So much good news this week. A relief to write about, after my recent long essays that explore continued and complex risks to the safety of New Zealand women who make films; our taxpayer over-investment in international projects that white men write and direct and under-investment in the distribution and marketing of films that New Zealand women write and direct; and new and inequitable taxpayer-funded creative worker research that may be used by policy-makers. Whew.
Individually, these good news announcements don’t mean much. But collectively, they may signal that — at last — that women writers and directors are not ‘exceptional’ in taxpayer-funded projects here. And some of them have established a new local ‘normal’ where both writing *and* directing roles are shared — like the multiple women writers and directors of Waru and Vai and others working as joint writer/directors in pairs.
At the Berlinale earlier this year, Vai’s Marina Alofagia McCartney articulated this idea very powerfully, in direct reference to the Pacific, Te Moana Nui a Kiwa–
‘To me, this is the opposite of the auteur theory, where the director is the author. Because we’re all [including Vai’s producers] authors…This really is the true nature of the collective. This is Moana cinema.’
This shift, right here, is something to celebrate I reckon, because, like Shaula Evans (no relation) —
It looks like the door’s now opening wider here, though I believe that it’s not yet wide enough and there’s another essential step identified recently by Waru and Vai’s producer Kerry Warkia, speaking about about the women who made these films —
‘We should be telling these stories…And we should be creating platforms for these women and supporting them. Doors have been closed for so long that it’s not just about opening the door, it’s about going out to find them because they walked away a long time ago.’
So I agree with Shaula when she says this, too —
One of this week’s announcements opens the door a little wider to all of you who work outside New Zealand. Another, from ScreenSafe and the Screen Women’s Action Group (SWAG), is a very welcome health and safety initiative.
The others show that the major agencies — the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and New Zealand on Air (NZOA), sometimes in association with Script to Screen, seem now to have accepted that there truly are *lots* of skilled women working here whose voices and visions are powerful and relevant, who don’t need ‘upskilling’ and whose projects are worth investing in.
International Co-Development Fund
The New Zealand Film Commission has established the International Co-Development Fund, to launch on 1 July, with an annual pool of NZ$400,000, providing grants of up to $40,000 for New Zealand filmmakers to work with international partners and develop feature films as official co-productions. If your country has a co-production treaty with New Zealand, think about coming over? (Ireland and Luxembourg have gone one better, with a new women-oriented co-development fund.)
And if you do come over, you’ll be entering a country where your workplace health and safety matters.
Health and Safety announcement from ScreenSafe and SWAG
SWAG has been working away on this initiative for a while, in partnership with other organisations, including ScreenSafe. And this poster summarises where they’ve got to.
I’m thrilled to see bullying mentioned in the first paragraph, because at first the initiative focused only on sexual harassment. What a delight to see this moving forward.
NZOA funding announcement
NZOA announced funding for two projects.
The first, from the amazing women of Flat3 whose webseries work has been delighting me for years now, is ‘a dystopian comedy series, Creamerie, set in a post-apocalyptic future where a viral plague has wiped out 99% of men, and Earth has become a planet run by and for women, and three Kiwi-Asian women running a dairy farm…encounter a man!
This is the first project that’s received production funding from the Diverse Development initiative created by NZ On Air early in 2017, an initiative ‘intended to help different creatives bring fresh ideas to screens, widening the diversity of stories reflecting New Zealanders’. A very welcome first. And my first thought was ‘I hope they’re getting enough money this time’, because NZOA didn’t fund them adequately for their webseries, nor all those others who made the webseries that revolutionised representation on our screens.
The other project is Cousins, from Patricia Grace’s classic novel, written by Patricia Grace and Briar Grace Smith and to be directed by Briar and Ainsley Gardiner, whose Miss Conception (with Georgina Conder) will produce. Cousins is primarily funded by the NZFC. (And from the NZOA press release I was interested to learn that it has a Rautaki Māori, a Māori strategy, dating from 2002 an amazing sixteen years before the NZFC’s!)
NZOA and NZFC announcement
Another announcement was about the Raupapa Whakaari Drama to the World initiative that NZ On Air and the NZFC have partnered on and it too seems to show that continued debate about inclusion is making a real difference to decision-making. Look at this image, of the selected writers (some of whom will probably direct as well) and producers of ten ideas for series with international and domestic appeal.
Some of the writers are also producers and/or directors and/or actors on other projects, but of those in this group who I *think* will be writing, eleven are women. There’s just one project without a woman writer attached! Extraordinary!
Yay for Alison McLean, Briar Grace Smith, Donna Malane, Hannah Marshall, Kath Akuhata-Brown, Natalie Medlock, Paula Boock, Pip Hall, Rachel Lang, Roxanne Gajadhar, Shoshanna McCallum. Such a breadth and depth of writing experience in this cohort and it’s a delight to see it being acknowledged like this (more details here).
Each writer/producer team will develop their series with an initial grant of NZ$10,000 and attend a Series Drama Lab, held in conjunction with Script to Screen, where international advisors will give feedback on story and market to assist the teams to further develop their concepts and strengthen appeal to the international marketplace. After that, they’ll re-work their projects and four teams will then be selected to receive additional development funding of up to NZ$80,000. Look out world! (And remember to look out for Creamerie and Cousins, too!)
Great to see the NZFC and NZOA working together on this, maybe a precursor of a new body that combines both? I hope so. It would make a lot of sense, but would need legislation, take time. And if they’re separate, it also gives each an opportunity to compete with the other; and if they compete over inclusion, I’m all for that!
Script to Screen’s ‘The Politics of Representation in Filmmaking’
And then there’s this Auckland event, on Tuesday. Not to be missed. I think it too is a first for New Zealand, certainly a first entitled The Politics of Representation in Filmmaking with a discussion among writers and directors —
‘Many of us long to see ourselves and our communities represented on screen. Filmmakers are in the unique position of being able to bring to life the diverse characters and worlds we want to see. But with power comes responsibility.
It can be a hard task navigating the balance between staying true to your story while satisfying the audience’s expectations for your character. Especially if those characters are the first of their kind on screen.
Please join us to hear from Shuchi Kothari ( Coffee & Allah, Apron Strings, A Thousand Apologies), Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa ( Three Wise Cousins, Hibiscus & Ruthless) and Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu ( Waru, Ani) as they share their experiences finding the sweet spot between great stories and responsible representation.’
And the images in the ad (above) are *all* images of women of colour, each a still from a film made by one of the speakers! Get your tickets here!
Script to Screen exists to develop the local craft and culture of storytelling for the screen. It’s funded partly by the NZFC and New Zealand On Air and has a vigorous programme that includes the annual Big Screen Symposium. Almost every initiative it manages has had an inclusive group of participants, for a while now. And it’s beginning to look like this commitment will translate into more inclusive taxpayer-funded productions before too long. I certainly hope so.
Originally published at https://wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com on May 19, 2019.