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There are a few key unresolved issues in our sector and we are sitting on our hands waiting for action. The transformation of TVNZ into a proper public broadcaster is one. Then there’s the Screen Industry Worker Bill that will allow contractors to engage in collective bargaining. Another, the underwriting insurance needed to get the domestic film industry up again.

I know there is an election on, but we are still some ways away from the transformational change needed to get going properly, as well as grasp the opportunities on offer in the new world we are in.

In the UK, the new Director General of the BBC is moving rapidly to address the challenges there. Amongst them the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of diverse representation, political pressure, pay disparity, technological disruption, the emergence of competing news outlets, a battle to maintain relevance and the threat to the licence fee. A number of his changes will undoubtedly prove unpopular as he drives the organisation to be leaner and more commercial as well.

Yet here we sit still waiting for the Government to address the public broadcaster issue. It was December last year when Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi proposed merging TVNZ and RNZ. In January, he presented a revised plan and was asked for a business case due last month. Meanwhile, streamers have become the new global studios, YouTube has become the most popular source of video content in New Zealand, and TVNZ continues to lose money. The only wait that’s been blessedly terminated is what’s happening to TV3. The good news is Discovery’s acquisition of some of Mediaworks assets including the network—perhaps the first time in the channel’s history that it’s going to have real money in the bank to draw on.

Starting in 2018, the Film Industry Working Group toiled for months to unanimously come up with recommendations to help shape the Screen Industry Worker Bill. This extended process together with the time to draft the Bill, the Select Committee submissions and the interruptions caused by COVID mean we have to accept there will be no passage of the bill into law prior to the election. We are now faced with its fate hanging on the election result. Even after all the Select Committee submissions were predominantly in support of the Bill, National continue to oppose it. They will throw it out if they come into power. Accepting the rejection of the Hobbit Law they were responsible for putting in place would obviously be too much for them.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for the industry right now is the lack of commitment from our Government to underwriting the local film industry, replacing the insurance companies who won’t insure for COVID. In June, the Australian Government put in place an AUD$50 million fund to provide financial guarantees because insurance companies are not providing coverage for COVID-19. In July the British government launched an emergency £500M (US$646M) film and TV coronavirus production insurance fund. NZFC and SPADA have already made representations to Government to underwrite local production. Nearly two months later and we still haven’t heard an answer.

I know that the New Zealand screen sector has received monies to address the impact of COVID. We are all thankful for that. But this underwriting is necessary if any new New Zealand films are going to get made. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too much longer to find out.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

Screen Industry Workers Bill

The Screen Industry Workers Bill

We are just over a week away from the Monday 25 May deadline for public submissions to the select committee.

In order to see pay and working conditions improve for you and others working in the industry, we need every DEGNZ member to have their say on the Screen Industry Workers Bill that Government has introduced to Parliament. It’s vital for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow DEGNZ to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors.

Consider this: in its first reading in the House, 63 MPs voted for the bill, and 57 voted against. Your submission will help MPs understand what it’s like working in the industry and why this law change matters.

The law change would replace the controversial ‘Hobbit Law’, an amendment rushed through Parliament that classified all film workers as ‘independent contractors’, unable to bargain collectively and receive other benefits associated with being an employee.

To help you make your submission, we’ve published information and a submission template on this campaign page.

Hobbit Law Cartoon

DEGNZ

Some of you may be wondering what we have been up to in the last two to three weeks, so I thought it time to update you all.

Rather than make an effort only under the DEGNZ banner, we quickly decided to join with many of the other guilds, industry organisations and some companies to come together as the Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group. I joined the Action Group and in the last two weeks I have been a part of meetings with TVNZ, Mediaworks, Maori Television, Sky, NZFC, NZ On Air, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment pushing to get development and production funds flowing out to industry.

I have also participated in multiple internal Action Group meetings. We have set up and are working on a number of workflow groups designed in the short and medium term to help get the sector working again, and to plan for the various scenarios that may eventuate. You can see the work going on here. I, Felicity Letcher of Main Reactor and David Brady who is currently doing work for ATEED are  preparing the business case for the Group, so that we can attract desperately needed funding to execute some of the Group’s initiatives.

Rather than flood your Inboxes with messaging from DEGNZ, we have tried to keep our communications to those that are really pertinent and possibly helpful to members, and encourage you as much as possible to go to the COVID-19 Action Group website for highly valuable information: www.screenindustrynz.co.nz

As an affiliate to the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), DEGNZ is under the umbrella of their efforts to protect workers and their rights during this difficult time. I have been participating in multiple CTU meetings where we have been able to have a voice in the efforts the CTU is making with Government to get various types of support including on the wage subsidy, hopefully rent relief and other initiatives.

I am currently working with the other two unions in the screen sector, the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand, preparing for submissions on the Screen Worker Bill now in Select Committee. Thankfully the deadline was pushed from early April to early May because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has given us more time to prepare.

This Bill is the outcome of the work all the screen sector bodies did during the many months of discussion we had in the Film Industry Working Group, which resulted in recommendations to the Government. It’s vitally important for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow us to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors. You will hear from us shortly on this as we will be asking individuals to make submissions as well and have been preparing materials to help you.

