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On Wednesday evening I participated in our online Editors and Assistant Editors Gathering. There were about 35 of us. It was an opportunity to discuss issues that affect editors and assistant editors, and to network.

One of the questions that often came up from students studying screen, and one that I regularly encounter, is: How do you get a job in the industry?

This is a question we are wrestling with at the Guild as we put our efforts into the Reform of Vocational Education, to provide both a clear pathway into work as well as to outline educational structures and content that will help to ensure learners are as prepared as they can be to work within the screen sector.

The Gathering also got me to look back at how I got into the screen sector, and I thought I would relate that pathway here.

I was living in Tokyo Japan working with an American and Canadian friend in their small agency as a writer and rewriter of copy for advertising and communications content. A good chunk of the work was taking the Japanese to English translations the Canadian and others were doing of corporate video scripts and brushing them up for re-narrating in English.

The American had gone to film school in California and had a mate who was working as an Editor at Entertainment Tonight, a daily entertainment show on CBS. My friend managed to convince his mate and his mate’s bosses they needed a stringer (contract) crew in Japan to do entertainment stories for the show. They agreed, so he went out and bought camera and sound gear, roped his Canadian partner, me and another friend in, and very quickly we were filing stories for them. It was fun work. In the early days it was occasionally covering well-known bands coming to Japan to play concerts before it spun into much broader entertainment content and more regular work.

Meanwhile I had been travelling back to NZ once a year for breaks. On one trip I met a young Kiwi student studying at Auckland University who was a good Japanese speaker. He told me that he had been getting work with a couple of Japanese line producers, one living in Auckland the other in Sydney. They were coordinating Japanese TV commercial crews coming down to NZ for shoots. This made me think that there was an opportunity to get into this work as my English-speaking Japanese girlfriend (now wife) worked regularly as an interpreter, and my sister was a travel agent. We set up a company and for a few years worked with Japanese crews, most often in Central Otago and Southland shooting commercials.

During this time we returned to NZ to live and continued running the company, but I decided that I wanted to make content rather than just help others to make it. I made up a list of production companies in Auckland (there weren’t many at that time) and started banging on doors. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do too much knocking before I was hired to work as a production assistant for television and film producer Robin Scholes. So began my climb up the ladder through various roles as a writer, director, producer and executive producer doing corporate, TV, travel, and news for companies, including a couple of my own, before I launched into narrative drama.

Everybody has their own path into the screen industry. Every once in a while from now on I’m going to ask someone to write about their own experience. I’m hoping it will at least be interesting if not helpful for readers, while the Guild works to make it less about who you know and more about what you know, and formalise how to get there to kickstart a career.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

After five years of building up the screen media industry in the Bay of Plenty, DEGNZ member Anton Steel is stepping back from an operation level and retiring as CEO of Film Bay of Plenty.

In the past year alone, the regional film office has supported a range of projects, including two feature films, two TV series, and a location shoot for a large scale American production. Elysia Gibb, Tracy Hampton and Jade Kent have progressed in their roles to take the helm under a new management structure that provides broader coverage to the region.

Anton will continue to support the organisation’s ongoing strategy as a trustee, while turning to focus on creating. He is currently developing an action film about mental health, based on a true story from the Bay of Plenty.

“I also hope to leverage my 25 years of onscreen story-telling experience, and look forward to the opportunity to work with the amazing network of creatives and crew across the region,” he said.

We wish Anton well in the next step of his journey!

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With the vaccine within sight and just when we thought all we had to worry about was who was going to win the America’s Cup… here we go again.

It’s only through the news, our friends and other sources do we comprehend the horror of what COVID has perpetrated on many parts of the world. Our experience has been minor in comparison. The low numbers of check-ins using the COVID app has highlighted the nonchalance with which many Kiwis have treated the threat. And now here it is amongst us once more.

Fortunately, many productions schooled through our last lockdowns have maintained their vigilance and practices. A visit to Amazon’s Lord of the Rings studio locations highlighted that. Screensafe’s and SIGANZ’s considerable effort, with all the guilds and associations pitching in, means we have the resources and now the experience to provide the safest environment possible for production amidst a pandemic. Let’s hope we don’t have to rely on these for too long.

The fund NZFC and NZ On Air operates for COVID-hit productions has already been used by a large number of projects. How much money is still available has suddenly become a pressing issue. As will the availability of more if we are faced with a longer time in lockdown.

We got away almost unscathed from the Pullman outbreak. This looks much more serious with the UK variant of the virus confirmed in the community cases.

In the meantime, DEGNZ will continue to operate as we did through Levels 2, 3, and 4. We are all working from home, so office hours are essentially the same as usual. Once more we have to adjust our events to cope with the situation. We will be communicating with you about any workshop or event that was already on our calendar and that may be affected.

As always, the guild will be available to our director and editor members with advice or assistance, so do not hesitate to reach out. Hopefully, we will not have to take on a bigger picture role because of a prolonged lockdown period—having done a lot of work already, the screen sector is in a lot better shape than it was the first time around.

As I sit in front of my computer at home listening to the rain falling on a vege garden and property that welcomes it with open arms, and another sunny weekend just gone, I sincerely wish that all is over by midnight Wednesday. I will then be able to look forward to the coming weekend, which will hopefully deliver good surf so that I can try out my new surfboard lying untested in its bag in the carport.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director