Unsung Heroes and Heroines

I went to the Show Me Shorts Festival opening night this week and had the chance to reflect on recognition. A number of awards were handed out to very deserving recipients including some of our guild members: Alyx Duncan, James Cunningham, Chris Pryor – talents who stood out because of their work, which was put very visibly in front of people to see.

DEGNZ sponsored the Best Director Award and Best Editor Award because we wanted to acknowledge excellence in the arts we represent. Also, we want to raise our profile with emerging filmmakers, many of whom were in the room. A good number are at the beginning of their careers, or already on the path but not too far down it.

It got me thinking about those who do outstanding things in our industry, but far from the limelight.

I decided I needed to look back over the boards of the guild to see who had been involved. And I talked to one of the original founders of the guild, Keith Hunter, who together with some other altruistic individuals, left what was originally the Screen Producers and Directors Association to set up the precursor to the DEGNZ, the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand.

The past boards of DEGNZ are a roll call of directors, and later directors and editors, who are leaders within the industry and excel at their craft. People like Pietra Brettkelly, Peter Bell, Dan Salmon, Leanne Pooley, Annie Goldson and Mark McNeill to name a few more recent practitioners.

Why do they do it? It’s voluntary. There’s little recognition. They are really working for their colleagues and not themselves.

Like most non-profit organisations that depend on volunteers, on the whole our board members have done it because they want to give back. There’s something bigger than themselves within their area of interest that they have a strong affinity to and they want to make a contribution.

It often seems like it is left to those who are already well established in their careers and have the wisdom, experience and or the capacity to do something for others who put their hands up. But that’s not always the case. And it’s certainly not what DEGNZ wants to limit itself to. Enthusiasm and passion, which you must have to survive in any creative sector, is highly prized and comes from all ages.

In the times ahead we will be looking to members—emerging filmmakers and established—to provide input into what we do and how we do it. There will be opportunities to participate in more active ways to help shape the guild as it adapts to the ever-changing environment we exist in. We will want fresh blood and ideas. And information. One such opportunity for you to contribute will be the survey we will conduct shortly to gauge where everything is at for members right now.

While we look to the future, we also want to look to the past and acknowledge those individuals who have made significant contributions over many years of dedicated service to the guild.

Keith Hunter was the first to receive life membership to DEGNZ a few years ago, recognising the work he did over many years in getting the guild set up and functioning effectively. Keith is a writer, director and producer who worked across drama, documentaries, arts programmes and current affairs. You can read an extensive bio on him here.

John Reid was the second to receive life membership more recently in recognition of his work for the guild.  John’s bio here outlines his vast experience in commercials, TV and feature film.

At the Annual General Meeting in October of this year, DEGNZ conferred its third life membership. It was given to George Andrews. Like Keith and John, George has had a distinguished career in the screen industry, particularly as a writer, director and producer of documentaries, as a review of his bio here will reveal. And also like the others, George has put in countless hours on behalf of the guild’s members in our efforts on advocacy, lobbying and other work.

There are many others who have served on the board of DEGNZ over the years. Over time, we will do our bit to shed light on them to acknowledge their efforts in keeping the guild solvent, relevant and serving the creative, cultural and financial well being of all directors and editors in the New Zealand screen industry.

For now, I’d just like to say thanks to all the unsung heroes and heroines who have served the guild. They know who they are. And hopefully, you will get to know some of them too if you don’t already.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director