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AFTAs gonnas

The Screen Directors’ Guild of NZ (SDGNZ) has pulled out of the AFTAs, leaving the film and TV awards without any film awards. The SDGNZ was co-organiser with Think TV of the Qantas Film & TV Awards and last year’s new incarnation the Aotearoa Film & TV Awards (AFTAs).

The SDGNZ’s Anna Cahill said that the event took an enormous amount of time to organise, and with limited time and time resource available, the guild had decided to refocus its priorities on its membership and membership issues.

Cahill denied that withdrawing its involvement was a financial decision, but the absence of a naming rights sponsor from last year’s event following the end of Qantas’ three-year deal can’t have helped.

Last May the NZFC announced changes to the way in which it supported the guilds, tying its support specifically to training initiatives rather than guilds’ broader activities. Overall this meant a reduction in the amount of money going to guilds, although money available for supporting awards was in a separate pot.

This year, the SDGNZ didn’t apply for funding from the awards pot, and Cahill stressed that the guild was in the process creating a programme of member-focused events for the year ahead – presumably including training opportunities which would receive NZFC support.

Industry guilds are also struggling to come to terms with the financial hit from changes to immigration legislation, which no longer allow them to charge overseas individuals for letters of non-objection for work visas on productions shooting or posting here.

The SDGNZ has been involved in the annual industry awards event since 2006. Prior to that there was a separate TV awards event, which – in some shape or form – Think TV is committed to reviving.

Think TV’s Rick Friesen said that there was a commitment from broadcasters to continue to support the event and to retain in its new November slot. Last year the event moved from September to November to accommodate the Rugby World Cup and from the Civic to the Viaduct Events Centre.

While the move to the new venue was not without its teething problems, the date change proved popular with the networks. Following last year’s event, the networks decided it would make sense to keep it in early November. Slipping in ahead of the busy Christmas party season, the new date still allows plenty of time for networks to load up their onscreen promos for autumn season programming with “Winner” stickers.

A release from Think TV announcing the change said that the SDGNZ would consult “with the NZ Film Commission and other film industry participants to find alternative ways to celebrate the film industry’s successes each year.”

Those discussions have not yet commenced, although the NZFC was made aware of the SDGNZ’s decision prior to Thursday’s public announcement. The Commission is also having internal discussions about what, if anything, it might be able to do ensure that filmmakers’ best efforts are recognised by some form of award.

The loss of the film awards would be a blow to those likely to be nominated or win, since every little laurel helps when trying to sell films or find work or funding overseas.

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