Home > Regular Columns > Talking Heads: NZWG, 7 December 2015

Talking Heads: NZWG, 7 December 2015

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The New Zealand Writers Guild is a passionate collective of film, television, short film, animation, new media, theatre and radio writers. We are Writers who are best described – not by our chosen genres – but by our perseverance to write. NZWG has a long history as a strong Guild, operating in New Zealand since the mid-70’s (see our history here).

The local landscape in which stories are told has gone through some major phases of evolution since NZWG’s inception. The impact of each change has rippled through our beautiful waters either as a tsunami, or a gentle flutter – unnoticeable to the naked eye. We have seen the removal of residuals for key creatives, changes to the labour laws for collective bargaining and contractor’s rights, plus upcoming changes to the Health and Safety Act. We have also witnessed sea-changes in the technology of how our stories are shared. Television went from two channels to now 70+ in the broadcast model. The internet arrived. Personal viewing screens now come in sizes ranging from the entire lounge wall into the palm of your hand. Typewriters have turned to computers, and faxes to emails.

All the while, the essence and function of writing has essentially stayed the same: Think the thought, write it somewhere. The process of getting a script to screen has seen the biggest evolution, progressing at such a rapid pace we can’t remember a time now without Netflix, or the Facebook rants of our industry peers. Digital has become the mode, the internet the platform. Traditional broadcast and film release are no longer the only way our stories are viewed. Simultaneous release is common place, with VOD platforms coming into creation almost daily. Amazon.com, Netflix and others now have their own film and TV creation and release platforms. Festivals around the world cover more genres than possibly thought of 30 years ago. The advance, too, in the tools available to “up-craft” Writers, range from script software to platforms upon which work is assessed, rated, ranked and developed through advice from anonymous and named experts.

NZWG plays a key role sandbagging the edges of the landscape for impending tsunamis, or holding a microscope to the gentle flutter to better see what the ripples might ultimately effect. We guide our writers’ waka through these creation tides, seeking to hold them steady. We lobby, advocate and negotiate. A current concern for the NZWG is seeking to maintain writers’ rights over their own creations in the face of increasingly complex deals and players. Daily, we advise writers and other industry professionals on terms and conditions of contracts seeking to fairly recognise writers’ works while fostering their subsequent development into fruition on screens and stage. The “Writers’ Contract” as a singular one-size-fits-all entity, in stasis since somewhere near the beginning of our collective history, has stood like an embattled tide-staff fixed to the ground without care for the flux around it. Thankfully and increasingly, with the benefit of our expert guidance, these lone contracts are receding into the mists of time, to be replaced by a suite of contracts – each tailored to, and fit for, it’s particular project. This sees better deals for writers, customized to project, medium of delivery and the varied and sprouting potential avenues springing from their quietly fostered offspring: the stories and the art in their telling.

The central focus of the NZWG is nurturing skilled, active, involved and professional-minded writers who produce quality works for which they receive fair reward. How do we work toward this end? One current core service is facilitating Seed Grant funding from the NZ Film Commission. Three rounds per year, with a primary goal of furnishing writers with unencumbered development funds – $10,000 per grant – resulting in, at minimum, a fantastic first draft of a feature film script with production potential. The Seed grant is open to any writer in Aotearoa (full details)

NZWG seeks collaboration and inclusivity. We are proud of and want to foster the magic in our creative industries brings together New Zealanders from every conceivable background toward a common story telling goal. Our industry is founded upon collaborative effort to the visual telling of stories, and we engage with all our fellow guilds toward this united end. We firmly believe that knowing our individual and collective rights helps to create a stronger and more sustainable local industry. Whatever your discipline, we encourage you to join your local Guild, we are here for you and the betterment of our industry.

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