It has been an interesting few months since our last column, the industry furore around Duncan Greive’s NZ Herald column and follow up articles in The Spinoff has helped broker discussion about local television drama. This discussion doesn’t seem to have broken out of the industry and into the greater public consciousness so far. This can be seen as a good thing, leading us to believe that the drama that is made is working for viewers, or it could be taken as a lack of interest in what and how local drama is made.
In other areas there is a growing sense of frustration in agent land with the seeming disinterest by many sectors of the industry in involving agents in the many facets of decision making around performers, whether it be feature films or theatre.
We are the first to accept that we can not and should not be involved in every minute detail of every production, however we are – or should be – the first port of call when a performer is asked to perform or support an existing performance. It seems foolish, as well as disrespectful, to not make agents part of conversations about publicity calls, interviews and any aspects of media involvement. Similarly, expecting a performer to be involved in media promotion of a feature film or television series without ensuring that they have had the opportunity to see the finished material available places them in the difficult position of talking about an unknown quantity. It is also very helpful for the agent to have been able to see the film or episode before it is released to the public. We remain saddened that whilst there are media screenings there are, often, no cast and crew ones. Producers are vocal about wanting the industry to support local productions but it’s hard to give word of mouth support for something no one has seen!
Contracts are another area of contention. We now have a SPADA and Equity NZ jointly agreed contract, the creation of which involved the AAANZ, which is specifically designed to cover local drama, both film and television. It is not a perfect document, indeed both parties are slated to update it about now. Nonetheless it is vast improvement on the plethora of strange documents existing previously. Whilst the terms and conditions are set there is plenty of opportunity to discuss and agree the individual aspects of each performer’s involvement in a production, so please have this discussion with agents knowing that without a clear chain of title there will be potential problems waiting in the future. Seemingly small details like properly identifying the producer of the production are actually important!
Thankfully, for agents – and performers – the contract situation around TVCs is much simpler and better understood; it appears that when there is a limited timeframe to transactions with specific media purchases then focus comes more naturally.
So, please do engage with the agent representing the performer you have already engaged or with whom you would like to work, our job is to help protect everyone from themselves as much as from each other!