the collective and cross-cultural journey involved in creating The Piano: the ballet, inspired by Jane Campion’s 1993 film.

“Dance is an inherently ephemeral art form and most of us only ever observe it as a finished – and fleeting – performance.” – Rebecca Tansley

Read more  >

Stray – Director Dustin Feneley, Editor Dione Chard

NZ Premiere

Stray film still

STRAY / Courtesy of Dustin Feneley

Two damaged strangers fall into a complex intimate relationship in DEGNZ member Dustin Feneley’s beautiful and rigorous debut feature film, shot in Otago against the breathtaking Southern Alps.

Stray will premiere at NZIFF after its successful world premiere at Moscow International Film Festival where it collected a best actor win for lead Kieran Charnock. The film also marks a great  achievement for DEGNZ member Dione Chard as editor of her first feature film.

Read more  >

Paul Callaghan: Dancing with Atoms – Director Shirley Horrocks

Auckland Premiere

Paul Callaghan in Antartica

Dancing with Atoms / Point of View Productions

In her latest work, DEGNZ member Shirley Horrocks (Tom Who? The Enigma of Tom Kreisler) discovers the world of atoms and molecules that so entranced Sir Paul Callaghan, one of New Zealand’s most exceptional scientists and public figures.

The Auckland premiere will be a special Cancer Society fundraiser screening. Ticket details will be available when the full NZIFF programme launches.

Read more  >

 

Tema Pua
Marketing & Events Coordinator

Call for Applications: Director’s Workshop & Project Consultations with Rachel Perkins

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The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ invites directors to apply for a first-time feature Director’s Workshop and Project Consultation with Australian director Rachel Perkins to be held in Auckland.

Rachel Perkins

Rachel Perkins is well established in the Australian filmmaking industry as a film and television director, producer and writer. Through these various roles she has managed to provide a much-needed voice for indigenous stories, something Rachel is very passionate about. In 1992, she founded the documentary and narrative production company Blackfella Films. The company’s achievements include the award-winning landmark documentary series First Australians.

Rachel has directed four feature films, which have screened at over 75 film festivals worldwide: Jasper Jones (2017), Bran Nue Dae (2009), One Night the Moon (2001) and Radiance (1998). She currently serves on the Board of the Charles Perkins Trust, the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), and the Australian Heritage Council (Department of the Environment and Energy).

On Saturday 17 March, Rachel will give a morning half-day Director’s Workshop on the trails, tribulations and preparation for your first feature for up to 30 participants.

The afternoon will be reserved for 1-hour Project Consultations with up to four selected writer/directors or writer and director teams with a narrative drama or feature documentary project in active development.

Directors can apply for both the Workshop and Project Consultation, or just the Workshop if you do not have a project currently in active development.

 

When: Saturday 17 March. Workshop – 8.30am to 12pm. Project Consultations will be held from 12.45 to 5.30pm.

Where: Auckland
Travel assistance may be available for some DEGNZ members coming from out of Auckland.

Cost: 
DEGNZ members – Free
Non-members – Workshop $50 / Project Consultation $100 (Workshop attendance free)
Payable upon successful application.

Selected projects may bring along the writer(s) to the consultation session at no extra cost.

 

TO APPLY please send your application in ONE PDF or DOC to tema@degnz.co.nz with ‘Rachel Perkins Workshop’ in the subject line.

In your application, please provide:

  • your CV/bio, filmography and mobile number.

To apply for a Project Consultation, please also provide:

  • a short letter detailing the reasons why you would like a consultation on your project
  • a CV/bio and filmography for the writer(s) if applying as a writer and director team
  • your project in active development:

Narrative Drama – logline, short synopsis, 1-pager, feature-length script (first draft or later).

OR

Feature Documentary – logline, short synopsis, detailed treatment.

 

Application Deadline: 9am, Wednesday 28 February.

 

This event is brought to you with the support of the New Zealand Film Commission and the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collecting Society (ASDACS).

Watch: Film Talk with One Thousand Ropes Filmmakers

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One-Thousand-Ropes

Last month we held a wonderful Film Talk with writer/director Tusi Tamasese and producer Catherine Fitzgerald talking with Chris Dudman on the making of One Thousand Ropes.

One Thousand Ropes is a powerful character drama of a father reconnecting with his youngest daughter and together putting to rest the ghosts that haunt them.

It was a spectacular evening exploring the many versions of the story and characters that led to the eventual film, the temporality of the film, the balance between violence and healing, and the question of belonging.

This event was part of the Film Talk Series, presented by DEGNZ and Rialto Cinemas in Auckland.