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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

 

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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

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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

Congratulations to our members involved in bringing Mystic Season 2 to life, as the eight-episode series is now available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand. David Stubbs (DEGANZ) is the series producer, while fellow members Aidee Walker and Caroline Bell-Booth directed on the latest series. Meanwhile, DEGANZ members Kerri Roggio and Peter Roberts served as two of the four editors on the series.

Mystic is an international production between TVNZ and CBBC reaching audiences at home in New Zealand, the UK, Europe, Canada and Australia. It also received support from the Screen Production Recovery Fund and the New Zealand Screen Production Grant.

Shot on location in Auckland, Mystic is an adventure story with a supernatural twist. Teenager Issie and her gang of horse-mad friends will not only have to tackle all the usual trials and tribulations of being a teenager but battle against new and unexpected threats to their beloved stables and local environment.

Production is underway for season 3. All the best to the team!

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What’s happened to the TVNZ – RNZ business case that Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi commissioned to be ready for mid-year, with presentation to Cabinet by the end of 2021?

You might have, like I did, missed the article about it in Stuff in early November.

It’s been delayed.

Sure, COVID has made it difficult for everyone to stay on track, including Government. However, Kevin Kendrick, the TVNZ CEO has now officially resigned, after a stellar performance taking TVNZ from a loss making entity with no dividend to Government, to an organisation making a profit. No mean feat in a streamer-challenged world.

Kedrick is certainly bailing at the right time for his career, leaving the task of navigating the difficult future to whoever gets the job next.

You’d hope that the TVNZ board is giving due consideration to whatever the new organisation will look like as they work through the job applicants. But do they actually know what’s coming right now? And how many of them will still be sitting on the board once the organisation gets rejigged anyway? They have been a corporate, profit-driven board for so long it’s hard to imagine most of them will retain their positions, or want to, even though TVNZ is supposedly going to maintain some elements of advertising revenue generation into the future.

The changes at Three have undoubtedly made things more complicated for our national broadcaster. Three has gone from being permanently on the edge of bankruptcy to being owned by the largest media organisation in the world, in Discovery. And in the process of setting up they’ve hired former General Manager of Digital Content at TVNZ, Juliet Peterson.

Peterson is now Senior Director, Programming (ANZ) at Discovery, while Vicky Keogh has gone from Commissioner Factual and Unscripted Comedy at TVNZ to the role of Executive Producer, Factual Lead, Discovery (ANZ).

The new TVNZ CEO will have a tougher playing field to square off on with two new free-to-air channels—sorta—in Gusto and Rush, Discovery’s existing digital channels already here, and the launch of streaming service Discovery+ next year.

TVNZ has already locked into its line-up for 2022, as has Three. Advertisers and the industry were given insights at both broadcasters’ programme launches in recent weeks. Reality featured strongly at TVNZ and Three, as did the emphasis on local content, although scripted was notably missing from Three’s presentation.

But it was the announcement from Kris Faafoi that I was more interested in, right now. What shape is TVNZ – RNZ going to take? What’s it going to mean for local content? And will it become a real public broadcaster? The answers are clearly not going to be in the Xmas sock this year.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director