Posts

Director attachments on Vegas: Tim Worrall and Cian Elyse White

DEGNZ members Tim Worrall and Cian Elyse White have attached to new drama series Vegas with Greenstone TV under the Guild’s TV Drama Director Attachment Scheme.

Both attachments will get to follow their director from prep onwards, until the grade and sound mix.

Tim Worrall (Ngai Tūhoe, Te Arawa) is the successful Second Step attachment and will attach to director Mike Smith for his block, beginning in mid-October.

Cian Elyse White (Ngāti Pikiao, Tūhoe, Tainui, Te Whānau a Ruataupare) has been selected for the First Step attachment to Vegas lead director Kiel McNaughton. Cian is finishing the first week of her attachment, which goes until November 2.

We had an impressive response to our call for applications. DEGNZ warmly congratulates our newest attachments and thanks NZ On Air and Greenstone TV for supporting this initiative.


Tim Worrall

Tim has worked as a writer, director or consultant on a number of productions including: Pukana; Shortland Street; Jackson’s Wharf; Whalerider; Radiradirah; Kairakau; Only in Aotearoa; This is Piki; and Fresh. He is also a member of the Māori collective Steambox Films and has directed the award winning short films: The Road to Whakarae; Tits on a Bull; Meke; Koutuku Rerenga Rua; and Māori Time. Recently he has been a co-lead writer and director for the TV3 drama series Head High; writer of the feature film Whawhai Tonu – Struggle Without End (advanced development funding from NZFC); co-writer/director for anthology feature film Ngā Pouwhenua (scheduled for production February 2021); writer of the TVNZ documentary series Origins (currently screening on TV1); storyliner for TVNZ drama series Vegas; writer and director for Tappy, an episode of the new TVNZ supernatural drama series.

Tim Worrall

Cian Elyse White

Cian has had an extensive career in professional theatre, TV and film as an actress. In 2017, Cian wrote her Te Reo Māori short film Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) which received the Fresh 30K grant in 2018 and won the 2020 NZIFF Best Shorts audience award. Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) has also been selected for Show Me Shorts, ImagiNATIVE, Asinabka, Hawaiian International Film Festival and was the first NZ film to be selected for Geena Davis Bentonville Film Festival in August this year. In March 2020, Cian was one of eight selected to partake in FilmUP run by Script to Screen. Cian is currently in pre-production for her next short film PUHI.


Cian Elyse White

View from the Top banner

I’ve had occasion to review the New Zealand Film Commission Act, more so recently. To understand the New Zealand Film Commission’s (NZFC) role, it’s really the source document to read. And from it, we can then see how they interpret it.

Taking a look at it here, the first thing you will notice is that there are more clauses that are repealed than there are clauses that comprise it. In comparison to the Broadcasting Act that governs New Zealand On Air, the NZFC gets off awfully lightly.

From a New Zealand screen creative’s perspective, in my view, there are only three areas that are of real relevance in the NZFC Act.

The first is in Section 2, Interpretation; the meaning of the word ‘film’:

film includes a photographic film, or a recording on magnetic tape or on any other material, from which a series of images, with or without associated sounds, may be produced

You can see that this interpretation applies, but is not limited to the meaning of film as we in the screen industry use it. In fact, it’s more akin to the interpretation of ‘film’ in the NZ Copyright Act:

film means a recording on any medium from which a moving image may by any means be produced

In other words, ‘film’ in the NZFC Act actually can be interpreted to mean audio-visual content.

The second pertinent part is, I believe, (1A) in Section 17, Functions of Commission:

to encourage and also to participate and assist in the making, promotion, distribution, and exhibition of films

The key word for me here is ‘exhibition’, but more appropriately the active verb ‘to exhibit’:

exhibit – to show something publicly

exhibition – an event at which objects such as paintings are shown to the public, a situation in which someone shows a particular skill or quality to the public, or the act of showing these things

We all think exhibition means theatrical exhibition in film, but the Cambridge Dictionary definition, which I think can be applied here, just means showing to the public. Again, how this is applied is open to interpretation.

