Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program:
These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without funding from NZ Film Commission, and the hard work and backing from the productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank Line Producer Sarah Cook and Executive Producer Emma Slade for making this opportunity possible.
Report from Mara Yambao:
"I was given the role of Video Intern/Camera Trainee on The Justice of Bunny King. My main responsibilities were to ensure that video village was set up during shoot days and assisting the camera department. I reported directly to Ben Rowsell (1 st AC), Rayne Mokaraka (2 nd AC) and Danny Burnett (DIT). Prior to this shoot, I’ve had no experience working with the DIT department, in specific, setting up monitors/ video village on set and so I found this pretty exciting to jump into. This role allowed me to gain new skills and help me gain personal professional development.
The main lessons I took away from this role:
Exponential Growth: This was my first foray into the video splitting world and I did not know how to operate the equipment (FSI, Apollo, Teradeks). During my prep week, Danny gave me a quick theoretical introduction and run down of the equipment. However the learning did not start until the first day. I learnt more about the FSI monitor, the Apollo, cabling and the Teradeks through hands on approach, I was pushed to explore the different functions of the equipment by using. Being on set forced me to apply myself, and be observant at all times, I needed to make sure that not only was I performing my tasks correctly but I also had to be attentive to the needs of the team, for example, if they needed help moving equipment, help with lens changes or slating. I enjoyed finding that balance and learning through practical applications.
Communication is key: If I was having issues with the equipment, and my attempt in resolving them were unsuccessful, I needed to communicate this immediately to Danny so that he could help with resolving the issue. Furthermore, this role allowed me to liaise with different departments. For example, from liaising with the 1 st AD where to put the video village to requesting a 4x4 floppy from the Gaffer to set up for the video village.
Making decisions and being pro-active: Ben and I have worked on a previous film shoot, so it was great to have Ben as my 1 st AC, as he was able to give me feedback on my work. Prior to the shoot he gave me a short brief of my role and responsibilities, aside from learning the equipment and being able to problem solve issues he wanted me to be more pro-active on set and think outside the box and make my own decisions with my role. This was one of the most valuable lessons for me, as it gave me the confidence to “own” my work and also pushed me to take initiative, as opposed to waiting for orders.
Overall my experience working on the set of ‘The Justice of Bunny King,’ was amazing and it was an absolute privilege to work with Ginny, Ben, Rayne and Danny. I am very grateful to have been given this valuable opportunity.
Report from Ginny Loane NZCS Director of Photography:
Mara Yambao was our Gender Diversity trainee on “The Justice of Bunny King” and was a super-woman extraordinaire. She was always calm and collected with the tornado-like energy of the film set swirling around her.
It was a pleasure to see her really taking command of the job and owning it.
Mara has a focus I noticed immediately when we first worked together. She is the first person watching and reacting when anyone might need assistance, and does what is required quietly with no fuss, and does it well.
Mara has come ahead in leaps and bounds with gear and got her head around cameras and vid split systems straight away.
I am really confident that Mara is ready to take on a second AC position and easily fulfil the requirements of the job.
Report from Ben Rowsell 1st AC:
On the recent production “The Justice of Bunny King”, Mara was assigned to the camera department via the NZCS Gender Diversity Program. I had previously worked with Mara on Disney’s “Mulan” where she was camera intern and PA to Mandy Walker ASC ACS, so I was interested to see how she would go on a smaller independent movie.
From the start Mara was given responsibility of running the onset video monitoring and playback as well as general camera department support, where she showed great initiative and focus in both areas. The setup was 2 cameras for approximately 50 percent of the shoot and after some initial support from our DIT operator Danny Burnett, Mara was keen to do as much as possible on her own.
Mara worked closely with Director Gaysorn Thavat, DOP Ginny Loane NZCS & Script Supervisor Kath Thomas, making sure picture was up and always standing by to record and playback.
Throughout the shoot 2nd AC Rayne Mokaraka assigned more responsibility to Mara and she was soon confident with slating, paperwork, lens changes & general assisting work.
Mara was a pleasure to have as part of the team and I was very happy with her work ethic - it’s not often you find someone who is so quiet and attentive on set. Mara made good progress with her ability and confidence during the job, and hopefully we’ll see more of her on set in the future.
The Screen Industry - Sexual Harassment Prevention Project
At the global The Power of Inclusion (POI) summit on Friday 4 October 2019, ScreenSafe/SWAG announced a pivotal new initiative supported by NZ On Air (NZOA), New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) and SPADA.
SWAG was set up in Aotearoa New Zealand, in response to the global #MeToo movement, that shook the entertainment industry and demanded a higher standard of workplace care. They partnered with ScreenSafe, the screen industries Health and Safety initiative with the aim to contribute significantly toward ensuring safe, creative, respectful, and happy workplaces are the norm in the screen industry nationwide.
Co-founding member of SWAG, Emma Slade partook in the panel at The Power of Inclusion summit, #MeToo – Where Too?, alongside global leaders Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Nasreen Alkhateeb and Kirsten Schaffer.
In response to feedback from successful pilot training courses, there will be a one-day Professional Respect Training Course primarily for Heads of Departments but open to anyone from the screen sector. Offered from early 2020, the course will address prevention, definitions, disclosures and respectful behaviours in the workplace.
