Tag Archive for: producers

E Blacks, directed by Ashley Pitman (DEGANZ) and produced by fellow members Rajneel Singh and Annamarie Connors (aka The Unkindness), is screening in the 2024 Auckland Independent Film Showcase.

The 17-minute documentary dives into the world of competitive gaming through the perspective of Sam ‘Fury’ Johnson. Sam regrets wasting time in university when he could have been focusing on his real passion: gaming. Now, he has an opportunity to redeem himself in the gaming world at the national championship. If he and his team win, they will have their shot to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Esports Championships.

E Blacks was funded and created through Loading Docs in 2022 and has since been available to watch on RNZ. It will also screen at the Bridgeway Cinema in Auckland along with four other short films and one feature in the showcase.

The Auckland Independent Film Showcase highlights works by local independent filmmakers. If you’re interested in a night of indie Kiwi films, tickets are available here!

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For those of us in the industry we can’t help but be aware of the writers’ and actors’ strikes in the US, not only because of the impact it’s having on international productions coming into New Zealand but also because of the issues being raised, particularly when they relate to having a sustainable career.

Of the 160,000 SAG-AFTRA members on strike for three weeks now, only 10 percent of them are the actors you see working the red carpets and earning massive fees for their performances. 86 percent of their membership (136,600 members) don’t earn the US$26,000 per year required to qualify them for the guild’s health insurance. In 2022, the US Bureau of Statistics reported that the average pay for an actor in California was US$27.73/hr.

In the gig economy of the screen industry in the US where most screen workers are considered independent contractors, the residual* payments that actors used to receive prior to streaming could help them to ride through the choppy waters of no paid acting work between jobs. There’s an article showing supposedly successful actors on highly successful streaming shows and the residuals they received—cents, or sometimes a few dollars. See it here.

The 11,000 WGA members are coming up to 90 days on strike. Like SAG members, WGA members have base minimums that they cannot be paid below for the work they do. The WGA also negotiated residuals for their members. However, over time and particularly with the advent of streaming, what the majority of writers have been paid has dropped towards or onto the minimums, which were negotiated three years ago. At the same time, streaming has continued to grow and the residuals from streaming are measly, unlike what used to be earned as residuals from broadcast, cable, etc. The studios are also trying to use fewer writers to do the work required, amongst a number of other issues for the WGA.

Both guilds are also concerned about how the studios will use Artificial Intelligence to replace humans in the execution of writing and acting work.

The Directors Guild of America was able to reach a settlement that addressed their issues with streamer residuals and AI, and other claims—The reason they aren’t on strike with the writers and actors.

Sitting here in li’l ol’ New Zealand, we can only marvel at the fact that these US guilds have collective agreements in place that offer base minimums, healthcare, superannuation, and residuals amongst other benefits.

Of course, New Zealand is different from the US. We have a public health service (no matter that it’s getting worse by the year). We have accident compensation (ACC). We have a government retirement scheme, which we call ‘super’ or ‘the pension’. And we have Kiwisaver.

But if we look a little closer to home to Australia, where screen workers are generally treated like employees rather than contractors—because most screen workers don’t have the freedom of executing their work how and when they want to—we can see that ‘Fringes’, i.e. holiday pay, superannuation (our Kiwisaver), and workers compensation (our ACC) are built into production budgets and paid accordingly by the production company.

In New Zealand in the screen industry, pretty much everybody is an independent contractor, even though you are required to turn up at specific times, on specific days, just as employees are required to do.

You, the independent contractor, are required to pay your own taxes, ACC, Kiwisaver, and GST if applicable.
You have no base minimums, meaning you can be paid less than the minimum wage set for employees.

Most below-the-line crew get paid overtime, which stops their pay going below the minimum wage. That’s not the case for writers, directors (and producers), who often do unpaid or low-rate work to create the shows that crew then get hired to work on. This contributes to driving their pay rates below the minimum wage. Take a look at the just released WIFTNZ Screen Industry Gender Pay Survey here. It states that according to the census, approximately 40% of women and 28% of men in the screen industry earn less than the minimum wage.

While crew get to work on international projects where they can charge higher rates and still get their overtime payments if required to work it, it’s almost impossible for NZ above-the-liners to get onto them, apart from actors who might be able to secure supporting or minor roles—domestic production is pretty much all there is.

In New Zealand at this point, there is no established residual system that allows above-the-line creatives to earn some income from their work beyond their fees, to help get them through those times of no or unpaid work. There is, though, a mechanism for producers to gain potential additional income through being gifted equity in a production, either from the NZFC through the ‘producer corridor’ for non-NZ Screen Production Rebate (formerly NZSPG) projects, or through the 40% producer equity gifted to the producer for NZ Screen Production Rebate projects. It’s at the discretion of the producer as to whether or not they will share this equity with anybody else.

