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The vocational education system for all industries is undergoing massive reform right now. It’s come at a time when the New Zealand screen industry has been suffering from a lack of experienced workers due to the high levels of domestic and international production going on in the country.

It has also brought to the fore concerns about the lack of real-world preparation of students by film schools and media courses at tertiary education facilities. The industry needs workers to hit the ground running and that’s just not happening with the current levels of haphazard training that’s going on.

In 2018, the Government launched the Education Work Programme. One of the four reviews undertaken was the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE), with the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) tasked with undertaking structural change.

Six Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) were established to assist with the structural change. The Screen Industry falls under Toi Mai, the WDC for Creative, Cultural, Recreation and Technology.

A small number of guilds including DEGNZ have together with WeCreate (former Copyright Council), the Council of Trade Unions and others been working to ensure that our WDC is getting the right input so that the resulting vocational education is fit-for-purpose for the screen industry. Recent appointments to Toi Mai reflect our efforts to have people with screen industry knowledge and experience involved:

  • Alice Shearman of the New Zealand Writers Guild as a screen union rep
  • Aliesha Staples, founder and CEO of Staples VR and a TVNZ board member
  • Annie Murray, Head of Sky Originals at Sky
  • Jana Rangooni, former General Manager Radio Live and Newsroom and Group Programme Director at Mediaworks
  • Rhonda Kite, previously owner of Kiwa Productions and audio post house Native Audio
  • Victoria Spackman, ex CEO of the Gibson Group

Right now, guilds and associations are mapping out career pathways to identify the skills needed for each individual role. Determinations will be made as to whether or not apprenticeships are suited to certain roles, while others may require trainees.

We will be involved in creating Skill Standards building to micro-credentials for new entrants coming into the industry. The overall outcome is to have a simple, efficient and appropriate vocational education delivered via the various educational providers. At the same time we seek an administration system that suits the very unique nature of project-based work that happens in the screen industry.

DEGNZ board member Annie Collins is now leading the work on behalf of DEGNZ, SPADA, SIGANZ, SMSG and NZWG, all of whom have been active in this space for the last two years or so. We are now going out to everyone in the screen industry to bring them up to speed with what’s happening.

RoVE is a massive undertaking that will impact on every industry in New Zealand. For the screen industry, we have undertaken this work so that it can develop and grow its capacity and capability to service productions well into the future with skilled workers who have the right education and training to make a positive contribution from Day One.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday to catch up on industry news, a Stuff article caught my eye. “Can Aotearoa make the screen the next primary industry?” the hook headline blared.

Diving into the article, I read that SIGANZ President Brendon Durey believes the “constrained” rebate doesn’t go far enough (the rebate offered to international productions shooting here) as other countries like the United Kingdom and Canada offer higher amounts. A white paper put together by educational outfits YooBee College of Design and UP Education calls for more Government money and resources to go into creativity education. And new Wellington outfit The Granary gets its marketing video promoting the use of LED technology backdrops showcased. Multiple handclaps to all three for getting their PR into Stuff.

My hat does go off to the educational outfits and The Granary, though, because they both promote the idea of local IP creation, with YouBee and Up giving a big plug to the possibilities with local stories and within the New Zealand gaming sector, while The Granary seeks to give Kiwi content creators a way to bring Hollywood tech pizazz to local production in an affordable manner.

One of the key reasons Aotearoa has a massive opportunity on its doorstep, journalist Andre Chumko tells us in the article, is that our sector “struggles to keep up with an unprecedented glut of production born from the Covid-19 pandemic.” I would suggest, however, that that glut isn’t going to continue unabated.

As the whole sector was wrestling during our first lock down with how to get back into production, I was having calls with the Directors Guild of America about what we were doing. NZ’s Screensafe COVID protocols were written up and out while the US guilds were still wondering what to do. Although slow to get their protocols in place, American production has for some time now been operating both domestically and internationally amidst the pandemic with strict guidelines that are keeping on-set infections low. Now, with the vaccine rolling out, the sleeping U.S. behemoth of backlogged productions and a year of new shows developed by showrunners and writers locked up in their homes is going to start hitting.

Will Aotearoa get a slice of that pie? Undoubtedly. As will Australia, which is seen as just as safe as New Zealand by Americans, but with more crew, facilities, and perhaps most importantly, onscreen talent that can pull international financing and audiences. Canada, Eastern Europe, and other countries will also benefit as the American juggernaut gets rolling.

