tv

New sci-fi drama series for children to screen in prime time

Taken from NZ On Air.

A new family-friendly drama series in the sci-fi thriller genre, a returning murder-mystery series and a hip-hop dance film will be coming to local TV screens following NZ On Air funding.

Sci-fi drama The Cul De Sac centres on 16 year old Rose who must keep her siblings safe after all the adults mysteriously disappear and dark forces begin to tear the world apart. Produced by Greenstone TV, the six episode series will screen in a prime time slot on TV2.

“We are very excited to see a new sci-fi drama for children. It’s been a successful genre in the past and TV2’s commitment to give it a prime time slot is a strong vote of confidence in this new project,” says NZ On Air CEO Jane Wrightson.

Fans of the first series of The Brokenwood Mysteries will be thrilled to see Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd’s return for a second series of the murder mystery series on Prime. The first series had a very appreciative audience who, judging by social media chatter, were left wanting more.

“We are delighted to support another season of The Brokenwood Mysteries. The first season was gorgeously quirky, quintessentially kiwi, and its audience loved it,” continued Ms Wrightson.

Meanwhile, the feature film Born To Dance, will screen on Māori Television after its big screen release. It tells the story of an ambitious young dancer from Papakura who dreams of being a professional hip-hop dancer. The film is choreographed by Auckland’s own international hip-hop sensation Parris Goebel. NZ On Air’s funding is in line with its Rautaki Māori strategy.
   

SPADA 2014: The John O’Shea Address

Ruth Harley gave this year’s address: Activating the Reset Button. The text if the address follows:



Tena Koutou, Tena koutou, Tena Koutou Katoa

Greetings all.

It is a real honour to be invited to commemorate John O’Shea’s legacy by making this address. Thank you to SPADA for the opportunity.

I knew John in my roles at TVNZ, NZ On Air and NZFC. I had the same deep regard for him that many other speakers have recalled on this podium as our tupuna in this industry. It was John’s tenacious imagination and ambition for independent screen storytelling in New Zealand that set the foundations for where we are today. I pay my respects to John and his descendants including every one here in the NZ screen industry.

And I want to take the opportunity to pay my respects to one of John’s descendants in particular. Caterina de Nave. I have taken the title of this talk from an inspiration Caterina left me with. One day in hospital when we were reeling from the news that Caterina needed not only a bone marrow transplant but also a heart valve replacement Caterina was quiet for some time then said she was having trouble with her reset button. She told me that she could normally reset quite quickly and accept whatever new health status had been announced. But on this occasion she could not find her reset button.

A few days later she told me she had found it and activated the reset and was prepared for what lay ahead. Caterina’s reset button was the power of her imagination that enabled her to go on her very arduous health journey with hope.

In preparation for this speech I read a number of previous speeches given in honour of John. They left me feeling like Elizabeth Taylor bedding her 8th husband on the wedding night. I knew what to do but how  was I going to make it interesting?

In the spirit of channeling Caterina, and with a nod to John as well, I decided to focus on tv drama. I don’t think I ever had a conversation with Caterina that wasn’t about tv drama somewhere along the line. It is the engine room of the industry and the genre with the biggest potential for growth: growth which could drive the whole industry to the next level as well as engaging local and international audiences with our own particular view of the world.

Earlier this year I was invited to be part of the judging panel for the Logies. To do this I had to view 56 hours of television drama covering some 30 shows from Neighbours and Home and Away to Top of the Lake and Caterina’s mini series Better Man. That’s a lot of tv drama even for an afficianado like me. I set out a nightly schedule of viewing for the best part of a month. It turned out to be a fabulous experience. The work is just so good. And it is not only Australians that think so. We know that a lot of Aussie drama has worked in NZ and we know that it is on a roll internationally.

I have had the fascinating opportunity to have a ringside seat in both the New Zealand and the Australian screen industries. I have worked at TVNZ, NZ On Air, Saatchi and Saatchi the NZFC in New Zealand. I was on the board on FNZ for 10 years.

