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.




Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director
Directors & Editors Guild of 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
+64 9 360 2102
+64 21 659 950

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I attended the DEGNZ Rialto Film Talk last night of James Ashcroft’s Coming Home In The Dark.

Listening to James talk in the Q & A facilitated by DEGNZ member Hweiling Ow, it was clear to me that not only had James worked incredibly hard to earn the success he is having with his film, but that he has been very strategic in going about it.

Prior to the screening, James had mentioned to me that he’d made eight short films before directing his debut feature.

In response to a question from Hweiling, James told her that Coming Home In The Dark was the fifth feature film script he’d written with writing partner Eli Kent, and that he and Eli had written two more features after finishing the Coming Home In The Dark script. The majority of these done according to the NZFC funding data, without development funding from the New Zealand Film Commission.

James also mentioned that when he left his job as the Tumuaki/CEO of theatre company Taki Rua at the end of 2013 to pursue his career as a film director, he was without any collateral to work with and show. So he optioned a number of books, found a writer he could work with in Eli, and started cranking out feature film scripts—one a year to now.

Eight years later, with his Sundance-selected film under his belt and a manager and agent to represent him, James and Eli are polishing a script for Hollywood indie Legendary Entertainment, with James tapped to direct. And all this prior to the theatrical release of his first feature, which went into theatres this week.

In the U.S. there’s no script development funding system for aspiring screenwriters. Hollywood reps expect their clients to have a body of work and to keep adding to it so that they have something fresh that they can market their clients with. Everybody essentially writes on spec. until they come up with a good enough script to get them noticed and commissioned to write… something else.  Or, they raise the financing from investors to put their script into production: there’s no cultural funding body there to provide production financing either.

In New Zealand it seems to me, too often aspiring screenwriters and writer – directors are more intent on getting Early Development Funding or NZWG Seed Funding to fund the learning of their craft on one passion piece than doing the work, repeatedly, that will hone their skills. And most of us look only to NZFC to finance our films. The self-funded feature here is rare. Those that do it should be applauded, not matter what the film turns out like.

Anybody can write a feature film script. I’ve written two myself. But not that many people can write a good one. James and Eli it would seem to me are a great example of that maxim, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

The NZFC have announced that 19 successful projects will receive funding as part of Ara ki Te Puna Kairangi – The Premium Development Fund, with a total of 1.5 million offered. The successful projects represent a broad array of ideas with the potential to engage both local and international audiences, and includes projects by our very own DEGNZ members.

Hannah Marshall will go ahead with another season of drama series Alibi with her production company Plus6Four Entertainment Limited.

Roseanne Liang, Ally Xue, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau, alongside Creamerie Ltd, have received funding for a second season of the post-apocalyptic black comedy Creamerie.

Max Currie with Autonomouse Limited, has received funding for another season of Rūrangi, a queer and trans-positive drama.

Congratulations to all our members. We can’t wait to see the projects come to life.

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Thanks to the Doc Edge Festival, I was able to attend their opening night film The 7 Years of Lukas Graham, a story about Danish pop sensation Lukas Graham’s lead singer Lukas Forchhammer’s wrestle with fame. It got me thinking about the woeful state of documentary in New Zealand, something the guild identified at the 2019 NZ On Air Factual Summit in 2019 and sought to generate conversation about. COVID unfortunately disrupted our plans, but it’s back on our agenda.

One-off documentary internationally is in a strong place, although former Amazon Studios film head Ted Hope cautioned at the Danish doc fest, CPH:DOX, recently that the big players prefer documentary with mass appeal. Hope did go on to say however that with the proliferation of niche platforms catering to specialised audiences, there are greater opportunities for more distinct fare.

From Variety’s article:

One of the key things to recognize is the streamers’ need for a “targeted audience at a low price point,” [HOPE] stressed. “That’s basically the equation for efficiency. The most valuable type of audience member for a streamer is the new audience member. How do you attract new people to the platform? People that are not only passionate about something but have actually displayed their passion in a predictable way, are ripe precisely for that acquisition.”
Hope emphasized how different the business goals of streamers are from the world of exhibition. “It’s not profit and loss so much as customer acquisition. Drilling down to what that means I think reveals a lot.”

New Zealand documentary however is meant to target New Zealand audiences first, although with NZFC its international appeal is also taken into account when funding decisions are made.

In taking a look at the TV market for one-off documentary in New Zealand it’s pretty easy to see… there really isn’t one. NZ broadcasters on the whole aren’t interested in one-off documentary as they often tell us, although Māori Television does occasionally commission them.

Feature-length documentary suffers pretty much the same fate with the channels. While short form doco. has found its place with platforms and does attract NZ On Air funding, there’s nothing longer format for these documentary makers to go onto in TV, so they have to turn their heads to theatrical documentary features if they want to move to longer form.

Reviewing the latest figures/films available for NZFC-funded documentary feature for the  NZSPG/SPIF* and non-NZSPG/SPIF documentary films back to 2015 provides some interesting insights.

Please note: The funding totals are for NZFC administered funds only and do not take into account ‘market money’—Distributor/Sales Agent MGs, private investment, broadcast/platform fees or other non-NZFC investment. The box office totals are for NZ only and do not take into account Australia or Rest of World revenues.