Internationally, tomorrow I will have the second of two meetings within the last two weeks with the heads of the American, Canadian, UK, Irish and European Directors Guilds as we all grapple with how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis affecting all our members. This is essentially an information sharing exercise out of which we hope for some concrete initiatives to come. I was also in  touch on the weekend with our colleagues in Writers & Directors Worldwide and the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors for essentially the same purpose.

While the above has been a massive workload across the last two weeks, we have also been moving as much of our professional development online as we can. At the start of the lockdown period, we issued a call for the Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator for 2020, which will take place over Zoom. We ran a Young Creators session with commercial video production company Chillbox Creative on Facebook Live last week. You can catch-up on the Q&A here. We will complete our Directors Toolkit with Peter Burger online this weekend too, which was interrupted by COVID-19. DEGNZ will continue to put out calls for various other workshops and initiatives over the next three months.

Finally, to help with mental health and wellbeing, we introduced a Membership Holiday for people suffering financial hardship and cannot afford to become members or renew their membership. We launched DEGNZ Play to give members a creative outlet during lockdown and continue to assess what else we can do. We are open to ideas — if you do, get in touch with me directly.

I received a suggestion from a member that prompted us to compile a database of DEGNZ editors who have editing equipment and software that allows them to work from their bubbles. The response has been great so far. The database will be pushed out to the sector as there may well be work opportunities.

We are all facing this difficult time together and united we will more effectively improve the situation for everyone. DEGNZ will continue to focus its efforts on behalf of members through the COVID-19 Action Group as this is the most efficient way for us to achieve outcomes. An example of this is the SPADA online interview with Annabelle Sheehan of NZFC and Cameron Harland of NZ On Air, which put forward many of the Action Group’s discussions.

The kaupapa of DEGNZ – to ensure the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of our members – remains the same. From time to time, I will share further updates with you on the work we are doing.

Stay safe, be kind, stay at home, break the chain.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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It has been a big year for DEGNZ and the Screen Industry.

At the Guild we have unionised, and we have recently been accepted by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) as an affiliate. We are now well poised to represent New Zealand directors and editors in negotiations over minimum rates and terms and conditions should the proposed legislation go through next year that will allow collective bargaining for contractors. There are a number of other key benefits to our unionising. We are much more closely aligned with the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand, both of who are also unions and affiliates of the CTU. As representatives of three of the four above-the-line creatives, we have many common interests when it comes to our relationships with producers. The CTU has experience, expertise and resources we can call upon. And internationally, we now have have equal status with the Directors Guild of America, the Directors Guild of Canada and the Australian Directors Guild, who are also labour unions.

DEGNZ became a founding member of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors (AAPA) following DEGNZ’s attendance in May at the General Assembly of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and the Executive Committee Meeting of Writers and Directors Worldwide (W & DW). This has already paid dividends with the Director General of CISAC Gadi Oron here last week to help us lobby the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi and others over director’s copyright and fair remuneration for authors as the Copyright Act Review continues. Gadi is a lawyer and copyright expert and brings an important international perspective to the deliberations.

The Guild continues to input into the Film Industry Working Group (FIWG) as drafting of the proposed legislation to go to the House is finalised, and we have made considerable effort to put our views across as the NZ Screen Sector Strategy 2030 has gone about its work. DEGNZ board member Michael Duignan has played an important role with the Strategy as a member of its Facilitation Group.

DEGNZ worked closely with Equity as it updated its Guidelines for Nudity and Intimacy on Stage and Screen, and Guild board member and South Island representative Louise Leitch went through the full training conducted by UK Intimacy Coordinator Ita O’Brien on best practise guidelines for intimacy, simulated sex and nudity on set. Louise ran her first workshop for this in Christchurch in November, and we will look to her to continue this work so that all directors can have the opportunity to upskill in this critical area. As well, we maintain ongoing feedback to the Screen Women Action Group (SWAG) as it goes about its efforts to change the culture that enables bullying, harassment, discrimination and other abuses of power over women in the screen industry.

2019 was the third year we ran the Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator to help address the poor numbers of women directing feature films in New Zealand, and to help female directors advance their projects and careers. We have now seen 23 women go through the Incubator to date and there has been good progress:

  • One has made her first feature,
  • one has just received production finance for her first feature,
  • one has gone on to work regularly as a TV drama director
  • one has moved into directing commercials as she continues to pursue feature directing,
  • one has entered the Shortland Street Directors Programme,
  • one will direct her first TV drama on a U.S. series next year,
  • two have entered the NZ Advertising Producer Guild’s Female Commercial Director Mentorship Programme

and all the others are driving forward on their careers and projects. We still have a ways to go to address the inequities in the numbers of women having sustainable careers as directors, but we are making some headway.

We maintain an extensive professional development programme for directors and editors. In particular, we have honed in on post production workflow and assistant editors as this has proven to be a problematic area because of the technical knowledge and skill required to ensure projects run effectively and eficiently. Our work on this has been driven by our three editor board members Annie Collins, Francis Glenday and Margot Francis. These three are also shaping the  standard feature film editor agreement we plan to make available in the first quarter of 2020.

