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  • 19 Jul 2019 10:46 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Peter Parnham examines the issues around Film Industry Working Group’s recommendations. 

    As a freelancer in the screen industry, you probably yawn when you see media stories about the expanding gig economy. But like it or not, the screen industry is caught up in attempts to make this type of work fairer. On the horizon is a quite different basis for engaging crew and it may not be entirely what we expect, want, or need.

    The gig economy has long been a way of life in the screen industry where almost everyone is an independent contractor – a freelancer – who enjoys the independence and freedom of operating as a small business and being able to make tax deductions for a home office no ordinary waged employee can make.  

    For others the label ‘contractor’ can easily become an excuse to avoid employer obligations like the minimum wage, as many cleaners, courier drivers, telecom technicians, and plenty of others can attest. 

    Eroding rights

    It might sound somewhat old fashioned to talk about erosion of workers’ rights, but in jobs traditionally done by employees and now done by individual contractors what else is the loss of annual leave, sick leave, public holidays, employer contributions to KiwiSaver, ACC payments, protection from unjustifiable dismissal, pay equality and the rest? Many contractors in other industries can only eye enviously the options for flexible work, short term and projected-orientated employment agreements offered by the Employment Relations Act that seem so similar to contracts they work under except for the missing entitlements and protections.

    They are not trivial amounts. For example, $37,981 is the median screen industry annual income and an employee doing the same work would cost at least $7,300 more. This might be a moot point in the screen industry where all the crew are happy enough as all contractors. Still, it does give a clue as to why this issue might be important enough for the Labour Party to make promises in their election manifesto to make it fairer for the casualised workforce. 

    Backstory

    This is not a new issue. Occasionally the Employment Relations Authority or the courts step in and tell the employer to cough up the extra dosh to cover entitlements, because the independent contract was a sham and the person was really an employee. A film industry case like this in 2010 led to the so-called Hobbit law.  

    Old hands will remember the pressure and the panic that saw the government ignore normal parliamentary processes and ram through an amendment to the Employment Relations Act. This law made sure film production workers are contractors, unless the parties agree otherwise beforehand – an occurrence that must be rarer than a roll of film.     

    Actors Equity, the actor’s union (now Equity New Zealand), saw the upcoming Hobbit shoot as a chance to bargain on behalf of members, while most film industry freelancers, used to being on contracts, were happy enough that the law confirmed usual practice if it helped bring in shows like The Hobbit. 

    The reason was simple: all the entitlements and rights mean nothing when you’ve priced yourself out of a job like those unionised film workers in North America that are touted as one of the main reasons productions run away to New Zealand in the first place.

    The producers additional concern about uncertainty for incoming productions was that accepted practice was to engage freelance contractors, but if the courts subsequently reclassified a pissed off contractor as an employee, this would result in significant surprise costs long after the shoot had finished.       

    As they sailed into the storm, Actors Equity had to be careful, they are a union and that gives them rights to negotiate a binding collective agreement only between employers and employees. Bargaining collectively on behalf of contractors is generally not allowed. Independent contractors are businesses, and have to comply with the Commerce Act, which offers protection against uncompetitive business practices or cartel-like behaviour. 

    A guild not a union

    This is why we are the Screen Industry Guild and not the Screen Industry Union. Unions are for employees, and collectively bargain under the umbrella of the Employment Relations Act. There is little point in being a union if your members are contractors. Consequently, our guild is an incorporated society that does pretty much everything a union does, except negotiate collective employment agreements.  

    Having said that, the Blue Book is the result of negotiation between the guild and the producers. A huge amount of work has gone into it from both sides, it is widely accepted, and it would be chaos without it. The guild can do this because, unlike an employee-based collective agreement, the Blue Book is not binding and does not set any minimum pay. Nor can you pressure the production by agreeing with your mates not to sign on unless they use the Blue Book. Agreeing a daily rate among yourselves is also anti-competitive behaviour. 

    In this light, you can see why big employers might want to put courier drivers, cleaners and the rest on contracts. Firing a contractor is easier too; there is no need to go through the careful process or pay out entitlements required under employment law.  

    New broom

    The story would end there had we not elected the Labour-led government who saw the wider gig economy eroding worker’s rights and driving down incomes. They perhaps imagined the first step would be obvious and easy.

    At the time, Workplace Relations Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway promised to get on to repealing the controversial Hobbit law within new government’s first 100 days in office. 

    Yikes! They might force us to be employees when we don’t want to be. Screen industry leaders flew to Wellington and had urgent meetings with the Minister, urgent letters were exchanged, cabinet papers were urgently written. Finally, to calm the storm the government agreed to hold off and instead form a working group. 

    On the Film Industry Working Group was the Screen Industry Guild, along with other industry guilds, producers, actors, Council of Trade Unions, regional film offices, WETA Digital, and BusinessNZ. 

