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There are a few key unresolved issues in our sector and we are sitting on our hands waiting for action. The transformation of TVNZ into a proper public broadcaster is one. Then there’s the Screen Industry Worker Bill that will allow contractors to engage in collective bargaining. Another, the underwriting insurance needed to get the domestic film industry up again.

I know there is an election on, but we are still some ways away from the transformational change needed to get going properly, as well as grasp the opportunities on offer in the new world we are in.

In the UK, the new Director General of the BBC is moving rapidly to address the challenges there. Amongst them the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of diverse representation, political pressure, pay disparity, technological disruption, the emergence of competing news outlets, a battle to maintain relevance and the threat to the licence fee. A number of his changes will undoubtedly prove unpopular as he drives the organisation to be leaner and more commercial as well.

Yet here we sit still waiting for the Government to address the public broadcaster issue. It was December last year when Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi proposed merging TVNZ and RNZ. In January, he presented a revised plan and was asked for a business case due last month. Meanwhile, streamers have become the new global studios, YouTube has become the most popular source of video content in New Zealand, and TVNZ continues to lose money. The only wait that’s been blessedly terminated is what’s happening to TV3. The good news is Discovery’s acquisition of some of Mediaworks assets including the network—perhaps the first time in the channel’s history that it’s going to have real money in the bank to draw on.

Starting in 2018, the Film Industry Working Group toiled for months to unanimously come up with recommendations to help shape the Screen Industry Worker Bill. This extended process together with the time to draft the Bill, the Select Committee submissions and the interruptions caused by COVID mean we have to accept there will be no passage of the bill into law prior to the election. We are now faced with its fate hanging on the election result. Even after all the Select Committee submissions were predominantly in support of the Bill, National continue to oppose it. They will throw it out if they come into power. Accepting the rejection of the Hobbit Law they were responsible for putting in place would obviously be too much for them.

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block for the industry right now is the lack of commitment from our Government to underwriting the local film industry, replacing the insurance companies who won’t insure for COVID. In June, the Australian Government put in place an AUD$50 million fund to provide financial guarantees because insurance companies are not providing coverage for COVID-19. In July the British government launched an emergency £500M (US$646M) film and TV coronavirus production insurance fund. NZFC and SPADA have already made representations to Government to underwrite local production. Nearly two months later and we still haven’t heard an answer.

I know that the New Zealand screen sector has received monies to address the impact of COVID. We are all thankful for that. But this underwriting is necessary if any new New Zealand films are going to get made. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait too much longer to find out.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

ScreenSafe banner

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.

Unite against COVID-19

Dear Members,

We are all in this together. As your Guild, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you need support. Please find information below on the changes to Alert Levels, what this means for productions, and useful links. Our thanks to SPADA for collating the following information.

In case you missed last night’s breaking news – four positive cases of COVID-19 have been detected outside of managed isolation facilities, resulting in community detection for the first time in 102 days.

In response New Zealand’s COVID-19 Alert Levels are changing at 12 noon on Wednesday 12 August.

  • Auckland will move to Alert Level 3
  • The rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2.

WATCH:  the full announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield(announcement begins at approx. 26:40).
From RNZ: Under level 3 in Auckland, people are to work from home unless they are essential workers, and stay in their bubbles. Bars and restaurants will have to close, and restrictions come in place for funerals and weddings.

“Travelling into Auckland is prohibited unless you normally reside there and are travelling home.”

People in Auckland but not from the city can return home, but must be aware of symptoms. Anyone with symptoms is advised to get a test

All key services, including pharmacies and supermarkets remain open. Food delivery is available under level 3. Childcare and schooling is only available for essential workers.

The government would provide the public with an update on Friday.

Screen Sector

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.

Contact your industry Guild for support as required. For more information on the Alert Levels and how this relates to your work and home life, please see below.

Changes to Alert Levels

Auckland

Under Alert Level 3, you are encouraged work from home if you can.

Travel and self-isolation
If you are currently in Auckland and do not live in Auckland, we suggest that you go home. Practice good hygiene and be conscious of your health. We recommend that you keep your bubble small.

Businesses
Businesses are able to open, but should not physically interact with customers.

Essential services including healthcare, justice services and businesses providing necessities are able to open.

Bars and restaurants should close, but takeaways are allowed.

Education
Schools in Auckland can safely open but will have limited capacity. Where possible we encourage students to learn from home.

When you’re out and about
Maintain physical distancing of 2 metres outside your home, including on public transport.

It is highly recommended that you wear a mask if you are out and about.

Public transport can continue to operate with strict health and safety requirements. You should maintain physical distancing and wearing a mask.

Public venues should close. This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets.

Gatherings
Gatherings of up to 10 people can continue, but only for wedding services, funerals and tangihanga. Physical distancing and public health measures should be maintained.

At-risk people

People at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home.

Detailed information about life at Alert Level 3 is available.

Rest of New Zealand

The rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2 at 12 noon on Wednesday 12 August.

You can still continue to go to work and school, with physical distancing.

Wear masks if you can in public.

No more than 100 people at gatherings, including weddings, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga.

Businesses can open to the public if they are following public health guidance, which include physical distancing and record keeping.

People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, for example those with underlying medical conditions and old people are encouraged to take additional precautions when leaving home.

Practice good hygiene – stay home if sick.

Detailed information about life at Alert Level 2 is available.

Useful Links

NZ COVID-19 Page
ScreenSafe COVID-19 Page
RNZ COVID-19 Coverage
Health & Wellbeing during COVID-19
NZ COVID Tracer App – on App Store / on GOOGLE PLAY

Look after yourself, look after each other, be active with your hand washing and your contact tracing, and ask for help when you need it. 
He waka eke noa. We’re all in this together.

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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