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DEGNZ President Howard Taylor signs off.

I am retiring from my role as president of the DEGNZ. Going, but not quite gone. As required by the constitution, I will be continuing as a board member for another year to ensure a smooth transition.

I regard being on the Board of the Guild an honour and a privilege. It is also a lot of work – as my fellow board members will attest. However, I believe that giving back in this way to the industry that has given me such a wonderful career is the least we can do.

I have been on the Board since we set the Guild up 25 years ago and I have been president for five years. I turned the role down twice because I felt, rightly or wrongly, that while I had spent a lifetime in the world of television, I was not familiar enough with the film world. That changed when, having written a feature film screenplay, I took part in a year-long course in international co-production of features. The new-found knowledge gave me the confidence to finally say yes to the role of president.

I am a great believer in Guilds and the role they play in the industry. The lobbying we do on our members behalf is very often unseen. There is a tendency for government and industry bodies like the NZFC to listen to producers and either forget the creatives or assume that producers speak for everyone. The voice of the director (and editor) in the debates that arise is vital.

While it would be wonderful for us all to have the freedom implied by the fact that film is an artform, we are constrained by the pressures of the commercial world. Those pressures impact us directly as an erosion of conditions and fees. The Guild has a key role in protecting what we currently have and promoting improvements. This will be tested when we put on our Union hat and go into negotiation with SPADA to negotiate minimum rates and conditions as set out in the new Screen Industry Worker legislation.

The Guild’s role in providing education and skills training to members is important in an industry where most training is for beginners.

Directors live in silos. It’s many years since I was on another director’s set. Watching other directors work is a valuable learning experience and it’s great the DEGNZ can give directors (and editors) that opportunity.

What I value most is the sense of fraternity that Guild membership brings. We look after each other. Yes, we are competitors for jobs, but in my experience the willingness of directors and editors to lend a hand to their fellows trumps any sense of competition. Guild membership gives me a sense of connectedness to the screen industry that I have never found anywhere else.

The Guild has evolved hugely over the years, becoming a sophisticated organisation dealing with a plethora of active issues. I am proud of what the Guild has achieved and look forward to its robust and noisy future. Kia kaha.

Howard Taylor
(Ex.) President

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One of the things we are doing at DEGNZ at the moment in response to the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) that I wrote about two weeks ago, is to map the pathways for directors and editors into the industry.

For editors, we have already done a considerable amount of work in this area with the development of our Workflow Best Practice Guide and the Mandatory Skills and Advanced Skills Workshops for Assistant Editors, and the Assistant and Solo Editors Course. These programmes are a solid base that will inform our efforts to map pathways for editors.

For directors, there has been some debate internally at Guild board level about what directors need to know to step into the job from Day One. Different genres of content require different directorial skills. Factual, documentary, drama, TV commercials, corporate communications and marketing each require different approaches, but there are fundamentals that cross all. It’s defining these basics that we are in the processing of doing, both the theoretical and practical.

Back in the old days when there were no independent production companies, TVNZ or as it was known then the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, used to run what was essentially an apprenticeship programme internally. They would rotate the ‘apprentices’ through each of the departments, because in those days the organisation did all production internally—news, drama, factual, comedy, etc—essentially full time internships. After approximately two years of learning various crafts, the opportunity came to specialise, with individuals taking other specialist internal courses depending on their interest. Many of those over fifty five still in the industry learned their skills via this path, in disciplines including directing, editing, producing, camera, sound and others.

In the seventies and eighties when the first independent production companies formed, they became the training ground for new people into the industry, taking on those with the passion for production and giving them the skills they needed. At the same time, a few individuals identified the need for more formalised training, and so the film schools started up. They developed their own courses, got them NZQA certified or accredited, or not, started teaching and making money from doing so.

Meanwhile, the universities that had primarily been running academic degrees in film and media studies saw the need to provide more practical training as well, so brought practical filmmaking into their programmes.

