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I went to a Screen Industry Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (SIGANZ) membership drive event last night. And this morning I read a blog post out of the US about the effort to establish an independent producers union.

SIGANZ, like DEGANZ and other membership organisations that work to represent their members’ interests, and the efforts that the producers in the US are making to establish a union to represent their potential members’ interests, are faced with the same issues—the incredible apathy of many of the people they are seeking to represent.

SIGANZ has a membership of about 6 – 700 of the possible 5 – 10,000 below-the-line people in the NZ screen industry who could be a member of that guild. We have just over three hundred members of the possible 1,000 – 1,500 working directors and editors in New Zealand.

In the US article, many reasons were given for why they weren’t getting the support from the producers they needed to establish a truly representative organisation. One paragraph from that blog stood out:

“There was also a large group of producers who were sceptical of our efforts and whether or not being involved would be detrimental to their relationships with financiers and studios. Then there was another type of producer who couldn’t see the bigger picture. For example, in one town hall, I had a very prominent producer ask, “But how does this benefit me?” While I understand this question, I explained that it’s not just about one producer. The work we were doing is also about the next generation and ensuring that they aren’t exploited in the same ways we have been. It’s about preserving the role of the producer in the future.”

You could substitute the word ‘producer’ with the word ‘director,’ ‘editor,’ or ‘techo,’ and it would have the same relevance for us.

Having worked in this job for close to seven years now, I’ve been faced with the same difficulty those seeking to set up the producers union in the US faced—getting directors and editors who aren’t members to understand that the work we do is more than just about the immediate benefit to the individual, i.e., it’s also about the bigger picture work.

I have multiple big-picture meetings each week with some or all of the EDs and GMs of the other guilds and associations, together with funding bodies, government ministries, and others involved in whatever discussion we are having. Recent examples are the Reform of Vocational Education, The NZ Screen Sector Investment Review, the Screen Industry Workers Act (SIWA), and the proposed merger of RNZ and TVNZ. In the past, it’s been the Copyright Act Review, the NZFC CEO conflict of interest situation around David Strong, and input into the NZ On Air and NZFC strategies. There are others. Some of those went on for years.

The Film Industry Working Group meetings that DEGANZ and many of the other screen industry bodies participated in took place regularly over four long years and resulted in SIWA. All of these things are somewhat abstract when it comes to answering the individual question: How does this benefit me?

A lot of the work that DEGANZ and all the other NZ guilds and associations do is not just about the ‘you’. It’s about the ‘you’ and who comes after ‘you’. Thankfully we all have members and board members who understand this. There just aren’t enough of them. But there could be.

Last night SIGANZ took a different tack by serving up a partnership programme that helps to answer the “what’s the benefit for me” question for them—something they are well positioned to do as representatives of the below-the-line Art Department where the business partner they’ve found could have a significant bottom-line benefit. Not so easy for others of us with small memberships and little buying power.

Every guild and association in New Zealand could significantly grow its membership if a lot of those non-members who could afford it joined the guild or association that best represents them, understanding that we work on their behalf as well as on behalf of future generations of screen workers.

This is a call out for you to encourage those you know to join a guild, whether it’s DEGANZ, SIGANZ, NZWG, Equity NZ, SMSG, VFXPNZ, MDGNZ, or SPADA. We will be more representative, financially independent, and better able to do the work we do now and into the future. There is a significant benefit in that for us all.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Here at DEGANZ, we are working through an educational and information campaign as part of our work around the Screen Industry Workers Act (SIWA).

One of the things we are asking editors, assistant editors, and directors to do for themselves is to look at the last ten jobs they did, the number of episodes and durations of the content, the platform it was for, what the total budget was, and then to write down the rate that they were paid to do those jobs. (You can often find the total budgets on the NZ on Air, NZFC, and TMP websites under funding decisions.)

Most people are required to work a 10-hour day, so it’s then a good idea to look at the hourly rate you got.

The current Minimum Wage is $22.70/hr; the current Living Wage is $23.65/hr. So if you do a 50-hour week that’s $1,135.00 Gross at the MW and $1,182.50 at the LW. By looking at your Gross weekly figure, you can see how you compare against the minimum and living wages.

But did you do a 50-week? Or did you do more hours and not get paid anymore for them? This will naturally decrease your hourly income. Why not average out your estimated hours per week and then see how well you did in comparison.

Directors, editors, and assistant editors don’t normally get paid overtime, but are required to work the same work day, being 10 hours, that crew on set work, who do get paid overtime.