Since then I held the role of CEO of Screen Australia for 5 years. I was briefly on the board of Ausfilm. Screen Australia brought together the television funding arrangements in Australia with the film funding arrangements. Ausfilm, the FNZ equivalent stands outside these arrangements in Australia as it does in NZ.

I started thinking about the similarities and differences between the Australian and New Zealand tv drama sectors. Size is obvious but there are structural differences too. I am going to look at dimensions of philosophy, policy instruments, public broadcasting, and sector capability firstly with reference to Australia.

1. The Australian industry has a clear philosophy underpinning it. Even the dries in Australia understand the centrality of local content in the cultural debate. It is tough times in Australia at the moment and there are cuts in public expenditure everywhere including funds for TV drama through cuts to ABC, Screen Australia and SBS. But there is total acceptance of the importance of local identity in television and its central role in expressing Australian identity.

2. Policy instruments: Local content regulation (by this I mean quota and the expenditure levy on the pay channels) is central to the success of the Australian tv industry. In NZ we lost that argument. I remember back in 1989 believing that the changes in the television landscape such as spectrum becoming a commodity rather than being a scarce resource and the vision of multi-channelling meant that quota as an instrument was a dinosaur. I was wrong. We were all wrong. In the meantime the Australian industry fought a trenchant battle in the GATS negotiations that saw their quota protected. It has proved resilient and the Australians have a robust commercial market for cultural drama as a result. They also have a minimum broadcaster licence fee that in the current climate acts as a floor not a ceiling. Networks compete for audiences and creative talent and ideas. This drives creative enterprise and capability.

Government support arrangements at the commonwealth level are aligned. Screen Australia brought together the film and television functions that had previously been packaged under three separate agencies. Screen Australia and the state agencies are generally in synch. The Screen Australia Enterprise program has supported a number of production companies that have either built on existing drama production capability or developed it from scratch. Most of the state bodies created company support programs to ensure pathways into the SA Enterprise program.

The Producer Offset is an unqualified success though there is a strong lobby for it to be raised to 40% for tv to match film (and New Zealand). It has increased production, given producers a tradeable equity stake, and enabled producers to improve company margins and retain a greater share of IP in the process.

3. Public Broadcasting. Primarily the ABC but also SBS. The ABC has had a huge impact on drama that generates cultural outputs, creative capability, businesses with attendant economic outcomes and product with international visibility

4. Sector capability: There is a critical mass of companies capable of playing globally. This is incentivized by the requirement to have significant market funds attached to any project before it is presented to Screen Australia. There is a number of production companies of scale operating in Australia; some wholly Australian owned like Playmaker and Hoodlum; some like Matchbox and Screentime were recently purchased by international players and others are global players with Australian arms like Southern Star. Companies that used to be players in one segment of the market like Fremantle are moving into drama because it has so much international potential and is competitive cost-wise with shiny-floor shows. The appointment of Kate Harwood as the new MD of the rebooted Euston films shows they mean business.

By comparison, what does the NZ landscape look like?

1. Philosophy: We do not have the same level of political support as the Australian industry. I think an argument could be made that we the NZ screen industry gave up too easily in 1989 when the BCNZ was restructured and the current regime was put in place. We accepted the rhetoric of the funder/provider/policy maker split and the cultural debate was subsequently lost under the prevailing ideology of commerce and populist television. We lost our moral compass in the process and as a result we do not have an authentic cultural case to make to government.

2. Policy instruments: New Zealand took the specialized purchasing route instead of quotas when NZ On Air was set up. As a result we have the transparent and low cost model that is NZ On Air. But we do not have the robust market place that Australia has. There isn’t the same competition for ideas, or the development of capability both on and off screen and in the international marketplace. The New Zealand model is domestically focused relative to the Australian model that has a dual domestic and international focus.

The broadcasters have little skin in the game so the pot does not grow. If one judges by the scale of production there is not the same level of entrepreneurialism in NZ as there is in Australia. But why would an entrepreneurial, globally oriented tv drama industry grow when it is possible to function almost entirely on the public purse? The incentive just isn’t there. Some revenues are flowing back into NZ from the sale of finished product into Australia under CER as a result of the Project Blue Sky initiative but it is a drop in the bucket compared with the potential of the global market.