The idea that we are going to be awash in streamer and other international production until the Apocalypse, however, is a little far-fetched in my view. A lot of American production will again take place in the U.S. and Canada, just like it always has. A strategic approach and well managed tactical implementation will I believe see New Zealand continue to benefit long term from production coming in from overseas. But the real opportunity I maintain lays in “constrained” local IP generation, and not just with identifiably Kiwi content.

Putting our culture on screen is vitally important, and we must continue to do so. Māori content cuts through in the global marketplace. Indisputable. But it’s the lack of investment in our screen content that is constraining us, whether it’s identifiably New Zealand or not.

NZ On Air, TMP and NZFC are still essentially operating on the same levels of funding they were receiving 10 years ago. COVID funding, though, has shone a spotlight on local IP.

Depending on which whisper you listen to, there were somewhere between 50 and 150 applications for the one-off $50 million Premium Fund. That’s a lot of local IP vying for, in the greater scheme of things, not a lot of money. There would definitely have been more than one pie-in-the-sky idea thrown in with no chance of success. But even if only 10 per cent of the proposals met a key criteria of being high-quality productions that tell New Zealand stories for global audiences at a scale and ambition not previously possible, that’s a clear indication of how much viable, untapped IP is out there.

Our local screen industry needs more investment to take advantage of global content opportunities:

  • More annual funding for NZ On Air, TMP and NZFC
  • An annual Premium Fund
  • More support for New Zealand’s gaming sector

A massively stimulated local industry will provide more than enough employment for current and future crew, and work for suppliers, with the added benefit of generating export dollars and actually creating and retaining IP here. International serviced production will then become a nice-to-have rather than a must-have for the New Zealand screen industry to survive and prosper.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

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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

 

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Important information: Here are the links to the updated ScreenSafe COVID 19 Health and Safety Protocols including the updated information on the Alert Levels 2 and 3. All updates are highlighted in yellow on these documents.

All productions need to ensure they are operating to the ScreenSafe Health and Safety Standard and Protocols as they relate to your region and alert level.

To help with the individual production departments the Departmental Roles have been updated to include the alert levels 2 and 3.

It is now mandatory for any business or service to display the QR code for the tracing app at all entry points. Download your posters here.

Download updated important information for Level 3 here.

Thank you to ScreenSafe / SIGANZ for this information.

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All productions need to ensure they are operating to the ScreenSafe COVID-19 Health & Safety Standard Protocols as they relate to your region and Alert Level. Visit the ScreenSafe COVID-19 page for the full toolkit and information on how to apply the Alert Levels to your production.

** IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: WorkSafe have confirmed that our ScreenSafe alert level procedure should remain the same with the addition of using masks. MORE INFORMATION HERE.

It is now mandatory for any business or service to display the QR code for the tracing app at all entry points. Businesses have till Wednesday 19th August to comply. Download your posters here

Download updated important information for Level 3 here.

Overview:


Mask Wearing

Mask wearing is now recommended for all crew at Levels 2 and 3.

It is also required when performing close proximity tasks within level 2 and above, i.e for make-up or hair. 

Talent should wear masks when possible/when interacting with crew, although this will not be practical whilst on screen. 

Travel to/from Auckland

Travel to/from Auckland is only allowed if you are returning to your place of residence OR if you’re an essential worker.

Physical distancing and mask wearing is required for public transport and flights. 

Contact Tracing

All NZ businesses are required to use the NZ Government Trace App (or another appropriate digital tracing app). This includes all work sites, offices, locations and suppliers.

ScreenSafe Registration

ALL productions, including 1-person shoots, MUST register with ScreenSafe. 

It only takes 1 minute to do this: https://screensafe.co.nz/covid19/registration/

Numbers on Set

There are no restrictions on the amount of people on a work site. However, each production needs to assess their own requirements vs. the overall need for physical distancing, hygiene and risk to cast, crew and the public.

Talent

1m physical distancing is required for all scripted action.

Talent must be able to dress themselves and do their own make up (under the guidance of crew if required).

No extras at Level 3.

Covid-19 Safety Notes

Every work site MUST have a site specific Level 3 Covid-19 plan in place.

Note: councils will not issue filming permits without a thorough Covid-19 plan + a ScreenSafe registration.


Thank you to ScreenSafe, The Screen Industry Guild and SPADA for putting this information together.