NZOA and NZFC will be contributing funding and alongside the industry guilds are supportive of these courses as essential to Health and Safety in the screen industry.
ScreenSafe/SWAG will also be rolling out a Respect Online Module from early 2020 that will address Sexual Harassment, Harassment and Bullying for all practitioners in the Screen Sector. This course can be undertaken at any time.
ScreenSafe/SWAG is looking for support from all the guilds and industry organisations to encourage their members to undertake this enhanced training.
Here are the resources currently available on ScreenSafe and SWAG’s
- website: www.screensafe.co.nz or swag.org.nz
- Screen Sector Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and Reporting Form
- Bystander Intervention Poster and Guidelines
- Onset Daily Verbal Briefing
- Sexual Harassment Definition Poster (‘What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?’)
- ‘Receiving Disclosures’ pamphlet
- Intimacy Coordinators and Crew Briefing for Sex Scenes
- Sexual harassment reporting form
- Professional Respect HOD Training – upcoming dates in early 2020
These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without the hard work and backing from the Productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank Chloe Smith. Without your help, placements such as this would not have been possible.
Report from Zyanya Jackson
This winter I was lucky enough to be the camera trainee for the 6 week shoot of “Black Christmas”, an American feature film from Blumhouse Productions, filming in the South Island.
I joined the crew in Dunedin for the first day of production and spent the first week getting to grips with the camera equipment, processes and observing how the crew in the camera department worked as a team and as part of the production as a whole.
It was important to me to make the most of my time on this placement and get as much hands-on experience with the camera gear as possible. Fortunately for me my 1st AC’s Pete Cunningham, Kirsten Green and Roger Feenstra, and 2nd AC’s Declan Cooke, Jake Stanton and Nani Conforte , were always more than happy to answer any question I had and gave me every opportunity to be involved with builds and to spend time getting to know everything we had to work with.
As this was my first time working on this level of production, there was something new to learn every day, from start to finish, and my second week was definitely a steep learning curve performing 2ndAC duties for the C camera when it came into play. It was a great opportunity to really get involved and get used to working on set - knowing where to be and when, set etiquette and how to work efficiently as a camera assistant alongside the rest of the crew.
The second half of the shoot was spent in Alexandra and the Waitaki Valley. Dealing with the logistics of filming on location vs in the studio, and the way this affects how we functioned as a department was a good lesson in on-the-spot trouble-shooting and adapting quickly in different environments. Night shoots on location really gave a sense of how well prepared you need to be for working out in the elements, whether the conditions were real or created by SFX.
Something I really enjoyed was working alongside all the other departments on set. Being a horror movie it was really interesting to see how our director Sophia Takal and DP Mark Schwartzbard worked together to set the tone for each scene, and from Art Dept and Lighting to Sound and Continuity, it was pretty amazing to watch how each different faction comes together once a take is called. I was very lucky to have such supportive crew around me as I got more and more involved in the production.
My placement on “Black Christmas” has been invaluable. I was definitely expecting to spend more time observing from the side-lines as a trainee, so I’m really grateful to everyone I worked with in the camera department for the generosity they showed me with their knowledge and patience and for taking the time to train me and get me involved in the job. I feel like I’ve gained so much from working with such experienced crew that I can hopefully take with me into future projects.
A huge thank you to the NZCS and the NZ Film Commission for creating these opportunities, and to Line Producer Chloe Smith and Unit Production Manager Annie Weston for such a great contribution to the ongoing success of the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program.
For the first time ever, New Zealand has officially played host to a President of the American Society of Cinematographers, courtesy of a Masterclass in Auckland, facilitated by ARRI Australia.
Simon Raby NZCS President and Kees van Oostrum ASC President
A group of local cinematographers and camera rental managers gathered for a day and half to learn more from Kees van Oostrum, ASC, about the ARRI Large Format camera system, the brand new Alexa Mini LF camera and the ARRI Signature Prime lenses. Also on hand to collaborate in the session was Thorsten Meywald, Product Manager, Optical Systems, ARRI, Germany, with first-hand knowledge of the development of these lenses, designed specifically for Large Format and digital capture, and Sean Dooley, ARRI Sales Manager from Sydney.
Alexa Mini LF with Masterclass participants
After an overview from Sean, demonstrating the new features of the just-released Alexa Mini LF, Thorsten lead a presentation covering the objectives of the design process for creating the new lenses – specifically: lower contrast than traditional film lenses, a smooth natural fall-off in out of focus areas, the ability to cover the larger sensor area of the LF format, and a new stronger and larger LPL lens mount to replace the 37 year old PL mount system. All 16 lens in the Signature range were together in Auckland for the first time anywhere. Most interesting was the new 12mm (angle of view comparable to 8mm in Super35 format) which has some remarkable design features, including internal rotation of the image to allow for smaller front diameter, shorter protrusion of the back element and a stop of T1.8.
Kees van Oostrum ASC, sets up multi-camera format comparison
The session with Kees began with a practical exercise, comparing a standard Super35 format Alexa Mini, an Alexa Mini LF and several sets of traditional lenses up against the Signature Primes. Some of the objectives of the side by side testing were as follows:
1/ To demonstrate the visual appeal of shooting in Large Format, with reduced depth of field for a given angle of view, and increased resolution, and compare this with Super 35 spherical and anamorphic formats.
