Still Crazy After All These Years

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You’d have thought things might have settled after the COVID years. But, no, it’s still crazy. And what a year it’s been.

The long mooted merger of TVNZ and RNZ finally fell over.

The $60 million taken away from NZ On Air returned with an additional one-off $10 million.

The New Zealand Screen Production Grant, after months of uncertainty, while MBIE and MCH tried to figure out what to do, ultimately with a few tweaks became the NZ Screen Production Rebate.

New NZFC CEO Annie Murray replaced the missing-in-action David Strong and kicked off a major shake-up at the commish, appointing a Change Manager in Dana Youngman.

The writers’ and actors’ strikes in the U.S. that essentially paralysed Hollywood and shook up the global screen industry for half a year were resolved, with the actors’ membership just ratifying the deal.

We now have a three-party coalition government with Paul Goldsmith as Minister of Culture and Heritage, Melissa Lee as Minister of Media and Communications and Economic Development, and Brooke van Velden of the Act Party as the new Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, from whence the Screen Industry Workers Act sprang.

DEGANZ became the talk of the town with its opposition to a British director directing ‘New Zealand’ film The Canyon, which tells the story of a woman who finds herself in peril traversing the Grand Canyon. It went ahead despite our protests.

And the television of unease that has been After The Party has concluded to rapturous acclaim. It seems our now eschewed, uniquely strange and dark film industry traits have permeated Kiwi telly to good effect.

Just some of the things making 2023 a momentous year. So what’s coming up in 2024?

I’m aware of at least four international productions arriving on our shores over the next few months, so if you are looking to hire experienced crew for a scripted production, good luck. If you are a graduating film school student or someone looking for a job change, however, a below-the-line crew job probably won’t come any easier.

A $6 million budget cut at NZFC doesn’t bode well for NZ film unless the board gets off its chuff and finds more money for the org. to make films with. Perhaps SPADA’s about turn on the idea of a streamer levy might inspire the NZFC board to look further than government coffers.

NZ On Air is full of enthusiasm about its role as a multi-party and gap financier for New Zealand productions with international finance partners and the opportunities that might bring, thanks to the Screen Sector Investment Review. Quite how this fits with its focus on making content for New Zealanders first and with a free-to-air remit is going to be an interesting watch.

Warner Bros. Discovery and SKY seem to be finding their mojo while TVNZ still seems a bit aimless with no replacement for former CEO Simon Powell in sight. How to make a commercially-driven,  public-broadcasting behemoth into a lean and fit, profitable fighting machine amidst a world of declining advertising revenues is going to be a herculean task for anyone in 2024.

As I’ve mentioned previously in this column, the international streamers are going to make you pay for the pleasure of watching advertising on their platforms. This seems to have inspired local streamer Neon to up its prices and announce the introduction of advertising. We’ll find out how Kiwis respond to that.

At the same time, the mad rush of streamers to make original content and own it is now on the downward slope, with licensing programming the new mantra. After ten years of peak TV drama internationally, we seem to be just finding our feet locally with shows like Far North and After The Party (two Premium Drama projects). As we never got in on the international streamer commissioning act except for the long ago Dark Tourist, licensing might prove to be our saviour.

At the Guild, we have a new board in place filled with enthusiasm for the work in the year ahead. There’s going to be a lot.

Undoubtedly, the changes coming at NZFC will not suit everyone, and there will be discussions to be had. The ever-changing marketplace for content brings both opportunities and challenges for our members and our industry that will require our attention. The need to remain financially viable in these tough economic times for everyone, demands our focus, too. Then of course there’s the new government and what that will mean for our industry. And once again, thanks to NZFC, we have a comprehensive professional development programme to roll out in the coming year.

It’s important though to take stock of where we are at right now.

We have improved membership numbers, though we still need more to help us do our work. We have good working relationships with the funding bodies and organisations that impact our sector. Collaboration with the other guilds and associations has grown over the last few years to a point where we communicate and cooperate effectively, even with our differences.

We have many dedicated people both on and off our board who give time, expertise and knowledge voluntarily—a special thank you from me and the organisation goes out to them.

Thanks also go to the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collection Society and Screenrights who have contributed financially to our operations and the work we did over the last year, and some, many years. While accounting firm VCFO, Resene Paints, and now Madman Entertainment make in-kind contributions or offer discounts or products that members can take advantage of.

I also wish to thank the staff who have helped me in 2023—Maddie Payne our Events and Marketing Manager, Izzi Hoskyn our Membership Coordinator, and our recently departed accounts person Caroline Harrow, who has seen the guild through three EDs in Anna Cahill, Fiona Copland and me across her 13 years working for us.

Things are crazy busy and will continue to be so for us here. We hope the same for you and that success will come with your mahi, however, it manifests itself.

We also hope that you find the time during the festive season to enjoy, rest and replenish your energy for 2024.

Ngā mihi o te wā


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Last updated on 7 December 2023