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Edited by DEGANZ member Luke Haigh, American romantic comedy The Royal Treatment premieres on Netflix today. Shot in Dunedin, the film follows hairdresser Izzy, played by Laura Marano (The Perfect Date), as she takes on a job working at the wedding of a charming prince played by Mena Massoud (Aladdin), but things get complicated when sparks between them fly.

Watch the trailer below and make sure to add it to your weekend watch-list.

 

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I normally go surfing and garden as my stress release mechanisms. Neither have been of much help with all the rain we are having (I live in the Waitakeres) and the West Coast of Auckland is offering up limited opportunities at this time. Thank goodness the dams are full, though.

Today, however, I went looking for a laugh because I thought it would be beneficial to have some light relief amongst the collective depression many of us are experiencing due to this latest lockdown.

There’s a lot of gallows humour out there about COVID. I certainly chuckled but it’s not ray-of-sunshine stuff, so passed on the idea of including anything I came across, copyright issues aside.

Something I have done in the past for LOL entertainment is to watch Live At The Apollo on YouTube. Britain’s comedic best never fails to get me going.

This lockdown around, I’ve been watching more YouTube videos for distraction and learning than ever before. I’ve also been surfing vicariously on it. My virtual holiday to Bali and the Mentawais in Indonesia every day gets me over the West Coast doldrums. I now understand why YouTube is up there with TV1 and Netflix as one of the most popular choices for Kiwis 15+.

I was talking to a director yesterday about another matter and they told me they’d taken up drawing as a means to combat the funk. This person isn’t the only one who’s said in recent times that their creative output for work has suffered. And I’m struggling myself to get excited about ideas that would normally have me fizzing and putting fingers to keyboard.

The frustration with our current situation is palpable. All you have to do is watch/read/listen to the news. I’m often reminded, though, how fortunate we continue to be in comparison to the US, the UK and even Australia. I listen to a number of international podcasts and the presenters have essentially been in lockdown and nowhere near their workplaces for the last two years. Granted, our lockdown is stricter… but still.

What I’m clearly talking about here is mental health and wellbeing. Mine, yours, everybody’s. The longer this goes on the greater the need for us to look after ourselves and others in ways that lift our mental, and our physical, states.

Laughter may not be the panacea for all our psychological ills, but it is good medicine. So find a way to bring a smile, have a chuckle, or get yourself rolling on the floor in paroxysms. You’ll feel better for it. For those who need real help, here is a list of resources on offer.

In the meantime… Knock, knock!

Best response wins a Do The Right Thing campaign bag from us and will go in the next newsletter.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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A couple of days ago on The Spinoff, South Pacific Pictures Managing Director Andrew Szusterman decried the loss of drama Head High from Discovery Three. Lead director and co-lead writer on the show is a DEGANZ member, Tim Worrall.

Szusterman pointed out the difficulty and cost of getting NZ drama funded and made. He said that without NZ On Air, there would be little drama produced at all because it provides the majority of the funding for such projects.

He went on to call for the Government to say, “It’s time” to streamers, such as Netflix, Amazon and the others, and to put money into New Zealand programme production. Szusterman quite rightly stated that New Zealand’s market is not big enough to warrant streamers voluntarily investing significantly in New Zealand content.

“None of these services have commissioned any New Zealand premium drama content directly for New Zealand audiences, and there is not a chance that they will unless change is forced upon them.”

I’m glad that Szusterman is adding his voice to SPADA’s recent activity in this space. SPADA has finally given up on saying, “We can’t levy the streamers because of GATT*”. I’ve been calling for levies on streamers in this column for years: Show Me the Money, Time for a Reset, An Answer to NZ’s Broadcasting Industry Dilemma? I point this out not because I want to say “I told you so.”, but to highlight that we have been mired in a time warp for too long while the Golden Age of TV drama sails on by.

I’m aware that there are a number of NZ producers who are pushing hard to crack the international door open for ‘high-end’ TV drama. But you need the budgets to do it. And you need the policies to make it easier. At the moment both are a barrier.