Which brings me to the Screen Industry Workers Act, of course. It’s the means by which the guilds and unions in New Zealand hope to address the pay rates, terms, and conditions for New Zealand screen workers to help them have sustainable careers—Something the US guilds have sought and continue to do for their members through decades of negotiation and collective agreements.

We at DEGANZ are preparing for our first negotiation of a collective agreement, which is likely to take place in the first half of 2024.

You can see from the picket lines of SAG-AFTRA and the WGA a visible expression of “it’s better together” not only with each guild’s members supporting their guild but with the separate guilds supporting each other.

We are going to need all your support in the preparation and negotiation ahead. So get behind us and the other guilds, too, to make it better for everyone.

*Residuals are long-term payments to those who worked on films and television shows, negotiated by unions, for reruns and other airings after the initial release.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

The biggest change ever to happen to the New Zealand screen industry is fast approaching. No, it’s not the merger of TVNZ and Radio NZ. It’s the Screen Industry Workers Bill (SIWB).

Before the end of the year, the SIWB is almost certain to become legislation.

Representative bodies for all workers in the screen industry, and DEGANZ is one of them, will engage with the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) and perhaps others once the Bill becomes an Act, to negotiate collective agreements that will set minimum terms and conditions under which contract screen workers will carry out their work.

Writers, Actors, Directors, DOPs, Production Designers, Editors, Visual Effects Artists, Sound Engineers, Composers, Grips, Gaffers, Makeup Artists, Wardrobe Designers—the list goes on to cover every contractor involved in making Film, TV, Games and Advertising, with a few exceptions.

Everybody in those roles being negotiated for will get a say in deciding the terms and conditions for their roles, if they want, through a democratic voting process that will cover members of guilds and non-members alike.

These agreements will be for both domestic productions, and international productions shooting here.

The agreements will be baseline agreements, meaning terms and conditions cannot be any less than what is negotiated. However, those terms and conditions can be improved upon through Enterprise (individual productions) and Individual Contracts. Where there are no Enterprise or Individual Contracts, the collective agreements will apply.

Most people in the New Zealand screen industry have never experienced collective agreements in their roles. The change the SIWB will bring about is perhaps the biggest to happen now and into the future for screen.

Misinformation and disinformation about the Bill could well play a part from here on in. So it behoves everybody in the screen industry to get the facts about the SIWB, because it is going to affect every one of you directly.

From here on in, guilds, associations and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will be running education programmes to not only inform screen workers but also the general public about what is happening.

A simple explainer is available here.

The detail of the Bill will shortly be finalised and will go back to the House for its Second Reading. Then amendments will be made through Supplementary Order Papers with the changes recommended by Minister Michael Wood before finally being passed into law with Third Reading.

Once the Bill is passed, there will be some work to ensure that everyone working in the screen industry has a contract in writing that sets out some mandatory conditions to deal with sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and a clause dealing with fair termination. After that it will take some time before DEGANZ sits down with SPADA to negotiate the collective contract setting out the minimums for pay and working conditions for our occupational groups, but we need to start getting ready now.

I encourage all DEGANZ members to make the utmost effort to understand the SIWB because it will be vitally important to your futures.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

We are really pleased to share with our members our latest standard agreement.

We have designed the Standard Feature Film Editing Agreement to establish fair terms and conditions between editors and producers.

Now available to members under Resources. Please make sure that you read and understand the Guild’s accompanying advice before using the standard agreement:

Before using it, please read ALL of the agreement carefully so that you understand it.

It is made available in MS Word format so that you can enter the basic information and present it to the engager (producer).

In negotiating your terms and conditions with the engager, you or they will insert or change the text and or terms and conditions of the agreement. Such changes will vary the document away from this standard agreement template. You MUST ALWAYS note where those changes are made and understand them, as they could weaken your terms and conditions. The Track Changes function in MS Word is useful for this but you or the engager may not use it.

Before signing your agreement, make a FULL AND DETAILED comparison against the standard agreement so that you know where any changes have been made.

DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide for Editors & Producers

DEGNZ has collaborated with industry to produce the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide for Editors and Producers.

This online resource, available on the DEGNZ website under Resources, covers the full production Workflow, from before budgeting and seeking funding, through pre-production to DCP delivery.

Once you have a script, where you want to finish up is where you start.

Both Avid and Premiere Pro are covered.

The online resource includes examples, downloadable templates, timeline charts, screenshots, a glossary, useful contacts and some of the main post house Handover Specifications.

The development of the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide was spearheaded by renowned editor and DEGNZ board member Annie Collins over the last 18 months. It is intended to amalgamate in one place all the information necessary for editors and producers to ensure a trouble-free post phase for your production.

This living resource, which will be updated as information changes, benefits from the contribution of highly experienced editors, post production houses, audio engineers, visual effects supervisors and many others from throughout the New Zealand screen industry.

We encourage you to use and share this resource freely.

 

Howard Taylor
President
Directors & Editors Guild of NZ