The final area of real interest is Section 18, Content Of Films. There are a significant number of stipulations for this, but they essentially tell us that the film should have significant New Zealand content, and be made by New Zealanders in New Zealand, unless it’s an official co-production, which confers New Zealand status on the film.

That’s pretty much it. So, what does it all mean?

Well it pretty much means that the NZFC role is very open to interpretation. And the New Zealand Film Commission’s guidelines for everything it does are their interpretation as they see it, guided by the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, who they report directly to, although the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has oversight for the International NZ Screen Production Grant and makes a contribution to international promotion of the NZ screen industry; both elements of economic development.

More than anything else, MCH want films to be seen by audiences—NZ first and then the world. Theatrical release is generally considered the most important way of delivering an audience. Watching a film on the big screen with other people delivers the cinematic experience that is meant to separate ‘film’ from TV.

Theatrical exhibition also delivers box office, which is an indicator of the commercial success—or not—of a film. Commercial success can provide funds for future investment into films. In reality, we all know that nine out of ten NZ films fail to deliver real Return On Investment (ROI), so whatever revenues come in are really only reducing the size of the loss of investment. But nowhere in the Film Commission Act does it say that films have to return investment. The International NZ Screen Production Grant overseen by MBIE is the only film-related investment where ROI is expected.

Let’s take a closer look at the interpretation of ‘film’.

Obviously, NZFC has gone for the wriggle room in the Act to take on premium TV drama as well as film: both audiovisual content. It’s clearly strayed into the domain of NZ On Air here, but by targeting internationally-focused NZ drama content, it’s not stepping on NZ On Air’s toes, which are firmly anchored in domestic terra filma.

How about the guidelines for NZ Content?

The Act is very prescriptive and NZFC adheres to them for local films. Official co-productions, though, allow for interpretation. More than one NZ film with a completely American setting has passed as New Zealand content, Slow West being a good example as a NZ – UK co-production.

What about exhibition?

The film commish has theatrical exhibition as a key requirement. And exhibition, for me, is where my main interest lies, because it’s at the heart of NZFC investment. In fact, like the meaning of ‘film’, it could be broadly interpreted but it’s not at this point, although COVID has thrown a spanner in the works with cinemas shut down during lockdown, and now suffering under renewed COVID outbreak. NZFC has made some temporary changes to adjust for this.

We can take traditional theatrical exhibition as a given for now, although COVID is certainly trying to push it into oblivion. But I think we could be looking at other interpretations as well.

A true public broadcaster in TVNZ could become a channel for exhibition of all New Zealand films. TVNZ OnDemand is an Advertising Video On Demand (AVOD) service. They may not get to be the first window for screening, but they could certainly be made to carry all NZFC-funded New Zealand films that wanted to sit there, with TVNZ making an in-kind contribution for promotion—trailer/promo and airtime—in return for getting the film for free. A Boosted campaign could generate funds for the filmmakers to use on marketing and promotion. Viewing statistics could be shared with NZFC so that they could gauge the film’s and the platform’s ability to deliver.

Of course, there’s no ROI here for NZFC, but does that really matter? Not if they fund these films 100% so there was no need to seek private investment. A budget cap for films of this type could make it feasible. This approach is probably suited to films that struggle to find commercial partners in distributors and sales agents or those who don’t want to go down the traditional path to market. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have an audience. It could well be niche, and there’s nothing wrong with that. OnDemand would find out.

Another approach to exhibition could be Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD). The New Zealand International Film Festival could provide its Online platform for NZ film TVOD, as it did for delivering films in the 2020 festival. This would essentially offer the same revenue generating experience as cinemas. The added advantages would be that NZIFF could clip the ticket, while distributors could be removed from the picture, increasing revenue flow back to the NZFC, investors and filmmakers.

Filmmakers who chose this path as their primary distribution channel should be able to access the NZFC Distribution and Marketing Fund to drive audiences to their film, with NZIFF opening its considerable database to them and providing additional marketing and promotion as theatres now do. Again, viewing statistics and other data could be made available so that marketing plans are adjusted and audience size and revenues determined.

A spin on the TVOD approach would be NZIFF Online becomes the Premium Video On Demand (PVOD) channel, in a Day and Date with New Zealand theatrical exhibition. Online revenue would likely have to be shared with the theatres, and a distributor would also be involved to get the film into cinemas (self-distribution an option, though), adding to the layers of revenue extraction on the way back to NZFC, investors and the filmmakers.