2/ To analyse the “clean, natural” look of the Signature primes but then detune the lenses to match the look of various vintage lenses, including Master Primes, Cookes, and Superspeeds. This detuning was specifically achieved with rear element filtering on the Signature lenses with the new magnetic filter holder and a wide variety of nets and standard eyeglass diopters especially cut to fit.
3/ To test the extended usable ISO range of the LF format. More photo-sites in a larger sensor means the noise floor is less apparent when the sensor is pushed to the limits of light capture, and it certainly appears the LF system is faster and can push to 3200 ISO if needed.
One of the highlights of the day was provided when Kees produced his 1919 Taylor-Hobson 110mm, 4x5 stills camera lens (with LPL adapter mount) which produced a surprisingly sharp, if flared out, image. The challenge was to find a rear lens filter pack to emulate that vintage 100 year old look on the brand new Signature lenses – mission achieved very successfully with a #1 Soft rear filter.
100 year-old Taylor-Hobson lens on Alexa Mini LF
The day ended with a demonstration of the Trinity hybrid camera stabiliser that combines classic mechanical stabilisation with advanced active electronic stabilisation – essentially a Steadicam-type system, mated with a gimbal rig.
The second day was a viewing and grading session at the Department of Post, where the true 4K DCI Christie Lazer Projector was used to split screen images for comparison, in the optimum viewing environment, and conclusions were debated and reached on the merits of each test.
Crighton Bone NZCS, Aaron Morton NZCS, Simon Temple, and Simon Raby NZCS check out the Trinity camera stabiliser rig
The NZCS intends to embark on a series of Masterclasses and workshops in our Professional Development Program, in the near future, and it was great to observe how this class ran and take lessons from the experience. It was a real pleasure to have Kees van Oostrum ASC, and the team from ARRI in town and thanks must go to Brett Smith, ARRI Australia’s General Manager, for having the vision to bring the ASC President to Australia and NZ to share his insights into the craft of advanced image capture.
~ Donny Duncan NZCS
These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without the hard work and backing from the Productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank the Line Producer Mel Turner and her team. Without your help, this placement would not have been possible. Thanks Mel and team!
Report from Tammy Williams
I was fortunate enough to shadow Aaron Morton NZCS on the five week shoot of Sweet Tooth, an American Network TV pilot filmed in Auckland in June 2019.
I spent a small amount of time in pre-production with Aaron, attending a camera test and a couple of location recce’s and production meetings. It was a good way for us to chat in a less busy environment and a chance for me to get my head around the script and the visual language that Aaron and Jim Mickle, the director, wanted to pursue.
From there it was on to a five week shoot for the pilot. The production was based at Auckland Film Studios in Henderson and we filmed between there, Bethells, Muriwai and Woodhill Forest. One of the greatest parts of the shoot for me was that we were changing the location of where we shot often so I got to watch how Aaron and Jim chose to shoot in different situations, ranging from studio set builds to on location sets.
The first two weeks were a bit overwhelming but obviously great. Seeing a production of that scale and the talent of all of the people involved really blew my mind. It was pretty incredible to see the detail and concentration that each team put into their department, from Art Dept to Wardrobe and Make-Up / Prosthetics to VFX and SFX.
One of things I most enjoyed watching was how Aaron chose to light each scene and how he thoroughly thought through all the camera moves. The location lighting was much as I expected but on a bigger scale than anything I’ve had a chance to work with. The studio lighting was complex and layered and it gave me an appreciation for how much prep and thought has to go into designing the look of the film before turning up on set.
In terms of gripping, there were cranes, dollies and many many sliders, as well as easirig’s and steadicam set-ups.
I loved observing how each move was designed and stylish, but the emphasis was always on furthering the story. This understanding of storytelling and what was important in each scene began each day with the Director’s block and the conversations between Aaron and Jim about character movement and the camera movement related to that.
At any one time we had two to three cameras running, covering different action or shot sizes of each scene. I was lucky enough to have a chance to operate a few set-up’s on the third camera as well as run a couple of little mini splinter shoots throughout the job.
I spent a lot of my time listening in to Aaron’s conversations, talking to the gaffer Tony Blackwood, operator and steadicam operator Todd Bilton and talking to the Grips about their equipment and the decisions they made in regards to gear etc. They were all extremely generous with their knowledge.
Aaron was also hugely giving in terms of sharing his insights and thoughts about what was going on. He didn’t mind me arriving early and listening to his and Jim’s conversations before crew call and put up with my constant questions with good humour.
Overall I’d say it was an extremely valuable experience for me and I feel like the information is still filtering through my mind. I’m looking forward to a project where I can really sink my teeth into some drama and hopefully draw on some the learnings from Sweet Tooth.
I’d like to thank the production and the NZCS for the wonderful opportunity.
Report from Aaron Morton NZCS
I recently had an opportunity to have Tammy Williams shadow me as Cinematographer on Sweet Tooth, a pilot for the Hulu streaming service.
I think the diversity initiative by the NZCS and Film Commission is long overdue and anything we can do to increase the numbers of female cinematographers in NZ and around the world is a good thing.