In these latest stats:

  • NZSPG/SPIF films with higher budgets and commensurate marketing spend and screen numbers tend not to reach NZ theatrical audiences well, Chasing Great aside.
  • Non-NZSPG/SPIF films in general deliver a better Return on Investment (NZ B.O./TTL NZFC FUNDING) for every NZFC-administered dollar than NZSPG films in the NZ theatrical market.
  • Although the ROI of NZSPG/SPIF films is generally not great, the top two NZ documentaries by box office are NZSPG films, and four are in the top 10.

*NZSPG – NZ Screen Production Grant   SPIF – Screen Production Incentive Fund



YR TITLE (In alphabetical order) NZFC EQUITY NZSPG/


21 Dawn Raid $1,715,000.00 $1,317,490.00 $3,032,490.00 $332,074.00 $0.11
21 James and Isey* $365,345.00 N/A $365,345.00 $522,101.00 $1.43
20 Six60 Till The Lights Go Out $580,000.00 N/A $580,000.00 $535,402.00 $0.92
20 The Girl On The Bridge $690,000.00 N/A $690,000.00 $21,855.00 $0.03
20 We Need to Talk About A.I.** $1,044,783.00 $1,044,783.00 No NZ Release
19 Capital in the Twenty  First Century $804,224.00 $2,010,560.00 $2,814,784.00 $85,458.00 $0.03
19 Herbs: Songs of Freedom $824,897.00 N/A $824,897.00 $97,015.00 $0.12
19 For My Father’s Kingdom $385,543.00 N/A $385,543.00 $63,762.00 $0.17
19 The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillips $600,000.00 N/A $600,000.00 $73,157.00 $0.12
18 Merata Mita: How Mum Decolonised The Screen $129,999.00 N/A $129,999.00 $39,039.00 $0.30
18 Maui’s Hook $100,000.00 N/A $100,000.00 $23,376.00 $0.23
18 She Shears $220,302.00 N/A $220,302.00 $133,474.00 $0.61
18 Born Racer $1,087,136.00 $2,717,839.00 $3,804,975.00 $155,588.00 $0.04
18 The Heart Dances – The Journey of The Piano: The Ballet $437,500.00 N/A $437,500.00 $33,502.00 $0.08
18 Wayne $574,980.00 $1,437,449.00 $2,012,429.00 $22,164.00 $0.01
17 McLaren $1,426,397.00 $3,565,992.00 $4,992,389.00 $768,248.00 $0.15
18 Yellow Is Forbidden $338,631.00 N/A $338,631.00 $46,716.00 $0.14
17 My Year With Helen $446,000.00 N.A. $446,000.00 $281,949.00 $0.63
17 Kim Dotcom: Caught In the Web** $1,010,628.00 N/A $1,010,628.00 N/A
17 Pecking Order $200,000.00 N/A $200,000.00 $538,378.00 $2.69


Chasing Great $1,026,678.00 $2,566,697.00 $3,593,375.00 $1,828,941.00 $0.51
16 The Free Man (AKA Welcome to the Thrill) $1,024,086.00 $2,560,216.00 $3,584,302.00 $18,817.00 $0.01
16 Poi E: The Story Of A Song $921,984.00 N/A $921,984.00 $1,199,830.00 $1.30
15 25-Apr $1,783,348.00 $4,458,369.00 $6,241,717.00 $19,390.00 $0.0031
*Still in theatres
  **No mainstream theatrical release



16 1 Chasing Great (NZSPG) $3,593,735.00 $1,828,941.00
09 2 Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls(SPIF) ($1,900,000.00*) $1,820,000.00
16 3 Poi E: The Story of Our Song $921,984.00 $1,199,830.00
13 4 Beyond the Edge (SPIF) $3,799,385.00 $884,743.00
11 5 Billy T – Te Movie $1,000,000.00 $794,816.00
17 6 McLaren (NZSPG) $4,992,389.00 $768,248.00
17 7 Pecking Order $200,000.00 $538,378.00
21 8 Six60 – Till the Lights Go Out $580,000.00 $535,402.00
21 9 James & Isey $365,345.00 $529,270.00
13 10 Gardening with Soul $15,000.00 $489,931.00

*SPIF figure not available for this film so NZFC Equity Investment only.


Of course, the first question in examining the success or not of any film is “Did it reach its target audience?” And the next question could be: “How much was spent in doing so?” Target audiences can vary from niche small audiences to mainstream large audiences but budget level is generally meant to be reflective of expected audience reach. Looking at funding investment and ROI only, NZFC hasn’t done well with its documentary funding decisions over the last six years—One more thing on the list the new NZFC CEO could turn his head to when he arrives.

And for TV, lobbying NZ On Air to fund one-off documentary would obviously help—something ourselves and others are intent on doing.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

DEGNZ alumni Matthew Saville’s debut feature film Juniper, edited by Peter Roberts (DEGNZ), will be released in NZ cinemas on August 26. Starring Oscar-nominated actress Charlotte Rampling, the movie follows a self-destructive teenager who reluctantly looks after his alcoholic grandmother as punishment and soon finds himself embracing life again.

As part of the Guild’s Drama Editor Attachment Scheme the production provided an opportunity for an emerging editor to shadow Peter Roberts over the course of the edit. DEGNZ member Brendon Chan spoke with us about his experience shadowing Peter, from assembly through to the final cut, an experience that was “really beneficial” and one that eased his worries about working on feature films.

Saville, who wrote and directed Juniper, spoke with NZFC about how this story is inspired by his own experience with his grandmother and how he “can’t wait for audiences to see this intimate story brought to life”.

Watch the trailer here and save the date!