    The objective, set by the government, was to recommend a legal framework to enable workers in the screen industry to collectively bargain while still being contractors, without scaring off productions, or setting up cartels or anti-competitive behaviour by crew or supplier companies. 

    It is obvious that if this group could work out what to do in the screen industry, it could set a handy template for gig economy workers in other industries. 

    However, when the working group’s recommendations were published last October, they squashed that idea immediately, insisting that the screen industry is unique, so much so, it needs its own distinct labour laws. 

    One risk with this approach is that the government puts the whole pot on the back burner simply because there are so many other competing priorities before the next election. 

    The second, bigger risk, is that for all the emphasis on providing certainty for overseas investors and producers, New Zealand legislation normally takes years to work through the parliamentary processes with various opportunities for submissions and amendments, and debates in parliament, with a hungry opposition looking for sensationalist sound bites. All this could create the very uncertainty which, as an industry, we were keen to avoid. Unless that is, the government chooses to flirt with controversy by rushing legislation through anyway – hopefully, an unlikely prospect.

    Meanwhile as the Film Industry Working Group was working away, in June 2018 the government set up the heavyweight Fair Pay Agreements Working Group, chaired by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger. Their brief was to look at the wider issues of how to set up binding fair pay agreements to cover workers who were on the raw end of the new economy. 

    Their detailed solution includes a system of negotiating binding fair pay agreements that would be triggered by factors like jobs with a high level of fragmentation and contracting. An independent body would be set up to oversee the whole process. 

    Unanimous

    Back in the screen industry, and in contrast to the Hobbit Law crisis in 2010, the Film Working Group unanimously recommend that sector-by-sector collective bargaining be allowed for contract workers in the screen industry. The resulting agreement would be a mandatory minimum for everybody in that sector. 

    The difficult bit has always been trying to define the difference between an independent contractor person, and an actual business. Nobody wants to provide an accidental legal loophole for anti-competitive behaviour by big companies. On the other hand, you don’t want to find that the plumber unblocking the drain in the production kitchen is somehow caught up in screen industry collective agreements.

    The film working group have handed the government’s law drafters a good starting point if and when they look at the screen industry, or for that matter, when they look at who exactly would be covered by a Fair Pay Agreement.  

    Registration

    The film working group recommends guilds and producers would have to prove they are the most representative group for that section of the industry. They would then be registered. We can only hope that this would not lead to unseemly territory disputes. Once a collective contract was negotiated, the ratification process would allow the workers it covers – including non-guild members – to have input and they would all be eligible to vote on it. 

    The report glosses over how this would happen. To vote democratically and include non-guild members, you would need to register all legitimate workers in that industry sector on some sort of roll. You too could become a card-carrying member of the screen industry. 

    On the other hand, the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group report devotes pages to this very issue, and suggests a much simpler solution of setting up an independent body as a referee. 

    Oh, and the Film Industry Working Group had one other very important recommendation. Theirs would be quite a system and solely for the screen industry so the government should hand out the money to pay for it. 

    What next?

    There is a lot of good stuff in the film working party’s recommendations, and it is now deep in the machinery of government who are probably wondering how something simple as repealing one law clause turned into something so complicated.    

    If they accept the film working party’s request that we need our own unique legislation and systems, it could take years to see it make it to parliament. Meanwhile, if they go with the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group’s recommendations they could slide the screen industry in there somewhere, without too much drama, special legislation, wild sound bites, and uncertainty.   

    But the film working group unanimously says we should go it alone with our own carved-out pieces of legislation. Or is it time to reconsider? It would not be a back down by the screen industry; after all, the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group published their recommendations some three months after the Film Industry Working Group published theirs, so they were probably in the dark.

    Another meeting or two of our working group to take a closer look at the comprehensive Fair Pay Agreement proposals could pay big dividends. 

    After all, fair’s fair, whether you are a courier driver, a props buyer, a taxi driver, a cleaner, an assistant director, or for that matter a producer.

    Peter Parnham is an independent commentator and this story does not represent the New Zealand Cinematographers position. The working parties reports can be found at www.MBIE.govt.nz.


     

     

  • 19 Jul 2019 10:21 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    OD (Offshoot Digital) provided an interactive and interesting evening at PLS earlier this week with their new light weight Phantom, the VEO 4k.

    Bringing the high imaging standards of the Phantom Flex 4K to a portable and rugged body style, the VEO can shoot up to 1000 FPS in 4K resolution and 1900 FPS in 2K. The compact body increases the flexibility of use and opens up opportunities currently difficult with the Flex 4K. Applications such as gimbals, drones and under water housings are made possible by the small form factor, reduced weight (2.5KG body only) and lower power draw of this new camera.