Tammy was able to join me for some of the prep, which informed the time she spent on set once we started shooting. It was fantastic to be able to pass on what I was doing and why.
Hopefully being there as the various problems and issues were identified and solved will serve her well on her own projects. We were working at a reasonably large scale but the fundamentals and strategy involved in keeping the shooting process moving forward can be transferred to any sized project.
We got Tammy involved with operating on many set-ups and she became a trusted part of Jim our Directors approach to achieving his photographic goals. It really was a huge help having someone as skilled as Tammy with us.
I look forward to being involved with the program again in the future.
Aaron Morton NZCS
Peter Parnham examines the issues around Film Industry Working Group’s recommendations.
As a freelancer in the screen industry, you probably yawn when you see media stories about the expanding gig economy. But like it or not, the screen industry is caught up in attempts to make this type of work fairer. On the horizon is a quite different basis for engaging crew and it may not be entirely what we expect, want, or need.
The gig economy has long been a way of life in the screen industry where almost everyone is an independent contractor – a freelancer – who enjoys the independence and freedom of operating as a small business and being able to make tax deductions for a home office no ordinary waged employee can make.
For others the label ‘contractor’ can easily become an excuse to avoid employer obligations like the minimum wage, as many cleaners, courier drivers, telecom technicians, and plenty of others can attest.
It might sound somewhat old fashioned to talk about erosion of workers’ rights, but in jobs traditionally done by employees and now done by individual contractors what else is the loss of annual leave, sick leave, public holidays, employer contributions to KiwiSaver, ACC payments, protection from unjustifiable dismissal, pay equality and the rest? Many contractors in other industries can only eye enviously the options for flexible work, short term and projected-orientated employment agreements offered by the Employment Relations Act that seem so similar to contracts they work under except for the missing entitlements and protections.
They are not trivial amounts. For example, $37,981 is the median screen industry annual income and an employee doing the same work would cost at least $7,300 more. This might be a moot point in the screen industry where all the crew are happy enough as all contractors. Still, it does give a clue as to why this issue might be important enough for the Labour Party to make promises in their election manifesto to make it fairer for the casualised workforce.
This is not a new issue. Occasionally the Employment Relations Authority or the courts step in and tell the employer to cough up the extra dosh to cover entitlements, because the independent contract was a sham and the person was really an employee. A film industry case like this in 2010 led to the so-called Hobbit law.
Old hands will remember the pressure and the panic that saw the government ignore normal parliamentary processes and ram through an amendment to the Employment Relations Act. This law made sure film production workers are contractors, unless the parties agree otherwise beforehand – an occurrence that must be rarer than a roll of film.
Actors Equity, the actor’s union (now Equity New Zealand), saw the upcoming Hobbit shoot as a chance to bargain on behalf of members, while most film industry freelancers, used to being on contracts, were happy enough that the law confirmed usual practice if it helped bring in shows like The Hobbit.
The reason was simple: all the entitlements and rights mean nothing when you’ve priced yourself out of a job like those unionised film workers in North America that are touted as one of the main reasons productions run away to New Zealand in the first place.
The producers additional concern about uncertainty for incoming productions was that accepted practice was to engage freelance contractors, but if the courts subsequently reclassified a pissed off contractor as an employee, this would result in significant surprise costs long after the shoot had finished.
As they sailed into the storm, Actors Equity had to be careful, they are a union and that gives them rights to negotiate a binding collective agreement only between employers and employees. Bargaining collectively on behalf of contractors is generally not allowed. Independent contractors are businesses, and have to comply with the Commerce Act, which offers protection against uncompetitive business practices or cartel-like behaviour.
A guild not a union
This is why we are the Screen Industry Guild and not the Screen Industry Union. Unions are for employees, and collectively bargain under the umbrella of the Employment Relations Act. There is little point in being a union if your members are contractors. Consequently, our guild is an incorporated society that does pretty much everything a union does, except negotiate collective employment agreements.
Having said that, the Blue Book is the result of negotiation between the guild and the producers. A huge amount of work has gone into it from both sides, it is widely accepted, and it would be chaos without it. The guild can do this because, unlike an employee-based collective agreement, the Blue Book is not binding and does not set any minimum pay. Nor can you pressure the production by agreeing with your mates not to sign on unless they use the Blue Book. Agreeing a daily rate among yourselves is also anti-competitive behaviour.
In this light, you can see why big employers might want to put courier drivers, cleaners and the rest on contracts. Firing a contractor is easier too; there is no need to go through the careful process or pay out entitlements required under employment law.
The story would end there had we not elected the Labour-led government who saw the wider gig economy eroding worker’s rights and driving down incomes. They perhaps imagined the first step would be obvious and easy.
At the time, Workplace Relations Minister, Iain Lees-Galloway promised to get on to repealing the controversial Hobbit law within new government’s first 100 days in office.
Yikes! They might force us to be employees when we don’t want to be. Screen industry leaders flew to Wellington and had urgent meetings with the Minister, urgent letters were exchanged, cabinet papers were urgently written. Finally, to calm the storm the government agreed to hold off and instead form a working group.
On the Film Industry Working Group was the Screen Industry Guild, along with other industry guilds, producers, actors, Council of Trade Unions, regional film offices, WETA Digital, and BusinessNZ.
