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A couple of days ago on The Spinoff, South Pacific Pictures Managing Director Andrew Szusterman decried the loss of drama Head High from Discovery Three. Lead director and co-lead writer on the show is a DEGANZ member, Tim Worrall.

Szusterman pointed out the difficulty and cost of getting NZ drama funded and made. He said that without NZ On Air, there would be little drama produced at all because it provides the majority of the funding for such projects.

He went on to call for the Government to say, “It’s time” to streamers, such as Netflix, Amazon and the others, and to put money into New Zealand programme production. Szusterman quite rightly stated that New Zealand’s market is not big enough to warrant streamers voluntarily investing significantly in New Zealand content.

“None of these services have commissioned any New Zealand premium drama content directly for New Zealand audiences, and there is not a chance that they will unless change is forced upon them.”

I’m glad that Szusterman is adding his voice to SPADA’s recent activity in this space. SPADA has finally given up on saying, “We can’t levy the streamers because of GATT*”. I’ve been calling for levies on streamers in this column for years: Show Me the Money, Time for a Reset, An Answer to NZ’s Broadcasting Industry Dilemma? I point this out not because I want to say “I told you so.”, but to highlight that we have been mired in a time warp for too long while the Golden Age of TV drama sails on by.

I’m aware that there are a number of NZ producers who are pushing hard to crack the international door open for ‘high-end’ TV drama. But you need the budgets to do it. And you need the policies to make it easier. At the moment both are a barrier.

Good drama requires a lot of development funding. So does the production. When many of the shows appearing on the streamers are being made from an absolute low of US$2 million per episode to the stratospheric heights of The Crown or Ozark at US$13 – 14 million per episode, an NZ show at US$ 0.7 – 1.2 mil. per episode doesn’t cut it. As long as the Government keeps NZ On Air and NZFC funding at the levels it has for the last 10 years or so, we have to find money elsewhere to supplement the budgets. This is outlined in the Screen Sector Strategy 2030.

So where to get it from and what needs to change? It’s time to levy the streamers. They’re an obvious source. Even though our market isn’t big, it still provides incremental income for them, and they should pay to get it.

We also need to remove the block to going behind a paywall for NZ On Air funding, as is currently the case. And we need to allow, as I’ve said before, Drama and Factual to access both the New Zealand Screen Production Grant and NZ On Air funds, which is only allowed now for Children’s and Animation. The Premium Production Fund has been given a temporary reprieve concerning this. It’s time to make this permanent, and the Premium Fund too. If we had to, we could accept a 30% NZSPG for behind paywalls instead of the 40% available now for free-to-air.

In the meantime, we wish Szusterman luck in finding a new home for Head High. It has a place on NZ screens.

 

The Spinoff article here.

*General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

DEGNZ

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

12 October 2021

The Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) supports the call by Ngā Aho Whakaari, who represents Māori in the screen industry, for direct COVID relief support for the Māori screen production sector.

In July 2020, NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) received $23.4 million for a Screen Production Recovery Fund. In September of this year, the Government announced further COVID relief support accessible through NZ On Air and NZFC. Again, Te Māngai Paho (TMP) received no direct COVID funding. Māori creatives and production companies who are not utilising NZ On Air or NZFC funds therefore cannot access COVID relief funds from those bodies.

“Industry relief has been appreciated but Treaty obligations need to be honoured,” says DEGNZ President Robyn Paterson. “Te Māngai Paho is significantly underfunded compared to NZ On Air, and this results in smaller budgets for Māori productions, many of which are made for Māori Television.”

“The financial hardship this inflicts on Māori creatives and production companies is exacerbated when there is no COVID relief funding to enable them to recover.”

“Māori directors, editors, writers, producers and crew are already working on lower production budgets. This puts a strain on financial sustainability and wellbeing. They need access to COVID funded support” Paterson added.

DEGNZ calls for the Government to support Te Māngāi Paho directly with COVID funding to aid those Māori creatives and production companies under duress due to COVID.

