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I’ve been around on this planet for quite a while now and I’ve never experienced a crazier time.

Uncertainty seems to be the biggest challenge, at a personal, work and global level, whether it’s war, climate change, the future of the New Zealand screen industry, or just being able to connect with family and friends in person.

I have a hobby that keeps me sane, allows me to put worries aside and just focus on something that both fully occupies my mind and gives me joy… for a while.

There is one thing that seems pretty certain though, and that is that we are going to be living with COVID. Numerous friends and colleagues have come down with it. I fortunately have not so far. Nor has anybody else at the Guild.

After a long period of online engagement, we are shifting our strategy around workshops, just as the Government is also changing the boundaries around events and gatherings. We’ll be holding them more regularly in person. We’ll use RAT tests as one means to help minimise spread, and stay abreast of COVID developments so that we can readjust rapidly again if necessary.

The NZFC is also looking to re-engage with the world in a shift to a new normal. They will people an office at the Cannes Film Festival and Market this May following a three-year ban on international travel. As well, NZFC CEO David Strong and some staff will take a marketing mission to LA shortly to leverage off the success of Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog, seeking to attract more international production to New Zealand.

The attractiveness of New Zealand to international productions relies in large part on the New Zealand Screen Production Grant incentive. And that incentive along with all other Government investment in the screen sector is up for review as I wrote about last newsletter. Please speak up when the times comes, so that Government hears your views.

Both international and domestic productions in New Zealand are now accustomed to living with COVID. Testing, crew replacement for illness, temporary shutdowns and other adaptive measures are all part of screen production life here. Thankfully, a new round of screen production recovery funding from MCH has become available, so that many NZ productions have a fallback or financial guarantee for production to go ahead—that nagging uncertainty at least for a time, in abeyance.

Many other things on our plate at the Guild remain in various states of flux, however. The interminable delay of the Copyright Act Review continues. The on-again off-again nature of the Screen Industry Workers Bill is… on-again for present. The Reform of Vocational Education on the industry side has slowed down while Toi Mai, the new Workforce Development Council whose responsibility includes the screen sector, finds its feet.

One thing we can be sure of, though, the TVNZ – RNZ merger will go ahead… maybe.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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At the end of 2021 the Government announced a review of government investment in the screen sector. The review will be led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage. There is a document outlining the terms of reference for the review here.

This review is one part of a strategic review of the New Zealand screen industry, primarily focused on the New Zealand Film Commission’s direction and activity, including the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZSPG) for both domestic and international productions. However, NZ On Air’s direction and activity obviously falls into this because of the changing nature of the shifts occurring worldwide, as well as the fact that some NZ On Air funded productions utilise the NZSPG.

Our screen industry falls into two camps: domestic production, and international production (and post-production) that takes place here.

International production as we all know provides wonderful opportunities for New Zealand crew, and brings foreign investment to New Zealand. From DEGANZ’s perspective, what it does not do is bring great opportunity for New Zealand directors and editors. Only a very select few Kiwis get to direct, and sometimes edit on these international productions, being the international drama or sometimes documentary series shot here.

While we continue to push for more Kiwi directors and editors to work on these international shows, our main focus has got be on what we can do with domestic production to tell our stories here and internationally, and employ our directors and editors—and our actors, writers, producer and crews—so that they all can have thriving and sustainable careers.

Over the next three months, MBIE and MCH will be conducting a wide consultation with the NZ public and those who make up the NZ screen sector as part of the review. DEGANZ is now formulating its thoughts to bring to MBIE and MCH.

But there is an opportunity for each of our DEGANZ members to share their own thoughts in the consultation process.

When the call comes for submissions, we will inform you. Your voice counts and we want as many of you as possible to have your voices heard. This is a really opportunity for us all to have some influence on the future direction of NZ screen.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Our congrats goes to Tom Augustine (DEGANZ) who is one of five recipients selected to take part in the 2022 Tāhuna Writers Residency. The residency was created by Great Southern Television and the Queenstown Lakes District Council, with the support of the NZFC and NZOA.

The one month residency will include workshops with leading screen practitioners, accommodation and coverage of living costs. The writers will each develop a concept for a scripted drama series to be based and produced in the Queenstown Lakes.

Philip Smith, CEO of Great Southern Television, states how thrilled they are by the calibre and range of participants in their inaugural workshop. They are eager to take these writers on the journey and provide them with the resources and the insights to make their creative visions reality.

DEGANZ Incubator alumna Marina Alofagia McCartney has received funding for her project The Return. The short film follows Lupesina who answers the call from her ancestors, and must prove her worthiness as a Samoan woman or stay stuck in the in-between.

Congratulations, Marina! She is the first woman writer/director of Moana Pasifika heritage to secure Catalyst funding in over a decade and the majority of the creative HOD’s on The Return are of Moana Pasifika descent too.

Catalyst He Kauahi supports NZ filmmakers to progress their talents to the next stage and make exceptional, high end narrative short films. The NZFC have funded three teams a total of $100,000 each ($90,000 towards their short film and $10,000 towards development of the feature film concept). Marina’s team are currently developing a feature that will continue the poetic character exploration of a NZ-born Samoan woman’s identity journey.

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What a horrible bloody year it’s been for the New Zealand screen industry.

Lockdowns interrupting domestic and international production here. Local films having their releases shortened or delayed. The New Zealand International Film Festival cancelled in Auckland. The LOTR TV series moving to the UK. Cowboy Bebob cancelled after one season. The list of woes goes on.

At the Guild, COVID has impacted significantly on our professional development programme, although we have managed to do some talks and workshops online. At least we have still been able to make progress on members’ rights, the Screen Industry Workers Bill, and the Reform of Vocational Education amongst other things, but it’s fair to say we, and I’m sure many others, are Zoomed out.

A lot of us have gone to the wall mentally, emotionally and financially in 2021. And as we close out the year we have the threat of the Omicron variant to prolong our COVID concerns. But as the US, the UK and Europe face massive rises in infection rates and increases in deaths, I believe we can still consider ourselves fortunate. Yes, some things could have been done better here in the face of this pandemic, but with our now close to 90% nationwide vaccination rate for those 12+, we seem to be in good shape to square off against the viral uncertainties of 2022.

Christmas and New Year are almost upon us and the festive cheer in some ways has never been more welcome.

It was any eye opener for me, having been isolated to the rural outskirts of Auckland for the last few months, to be in Ponsonby for Xmas lunch yesterday with the DEGANZ team. Aucklanders are out. Dollars are flowing into businesses and out into the regions, hopefully unaccompanied by COVID.

Film and TV production is back up, with crew looking to be busy as the year ends and through the summer.

NZFC told us today that a good bunch of our films—features and shorts—have had international success this year. Further, domestic production will be way up next year, thanks in part to the Premium Production Fund, and the level of international production spend forecast in NZ for 2022 looks set to match the average of previous years.

As you all hopefully take a restorative and enjoyable break across the weeks ahead, I’d like to thank you for your ongoing support of DEGANZ, whether as a member or collaborator with us in the guild’s purpose and activities. We couldn’t do it without you.

Meri Kirihimete!

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director