These are essentially the pathways into the industry that exist today sans TVNZ: go to a film school or university, and or get an internship or job in the industry to get the coal-face experience you need. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge mess that is siloed, unfocused, multi-faceted and of varying quality. One highly experienced and knowledgeable person I spoke to with both screen industry and educational experience said to me that the screen industry had been its own worst enemy in developing career pathways for people coming in. There are now numerous efforts being made to address this, but it’s still somewhat siloed, working with a bureaucracy that doesn’t understand the unique nature of the screen industry, and incredibly complex.

Without a pan-sector body in existence (we are working on it), it has fallen to the screen guilds and associations to work with the educational entities and related bodies involved to try and get the best fit-for-purpose screen training we can. An all-important caveat in the new process is that only the screen industry can put forward the training pathways, content and standards that we require. Educational institutions may not do so.

If you have thoughts on this, whether you are a student, emerging, mid-career or highly experienced professional, please let us know at admin@degnz.co.nz. We want to provide the best information and guidance we can to ensure that the Reform of Vocational Education works for us into the future.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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At DEGNZ we undertake a considerable amount of professional development to advance the craft of directing and editing. We are not the only screen industry guild or association to do so.

Right now however, there is a confluence of activity occurring in the education sector that will have a significant impact on the screen industry, hopefully for the better.

In August, the Government announced the Reform of Vocational Education. This comes in part, I believe, because of the decline in the apprenticeship system that was brought about by a radical restructuring and liberalisation of the economy and education sector by the fourth Labour Government in the 1980s.

The inability of Polytechnics to financially survive is another reason. Case in point is Unitec in Auckland’s Mt Albert, the country’s largest institute of Technology. Unitec has been in financial difficulty for years, and this has long been known in the screen industry. Whitirea and WelTec are two others in the same boat.

It’s clear though that the workplace is changing. Lower skilled jobs are disappearing because of automation and other factors, while new jobs are coming to the fore. These new jobs need increased training to upskill the workforce for the new roles being created.

What’s all this got to do with us?

Well, as we know the Creative Sector is a funny old beast. Most of us are contractors and there are few large companies. But, we will continue to undergo rapid change due to technology, and more importantly, there is a crew shortage due to the significant level of production activity happening here. Consequently, there is a need to encourage more workers into the industry and to train them to meet the demand.

The Government is looking to the Reform of Vocational Education to bring about seven key changes that they hope will create a unified vocational education system:

  1. Create Workforce Development Councils (WDC) to give industry greater leadership across vocational education.
  2. Establish Regional Skills Leadership Groups to provide advice about the skills needs of their regions.
  3. Establish Te Taumata Aronui to help ensure that the Reform of Vocational Education reflects the Government’s commitment to Māori Crown partnerships.
  4. Create a New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology, bringing together the existing 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), such as Unitec, Whitirea and WelTec.
  5. Shift the role of supporting workplace learning from Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) to providers.
  6. Establish Centres of Vocational Excellence to grow excellent vocational education provision and share high-quality curriculum and programme design across the system.
  7. Unify the vocational education funding system.

The Tertiary Education Commission is now proposing to establish a industry specific training organisation for the Creative Sector, something the industry hasn’t had before. This WDC would be the voice of industry, participating in a virtuous circle with employers, educational providers and educational bodies to help ensure a focused and effective approach to vocational training.

At the same time, The Screen Industry Guild of Aotearoa NZ (Techos) is seeking to implement tactical initiatives to get more skilled workers on the ground fast. They are working together in the Auckland region with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), who are making a concerted effort to build capability in this area, too. There is a national focus on vocational training for all sectors including the Creative Sector, to ensure the regions benefit as well. The Film Commission, the guilds and numerous other bodies and organisations are looking at supporting this push to shape education for our sector.

It is interesting to observe that the concept of apprenticeships in the Creative Sector is a topic of conversation that has risen to the surface as all of this goes on. At DEGNZ, we have made a real effort this year in the area of assistant editors and we have often discussed an apprenticeship-style model. Our director attachments for TV drama, while definitively not apprenticeships, do deliver the on the job-training that epitomises apprenticeship schemes.

For many in the screen industry, the key to success can often be just getting out there and practising the craft. There’s no doubt though that the formal approach of vocational training will better equip many to find their way into the industry and help ensure sunstainable careers in an ever-changing workplace environment.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director