    The picture quality is still world leading for a high speed camera. The VEO boasts the same 4K sensor, Codec and CineRAW format as its bigger brother. It comes with global shutter, 12+ stops of dynamic range and PL or EF lens mounts.

    There are some quirks with this camera and if you are used to working with the Flex 4K it may take a little adjusting to. The VEO has moved away from the CineMag workflow in favor of CF cards or direct to DIT (via ethernet cable) resulting in changes to the way you off load clips, e.g. longer transfer times or requiring a cable to connect camera and laptop.

    The VEO does offer something different to the Flex 4K and while not a direct replacement it opens up some opportunities not before possible.

    The VEO comes at a slightly lower price point and is simple enough for use on a small production.  For newcomers to high-speed shooting, and the Phantom family, this camera is more accessible than its predecessors.

    Author: Drew Sturge, NZCS Committee member


  • 24 Jun 2019 2:33 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Marc Swadel muses on The Brexit Effect’ on shooting in Europe.

    Brexit has been a very odd thing. Part reality, part fantasy, it’s best summed up by an English colleagues grandfather who says it reminds him of the ‘Phony War’  -   the time in late 1939 when Britain declared war on the Axis forces, but nothing started in earnest.. A sense of normalcy but also a background tension knowing that shit must hit the fan at some stage!

    Brexit – is, like a dead rat rotting in a wall. A gift that keeps on giving. We have had the British P.M being forced to resign. We have had the Brexit Party – with no manifesto or policies (save ‘to leave the EU’) win 33% of the European Union election votes in the UK – being the biggest party – and both Labour and the Conservatives having the worst results of any election in their histories..

    As it stands, U.K being in the EU – it makes Europe effectively one big country – freedom to travel, take your gear, work wherever. No visas, no hassles. European citizens with I.D cards (which the U.K rejected a few years ago) can travel on those – not even a need for a passport. Just put your wallet in your back pocket and jump on a plane or get in your car. 

    Whenever I work in Europe – the general consensus on talking about Brexit is – WTF? 

    General puzzlement and disbelief. The U.K has gone insane. Britain’s rep for being an intelligent, and fair democracy, of solid and steady governance – is in tatters. 

    So to recap - the UK was meant to be out by March 31st(now the EU has enforced an October 31stexit date. ready or not!)  and the government had been preparing (badly) for this, and in the creative sector, like in the banking sector, a lot of back room work was being done.  In ‘Ad-land’, there has been a beefing up of European operations, as opposed to the past, where, for a lot of European brands, most of the agencies would have the vast bulk of the staff in London - now there are many more workers on the ground in Europe. Production wise, its been mixed – the dropping pound, plus the Spectre of cross border red tape, has made many productions look more towards domestic production, and on the flip side,  non EU European countries such as Ukraine and Serbia are seeing a rise in UK production interest. 

    Productions have had 30 plus years of no red tape. Get your crew, get your gear, and get going. Brexit will mean, at the border, work permits, full checks on equipment, carnets. I recently did a shoot in Japan, where the production had a full carnet. 

    The carnet: 96 items, described weighed, valued. All serials recorded. Forms carbon copied in quadruplicate. Ball-ache for myself and my crew. Extra work for the producer, and a good bit of coin for the export-broker.  The bleak future of post-Brexit production.

    I was really interested to see how the operation would be, knowing that things had been ramped up in readiness for Brexit. We hit Heathrow – the nerve centre for international crews going in and out of the UK.

    Monty Python would have been proud. We follow the signs to the customs area for carnets... to be met with a shuttered counter. OK... there is a phone. We pick it up. A Customs Official answers – ‘Hello sir – I am currently in the other terminal, will be over to you in 15 minutes.’ Obviously staff levels cranked up.

    15 minutes later roller door comes up – the officer processes the carnet, and equipment. I ask him how many outward carnets does he process a day – he says maybe a dozen, but several times more that that inwards, into the UK from non-EU crews, both film/TV and music. I asked him how he thinks it will be after Brexit – he says that there are more staff coming on, but most customs staff were being diverted to seaports... he joked about early retirement just before Brexit..

    To be honest, commercial productions will, like now, be hiring equipment, and most crew locally, possibly more so after Brexit to cut down on cross border grief. The one part of the creative sector that will find things really tough – will be touring musicians – as after Brexit – everyone will need work permits, and carnets for equipment, which will add another level of complexity and cost to the whole equation. I do a lot of music work – and talking with smaller promoters and labels I work with – it could break them. 

    One odd thing about border control in the U.K – aside from the ferries and the Eurostar train – there are no outward checks and stamping of the passports. This was dropped in 1997 as a cost cutting measure, apparently. On asking Border Force staff if this may be re-introduced, due to Brexit... no one could answer me. 