Good drama requires a lot of development funding. So does the production. When many of the shows appearing on the streamers are being made from an absolute low of US$2 million per episode to the stratospheric heights of The Crown or Ozark at US$13 – 14 million per episode, an NZ show at US$ 0.7 – 1.2 mil. per episode doesn’t cut it. As long as the Government keeps NZ On Air and NZFC funding at the levels it has for the last 10 years or so, we have to find money elsewhere to supplement the budgets. This is outlined in the Screen Sector Strategy 2030.

So where to get it from and what needs to change? It’s time to levy the streamers. They’re an obvious source. Even though our market isn’t big, it still provides incremental income for them, and they should pay to get it.

We also need to remove the block to going behind a paywall for NZ On Air funding, as is currently the case. And we need to allow, as I’ve said before, Drama and Factual to access both the New Zealand Screen Production Grant and NZ On Air funds, which is only allowed now for Children’s and Animation. The Premium Production Fund has been given a temporary reprieve concerning this. It’s time to make this permanent, and the Premium Fund, too. If we had to, we could accept a 30% NZSPG for behind paywalls instead of the 40% available now for free-to-air.

In the meantime, we wish Szusterman luck in finding a new home for Head High. It has a place on NZ screens.

 

The Spinoff article here.

*General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

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Mark Jennings, co-editor of online news platform Newsroom, and former head of News at TV3, has penned an article on Discovery’s plans for TV3.

As Jennings writes, after Discovery’s merger with WarnerMedia., TV3 is now part of the second largest media business in the world after Disney. That in itself is a serious game changer for New Zealand.

TV3 has had an up and down history, moving from private ownership into the Canadian-owned hands of media conglomerate Canwest, before shifting to private equity ownership with Ironbridge Capital and then Oaktree Capital Management. It’s financial fortunes also swung about, going from high profitability before plunging twice into receivership.

TVNZ and SKY in more recent times have kept TV3 impoverished but no longer.

Already the owner of NZ’s Choice TV and HGTV and with six of its own channels on the SKY service, Discovery has, as Jennings points out, brought its might to bear on acquisitions by driving down the prices it pays for content for TV3. With staff cutbacks and other efficiencies, AUNZ GM for Discovery Glen Kyne told Jennings that the channel will be looking to more domestic shows as it competes with TVNZ and Prime in the domestic free-to-air market for viewers.

But what kinds of shows are they after? Kyne didn’t exactly reveal what they are looking for.

In April Juliet Peterson, former GM TVNZ Digital Content, was appointed as Senior Director, Programming at Three, while Australian Darren Chau was appointed Senior Director, Production. Chau has been in New Zealand recently having meetings with some New Zealand producers. Undoubtedly, others have been banging on Juliet’s door. They are certainly looking for ideas.

With its merger with WarnerMedia, Discovery has moved from reality and factual into scripted film and TV as well, with an annual US$20 billion commissioning chest—bigger than Netflix’s. There has been speculation as to whether or not the new CEO of the combined organisation, David Zaslav, is going to adapt when it comes to scripted. This could well play out in TV3’s commissioning stance.

Supposedly, Three is looking for NZ content that can travel internationally as well. It will be interesting to see, though, whether or not the network will continue to rely primarily on NZ On Air and NZ Screen Production Grant funding to get content made in New Zealand. Hopefully, they’ll ante up more than low license fees and become equity investors in NZ shows that could go on one or more of the international distribution channels the newly-branded Warner Bros. Discovery conglomerate owns.

Will it be new beginnings for NZ’s free-to-air market or just more of the same? Watch this space.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

Sweet Tooth will premiere June 4 on Netflix. Based on the comic book of the same name by Jeff Lemire, the series follows a lovable half-human and half-deer boy as he embarks on a dangerous adventure across a post-apocalyptic world. Production for Sweet Tooth was granted permission to film in NZ despite the travel restrictions brought on by covid, a production that involved many Kiwis.

DEGNZ member Robyn Grace was one of them, directing on an episode and working as the first assistant director on others. Fellow DEGNZ member Toa Fraser, who recently revealed his battle with early onset Parkinson’s on Twitter, served as Producing Director for the season. Toa spoke with Saturday Morning on RNZ about life with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Kia kaha Toa.