This approach is a revenue generating one and would likely have a sales agent already attached so international sales could help deliver an ROI. With NZ films struggling at the NZ Box Office, this I feel is a viable alternative to getting NZ audiences to watch NZ films. After the film has done it’s run using this approach, it could be put on TVNZ OnDemand so that it had an ongoing opportunity to get additional viewing.

What about the promotion of NZ culture you might well ask?

Well that doesn’t seem to be in the NZFC Act. It’s obviously a concern of MCH, though, and Section 18, Content of Films could be seen to cover it. But does significant New Zealand content equal New Zealand culture?

You’d hope so.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

NZ On Air, DEGNZ and Greenstone TV logos

DEGNZ invites applications from directors for two TV Drama Director Attachments with Greenstone TV on the TVNZ 2 drama series Vegas.

Vegas will be produced by Greenstone TV Ltd in collaboration with 10,000 Company and Steambox Film Collective with support from NZ On Air. An action thriller, Vegas follows a young, untested leader who wants to free his people from the curse of methamphetamine, but finds he can’t do it on his own. The story is based on the novel Inside The Black Horse, and will be filmed in Rotorua.

The aim of the attachment programme is to:

  • develop and upskill new television drama directors,
  • contribute to the ongoing production of quality future television drama and
  • provide another training pathway to the limited opportunities currently available.

These attachments are for New Zealand directors who want to move into directing drama for television and already have significant directing experience.

Greenstone TV will train a first step director and a second step director. Each attachment will be present for the duration of the director’s block. Both attachments will attend HOD meetings, will be present for the whole of the director’s prep, receive training on preparation for the shoot, script mark-ups and rehearsals. Each attachment will have time in the edit suite with the director, and will be present for some of the on-line, including the grade and sound mix.

The prep and shoot for both directors will take place in Rotorua. Both attachments will be paid and their accommodation and per diems covered.

First Step Attachment

The successful candidate will attach to lead director Kiel McNaughton and needs to be available for prep and shoot from 21 September to 2 November 2020.

At the full discretion of the director and producer(s), the First Step attachment may be offered the opportunity to direct some scenes within the block.

Second Step Attachment

This Second Step attachment is intended for those directors with significant narrative experience who are ready to make the move into fast-turnaround TV drama, including those who have already done a First Step attachment under the DEGNZ TV Drama Attachment Scheme. The successful candidate will attach to director Mike Smith and needs to be available for prep and shoot from 12 October to 22 November 2020.

At the full discretion of the director and producer(s), the Second Step attachment may be offered the opportunity to direct a full episode within the block.

Eligibility

Applicants must have past dramatic narrative directing experience and a keen interest in television drama.

To be eligible, you MUST:

  1. Be a FULL member of DEGNZ, and
  2. Be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, and
  3. Have either:
    • Two short film credits publicly screened to a paying audience at an NZFC recommended short film festival*, OR
    • Held a position as the first assistant director of a publicly distributed and released feature film or TV drama series, OR
    • Significant experience directing scripted short-form narrative content (short film, webseries or commercials), OR
    • Won an award for a short film at an NZFC recommended film festival*.

*NZFC recommended film festivals

To apply

Please download the application cover sheet and checklist (PDF 126KB), and submit the following in a single PDF by 5PM, Wednesday 26 August 2020 to admin@degnz.co.nz with ‘Vegas Attachment’ in the subject line:

  1. Completed Application Cover Sheet with links to examples of your directing work. You may provide excerpts from longer-form work. NO showreels.
  2. A CV with a bio and filmography
  3. A reference (from a senior screen industry practitioner)
  4. A maximum 1-page letter that tells us why you think you are suitable for the attachment and what you hope to gain from it.

We will ask you to indicate on the cover sheet which attachment you are most interested in applying for. Shortlists will be developed from applicants. An interview may or may not be required.

DEGNZ will notify you as to whether or not your application has been successful at the latest by 7 September, but no further correspondence will be entered into regarding your application and the decision will be final.

Questions?