    On an ‘only discernible Brexit bonus’’ note - last week I got back in from a shoot in Sicily, flying into Gatwick, and I had the easiest entry into the U.K on my N.Z passport in almost 20 years of comings and goings here – they have implemented automatic passport scanning gates for EU, U.K, NZ/OZ/US/Canadian/Japanese/Korean and Singaporean passports – as well as the non-EU EEA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway). This means no queuing in the ‘other’ lanes, no showing permits and visas and answering questions, just scan the passport, look at the camera, and through. Of course, as part of the Brexit riposte – I.D cards are not accepted, so the Europeans on my flight who had such cards, had to line up in a new ‘EU I.D Cards’ line. Ouch.

    Brexit – if it happens, in my view, is the UK sleepwalking into a total, cultural, financial and social disaster. It could end up breaking the Union up – Scotland is pro-Europe, and narrowly voted not to leave the U.K in 2014 – a result no doubt influenced by the Conservative governments promise that  ‘a vote for remaining is a vote for staying in the E.U’ (a promise they broke in 2016 by embarking on Brexit).  Scotland could very well vote again in 2020 – and due to the younger generation coming through, and the general distrust of Westminster – could leave, and apply to join the EU.  Later down the track, Northern Ireland, who have option for a referendum on union with Ireland enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement,  may vote for that – which would leave a very much smaller, poorer, more insular union of England and Wales.

    The EU has its faults, but it has stopped any war within its border for almost 75 years, and it has enabled so much cultural exchange and dialogue within Europe, as well as being a bulwark of tolerant, open and progressive values. 

    As everything is up in the air, it’s a matter of ‘watch this space’…

  • 18 Jun 2019 2:18 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    NZCS Committee member Marc Swadel reports from Europe on the goings on thus far this year.


    Belgrade, Serbia was the location for 2019 IMAGO general meeting and the World Cinematography awards. It is a beautiful city that bridges two worlds, sitting between the EU, and the Russian and Slavic East. First up was the IAGA, the summit of IMAGO, where representatives from the member associations join to discuss IMAGO business and Cinematography in general, and secondly, the 2nd edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, which is the only such awards for Cinematographers, voted by Cinematographers.

    For the first two days - 52 delegates, representing the 63 societies, met and went over the business to hand. On the first day of the meeting, I voted for both NZCS and ACS (being an ACS member) as ACS President Ron Johanson was undertaking his duties as IMAGO board member. Piet DeVries, ACS arrived on the second day and took the reins for the ACS.

    The opening news – the BSC, at their 2019 Awards, had given IMAGO the International Achievement Award, in recognition of the work being done by the organisation, across many areas - a sign of the growing importance of IMAGO as a strong, and respected World body. Nigel Walters BSC relates how, when the Academy relegated the Cinematography Oscar from the main show for the 2019 Academy Awards, the BSC asked IMAGO to send a letter representing the World’s Cinematographers requesting the Academy to reconsider this bad decision, a letter, which he feels was an important part in the decision being overturned, and the Cinematography Award being reinstated to the main show.

    As always, there was a lot going on – the committees for Authorship, Working Conditions, and Gender and Inclusion (formally known as Gender and Diversity) made their presentations. I got up and gave a good account of the NZCS Gender and Diversity programme to the assembly - there was a lot of interest and questions, and various societies were impressed that the initiative had support from productions, and also on a governmental level (NZFC) which is virtually unheard of for most countries. The conversation spun out into the general scene for women, and different ethnicities – I mentioned how our biggest grossing films internally and internationally have been directed by either Māori or female directors (Taika’s films, Whale Rider, The Piano etc) and mentioned Waru, Rūrangi and Vermillion also.


    On Authorship – we learnt that FERA - the European Association of Directors – speak of Cinematographers as Authors, and are talking to the Rights collection agencies –this is a great development, along our rocky road to full rights and royalties. Alex Sterian, from the Romanian Society, mentioned that in his country, the Directors and Screenwriters are against DOP’s gaining rights.  

    Things are changing. Jost Vacano BVK, supported by IMAGO and the BVK, won a landmark case in the EU court in late 2016 for compensation of lost rights earned from his work on ‘Das Boot’ – a case which has helped dialogue greatly.

    https://britishcinematographer.co.uk/imago-news/passion-jost-vacano/

    https://britishcinematographer.co.uk/intellectual-property/

    This is something we need to really look at in NZ – we need to explore rights and royalties – and with a large majority of production funding coming from the government – perhaps it is something the NZCS could ally with all the other organizations to implement, for the greater good? What we need to do – is to defend and enlarge our position – we don’t want DP to stand for ‘Data Provider’ which we are in danger of being seen as...

    The Technical Committee opened discussions on the subject of Netflix – and how the web broadcaster chooses the camera for the DOP with a specs only approach. Dave Stump ASC is involved with the process, and IMAGO will meet with not only Netflix, but also Apple and Amazon in regards to this. As Lindén, FSF, co-chair of the committee states – the more we meet, the more we can change the mindset.