The government arrangements are fragmented when looked at from a strategic industry development point of view. Numerous reviews have come to this conclusion. It remains to be seen whether the alliance of NZ On Air, the NZFC and Film NZ will deliver the joined up strategic approach that will be required to enable NZ to take its share of the global television drama opportunity.

The Screen Incentive is a real success story…I mean the achieving of it…television production at 40% is a terrific competitive lever the sector has to build from especially while Australia has not yet been able to achieve a matching level.

3. Public Broadcasting…we seem to have completely lost this argument with TVNZ ‘s mandate being more about yield than quality or culture. It is a tragedy for the development of the industry, for diversity of content for audiences as well as for civics.

4. Industry structure. There is strength in the NZ companies that can play globally like Pukeko. There are robust international players like SPP, Screentime and Eyeworks. And there are local companies like Great Southern and now Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan’s new company. Newbies like Libertine are looking very promising with a development deal out of the UK. There is a good foundation to build from and the NZFC’s Business Development scheme has the potential to support this growth.

So why talk about change? I hear people saying, “it ain’t broke so why fix it?”. I don’t know why they say this. As long ago as 2003 when the industry task force was set up the assumption was that it was broke back then. Every review since has said the same thing.

The task force said: “If significant growth is to be achieved, industry practitioners, funders and support industries must expect and prepare for significant change – in outlook and attitudes, imaginative leadership, in strategic direction and in modes of operation.”

And the sad fact is that the change did not happen and nor did the growth. But it still could. There is a big world out there and if NZ is able to access it in tv drama there would be a bigger sector, with more powerful players capable of telling our stories to the world.

Lets look at the opportunity from the Australian perspective.

Australian tv drama is very healthy indeed and there are some stellar stats to support this assertion.

2004/5-2008/9 Screen Australia (and the FFC) funded 196 hours of adult drama.

After an average of 7 years in the market place the average number of sales recorded by SA was 81 per year for an average value of $92,000 per hour.

2009/10-20012/13 SA funded 222 hours of adult drama.  After an average of only 2.5 years in the market place there were 100 sales per year recorded by SA with an average value per hour of $151,000.

What this means is that the dollar value per hour has increased by over 50% in 2.5 years with nearly 5 years still to run in the sales cycle. The number of sales is also on track to increase significantly.

By contrast I believe that NZ On Air’s figures show that while funding for tv drama has increased by around 75% in the past 5 years, revenues from sales are static or declining.

Over the past few years a number of Australian dramas have sold as finished programs and several as formats. I don’t want to romanticize. The format recreations are difficult from a creative control point of view but as the producers become more experienced in this space so their rights are improving.

I want to look at a case study of an Australian company that only a few years ago was not in the drama business. I was given the information on the condition that I did not name the company so I will respect that. The company’s revenues were previously from a different part of the value chain and were declining so they changed course. Now they have 6 dramas in paid development in the US and one in the UK. They have sold and coproduced a format in the US. Every deal they do they are able to negotiate a better position in respect of their IP. Their buyers in the US include the networks – ABC and NBC, new over-the-top companies like Amazon and Hulu  and cable channels like Disney. There are so many platforms now. It is a global market and the competition is global but in the halo of what some are calling the “ Nordic effect” the market knows that audiences will watch good quality content regardless of language or accent.

It’s worth taking a look at the key features of the Scandinavian shows like The Bridge, Borgen and The Killing. The key creator is the writer and the show is based on his/her unique voice. DR the public broadcaster in Denmark and the driving force behind this Nordic effect describes its practice as  “one vision”. Australia’s Playmaker company adopted the same philosophy from the get-go and their shows House Husbands and the recent The Code are testament to how successful this model is on our side of the world too. They have a clear focus on social issues. They believe that television has a role in educating people and influencing their view of the world and the social realities. So now we know…social issues with local character can and do travel.

