Welcome to 2016!

Welcome to 2016!

Netflix is taking over the entertainment world, and will spend US$6 billion on original content this year. Even Sir PJ has gotten behind a Netflix series – Making A Murderer. The competition is making studio execs quake in their Louboutins.

This year’s Academy Awards Best Picture noms paint a rosy picture of the world: sexual enslavement, pedophilia, pain porn, greed, political persecution, post-apocalyptic hell, and cold war. Thank God for the aberrant Ridley Scott. The Oscars will be missing black actor and female director nominations, and Harvey Weinstein. Spike Lee is going to boycott them, David Oyelowo has lambasted them, but equal pay advocate Jennifer Lawrence will be over Joy-ed to be there.

China is big on everybody’s radar and Hollywood is big on China’s, with Legendary Pictures the first to be bought. Five years after the China – New Zealand Film Coproduction Treaty was signed we are inching closer to our first official coproduction. Wonder of wonders.

Ash vs Evil Dead has risen again. Ghost In The Shell is painting Wellington town Scarlett. The Hobbi… I mean Shannara is looking good for a further run. There may well be sharks in Henderson this year, and I don’t mean more car dealers and finance companies.

TV3 is in the proverbial, SKY according to some will die, Current Affairs TV has moved to Radio New Zealand weekday afternoons, and TVNZ’s presenter fashion creates more buzz than its programming.

We should see a crop of Kiwi films hit the screen this year, including Mahana (Lee Tamahori), Beyond the Known World (Pan Nalin), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waititi), Inland Road (Jackie Van Beek), Human Traces (Nick Gorman), A Thousand Ropes (Tusi Tamasese), The Rehearsal (Alison Maclean), Chief Gary (The Downlow Concept), The End Game (Justin Pemberton) and Tickled (David Farrier/Dylan Reeve). Does this mean we’ll have enough films to have a film awards this year, at the bargain basement ticket price of… How much this time?!

Leanne Pooley’s 25 April gets a February US premiere in Santa Barbara.  Rebecca Tainsley’s Crossing Rachmaninoff gets FIPA-ed. Tammy Davis’s Born to Dance does the Berlin boogie. Wilderpeople and Tickled do some Sundancing. And Taika gets a chance to make up for the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards.

The Business Development Scheme kicked off in 2013 with Libertine Pictures, followed by the Gibson Group, Field Theory Media and General Film Corporation. Perhaps 2016 will show how enterprising an idea that was.

NZ On Air and NZFC are going to be doing their work with the same money, or less. Again. Buy more Lotto tickets, please.

At the NZ On Air Christmas party in December, Chair Miriam Dean spoke of challenging times ahead. Understandable with Broadcasting Minister Amy Adams purportedly a believer in broadcasting as a sunset industry. Life would be poorer without sunsets, I say.

CEO Dave Gibson at the film commish is positive. Graeme Mason’s decisions there have pretty much run their course. From now on the NZFC slate bears the Gibson imprint. We have five planets aligning in the skies above. We should start to see the same occurring on the ground from here on in if all is well. Otherwise, we’ll all be hopping from stepping stone to stepping stone without a riverbank in sight.

We have challenges and more at DEGNZ, too. Some good news first.

We will run two more mentorships this year on top of our regular, intensive professional development programme, and at least one additional TV Drama director attachment. We await with bated breath further good news.

On the downside–while illegal downloading Internet trolls fail to understand the importance for creators of protecting copyright, we at DEGNZ do. Unless Netflix and others pay princely sums for global rights when buying programming, territory sales are what keep many a filmmaker and production company alive. Would all those film and TV industry people out there streaming illegal content please stop. You’re just shooting yourselves in your feet.

More important right now for DEGNZ however is getting copyright for directors. This is perhaps our biggest challenge, will require major battles, and likely will take years with a slim chance of success the way things currently stack up. Hopefully our Aussie cohorts at the ADG crack the door open.

Funding remains a crucial issue. NZFC is tightening up, and there aren’t too many other places to go for cash. A doubling of our membership would help, so do encourage your friends to join. It would be nice to see a few more films paying their NZFC investment back. The trickle-down effect might then eventually come to the guilds.

Personally, I’m a proponent of art for art’s sake while also an advocate for financial survival. Films do need to find an audience bigger than you, your family and friends.

On the upside, although the film market remains tough worldwide, screen content for streaming services is in $6 billion and more demand. And in a recent analyst note from Goldman Sachs, the banking firm estimates the Virtual Reality market for both hardware and software will generate $172 billion in 10 years – somebody has to make the content. And, yes, VR porn will be big, too.

Ch… ch… ch… changes. The more things change the more they remain the same.

So, my crystal ball gazing for 2016? It’s going to be a great year. Or not. Either way, we’re in for a hell of a ride. Hopefully smoother than NZ90 out of Tokyo.

On a more somber note I’d like to close with a quote from the great Alan Rickman who recently passed; the man often named as the best screen villain of all time. I think it captures why we are all in this crazy business:

“A film, a piece of music, a piece of theatre, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.”

May your output be transformational this year.

Rest in peace David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey. Your efforts helped make our world better.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director