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Undoubtedly obvious to many of you who read this column regularly, but for those who don’t, I’ll point out that I monitor the happenings in the screen industry in Australia as one possible bellwether for New Zealand’s screen sector.

A trend there that has become blindingly clear from doing so is the incredible volume of commissioning going on in Australia by streamers. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been replicated in New Zealand.

So it was with interest that I read the story by screen ‘rag’ if.com.au about veteran screen journalist Sandy George’s Paper on the need for cultural value and Australianness to be the primary driver of screen funding for film and drama.

From the article:

George argues if there is nothing recognisably Australian on the screen, it carries little cultural value. It is ‘Australianness’ that excites local viewers, and cultural value is the main reason why taxpayer funding underpins drama production.”

From George’s paper:

“It’s time to be very clear that Screen Australia is there for culture.”

“Depending on economics to deliver cultural value is arse about.”

One underlying reason for George’s issue-raising is the homogenising of ‘Australian content’ due to the foreign money, projects and commissioning flowing into the country—its Australian distinctiveness is being lost.

Another is the convenient obfuscation that lumps foreign production in Australia together with Australian production, and calling it all Australian production. This makes it look like the screen industry there is rosier than it actually is.

At a time when Nude Tuesday, Whina, the soon to be released Muru, Good Grief and Creamerie amongst others are putting a distinctive Aotearoa NZ stamp onto screen content, you’d think we wouldn’t have to worry about loss of our identity.

But then, we haven’t been getting the volumes of international projects and commissioning that our cuzzies across the Tassie have.

However, George’s statement that Screen Australia is there for culture is very pertinent for us. Some argue that the New Zealand Film Commission and the Government have been gradually losing their ways on this front, including depending on economics to deliver cultural value when it comes to screen. The Screen Sector Investment Review, now underway, which is focused very particularly on the New Zealand Screen Production Grant (NZ’s version of the Aussie Producer Offset) and whether or not it’s delivering for New Zealand and our creatives, is therefore very timely.

Another point George makes is how exceptional cultural value in projects delivers exceptional Australian talents, the likes of Baz Luhrmann and George Miller, who then go on to deliver exceptional economic value. In our case, the likes of Peter Jackson, Jane Campion and Taika Waititi. She questions what and how screen talent development is conducted and focused to ensure these kinds of people come along—something we ourselves could do much better.

The article here and George’s paper here make interesting reading. And food for thought about how we could be doing things better from here on in.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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It’s a shook-up screen world out there:

  • TVNZ – RNZ merger
  • Screen Sector Investment Review
  • Screen Industry Worker Bill
  • Reform of Vocational Education

Throw in:

  • Netflix losing 200k subscribers, forcing a change in direction.
  • European film funding bodies reviewing their roles as guardians of national culture and identity, whether or not film has a place in it still, and how best to utilise soft government money funds in the face of the streamer investment onslaught.
  • Theatrical box office making a comeback and a possible relook at a theatrical window before streaming release.
  • Sales agents and distributors becoming production entities and getting in on scripts at an early stage to help ensure their existence in the SVOD world.
  • The loss of IP, rights and secondary revenues in return for streamer commissions.
  • Production costs up 20 – 40% to deal with COVID.

As if all the above wasn’t enough, we have:

  • the Head of TVNZ News on gardening leave and an internal review of recruitment policies, processes and practices there after the Kamahl Santamaria fiasco.
  • And at NZFC, the CEO is also tending the veges while an independent review of conflict of interest policies and practices is underway in regard to the CEO role and board members.

All that said, there’s some positivity for us all:

  • Nude Tuesday and Whina are about to get their releases.
  • Kid Sister has brought a new perspective to NZ TV series.
  • There are close to 20 Premium Production Fund projects funded, the majority of which will come to screen in the next three years.
  • There are multiple projects underway with the usual NZ On Air and TMP funding.
  • Netflix has at least two projects shooting here at the moment.
  • Taika’s HBO Max Our Flag Means Death is announced to come our way for Season 2.
  • Power Rangers continues to bam and kapow.
  • A few other internationals are eyeing up the NZ scene.

One could be forgiven for thinking it’s all rosy. Commercials however have not recovered from the COVID hit, with few being shot here.

Meanwhile, we have the real estate market tanking (good news some say), inflation on the rise, food prices increasing, a possible recession on the way, a war with global impact in Ukraine and climate change hitting Fiji as well. No wonder post-apocalyptic films and shows are on the rise.

On TVNZ Breakfast this morning, refreshingly sans its over-effusive, regular team, one of the topics of discussion was the US Federal Reserve on Wednesday raising its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points—marking its biggest rate hike in 28 years—and the impact it would have for NZ. TVNZ political reporter Katie Bradford, when prompted to give financial advice, suggested to be “careful with your money” (with a disclaimer to consult your financial advisor). Seemed like sound advice to me.

As far as our screen industry goes, I don’t have any wise words to offer. But I would say there’s definitely something in the air. Hopefully it’s the sweet smell of perfume rather than silage.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

Tom Eagles

DEGNZ Selects is honoured to present a special industry Q&A evening with New Zealand editor Tom Eagles on Monday 2 March.

Oscar and BAFTA-nominated for his work on Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit and recently back from the red carpet, Tom joins us to discuss his career, his craft and his collaborations.

Tom was recognised by the American Cinema Editors with the award for Best Edited Feature Film (Comedy) for Jojo Rabbit at the 70th Annual ACE Eddie Awards held in January. Tom also edited Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do In the Shadows, Jackie van Beek’s The Inland Road and for television, Wellington Paranormal, Ash vs Evil Dead and Go Girls amongst other projects. He is currently cutting Roseanne Liang’s thriller Shadow In the Cloud

WHEN:           Mon 2 March 2020, 7pm. Talk starts 7:15pm
WHERE:         Horse & Trap – Loft, 3 Enfield St, Mount Eden, Auckland

Cash bar

Event Registration

Register to reserve your seat.

DEGNZ members – Free

Non-members – $5 (cash only at the door)

We collect diversity data during registration so we can report to our primary funder, the NZ Film Commission. Any data reported will remain completely anonymous.

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This event is part of DEGNZ Selects, presented by the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