Interestingly the Danish screen industry makes no visible differentiation between film and television. Both are approached with the same respect and filmmaking interest. There is no crossover angst; no divisions in arrangements. And…I have saved the best for last…50% of the head writers are women.

What might a road map for the future look like if we were to take Michael Stedman’s advice in his John O’Shea speech and speak with one voice. We would speak about a strategic approach to the enormous opportunity that is the global tv drama market where small countries like Denmark and Israel as well as Australia have shown the way? What would it take to activate our reset button?

1. Philosophically, we would have to rediscover our moral purpose as storytellers; as definers and defenders of our humanity, as singers of the songs of our social conscience, as image-makers of the ways we relate to each other. Of course Maori never lost touch with this discourse so it IS in the room. I tip my hat to The Dark Horse. Kia Ora Koutou.

2. In terms of policy instruments, we would have to overcome patch protection and self-interest and take the wider view. The Screen Council was a promising initiative but as its Chair Julie Christie said in her John O’Shea address, it failed.

Strategic collaboration IS possible as demonstrated by the successful industry case to government to increase the Screen Incentive to 40%.

However a single issue like this is an easier meal to swallow than a broad-based initiative like building a global tv drama strategy. It is going to be a mighty challenge for the screen agency alliance to achieve this level of strategic coordination under three separate structures. International marketing will be key. Who will be responsible for this? NZFC who have a commitment to international marketing for film but not  the budget to do it for tv? NZ on Air who have the money and the tv mandate but no industry support role? Or Film NZ who are very focussed in the international marketing space but have constrained resources and therefore sphere of operation?

The same problems will inhibit a strategic focus on talent development particularly visionary writers. The writer with the clear and unique voice is at the heart of the tv drama process. The local audience may be static but the international audience and the number of routes to market grows apace. The market is there for the right product as Libertine has shown with their development deal out of the UK and Rob Tapert has shown for a decade or more from Herc and Xena on. But we will need the producer capability to be able to access it as well as the creative capability. Where will the development funds come from? Some will be from partnerships with international players but some will have to come from local sources. Is the NZFC business development pot going to be big enough? Is that the NZFC’s job? Are the amounts going to each company sufficient? They are big relative to NZFC resources that’s for sure; but they are a lot smaller than the extremely successful Super Pods were back in the day on a real dollar basis.

There are great storytellers in New Zealand. Top of the Lake produced by Philippa Campbell is as much New Zealand’s as Australia’s. That’s the level we can aspire to. I was told that the 40 or so international sales agents who attend the 37 degrees South market in Melbourne consistently rate NZ projects over Australian projects. I understand that Tim Sanders and Emma Slade were in the top projects at the very competitive PFM in London. Congratulations.  But who is going to invest in this? Since the Super Pods, structures to date have not produced robust companies despite a billion dollars of television drama production investment.

3. Public Broadcasting. NZ is too small for a behemoth like the ABC. Heck, the current Australian government seems to think Australia is too small for it! We need a mixed model. The Charter was an attempt to codify a mixed model but it failed. People will advance different reasons for this such as lack of transparency and conflicting objectives. It could work if the will was there. What is lacking is the focus on our moral and social purposes as cultural storytellers. We have enabled the discourse to be limited to economic rationalism that cannot encompass the deeply felt human need for a sense of belonging to a universe that is larger than ourselves. It is our responsibility to develop the cultural conversation located in the shared imagination of us all. Michael Stedman said it better than I can:

“At the heart of television are creative and innovative ideas, ideas that are given life by the production industry. This industry must use this gift for creativity and innovation to unite in the common goal of preserving public service broadcasting.”

4. Sector capability. If we are to achieve the export-led growth vision for an industry that is less dependent on government we need more local production companies developing their IP for the international market and increasingly developing the muscle to retain larger shares of downstream revenues. The factual sector of the New Zealand industry with companies like NHNZ and Imagination provide models here. The companies need to be capitalized and run their own development slates. The purely project-funding model has produced a lot of really good local tv drama but it has not built the companies with long term business strategies capable of participating in the huge growth of the global tv drama business.