The current Blue Book, which lays out the terms and conditions under which crew work, specifies that a standard crew day for a short-term engagement is 10 hours including paid lunch, with overtime at T1.5 for the 11th and 12th hours, and T2 for any time over that.

Most directors already understand that they are often the lowest paid person on set from the start for all key/HOD roles, and it just gets worse if they factor in the hours over 10 they do, while the pay to their key/HOD collaborators climbs with the overtime rates they receive.

All of the above and more will factor into our thinking when it comes to considering what minimum rates should be under SIWA for the various roles we represent in the sub-sectors the work is done—Factual and Entertainment, Scripted, Film – Narrative and Documentary, and Advertising and Marketing Content.

Then there are terms.

NZ crew as we know work hard, but as anyone will tell you, there are times when the crew isn’t working because they are waiting for talent, light, rehearsals, or myriad other things.

Editors and assistant editors however don’t have the luxury of downtime waiting for others. They are usually at it for all those hours of that 10-hour day. That’s significantly different in comparison to the crew. Who decided on the 10-hour day in the edit suite many are now starting to ask, not just because it affects their well-being but because it can affect the quality of the work.

We are having to weigh up many aspects of the current paradigm of work in the screen industry for directors, editors, and assistant editors before we settle on what we will negotiate for when it comes time to enter collective bargaining. What to do about public holidays, turn-around times, the working day, creative rights for directors and editors, and a host of other issues are all under discussion. And then of course we have to solidify our thoughts and come to you all to see whether or not you agree with where we have gotten to before we can start collective bargaining. If you don’t, then we will need to do more work.

Collective bargaining for us requires the employment of a democratic process designed to ensure that the majority are involved in the decision-making leading up to, during bargaining, and in settling on the final terms and conditions we will work under going forward.

There’s no better example of this in action than the screen guilds negotiations happening in the United States at the moment. The Writers Guild of America has kicked it off. The Directors Guild of America is about to start. And the US Screen Actors Guild will follow shortly.

A 98% majority vote by WGA members gave their board the endorsement to call a strike. And they eventually did after negotiations between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) reached an impasse. Democratic votes will be employed at various steps by all those guilds from here on in, in negotiations until they reach solutions.

We’ll be doing the same under the Screen Industry Workers Act, but in our own way, not following the US model.

And that’s why it’s so important right now for every screen worker to join the guild that best represents them: DEGANZ, NZWG, Equity NZ, SMSG, SIGANZ, VFX, Motion Designers and Animators, or the producers’ associations SPADA and APA (formerly NZAPG). These organisations will be negotiating on your behalf and they need your support to make it work for us all.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

The New Zealand Writers Guild have announced the Seed Grant recipients for the first round of 2022, with some of our members on the list.

The Ordeal
by Ghazaleh Golbakhsh and Mia Maramara

Stuck in a hotel quarantine, a desperate writer attempts to finish her screenplay to save her career and marriage but soon becomes mad with mysterious visions that she must solve in order to save her life. Ghazaleh and Mia received one of six Seed Grants of $10,000 to develop a first draft of their joint feature film script.

The Resort
by Curtis Vowell and Sophie Henderson

Returning to her island, Avaiki, Tui finds whole beaches have disappeared. Piecing together the cause of devastation, Tui decolonises herself and her island, rehoming locals in the luxury resort built upon her family’s land. Curtis and Sophie received one of two Seed Advanced Grants of $12,000 to develop their feature film script.

The dates for the second round of seed are yet to be announced, but take a look here for the full list of first round recipients.

Well done to our members! Looking forward to seeing how your projects develop.

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Yesterday I was sitting all day on line in the National Affiliates Conference of the Council of Trade Unions.

There were three of us from the screen industry. Teachers, nurses, forestry workers, maritime workers, supermarket workers and everybody else who makes up the New Zealand workforce were also represented.

Every time I join these union discussions it brings home the fact that the screen industry is so entirely different from many others.

We are made up almost exclusively of contractors not employees. We are not protected by the Employment Relations Act. We don’t have collective bargaining. We go predominantly from short-term job to short-term job. We don’t get holiday pay. We can end up working below the minimum wage. These are just some of the differences.

But many of us are very fortunate in comparison to large numbers of employees in other sectors. Most of us love the work we do. We are engaged in a creative industry where self-expression is encouraged. A good number of people in our industry are well-paid at levels above the living wage.

Yes, not everything is great about our work situations and things could be better. That’s where the Screen Industry Workers Bill comes in. If we can get it across the line, and it looks like we will, then all of the guilds will be able to set minimum terms and conditions in negotiations with engagers (producers/production companies), both at an occupation level—for directors, editors, gaffers, grips, VFX supervisors, etc.—and hopefully at an enterprise level (individual productions). It will be a game changer.