The objective, set by the government, was to recommend a legal framework to enable workers in the screen industry to collectively bargain while still being contractors, without scaring off productions, or setting up cartels or anti-competitive behaviour by crew or supplier companies.
It is obvious that if this group could work out what to do in the screen industry, it could set a handy template for gig economy workers in other industries.
However, when the working group’s recommendations were published last October, they squashed that idea immediately, insisting that the screen industry is unique, so much so, it needs its own distinct labour laws.
One risk with this approach is that the government puts the whole pot on the back burner simply because there are so many other competing priorities before the next election.
The second, bigger risk, is that for all the emphasis on providing certainty for overseas investors and producers, New Zealand legislation normally takes years to work through the parliamentary processes with various opportunities for submissions and amendments, and debates in parliament, with a hungry opposition looking for sensationalist sound bites. All this could create the very uncertainty which, as an industry, we were keen to avoid. Unless that is, the government chooses to flirt with controversy by rushing legislation through anyway – hopefully, an unlikely prospect.
Meanwhile as the Film Industry Working Group was working away, in June 2018 the government set up the heavyweight Fair Pay Agreements Working Group, chaired by former Prime Minister Jim Bolger. Their brief was to look at the wider issues of how to set up binding fair pay agreements to cover workers who were on the raw end of the new economy.
Their detailed solution includes a system of negotiating binding fair pay agreements that would be triggered by factors like jobs with a high level of fragmentation and contracting. An independent body would be set up to oversee the whole process.
Back in the screen industry, and in contrast to the Hobbit Law crisis in 2010, the Film Working Group unanimously recommend that sector-by-sector collective bargaining be allowed for contract workers in the screen industry. The resulting agreement would be a mandatory minimum for everybody in that sector.
The difficult bit has always been trying to define the difference between an independent contractor person, and an actual business. Nobody wants to provide an accidental legal loophole for anti-competitive behaviour by big companies. On the other hand, you don’t want to find that the plumber unblocking the drain in the production kitchen is somehow caught up in screen industry collective agreements.
The film working group have handed the government’s law drafters a good starting point if and when they look at the screen industry, or for that matter, when they look at who exactly would be covered by a Fair Pay Agreement.
The film working group recommends guilds and producers would have to prove they are the most representative group for that section of the industry. They would then be registered. We can only hope that this would not lead to unseemly territory disputes. Once a collective contract was negotiated, the ratification process would allow the workers it covers – including non-guild members – to have input and they would all be eligible to vote on it.
The report glosses over how this would happen. To vote democratically and include non-guild members, you would need to register all legitimate workers in that industry sector on some sort of roll. You too could become a card-carrying member of the screen industry.
On the other hand, the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group report devotes pages to this very issue, and suggests a much simpler solution of setting up an independent body as a referee.
Oh, and the Film Industry Working Group had one other very important recommendation. Theirs would be quite a system and solely for the screen industry so the government should hand out the money to pay for it.
There is a lot of good stuff in the film working party’s recommendations, and it is now deep in the machinery of government who are probably wondering how something simple as repealing one law clause turned into something so complicated.
If they accept the film working party’s request that we need our own unique legislation and systems, it could take years to see it make it to parliament. Meanwhile, if they go with the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group’s recommendations they could slide the screen industry in there somewhere, without too much drama, special legislation, wild sound bites, and uncertainty.
But the film working group unanimously says we should go it alone with our own carved-out pieces of legislation. Or is it time to reconsider? It would not be a back down by the screen industry; after all, the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group published their recommendations some three months after the Film Industry Working Group published theirs, so they were probably in the dark.
Another meeting or two of our working group to take a closer look at the comprehensive Fair Pay Agreement proposals could pay big dividends.
After all, fair’s fair, whether you are a courier driver, a props buyer, a taxi driver, a cleaner, an assistant director, or for that matter a producer.
Peter Parnham is an independent commentator and this story does not represent the New Zealand Cinematographers position. The working parties reports can be found at www.MBIE.govt.nz.
OD (Offshoot Digital) provided an interactive and interesting evening at PLS earlier this week with their new light weight Phantom, the VEO 4k.
Bringing the high imaging standards of the Phantom Flex 4K to a portable and rugged body style, the VEO can shoot up to 1000 FPS in 4K resolution and 1900 FPS in 2K. The compact body increases the flexibility of use and opens up opportunities currently difficult with the Flex 4K. Applications such as gimbals, drones and under water housings are made possible by the small form factor, reduced weight (2.5KG body only) and lower power draw of this new camera.
The picture quality is still world leading for a high speed camera. The VEO boasts the same 4K sensor, Codec and CineRAW format as its bigger brother. It comes with global shutter, 12+ stops of dynamic range and PL or EF lens mounts.
There are some quirks with this camera and if you are used to working with the Flex 4K it may take a little adjusting to. The VEO has moved away from the CineMag workflow in favor of CF cards or direct to DIT (via ethernet cable) resulting in changes to the way you off load clips, e.g. longer transfer times or requiring a cable to connect camera and laptop.
The VEO does offer something different to the Flex 4K and while not a direct replacement it opens up some opportunities not before possible.