In conclusion, it is taking our industry a very long time to activate the reset button. The symptoms of poor health have been around for a decade and industry and government reports alike have described both the causes and the treatment. But so far we have not had the imagination and will to activate it.

In the end, as we know, Caterina was not able to run her race any longer. But the fierce will and imagination that sustained her for so many years was as much for the potential of our storytelling industry as it was for herself.

The imagination is evident in many of the elements that comprise the New Zealand screen drama sector. We have local dramas, film and television that have achieved huge audiences. SPP’s Shortland Street is 22 years old and a cultural icon. Top of the Lake was one of the best independent dramas produced last year getting 7 Emmy and 2 Golden Globes nominations winning one of each. Film is having a vintage year with What we Do in the Shadows, The Dark Horse and The Deadlands. It is instructive that the films are all Maori themed in one way or another. We have a very competitive screen production incentive that at 40% for both film and television is the strongest offering in the region. Our producers have the ability to foot it on the international stage.

We certainly have the imagination. What we need is the fierce will to take the next step into the global television drama arena to grow our whole industry.

Whatever we do will be the legacy of everyone in this room.

It is our collective responsibility to ensure that it is as fine a legacy as Caterina and John O’Shea would have imagined.
   

AACTA Awards nomination for Chelsie Preston Crayford

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) have announced their nominations for the 4th AACTA Awards.

Chelsie Preston Crayford is up for Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama for her performance in ABC's The Code.


Full list of nominations available for viewing here.
   

Karima Madut gets cred on Shortland Street

Taken from Stuff, by Joanna Mathers.

When Karima Madut arrived in New Zealand, aged eight, she learned English by writing poetry and song lyrics. "I wrote about my life," she says. "I wrote love songs to my primary school crushes."

Fourteen years on and the Kenyan-born Sudanese actor is still writing songs. She's also singing, acting on stage, and poised to become a household name as Clementine on Shortland Street.

As only the second African actor on New Zealand's longest running soap (the first was Zimbabwean Brian Manthenga, who played Dr Xavier Moyo in 2009), Madut has only been on set a few weeks, but she's already made an impact. There are whispers of her character being deepened and broadened to include a back story, complete with on-screen family.

She was asked to audition while in rehearsals for stage psychodrama Belleville, directed by Oliver Driver. "My agent called me two months ago to ask if I was keen to audition for a role. I found out that I had the job within a week."


Read the full article here.
   

Oz drama to be based in Kiwi town

Taken from NZ Herald, by Russell Baillie.

It seems the reverse brain drain has made it to television production - a major Australian television network has commissioned a primetime family drama set in smalltown New Zealand.

Seven Network yestserday announced among its 2015 season 800 Words which stars NZ-bred actor Erik Thomson as the father of two teenagers who moves his family from Sydney across the Tasman to a picturesque Kiwi town after the death of his wife. Thomson's character writes a newspaper column - hence the shoe title - for a living.

It's partly created by James Griffin, a regular contributor of 800 words in his regular column for the Weekend Herald's canvas magazine.

Despite the apparent scenic qualities of the fictional town in the show, the hamlet will be named "Weld".

South Pacific Pictures will be making the eight episode series of hour-long shows after the Australian network wanted a new vehicle for Thomson, who had played the father in hit Aussie series Packed to the Rafters for six seasons.


Read the full article here.
   

Channel Seven’s new shows for 2015

Taken from Sydney Morning Herald, by Michael Lallo.

A drama based on serial killer Ivan Milat, a Gallipoli documentary series, a fourth spin-off of the "Rules" reality franchise, and two separate star vehicles for Packed to the Rafters leads Rebecca Gibney and Erik Thomson are among the new programs Channel Seven hopes will help it retain its ratings dominance next year.

But a question mark hangs over Bringing Sexy Back, The Amazing Race and The Big Adventure, which have not been confirmed to return in 2015.