As we close out the year we have just learned that Minister Faafoi will not be making an announcement about the future of TVNZ and RNZ. We expect that the merger will go ahead but there is obviously a significant cost associated with this, and it will be on an annual basis, not a one-off. The article on the RNZ website today mooted the possibility of increased funding for NZ On Air. This would be welcomed by many, as would an increase in funding for NZFC who have far greater calls on monies than their budget allows for. We shall have to wait and see.

I want to thank the membership for their continued support of the Guild in 2019. DEGNZ is committed as our slogan says to the creative, financial and cultural wellbeing of New Zealand directors and editors. We have a dynamic board in President Howard Taylor, Vice President Louise Leitch, Treasurer Phil Gore, and board members Annie Collins, Michael Duignan, Margot Francis, Francis Glenday, Roseanne Liang, Robyn Paterson and Gabriel Reid who work voluntarily and tirelessly on our behalves and have been tremendous support to me throughout the year.

I also want to thank my Events and Marketing Manager Tema Pua and Accounts person Caroline Harrow who keep the Guild operations functioning smoothly.

Thanks also go to the other guilds and associations we have worked with across the year, whether it be in our workshops, seminars and networking and social functions, or on the bigger picture representations we have made such as the FIWG and Screen Sector Strategy. We are all in this together even though we may have different perspectives and positions.

Finally, I want to extend our gratitude to our core financial supporters the New Zealand Film Commission, NZ On Air,  Vista Foundation and the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collection Society, without who we would not be able to deliver many of the services we do, and to our other sponsors accounting firm VCFO Group and Dominion Law.

Wishing you all a Meri Kirihimete and a Happy New Year for 2020!

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

DEGNZ

For Immediate Release

17 June 2019

The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ welcomes the Government’s initial response to the Film Industry Group (FIWG) recommendations, but feels that the proposed changes should apply to protect a wider group of workers in the screen industry.

“As currently outlined, the narrow application of the changes leaves the majority of directors and editors and many other screen workers out of collective bargaining,” said DEGNZ President Howard Taylor. “Those it applies to are generally already the most well paid with the best terms and conditions.”

“Explotiation of screen workers including directors and editors occurs most frequently in the online, reality and factual screen sectors. Under the proposed carve-out, new and mid-level practitioners will not be protected by any minimum standards, and will continue to suffer from poor working conditions and renumeration”

In a recent survey, Creative New Zealand and New Zealand On Air identified that the median personal annual income for creative professionals is around $35,800 – compared to $51,800 for all New Zealanders earning a wage or salary. When you take away other sources of income, the median income from creative work is only $15,000.

DEGNZ fully supports the two bodies joint strategic initiatives to improve the wellbeing of creative professionals, namely:

  • Fair reward – working towards:
    • ensuring lower-paid creative professionals are paid in line with technical professionals
    • lifting pay to the point where creative professionals start to feel it is a fair reward for their work.
  • Sustainability – working to make the careers of mid-career and established creative professionals more sustainable through more continuous creative endeavours.
  • Emerging creative professionals – working with the sector (including peak bodies and guilds) to find better ways to support creative professionals at the start of their career.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Government during drafting of the legislation to expand the coverage of the changes” Taylor added. “Bringing as many screen workers as possible into collective bargaining would help to build a sustainable and vibrant creative sector in New Zealand.”

ENDS

For more information contact:

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director
Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
+64 21 659 950
tui@degnz.co.nz

The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ is a not-for-profit membership organisation that represents Directors and Editors in the New Zealand screen industry. This includes Directors and Editors of feature drama and documentary; television drama, documentary and factual programmes; short films; video art; animation; commercials and web content.

DEGNZ’s two primary roles are advocacy and professional development. We:

  • are dedicated to promoting excellence in the arts of directing and editing.
  • foster collegiality and unity within the screen industry.
  • promote members’ creative and economic rights.
  • work to improve industry working conditions and remuneration.
  • offer professional advice and information on contracts and industry standards and practice.
  • offer professional development events, networking opportunities, career advice, dispute resolution, mentoring, workshops, training, discounts and regular news bulletins for members across all levels of expertise, from novices to seasoned professionals.

DEGNZ is a voice for Directors and Editors in influencing policy in the interest of our members. We do this through our membership of the pan-industry group SINZ (Screen Industry New Zealand), and by making submissions to government and public officials.

Internationally, we work co-operatively with other guilds and we belong to the International Affiliation of English-Speaking Directors’ Organisations (IEASDO), and the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers And Directors (AAPA).

DEGNZ is Auckland-based with an office in Grey Lynn.

Contact Details:

Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
Level 2, 66 Surrey Crescent
Grey Lynn
P.O. Box 47-294, Ponsonby
Auckland
+64-9-360-2102
admin@degnz.co.nz
http://www.degnz.co.nz
www.facebook.com/degnz
www.linkedin.com/in/degnz
@degnz_online