    Another win via IMAGO – was and amendment on EU Directive on Eco-design rules – the ‘Single Lighting Regulation’ that made all non ‘Eco’ fixtures (such as tungsten) illegal. Obviously a huge impact on the DOP toolset! IMAGO contacted the EU Regulatory body, and won an exception dispensation regards non ‘Eco’ fixtures for film+ performance lighting design.

    I was invited to sit in with the IMAGO G+I committee, which consists of Nina Kellgren BSC (who has been dubbed the most prolific female Cinematographer by the BFI), Ron Johanson ACS OAM (12 year as president of the ACS and 50 years as a DOP) and Estonia’s Elen Lotman ESC, who is the president of her society, is finishing her PhD, bringing up her three kids, teaching film, and working as a DOP! One thing that is evident across Europe – there are few female cinematographers/operators/AC’s, let alone non-white ones! The ethnic makeup here is a lot less rich than what we have in NZ, and Europe-wide, with many immigrant families, the impetus is to gain a degree and a professional career – doctor, lawyer accountant etc. A freelance career in the camera department, would not rate high on the list of parentally approved occupations, that’s for sure.

    Amongst the business, current IMAGO President, Paul René Roestad, was voted in for another three year term and on the board, Daniele Nannuzzi AIC ASC, stepped down, and Alex Lindén, FSF, was elected to be the new member. Daniele, who’s most known film in NZ would be Jodorowsky’s ‘Santa Sangre’, had been one of the original founding members of IMAGO in 1992, and his energy will be missed from the organisation.

    Nigel Walters BSC, was appointed IMAGO Ambassador to the eastern group (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic etc) to foster regional co-operation, as it is important to forge links here.

    IMAGO, just like the NZCS, is in the throes of choosing a new logo. Paul-René jokes that this is his idea of hell – 52 delegates all suggesting ideas! Luckily this hell is not realised, as three possibilities are chosen for further development. Bullet dodged.

    One of the motions voted on, was the formal change of the name of IMAGO from the European Society of Cinematographers, to the INTERNATIONAL Society of Cinematographers – to reflect the reality of the membership, and the growing stature of IMAGO. IMAGO has members from all points – from the South Africans, Malaysia, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Turkey... a truly global organisation. The only major societies outside of IMAGO are the ASC (who are barred from joining due to their statutes) the Russian and Chinese Societies, and the French, who were a founder member, but parted ways when the organization became international (which they did not agree with) but always have Philippe Ros AFC in attendance who is head of the ITC – IMAGO Technical Committee.

    After the conference, we were lucky to have Phil Greenstreet from Rosco, host (as per usual) a fantastic get together, at a local ‘old-school’ boozer, with a free bar and loads of fantastic local food. A great way to relax and decompress from the IAGA with friends, old and new. And I made a whole new bunch – hanging out with the Ukrainians and Russians, many who grew up and worked in the Soviet era.

    The Awards

    The 2019 Edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, were held at the National Serbian Kinoteka, with Predrag Bambic, SAS, the Serbian Societies President, opening the Awards Ceremony, which were simulcast live via the internet. 

    About this year’s event: the 2019 edition saw 143 films from 52 countries being watched by 99 jurors. Tony Costa AIP, who is on the organizing committee, relates how the Awards have energized and activated the membership – an immense cultural interchange takes place, as films are being seen that would never been seen outside of the member countries.

    Amongst the main awards – there were several special recognition Awards given out to Cinematographers who deserved to be celebrated:

    The International Honorary Member´s Award was given to Kommer Kleijn, SBC. Kommer is a Cinematography pioneer – being the first to shoot a film digitally in 2k and 4k, as well as being the first to shoot a large format film on a single chip sensor. Kommer also initiated bringing 25/30/50/60 FPS into the DCP standard.

    The International Award for Extraordinary Technical Achievement was given to David Stump, ASC. David has worked on numerous motion pictures and television productions as Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Supervisor, and as Stereographer,  (including both live action work and 2D to 3D conversion work), earning an Emmy and an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement. His credits include Quantum of Solace, Mars Attacks, Stuart Little and Contact amongst many others.


    International Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Art of Cinematography  
    was given to The Manaki Brothers ICFF Film Festival, which is the first and oldest cinematography film festival (40thanniversary this year!). The directors, on receiving the award, were given with a very heartfelt, en-passioned speech by Nigel Waltlers BSC.