Network CEO Tim Worner boldly proclaimed Seven would remain Australia's No. 1 station until 2020 - at least - at a lavish unveiling of next year's programs.


Full list of new shows here.
   

Outrageous Fortune prequel cast

Taken from NZ Herald, by Russell Baillie.

One of its stars is going from goalkicker to safecracker. Another plays her own television grandmother.

That's the cast of Westside Story and its stars are promising it will be a sexy and stylish 1970s-set prequel to Kiwi television classic Outrageous Fortune. The actors in the leading roles have been revealed exclusively to the Weekend Herald as the wide-collared big-moustached retro-revival of hit Kiwi dramedy begins shooting in Auckland tomorrow.

Original series star Antonia Prebble has been confirmed as playing her grandmother Rita in Westside Story. It's a role she took on earlier while starring as Loretta West in OF, during flashbacks to the earlier days of safecracking grandpa, Ted West who was played by the late Frank Whitten.


Read the full article here.
   

NZ On Air funds television comedy

Taken from NZ On Air.

There will be lots to laugh about next year with the two new and three returning television comedy series funded by NZ On Air.

In its latest funding decisions, NZ On Air has committed support for a new sketch comedy series that will give local female comedians a platform. Funny Girls will be written by and predominantly feature women. Made by Mediaworks it will screen on TV3.

The second new series is Word Up which will be made by South Pacific Pictures for TV One. With a quiz show format, three comedian-led teams will compete for laughs.

NZ On Air will also fund new seasons of the popular 7 Days and Jono And Ben At Ten on TV3 and Best Bits on TV One.

"Locally made comedy is performing well on TV right now. We are happy to see new concepts coming through, as well as continuing to support existing series that have built faithful audiences. In particular it is good to see a show specifically written for our excellent female comedians," says Ms Wrightson.


Read full funding details here.
   

Coverband: Even losers get lucky

Taken from NZ Herald, by Greg Dixon.

So you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star?

Then listen now to what I say: just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play. Then, maybe, if your hair's combed right and your pants fit tight, you'll have a big hit and move to LA and ... then what?

Well hopefully, like Meatloaf bellowed, your rock 'n' roll dreams will come true. Bt what if they don't? It is with this alternative universe, the shaky afterlife following the half-life of rock 'n' roll success, that new local comedy, the terrifically silly and rather mishchievous Coverband (9.30pm, Thursdays, TV One) has decided to have some fun.

This is the story of the brothers Gibson, Matt and Alex, who started a band at high school. They played guitar and bass; Ivy was the singer. At first they called themselves Ivy and the Poison (ha!) "It was Ivy's idea," the opening voiceover from Matt told us, "to change the name of the band to just 'Ivy'." (a poke at the ego of singers! ha again!) And then they had the big hit and Ivy and Matt moved to LA - dumping brother Alex and drummer Knuckles in the process - and then ...

it all went pear-shaped.


Read the full review here.
   

Brokenwood Mysteries: A moment of sleuth

Taken from NZ Herald, by Lydia Jenkin.

It was Miss Scarlett, in the billiard room, with the candlestick.

TimeOut wanted to find out whether Neill Rea and Fern Sutherland's roles in new murder mystery series The Brokenwood Mysteries had heightened their powers of deduction. So we challenged them to a game of Cluedo, the winner being the first to discover Miss Scarlett's misdeeds.

It initially took us a while to remember the rules of the game (correct protocol must be adhered to) and get a little momentum going with our investigations, but once we discovered the secret passageways that ran between the kitchen, study, conservatory, and lounge, we were on a roll. Questions began flying as we tried to out-manoeuvre each other in figuring out who had killed poor Dr Black, with what handy implement, in which room of Tudor Close.

Both Rea and Sutherland claim to have figured out who the killers were early on in the likes of Broadchurch and The Killing, and their fictional counterparts - Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd, and Detective Kristin Sims - have recently solved four murder mysteries in Brokenwood.

So you'd think one of them would win...


Read the full article here.
   
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