The VEO comes at a slightly lower price point and is simple enough for use on a small production. For newcomers to high-speed shooting, and the Phantom family, this camera is more accessible than its predecessors.
Author: Drew Sturge, NZCS Committee member
Marc Swadel muses on The Brexit Effect’ on shooting in Europe.
Brexit has been a very odd thing. Part reality, part fantasy, it’s best summed up by an English colleagues grandfather who says it reminds him of the ‘Phony War’ - the time in late 1939 when Britain declared war on the Axis forces, but nothing started in earnest.. A sense of normalcy but also a background tension knowing that shit must hit the fan at some stage!
Brexit – is, like a dead rat rotting in a wall. A gift that keeps on giving. We have had the British P.M being forced to resign. We have had the Brexit Party – with no manifesto or policies (save ‘to leave the EU’) win 33% of the European Union election votes in the UK – being the biggest party – and both Labour and the Conservatives having the worst results of any election in their histories..
As it stands, U.K being in the EU – it makes Europe effectively one big country – freedom to travel, take your gear, work wherever. No visas, no hassles. European citizens with I.D cards (which the U.K rejected a few years ago) can travel on those – not even a need for a passport. Just put your wallet in your back pocket and jump on a plane or get in your car.
Whenever I work in Europe – the general consensus on talking about Brexit is – WTF?
General puzzlement and disbelief. The U.K has gone insane. Britain’s rep for being an intelligent, and fair democracy, of solid and steady governance – is in tatters.
So to recap - the UK was meant to be out by March 31st(now the EU has enforced an October 31stexit date. ready or not!) and the government had been preparing (badly) for this, and in the creative sector, like in the banking sector, a lot of back room work was being done. In ‘Ad-land’, there has been a beefing up of European operations, as opposed to the past, where, for a lot of European brands, most of the agencies would have the vast bulk of the staff in London - now there are many more workers on the ground in Europe. Production wise, its been mixed – the dropping pound, plus the Spectre of cross border red tape, has made many productions look more towards domestic production, and on the flip side, non EU European countries such as Ukraine and Serbia are seeing a rise in UK production interest.
Productions have had 30 plus years of no red tape. Get your crew, get your gear, and get going. Brexit will mean, at the border, work permits, full checks on equipment, carnets. I recently did a shoot in Japan, where the production had a full carnet.
The carnet: 96 items, described weighed, valued. All serials recorded. Forms carbon copied in quadruplicate. Ball-ache for myself and my crew. Extra work for the producer, and a good bit of coin for the export-broker. The bleak future of post-Brexit production.
I was really interested to see how the operation would be, knowing that things had been ramped up in readiness for Brexit. We hit Heathrow – the nerve centre for international crews going in and out of the UK.
Monty Python would have been proud. We follow the signs to the customs area for carnets... to be met with a shuttered counter. OK... there is a phone. We pick it up. A Customs Official answers – ‘Hello sir – I am currently in the other terminal, will be over to you in 15 minutes.’ Obviously staff levels cranked up.
15 minutes later roller door comes up – the officer processes the carnet, and equipment. I ask him how many outward carnets does he process a day – he says maybe a dozen, but several times more that that inwards, into the UK from non-EU crews, both film/TV and music. I asked him how he thinks it will be after Brexit – he says that there are more staff coming on, but most customs staff were being diverted to seaports... he joked about early retirement just before Brexit..
To be honest, commercial productions will, like now, be hiring equipment, and most crew locally, possibly more so after Brexit to cut down on cross border grief. The one part of the creative sector that will find things really tough – will be touring musicians – as after Brexit – everyone will need work permits, and carnets for equipment, which will add another level of complexity and cost to the whole equation. I do a lot of music work – and talking with smaller promoters and labels I work with – it could break them.
One odd thing about border control in the U.K – aside from the ferries and the Eurostar train – there are no outward checks and stamping of the passports. This was dropped in 1997 as a cost cutting measure, apparently. On asking Border Force staff if this may be re-introduced, due to Brexit... no one could answer me.
On an ‘only discernible Brexit bonus’’ note - last week I got back in from a shoot in Sicily, flying into Gatwick, and I had the easiest entry into the U.K on my N.Z passport in almost 20 years of comings and goings here – they have implemented automatic passport scanning gates for EU, U.K, NZ/OZ/US/Canadian/Japanese/Korean and Singaporean passports – as well as the non-EU EEA countries (Iceland, Switzerland and Norway). This means no queuing in the ‘other’ lanes, no showing permits and visas and answering questions, just scan the passport, look at the camera, and through. Of course, as part of the Brexit riposte – I.D cards are not accepted, so the Europeans on my flight who had such cards, had to line up in a new ‘EU I.D Cards’ line. Ouch.
Brexit – if it happens, in my view, is the UK sleepwalking into a total, cultural, financial and social disaster. It could end up breaking the Union up – Scotland is pro-Europe, and narrowly voted not to leave the U.K in 2014 – a result no doubt influenced by the Conservative governments promise that ‘a vote for remaining is a vote for staying in the E.U’ (a promise they broke in 2016 by embarking on Brexit). Scotland could very well vote again in 2020 – and due to the younger generation coming through, and the general distrust of Westminster – could leave, and apply to join the EU. Later down the track, Northern Ireland, who have option for a referendum on union with Ireland enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, may vote for that – which would leave a very much smaller, poorer, more insular union of England and Wales.