    The International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Cinematography, was given to Rachel Morrison, ASC, who is the first female to be nominated for a best Cinematography Oscar, for Mudbound, and, last but not least, the award which earnt a 5 minute standing ovation  -International Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinematography given to Ed Lachman, ASC. Ed, who has had a wonderful career, being a 4 times Camerimage Golden Frog winner, and having multiple Oscar nominations through lensing such films as Carol, The Virgin Suicides, Far From Heaven and Erin Brockovich.  Ed also gives time to teach the next generation, to pass on what he knows.


    Next we have the competitive awards – which I was told by the judging committee had a record number of entries from a record number of countries this year, and the judging was ‘beyond tough’. The most nominated societies are the ASC, the BSC and the Finns, the FSC.


    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A FEATURE FILM
    Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for Blade Runner 2049
    Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC for Lion
    Rauno Ronkainen, FSC for The Eternal Road
    Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC for The Favourite
    Yuriy Klimenko, RGC for Mathilde

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A DOCUMENTARY FILM
    Adolpho Veloso, ABC for On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace
    Juan Sarmiento, ADFC for Central Airport THF
    Heikki Färm, FSC for Entrepreneur

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR TELEVISION DRAMA
    András Nagy, HSC for Eternal Winter
    Brendan Steacy, ASC for Alias Grace
    Thomas W. Kiennast, AAC for Maximilian

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR AN EMERGING YOUNG CINEMATOGRAPHER
    Jurgis Kmins for Bille

    BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A STUDENT FILM
    Balázs István Balázs for Casting
    University of Theatre and Film Arts, Hungary, Budapest

    After the awards event, the throng then moved over the road to the ‘Aero Klub’ for a sit down celebration dinner. I sat at the ‘Commonwealth’ table – NZ/Aussie/South African and Canadian DOPs who formed a bit of a drinking club (well, being suited and all, I guess it was as formal as it could be!).


    So in conclusion – a very full three day overload of cinematography, with an overall sense of strength – strength of work, of solidarity, and fraternity, and a sense of connection. The 2nd edition of the Awards hit higher - with a noted attendance of more members of the ASC and BSC, and big contingents of Russians, Spanish, Brazilians and Danes. Both the Awards and IMAGO meeting had a strong OZ/NZ input this year, with Ron (Pres. Of the ACS and head of the Awards Committee) and myself talking the mic at the meeting, and at the Awards, Piet DeVries ACS presenting an award and Grieg Fraser ACS being up for an award. Lets get one of our guys up for an award in 2021 – there is the challenge NZCS!!

    On a side note – the most ‘in demand’ possible location for an Awards is Sydney... and if that comes to pass, then the party will be in the backyard – will be one not to miss!


  • 10 Jun 2019 12:15 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    The NZCS has recently created a part-time position of Professional Development Manager and appointed long standing committee member Donny Duncan NZCS, to helm this role.

    Its long been a goal of the NZCS to host a series of Professional Development Master Classes in Cinematography and one of the PDM’s mission will be to facilitate 2 or 3 master classes this year and establish a blueprint for running an annual series of workshops – aimed at different levels, to cater for the established cinematographer, the emerging cinematographer and the camera assistant.  

    The other key responsibility of this position, is to continue the very successful placements under the Gender Diversity initiative, where emerging female cinematographers are placed on shoots to observe and work with mentors through all stages of production, or trainees are appointed to learn on the job under camera crew tutelage.

    I’m excited to take on this part-time role in addition to my other cinematography projects. While lecturing in cinematography at Unitec several years ago, I saw the great value from bringing in guest DP’s from the industry to run practical workshops and pass on knowledge from years of experience. There has long been feedback from our members at all levels, that they would be keen to support local workshops, in preference to travelling to the USA or Australia to gain such knowledge. I will shortly post a survey to members to gather information on what content would be most sought after. 

    We are in the process of planning an intermediate-level Master Class for emerging cinematographers, keen to learn more about lighting for drama, insights into working with production designers and directors and a practical component recreating classic lighting scenes. 

    Later in the year we also hope to bring in an internationally acclaimed DP to run a high end two-day Master Class to attract cinematographers at any level.

    I’m also very passionate about carrying on the great work on the Gender Diversity Initiative that was launched from a workshop led by Nina Wells and others. We have currently had placements on three films, and have just appointed our first trainee placement on a film in Dunedin. 

    I’ve always been a strong advocate for female crewing around camera, lighting and grip, where possible. When producer Chloe Smith and myself were crewing up the” Xena:Warrior Princess” series over 20 years ago, we made a conscious choice to bring in as many women as possible on a shoot with predominantly female lead characters. We wanted to create an atmosphere of calm and trust and balance and didn’t want it getting too exclusively “blokey” around the camera. To this end, over many seasons, we collaborated with Sharon Hawke (1stAC), Bindy Crayford (Gaffer) Ginny Loane (Best Person/ 2U Gaffer) Gaysorn Thavatt (2ndAC) Terese Mangos (Lighting Assistant) Frith Locke-Bonney (1stAC) Inga Fillary (2ndAC) Kirsten Green (2U 1stC) and others. Many of these women are now very firmly established in their chosen career paths.”

