Tag Archive for: screen industry

Pictured above from left to right: Ben Powdrell, Celia Jaspers, Grant Campbell, Howard Taylor, Sam Kelly, Robyn Paterson, Tui Ruwhiu, and Bryce Campbell.

Earlier this year, the DEGANZ board put forward a motion to give life memberships to dedicated past board members, editor Annie Collins and directors Grant Campbell and Howard Taylor, for their significant contributions to DEGANZ and the Aotearoa screen industry. The votes were unanimous in passing the motion at the Extraordinary General Meeting in August.

Now, DEGANZ celebrates these long-time board and guild members and awards them their life membership certificates. To commemorate the occasion, DEGANZ hosted a lunch. Unfortunately, Annie was unable to attend due to Covid.

Read more about the new life members below:

Annie Collins

Annie has been editing film since 1975, beginning on celluloid through to digital and across multiple formats. Since joining the DEGANZ Board, she has prioritised skills training and workflow knowledge not only for editors and assistants but across the spectrum for all involved in the film industry. She continues both editing and training while putting energy into the government reform of tertiary education for the film industry.

Annie served on the board from 2016 till she stepped down in 2023.

 

 

 

I am humbled to be recognised in this way by DEGANZ. The work of all the Guilds and industry Associations is extremely important for the well being of each person who works in the industry, and therefore affects the well being of the film industry itself. To have had the opportunity to be part of Guild work has been fantastic, and life membership means having an ongoing part in that developing vision. Thank you DEGANZ.

– Annie Collins

 

Grant Campbell

Grant Campbell is a producer, writer and director who has worked across documentary, comedy and drama in Los Angeles, Australia, the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Notably, he produced the classic Kiwi documentary Cinema of Unease.

Grant was a founding board member of DEGANZ, and remained on the board until stepping down in 2017. He is a past DEGANZ representative on the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Society (ASDACS).

Howard Taylor

Howard Taylor is a Wellington-based writer, director and producer. After training as a film editor with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the early 1970s, he produced Country Calendar and was a field director on the arts and magazine series Kaleidoscope, 10AM, and Sunday. He went freelance in 1995, working as a director and documentary maker for production houses including Ninox Films, Greenstone Pictures, Natural History New Zealand, and his own company, Howard Taylor Productions. He also stepped into the staged performance space, producing professional theatre for a stint in the 2010s. In recent years, Howard returned to his roots to direct Country Calander.

Howard was pivotal to DEGANZ’s origins as a founding board member of the guild, serving for 26 years. He was Board President for his final five years before stepping down.

Working for the Guild and, by extension, the welfare of its members has been hugely satisfying. The thing I am probably proudest of is giving the Guild a bit more muscle by working with Tui to get it registered as a union with the CTU. Copyright has been an ongoing issue. Back in 2006 ED at the time Anna Cahill and I appeared before the government’s select committee to argue for directors copyright. We were green and very disappointed when the great reception we received didn’t produce a change of the law. We were better prepared and more sophisticated planning the campaign in the latest (still on-going) Copyright Review. I wish the current board the best in the on-going fight.

– Howard Taylor

 

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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

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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

Script to Screen have announced the 12 participants selected for their initiative Strength in Numbers, including two of our members. Congratulations to Becky Kuek and her company Mooncake Ltd and Matasila Freshwater (DEGANZ 2021 Incubator alumna) of Tomorrow, Rain!

Strength in Numbers is a series of workshops running from February to June 2022. Its aim is to arm participants with the tools they need to build a sustainable screen business.

The course is led by David Court who founded the Compton School, Australia’s first creative business school. He is the former Head of Screen Business at AFTRS, and worked on the Jackson/Court review of the New Zealand Film Commission.

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On Wednesday evening I participated in our online Editors and Assistant Editors Gathering. There were about 35 of us. It was an opportunity to discuss issues that affect editors and assistant editors, and to network.

One of the questions that often came up from students studying screen, and one that I regularly encounter, is: How do you get a job in the industry?

This is a question we are wrestling with at the Guild as we put our efforts into the Reform of Vocational Education, to provide both a clear pathway into work as well as to outline educational structures and content that will help to ensure learners are as prepared as they can be to work within the screen sector.

The Gathering also got me to look back at how I got into the screen sector, and I thought I would relate that pathway here.

I was living in Tokyo Japan working with an American and Canadian friend in their small agency as a writer and rewriter of copy for advertising and communications content. A good chunk of the work was taking the Japanese to English translations the Canadian and others were doing of corporate video scripts and brushing them up for re-narrating in English.

The American had gone to film school in California and had a mate who was working as an Editor at Entertainment Tonight, a daily entertainment show on CBS. My friend managed to convince his mate and his mate’s bosses they needed a stringer (contract) crew in Japan to do entertainment stories for the show. They agreed, so he went out and bought camera and sound gear, roped his Canadian partner, me and another friend in, and very quickly we were filing stories for them. It was fun work. In the early days it was occasionally covering well-known bands coming to Japan to play concerts before it spun into much broader entertainment content and more regular work.

Meanwhile I had been travelling back to NZ once a year for breaks. On one trip I met a young Kiwi student studying at Auckland University who was a good Japanese speaker. He told me that he had been getting work with a couple of Japanese line producers, one living in Auckland the other in Sydney. They were coordinating Japanese TV commercial crews coming down to NZ for shoots. This made me think that there was an opportunity to get into this work as my English-speaking Japanese girlfriend (now wife) worked regularly as an interpreter, and my sister was a travel agent. We set up a company and for a few years worked with Japanese crews, most often in Central Otago and Southland shooting commercials.

During this time we returned to NZ to live and continued running the company, but I decided that I wanted to make content rather than just help others to make it. I made up a list of production companies in Auckland (there weren’t many at that time) and started banging on doors. Fortunately, I didn’t have to do too much knocking before I was hired to work as a production assistant for television and film producer Robin Scholes. So began my climb up the ladder through various roles as a writer, director, producer and executive producer doing corporate, TV, travel, and news for companies, including a couple of my own, before I launched into narrative drama.

Everybody has their own path into the screen industry. Every once in a while from now on I’m going to ask someone to write about their own experience. I’m hoping it will at least be interesting if not helpful for readers, while the Guild works to make it less about who you know and more about what you know, and formalise how to get there to kickstart a career.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director