The Government is also seeking a game changer for other industries through the Fair Pay Agreements, which they are working on now.

Fair Pay Agreements are kind of the Screen Industry Workers Bill for everybody else. You can read more about them here.

While it might seem like workers in other sectors have good representation and are able to collectively negotiate minimums and terms and conditions, that’s not the case. The Fair Pay Agreements system is designed to address that, introducing a means for sector wide collective agreements.

The Screen Industry Workers Bill, if it goes through, will be the first legislation in New Zealand to allow collective bargaining for contractors, which at this point is illegal, as it is seen as collusion and price fixing under New Zealand’s Commerce Act. The Commerce Act will be changed to allow collective bargaining for contractors to occur. Other contractors like Uber drivers and courier drivers are watching us with interest. It may be that the FPAs make allowance for contractors—still being discussed.

Ourselves, the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand have just finished a series of workshops around the country, thanks to the financial support of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). We covered off on the Screen Industry Workers Bill amongst other topics. We were pleased with the turnout, but there are still so many screen industry workers who need to understand the significant impact the Bill will have on them, and how important it is for them to participate in the democratic process that will occur as we go through negotiations.

Please help us spread the word about this important work by reading about the Screen Industry Worker Bill yourself if you haven’t already, and passing on the information in the links following:

  • First reading of the draft legislation in Parliament –videos of political party responses HERE
  • Written Submissions to the Education & Workforce Select Committee close –all written submission HERE
  • NZWG Written Submission to the Select Committee HERE
  • DEGNZ Written Submission to the Select Committee HERE
  • Equity Written Submission to select Committee HERE
  • Oral Submissions presented to the Education & Workforce Select Committee HERE
  • Select Committee report to Parliament HERE
  • You can read the Screen Industry Workers Bill in full HERE
  • Keep updated on the progress of the Bill HERE

Everybody has a part to play in helping New Zealand’s screen industry grow up and become a professional sector that encourages fair treatment, terms and conditions for all its workers.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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The vocational education system for all industries is undergoing massive reform right now. It’s come at a time when the New Zealand screen industry has been suffering from a lack of experienced workers due to the high levels of domestic and international production going on in the country.

It has also brought to the fore concerns about the lack of real-world preparation of students by film schools and media courses at tertiary education facilities. The industry needs workers to hit the ground running and that’s just not happening with the current levels of haphazard training that’s going on.

In 2018, the Government launched the Education Work Programme. One of the four reviews undertaken was the Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE), with the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) tasked with undertaking structural change.

Six Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) were established to assist with the structural change. The Screen Industry falls under Toi Mai, the WDC for Creative, Cultural, Recreation and Technology.

A small number of guilds including DEGNZ have together with WeCreate (former Copyright Council), the Council of Trade Unions and others been working to ensure that our WDC is getting the right input so that the resulting vocational education is fit-for-purpose for the screen industry. Recent appointments to Toi Mai reflect our efforts to have people with screen industry knowledge and experience involved:

  • Alice Shearman of the New Zealand Writers Guild as a screen union rep
  • Aliesha Staples, founder and CEO of Staples VR and a TVNZ board member
  • Annie Murray, Head of Sky Originals at Sky
  • Jana Rangooni, former General Manager Radio Live and Newsroom and Group Programme Director at Mediaworks
  • Rhonda Kite, previously owner of Kiwa Productions and audio post house Native Audio
  • Victoria Spackman, ex CEO of the Gibson Group

Right now, guilds and associations are mapping out career pathways to identify the skills needed for each individual role. Determinations will be made as to whether or not apprenticeships are suited to certain roles, while others may require trainees.

We will be involved in creating Skill Standards building to micro-credentials for new entrants coming into the industry. The overall outcome is to have a simple, efficient and appropriate vocational education delivered via the various educational providers. At the same time we seek an administration system that suits the very unique nature of project-based work that happens in the screen industry.

DEGNZ board member Annie Collins is now leading the work on behalf of DEGNZ, SPADA, SIGANZ, SMSG and NZWG, all of whom have been active in this space for the last two years or so. We are now going out to everyone in the screen industry to bring them up to speed with what’s happening.

RoVE is a massive undertaking that will impact on every industry in New Zealand. For the screen industry, we have undertaken this work so that it can develop and grow its capacity and capability to service productions well into the future with skilled workers who have the right education and training to make a positive contribution from Day One.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director