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Lockdown border laws may keep us restricted to Aotearoa but Lap of Luxury, directed by Bryn Evans (DEGNZ) and offline edited by Steven Chow (DEGNZ) and Anthea Ede Smith, transports us to the world’s most glamorous places. Thanks to Evans, Chow and the production team behind the series, kiwis can indulge in the deluxe landscapes and architecture plotted around the globe.

New episodes released every Tuesday.

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DEGNZ member Ben Wildish is the Kaiwawahi Korero (editor) on the series. The series follows kiwi icon, Stan Walker through 2020 as he juggles the role of musician, activist, son, brother and friend. With whanau on both sides of the Tasman, the show offers an unfiltered look into the lives of Stan and his whanau.

New episodes are released every Monday.

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With the Big Screen Symposium about to kick off tomorrow, it’s yet another recent event at which to be thankful for, for our Government’s response to COVID. We can gather in big numbers will little concern for the spread of the virus, while in many other places around the world the statistics of COVID sickness and death are horrific. I was extremely pleased to hear yesterday that our Trans-Tasman cousins can now travel interstate, relatively freely.

 

And talking of our Aussie cousins, we have a new head at the Australian Directors’ Guild in Alaric McCausland. Alaric has a screen executive background in Australia and internationally, bringing a slightly different focus over his last two predecessors. As always, DEGNZ seeks a strong relationship with the ADG, with my first call with Alaric cordial, informative and supportive.

 

NZFC, NZ On Air and TMP obviously got more feedback than they bargained for in regard to the Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund. They are now late in getting the final criteria out—perhaps they will show at BSS. I have to imagine the number of applications to the fund is going to be as voluminous as the feedback was.

 

I heard yesterday that TV3 is now officially in the hands of Discovery. A Stuff article here. Being run as an Australasian service, it will be interesting to see what opportunities come for local content makers in the trans-Tasman tie, with Discovery’s global network and the planned launch of a streaming service here making for exciting possibilities.

 

Over at Sky they’ve got a new CEO in Sophie Moloney. Martin Stewart wears the blood splashes of his restructuring as he heads back to the UK, and Moloney offers an experienced, friendly, female and kotahitanga approach as she takes Sky forward. Unity is certainly needed in an organisation reeling from job losses.

 

TVNZ’s GM Local Content Nevak Rogers came with Drama and Scripted Comedy Commissioner Steve Barr to talk to our Emerging Women Filmmakers participants at their fifth and final workshop. Nevak was pleased to tell me that TVNZ is now spending around $100 million on local content, which is besting the highest spend during the Charter years at TVNZ. For those not old enough to know what the charter was, this from Wikipedia:

 

The Labour Government introduced a “TVNZ Charter” in 2002. This was a list of objectives for TVNZ which specified it must broadcast a wide variety of New Zealand-made content; the broadcaster was given public responsibility to provide news, drama, documentaries and “promote understanding of the diversity of cultures”. In 2008 the Government announced that the broadcaster was to become “more public-service” like. TVNZ responded by launching two commercial free channels; TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. By 2011 Prime Minister John Key announced the closure of these channels. 6 in 2011, and 7 in mid-2012, with much of their content put into TVNZ Heartland and TVNZ Kidzone24 which are only available behind a Sky TV paywall. The National Government abolished the Charter in 2011. Political opponents accused the Government of reducing TVNZ’s commitments as a public broadcaster.

 

Just this week at the NZ On Air end-of-year function, Broadcasting Minister Chris Faafoi reaffirmed his commitment to public broadcasting via a video address. Back in October, Faafoi announced that the TVNZ – RNZ merger discussion was back on the table. The partially completed and partially redacted PWC consultant’s report released in September, however, didn’t outline the benefits of combining the broadcasters into a single entity or state how TVNZ or RNZ’s services would change if the proposal was approved. Just what is going to happen and when seems entirely open to discussion. Dealing with COVID and its impacts provides wonderful cover for doing nothing for quite a while yet. Let’s hope something good comes of it sooner.

 

Finally, the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide, driven by board member and  long-time, drama and documentary editor Annie Collins, continues to win rave reviews. If you want to save your production time and money and yourself stress, become very familiar with the content, available on our website here.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

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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

 

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2020 is a watershed year in time for the screen industry because of COVID and the Level 4 lockdown we endured.

New Zealand On Air’s latest ‘Where Are The Audiences’ research was conducted during May and June, when we had come out of Level 4 and were in Levels 2 and 1.

Although potentially skewed because of COVID and possibly having an irreversible effect when it comes to content viewership that’s too early to truly gauge, the results make interesting reading, and potentially signal the writing is on the wall for free-to-air TV2 with its target audience of 18 – 49-year-olds.

Two’s popularity with all New Zealanders 15+ showed a continued decline from 27% in 2014 to 14% in 2020. More telling is that from 2018 when the survey was last conducted to now, The channel’s popularity declined by 7%, its biggest drop for the two-year periods across which the surveys have been conducted since 2014.

The research indicates that 2020 is the crossover point between traditional media and digital media for attracting the biggest daily audiences of New Zealanders overall with YouTube video now the most popular site, station or channel. But for 15 – 39-year-olds, a large part of Two’s audience, that crossover point occurred in 2018 or earlier.

Exacerbating the problem for Two is the increased adoption of digital media by those aged 40 – 59, containing the remaining chunk of the channel’s audience. This 40 – 59 age group is moving away from free-to-air TV and towards SVOD, OnDemand, and other digital options.

2020 would seem to be the cross over point for the 40 – 59 year-old shift from traditional to digital media.

On the bright side for TVNZ, OnDemand popularity is increasing, rising from 7% in 2014 to 21% in 2020.

Coincidentally, the percentage increase in popularity of OnDemand is essentially the same as the decrease in popularity of TV2 at 6 – 7%.

The younger demographics are digital natives or early digital adopters and as time passes the older age groups are utilising digital more on more. While free-to-air viewing remains stable, you’ve got to wonder how much more of a decline Two can take with its core demographic before it becomes unsustainable for TVNZ, who are contributing to Two’s audience cannibalisation with TVNZ OnDemand.

We’ll likely know come the next survey results in 2022.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director