ENDS

 

Contact:

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

Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand

The Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand is a not-for-profit Incorporated Society and Union that represents Directors, Editors and Assistant Editors in the New Zealand screen industry. This includes Directors, Editors and Assistant 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.
  • are a voice for Directors, Editors and Assistant in influencing policy in the interest of our members. We do this through our membership of various pan‐industry bodies, and by making submissions to government and public officials.
  • Internationally work co-operatively with other directors’ guilds
  • belong to the International Affiliation of English‐Speaking Directors’ Organisations, Writer’s & Directors Worldwide, Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors and the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers.

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

Contact Details:

Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
Level 2, 66 Surrey Crescent
Grey Lynn
PO Box 47294, Ponsonby
AUCKLAND

admin@degnz.co.nz
+64 9 360 2102
+64 21 659 950

The first two episodes in the three part documentary Ake, Ake, Ake are now available on Māori Television OnDemand and on the RNZ website. Co-directed by DEGNZ member Kim Webby and Whatanui Flavell, the series tells the story of the land occupation at Ihumātao through the voices of those who were intimately involved in the actions that took place there.

Screened to coincide with the 2nd anniversary of the occupation during July 2019, Ake, Ake, Ake is an important documentary that explores a significant event in Aotearoa’s recent history.

The last episode will be released on August 2.

The series was produced by Scottie Productions for Māori Television and made with the support of Te Māngai Pāho & NZ On Air.

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Mark Jennings, co-editor of online news platform Newsroom, and former head of News at TV3, has penned an article on Discovery’s plans for TV3.

As Jennings writes, after Discovery’s merger with WarnerMedia., TV3 is now part of the second largest media business in the world after Disney. That in itself is a serious game changer for New Zealand.

TV3 has had an up and down history, moving from private ownership into the Canadian-owned hands of media conglomerate Canwest, before shifting to private equity ownership with Ironbridge Capital and then Oaktree Capital Management. It’s financial fortunes also swung about, going from high profitability before plunging twice into receivership.

TVNZ and SKY in more recent times have kept TV3 impoverished but no longer.

Already the owner of NZ’s Choice TV and HGTV and with six of its own channels on the SKY service, Discovery has, as Jennings points out, brought its might to bear on acquisitions by driving down the prices it pays for content for TV3. With staff cutbacks and other efficiencies, AUNZ GM for Discovery Glen Kyne told Jennings that the channel will be looking to more domestic shows as it competes with TVNZ and Prime in the domestic free-to-air market for viewers.

But what kinds of shows are they after? Kyne didn’t exactly reveal what they are looking for.

In April Juliet Peterson, former GM TVNZ Digital Content, was appointed as Senior Director, Programming at Three, while Australian Darren Chau was appointed Senior Director, Production. Chau has been in New Zealand recently having meetings with some New Zealand producers. Undoubtedly, others have been banging on Juliet’s door. They are certainly looking for ideas.

With its merger with WarnerMedia, Discovery has moved from reality and factual into scripted film and TV as well, with an annual US$20 billion commissioning chest—bigger than Netflix’s. There has been speculation as to whether or not the new CEO of the combined organisation, David Zaslav, is going to adapt when it comes to scripted. This could well play out in TV3’s commissioning stance.

Supposedly, Three is looking for NZ content that can travel internationally as well. It will be interesting to see, though, whether or not the network will continue to rely primarily on NZ On Air and NZ Screen Production Grant funding to get content made in New Zealand. Hopefully, they’ll ante up more than low license fees and become equity investors in NZ shows that could go on one or more of the international distribution channels the newly-branded Warner Bros. Discovery conglomerate owns.

Will it be new beginnings for NZ’s free-to-air market or just more of the same? Watch this space.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

Congratulations are in order for member Michelle Ang, an alumni of DEGNZ’s Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator, as NZ On Air has confirmed funding for Riddle Me This, an animated journey of eight four-minute episodes that chronicle tamariki using their powers of critical thinking and imagination to solve intriguing riddles.

Michelle’s A Grain of Rice Productions received $265,950 in funding. The series will be released on NZ On Air and TVNZ’s HEIHEI channel.