The EU has its faults, but it has stopped any war within its border for almost 75 years, and it has enabled so much cultural exchange and dialogue within Europe, as well as being a bulwark of tolerant, open and progressive values.
As everything is up in the air, it’s a matter of ‘watch this space’…
NZCS Committee member Marc Swadel reports from Europe on the goings on thus far this year.
Belgrade, Serbia was the location for 2019 IMAGO general meeting and the World Cinematography awards. It is a beautiful city that bridges two worlds, sitting between the EU, and the Russian and Slavic East. First up was the IAGA, the summit of IMAGO, where representatives from the member associations join to discuss IMAGO business and Cinematography in general, and secondly, the 2nd edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, which is the only such awards for Cinematographers, voted by Cinematographers.
For the first two days - 52 delegates, representing the 63 societies, met and went over the business to hand. On the first day of the meeting, I voted for both NZCS and ACS (being an ACS member) as ACS President Ron Johanson was undertaking his duties as IMAGO board member. Piet DeVries, ACS arrived on the second day and took the reins for the ACS.
The opening news – the BSC, at their 2019 Awards, had given IMAGO the International Achievement Award, in recognition of the work being done by the organisation, across many areas - a sign of the growing importance of IMAGO as a strong, and respected World body. Nigel Walters BSC relates how, when the Academy relegated the Cinematography Oscar from the main show for the 2019 Academy Awards, the BSC asked IMAGO to send a letter representing the World’s Cinematographers requesting the Academy to reconsider this bad decision, a letter, which he feels was an important part in the decision being overturned, and the Cinematography Award being reinstated to the main show.
As always, there was a lot going on – the committees for Authorship, Working Conditions, and Gender and Inclusion (formally known as Gender and Diversity) made their presentations. I got up and gave a good account of the NZCS Gender and Diversity programme to the assembly - there was a lot of interest and questions, and various societies were impressed that the initiative had support from productions, and also on a governmental level (NZFC) which is virtually unheard of for most countries. The conversation spun out into the general scene for women, and different ethnicities – I mentioned how our biggest grossing films internally and internationally have been directed by either Māori or female directors (Taika’s films, Whale Rider, The Piano etc) and mentioned Waru, Rūrangi and Vermillion also.
On Authorship – we learnt that FERA - the European Association of Directors – speak of Cinematographers as Authors, and are talking to the Rights collection agencies –this is a great development, along our rocky road to full rights and royalties. Alex Sterian, from the Romanian Society, mentioned that in his country, the Directors and Screenwriters are against DOP’s gaining rights.
Things are changing. Jost Vacano BVK, supported by IMAGO and the BVK, won a landmark case in the EU court in late 2016 for compensation of lost rights earned from his work on ‘Das Boot’ – a case which has helped dialogue greatly.
This is something we need to really look at in NZ – we need to explore rights and royalties – and with a large majority of production funding coming from the government – perhaps it is something the NZCS could ally with all the other organizations to implement, for the greater good? What we need to do – is to defend and enlarge our position – we don’t want DP to stand for ‘Data Provider’ which we are in danger of being seen as...
The Technical Committee opened discussions on the subject of Netflix – and how the web broadcaster chooses the camera for the DOP with a specs only approach. Dave Stump ASC is involved with the process, and IMAGO will meet with not only Netflix, but also Apple and Amazon in regards to this. As Lindén, FSF, co-chair of the committee states – the more we meet, the more we can change the mindset.
Another win via IMAGO – was and amendment on EU Directive on Eco-design rules – the ‘Single Lighting Regulation’ that made all non ‘Eco’ fixtures (such as tungsten) illegal. Obviously a huge impact on the DOP toolset! IMAGO contacted the EU Regulatory body, and won an exception dispensation regards non ‘Eco’ fixtures for film+ performance lighting design.
I was invited to sit in with the IMAGO G+I committee, which consists of Nina Kellgren BSC (who has been dubbed the most prolific female Cinematographer by the BFI), Ron Johanson ACS OAM (12 year as president of the ACS and 50 years as a DOP) and Estonia’s Elen Lotman ESC, who is the president of her society, is finishing her PhD, bringing up her three kids, teaching film, and working as a DOP! One thing that is evident across Europe – there are few female cinematographers/operators/AC’s, let alone non-white ones! The ethnic makeup here is a lot less rich than what we have in NZ, and Europe-wide, with many immigrant families, the impetus is to gain a degree and a professional career – doctor, lawyer accountant etc. A freelance career in the camera department, would not rate high on the list of parentally approved occupations, that’s for sure.
Amongst the business, current IMAGO President, Paul René Roestad, was voted in for another three year term and on the board, Daniele Nannuzzi AIC ASC, stepped down, and Alex Lindén, FSF, was elected to be the new member. Daniele, who’s most known film in NZ would be Jodorowsky’s ‘Santa Sangre’, had been one of the original founding members of IMAGO in 1992, and his energy will be missed from the organisation.
Nigel Walters BSC, was appointed IMAGO Ambassador to the eastern group (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic etc) to foster regional co-operation, as it is important to forge links here.