Please contact us if you have any questions about the attachments or application requirements.


This initiative is made possible with the support of NZ On Air and Greenstone TV Ltd.

View from the Top banner

While the world continues to reel from COVID-19, we sit in our smug little bubble wondering what the fuss is all about. So far, we’ve escaped relatively unscathed the medical turmoil associated with Corona, but are now facing up to the emotional, psychological and economic impact that will be with us for many years to come. Looking across the ditch at Victoria, we see how quickly it could all go pearshaped for us.

Production-wise, all of the offshore projects that were interrupted by COVID are now back. Local production that was shut down is returning as well. Local TV drama will hopefully get a shot in the arm from NZ On Air shortly. TV productions with funding and small crews seem mostly to be on their feet.

The advertising sector, however, is still suffering from nervousness on the part of clients who don’t know if they have the marketing budget to spend or what to do with it and when, if they do.

NZ shorts and features that were interrupted are also getting up again but as mentioned in my last op-ed, without the insurance issue solved, we still have a problem with new productions, Houston.

The numbers of people continuing to take up our COVID-19 Membership Holiday offer tells us, though, that there is pain out there with directors and editors. The Guild would like to get a better fix on this. Within the next two weeks we will put out a short survey to ascertain more clearly what the employment situation is like for members and other directors and editors in the industry.

We ask that you please take the short time required to fill it out. Your responses will help us to better strategically and tactically respond in ways that are meaningful and useful.

It’s hard not to look around at the moment and think that we are in the eye of the storm. Everything is peaceful, calm and quiet, except on the political front. Hopefully we can move with the eye rather than stray out of it where we’ll get a lashing.

In the meantime, I would like to remind you all of the Vista Foundation/Home and Family Counselling offer, which is still available. Information on our website here. If you are having a particularly difficult time right now, please reach out and let us know and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do.

Stay safe, stay strong, be kind.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

View from the Top banner

On Wednesday evening, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni, together with the Minister for Economic Development, Phil Twyford, and Minister for Broadcasting, Kris Faafoi, announced the Screen Sector Recovery package. Included was $140 million previously announced in the budget, being $115 million to the international NZ Screen Production Grant, with $25 million to the domestic Screen Production Grant for local productions.

The rest of the announcement was new funding, but how much and where it went was clear as mud. As far as I can figure out it breaks down like this:

  • $15.4 million to NZFC with $2 million allocated to cultural capability funding and the rest to recovery for production affected by COVID.
  • In a guess on my part, $8 million to NZ On Air for production affected by COVID.
  • $50 million in a new fund to be dedicated to high-end drama and film projects, targeting streamers it would seem, with criteria still to be developed.
  • An additional $25 million, which seems to have materialised out of nowhere, for NZ On Air to spend over four years for Pacific, student and disability broadcast media.

The elephant in the room, though, is insurance. Without it, no new high-end drama or feature film will be able to get up without a major studio willing to bankroll the whole thing and take the associated risk that COVID has brought.

How to get insurance and completion bonds for production is a global problem putting the brakes on production everywhere. The insurance industry has already been hit with massive COVID-associated claims. Consequently, insurers won’t issue insurance to cover COVID-19.

Screen industries around the world are hatching various plans to deal with the insurance issue, but they all, to a greater or lesser degree, come down to one thing: government underwriting of insurance.

The New Zealand Film Commission commissioned the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) to write a paper for Government to outline the issues and justify the call for Government to come up with a solution that would allow new drama and feature film projects to get up. While the new funding announced on Wednesday night was welcomed by everyone, a significant number of those in attendance at the Beehive waited with bated breath for a Government response to the insurance issue. It never came.

Small productions and those that had existing insurance coverage prior to COVID will get made, but independent production everywhere needs the insurance problem solved. That includes any NZ On Air funded drama soon to be announced from the last round. Without an insurance solution or a studio willing to take on the risk, we could all be watching a lot more low-budget short-form web series to satisfy our scripted desires.

Unfortunately, we are still waiting cap in hand for the Government to come to the rescue. If they do, we will then truly be able to take advantage of the very fortunate position we find ourselves in as a screen industry in comparison to the rest of the world.

Here’s hoping.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director