    We are currently looking for opportunities to support short or longer-term placements on films before the end of the year. Please contact Donny Duncan if you are a Producer who would like to discuss more detail on how this works.


  • 06 May 2019 6:04 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)


    We had a good turnout for our demo night at Boxfish in Orakei to see their underwater remote operated camera system in action. It was a highly interactive night, with everyone having a crack at operating the controls and thinking up new camera moves and shots to try with the ROV.  


    Photo credit: David Peterson

    Equipped with a Zcam 4K camera recording 10bit, 4:2:2  it is evident of the many different shots one could achieve. Boxfish will continue to develop options for the ROV that are targeted to narrative underwater cinematography, films, drama, commercials, etc. 

    The Boxfish underwater 360 degree VR capture unit was also on hand for people to experience through VR goggles.

    While it's not unusual to have NZCS events with a beer or wine in hand, it is uncommon to be outside on a chilly evening in the dark around a pool and Aucklanders got to bring out their puffer jackets for the first time since last winter.


    Thanks to some ARRI M8 lights kindly loaned from our friends at Professional Lighting Services, we had a fabulously lit scene. Thanks also to DVANZ Nigel Burton for supplying all the monitors for us to see the pictures live from the 4k camera submerged in the pool.

    A few members expressed interest in hiring rather than buying and Boxfish would be happy to speak to those members about this and the associated costs. Just email russell@boxfish.nz or lisa@boxfish.nz

    You can follow Boxfish Research on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and Twitter.

    NZCS will endeavour to keep these exciting events happening each month. If you know of something coming up or have an interest in something we could organise, or if you have something you would like to organise - do let us know.

    ~ Murray Milne NZCS


    "I came to do some networking but ended up super interested in what those underwater cameras can achieve. Thanks to you guys I’m totally inspired to write an underwater script, hopefully as a swimmer and an ex-lifeguard that shouldn’t be too hard.  Anyway, just wanted to let you know that what I thought would be a very boring technical and tough evening, was really fun,  thanks to your hospitality and kindness.  So thanks, guys! I might show up to more of these crazy technical nights." ~ Unamious

  • 06 May 2019 1:31 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)


    There has been some buzz and some mystery around the Sony Rialto system. Also known as Sony Venice Extension System or officially CBK3610XS.  

    I recently shot a docu-drama for which I used the Sony Venice with the Rialto (aka: extension system) from Imagezone

    Many times while shooting drama etc. I’ve come across shots where I’d think the situation or shot I was trying to get would suit a DSLR  type camera due to its size — needing something small or perhaps something easier to sling about.  I can say the Venice Rialto gives that option and in its full glory Full Frame 6k. 

    1st AC, Daniella Conforte (aka: Nani), was all over it. With some quick training from Imagezone, Nani was able to rather quickly switch from full production mode to the Rialto mode on set. Noting this is only done in a controlled environment, clean and dry. So not suited to be done on windy beach etc.


    The Rialto system enabled me to get shots I’d never have got, or it would have taken too long to achieve on our tight schedule and budget.  In the car, handheld shots were a breeze. So easy to place the camera almost anywhere you want it. We’d done a few runs shooting various shot sizes of the driver for an Int’ car scene. As we were heading back to base, I lent over and placed the camera on the armrest and got a  shot I’d never have been able to get without removing car seats, etc. Not to mention how quickly we got bonnet mount shots. 


    For hand holding, I  used an Easyrig Cinema 3 / 200n  / 230mm ext arm with a plate mounted to back of the Easyrig on which the Venice Camera body mounted. I was free to roam with just a small camera in my hands. It really gave a lot of freedom. Again  I  was getting shots so easily, in very close to actors and it wasn’t a large production camera in their face, and I was able to hunt or search for exciting angles very quickly. With the 5.5m cable, you can easily hand hold it without an Easyrig and have your grip carry the camera body. In this same configuration, it can still be used as if in production mode. Pop the front unit onto the tripod and operate as per usual which we did at times as well. I have to say I’m quite enamored with the camera and system with all the mobility and possibilities. 

    ~ David Paul NZCS


  • 03 May 2019 1:45 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    It was almost a year ago that I arrived back in my home town of Auckland to begin prep on THE LUMINARIES, and my goodness what a year it has been.

    6 hours of prestige television with some fantastic cast and creatives that were flown in from all around the world and some absolutely wonderful A-class homegrown talent. We had a jam packed schedule that had us shooting all over the country, from the tin sheds of Penrose to the rolling hills of Jonkers Farm, Bethels, Muriwai and Tawharanui beaches, Whangaroa harbor, then to the South Island for Hokitika, Lake Kaniere and the Southern Alps.