IMAGO, just like the NZCS, is in the throes of choosing a new logo. Paul-René jokes that this is his idea of hell – 52 delegates all suggesting ideas! Luckily this hell is not realised, as three possibilities are chosen for further development. Bullet dodged.
One of the motions voted on, was the formal change of the name of IMAGO from the European Society of Cinematographers, to the INTERNATIONAL Society of Cinematographers – to reflect the reality of the membership, and the growing stature of IMAGO. IMAGO has members from all points – from the South Africans, Malaysia, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Turkey... a truly global organisation. The only major societies outside of IMAGO are the ASC (who are barred from joining due to their statutes) the Russian and Chinese Societies, and the French, who were a founder member, but parted ways when the organization became international (which they did not agree with) but always have Philippe Ros AFC in attendance who is head of the ITC – IMAGO Technical Committee.
After the conference, we were lucky to have Phil Greenstreet from Rosco, host (as per usual) a fantastic get together, at a local ‘old-school’ boozer, with a free bar and loads of fantastic local food. A great way to relax and decompress from the IAGA with friends, old and new. And I made a whole new bunch – hanging out with the Ukrainians and Russians, many who grew up and worked in the Soviet era.
The 2019 Edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, were held at the National Serbian Kinoteka, with Predrag Bambic, SAS, the Serbian Societies President, opening the Awards Ceremony, which were simulcast live via the internet.
About this year’s event: the 2019 edition saw 143 films from 52 countries being watched by 99 jurors. Tony Costa AIP, who is on the organizing committee, relates how the Awards have energized and activated the membership – an immense cultural interchange takes place, as films are being seen that would never been seen outside of the member countries.
Amongst the main awards – there were several special recognition Awards given out to Cinematographers who deserved to be celebrated:
The International Honorary Member´s Award was given to Kommer Kleijn, SBC. Kommer is a Cinematography pioneer – being the first to shoot a film digitally in 2k and 4k, as well as being the first to shoot a large format film on a single chip sensor. Kommer also initiated bringing 25/30/50/60 FPS into the DCP standard.
The International Award for Extraordinary Technical Achievement was given to David Stump, ASC. David has worked on numerous motion pictures and television productions as Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Supervisor, and as Stereographer, (including both live action work and 2D to 3D conversion work), earning an Emmy and an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement. His credits include Quantum of Solace, Mars Attacks, Stuart Little and Contact amongst many others.
International Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Art of Cinematography
was given to The Manaki Brothers ICFF Film Festival, which is the first and oldest cinematography film festival (40thanniversary this year!). The directors, on receiving the award, were given with a very heartfelt, en-passioned speech by Nigel Waltlers BSC.
The International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Cinematography, was given to Rachel Morrison, ASC, who is the first female to be nominated for a best Cinematography Oscar, for Mudbound, and, last but not least, the award which earnt a 5 minute standing ovation -International Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinematography given to Ed Lachman, ASC. Ed, who has had a wonderful career, being a 4 times Camerimage Golden Frog winner, and having multiple Oscar nominations through lensing such films as Carol, The Virgin Suicides, Far From Heaven and Erin Brockovich. Ed also gives time to teach the next generation, to pass on what he knows.
Next we have the competitive awards – which I was told by the judging committee had a record number of entries from a record number of countries this year, and the judging was ‘beyond tough’. The most nominated societies are the ASC, the BSC and the Finns, the FSC.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A FEATURE FILM
Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for Blade Runner 2049
Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC for Lion
Rauno Ronkainen, FSC for The Eternal Road
Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC for The Favourite
Yuriy Klimenko, RGC for Mathilde
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A DOCUMENTARY FILM
Adolpho Veloso, ABC for On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace
Juan Sarmiento, ADFC for Central Airport THF
Heikki Färm, FSC for Entrepreneur
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR TELEVISION DRAMA
András Nagy, HSC for Eternal Winter
Brendan Steacy, ASC for Alias Grace
Thomas W. Kiennast, AAC for Maximilian
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR AN EMERGING YOUNG CINEMATOGRAPHER
Jurgis Kmins for Bille
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A STUDENT FILM
Balázs István Balázs for Casting
University of Theatre and Film Arts, Hungary, Budapest
After the awards event, the throng then moved over the road to the ‘Aero Klub’ for a sit down celebration dinner. I sat at the ‘Commonwealth’ table – NZ/Aussie/South African and Canadian DOPs who formed a bit of a drinking club (well, being suited and all, I guess it was as formal as it could be!).
So in conclusion – a very full three day overload of cinematography, with an overall sense of strength – strength of work, of solidarity, and fraternity, and a sense of connection. The 2nd edition of the Awards hit higher - with a noted attendance of more members of the ASC and BSC, and big contingents of Russians, Spanish, Brazilians and Danes. Both the Awards and IMAGO meeting had a strong OZ/NZ input this year, with Ron (Pres. Of the ACS and head of the Awards Committee) and myself talking the mic at the meeting, and at the Awards, Piet DeVries ACS presenting an award and Grieg Fraser ACS being up for an award. Lets get one of our guys up for an award in 2021 – there is the challenge NZCS!!
On a side note – the most ‘in demand’ possible location for an Awards is Sydney... and if that comes to pass, then the party will be in the backyard – will be one not to miss!
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