    We had a fabulous team that included many NZCS members, Kieran Fowler NZCS ACS, Dana Little and myself fulfilled the roles of camera operators for the bulk of principal photography, with some rock star appearances from David Paul NZCS & Todd Bilton, additional photography was in the safe hands and eyes of both Kieran Fowler NZSC and John “JC” Cavill NZCS whom both did a superb job. The AC’s were made up of the absolutely solid team of Peter Cunningham, Sam Matthews, Declan Cooke, Niki Winer & Jack Vincent and with special appearances by Dave Hammond and Stefan Coetzee among many others.


    ImageZone provided us with a fantastic and flawless camera package that comprised of 3x Alexa Minis with 3 sets of Cooke Anamorphic primes. And FAT Lighting provided painterly and atmospheric illumination often at a huge scale for some massive night exteriors and big VFX set pieces, Sam Jellie ran a tight ship. Terry Joosten headed the grips team and The Rebel Fleet handled all our data with great care and attention to detail.

    It was an ambitious project with a very challenging schedule. We made it to the end gracefully and hopefully with some beautiful and special cinematography to show for it. Thanks to the team!

    The series will be broadcast on BBC Two in the UK and TVNZ1 in New Zealand. Produced by Working Title Television and Southern Light Films, it is being adapted for the screen by novelist Eleanor Catton and director Claire McCarthy (Ophelia, The Waiting City).

    ~ Denson Baker NZCS ACS


  • 10 Apr 2019 2:34 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Video marketing in China has been growing exponentially in recent years. In 2018, the budget to air & market TVCs, advertising on public elevators, bus and taxi screens, outdoor screens, cinemas and Internet video platforms (digital platforms) ranged from 9.4 per cent to 26.6 per cent, with significant increases. There has also been a significant increase in the number of views of digital films created for the purpose of marketing and TVCs, both setting new viewership records.

    So how can local brands create new, interesting and visually great content for this fast growing space? How do they ensure that their content stands out from the crowd? There is a growing number of production houses and agencies who believe that there is a need for fresh new eyes from the western world to bring some new visual thinking into China’s local advertising space.

    In our two years of interacting with various production houses in china, we have frequently been asked whether New Zealand's advertising photographers, directors and other technical crew could be made available for work in China. The local producers understand that the technical proficiency of western crew plays a crucial role in making a good film and overall production quality. 

    International DoPs, Directors and technical crew bring a new, fresh & unique value to Chinese production. The Chinese industry has not only embraced international talent and learnt from them but have ensured that they are paid according to their local fees back home, in this case New Zealand. In certain instances and challenging projects DoPs and Directors are paid a lot more than what they get paid back home.

    Chinese advertising companies are increasingly looking for locations overseas to give viewers a different visual feel, especially in countries like New Zealand, where the scenery is unique and pure. Ki Studio works exclusively with the Chinese market and has relationships with over 50 production houses. Having worked on over several projects in the last 2 years we see that 70% productions bring their DoPs and Directors from China but the remaining 30% look for local crew which can range from DoPs to 1st, 2nd & 3rd ACs. With projects related to TVCs we also always look for focus pullers and other crew that fall under the DoPs team.

    With rules & regulations related to drones tightening across New Zealand we now push clients coming from China to hire local drone operators, especially if areas that we need to film at require lvl 3 operators.

    Ki Studio has spent a lot of time and effort in understanding the Chinese market and worked closely with them over the last 2+ years. Thanks to our efforts and those of some other institutions, the Chinese market is constantly learning about film makers of New Zealand and New Zealand as a destination for filming. In the past two years, we have received requests by several producers from China asking us for showreels of Cinematographer who specialise in TVCs and documentaries - both for projects coming into New Zealand and for local projects being filmed in China.  There is also an increased demand for feature film DoPs in the last 12 months. 

    Going to work on projects in China is challenging as there is a language barrier and sometimes the local crew in China do things very differently than what we do here. Jump past the hurdles and you will absolutely love being a DoP in China - You get pampered, You have a camera crew on sets which at times can be bigger than a complete film crew in New Zealand, amazing food and an explosion of culture.  

    What we have noticed over the last 2 years is that Chinese crews love working with kiwi crew. They understand that we are not just highly professional and technically good but every crew member has multiple talents which is not always the case with Chinese crew. 

    We would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the cinematographers community and wish we can work and represent a few of you in China. We would put a lot of effort in promoting your showreel across production houses in Mainland China, Hongkong & Taiwan. We request interested DoPs to kindly contact us on darshan@kistudio.co.nz

    We would also like to hear from DoPs, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Acs who would like to share their showreels with us for future projects from China that come to film in New Zealand. Thank you.

    ~ Darshan Shetty, CEO Ki Studio

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