19 Mar 2020

The impact of Covid19 on the NZ film industry

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:33 pm on 19 March 2020

The film and TV production industry is facing major disruption in New Zealand at the moment with Covid-19 closing down or delaying shoots. 

It follows a period of huge growth in the business and a lot of people working in it are self-employed or contractors. 

filming in progress

Photo: RNZ / Joanna MacKenzie

President of  the Screen Industry Guild Aotearoa New Zealand, Brendon Durey, told Jesse Mulligan people in the industry are anticipating tough times ahead. 

“When you’re operating in a gig culture like the film industry, you do have short periods where you go without work. That period has just started for us. Everybody’s calendars have been cleared because of this, so we’re looking down the barrel of a long period of no work as opposed to biting it immediately.”

He said between Avatar, the Lord of the Rings show, a stalled Netflix show, and other films and television shows that have been put on hold, around 5000 workers in the industry could be adversely affected. 

“I’m in the same boat. If your main line of bread and butter has dried up, so to speak, then most people either have another sideline they can do which is not affected by the same industry cycles, or - as most contractors try to do - you have a buffer amount of money in the bank to cover a month or so of lack of earnings.

“Both of those scenarios, you would imagine, would be heavily challenged right now with the scope of this shut down of work affecting so many different industries and the unknown length of it.”

Brendon Durey

Brendon Durey Photo: IMDB

Ever since the so-called Hobbit Law came into force, contractors working in the film industry have been unable to challenge the status of their employment and cannot claim holiday pay, sick leave, or any other entitlements. 

“During this unprecedented situation, you could argue that being an employee isn’t going to protect you from jobs ending as well. You could probably ask 3700 Air New Zealand workers about that.” 

Durey said he believes the government response package will help people in the industry, particularly the fact that self-employed people can make loss claims. 

“Traditionally in these scenarios, all of the stimulus tends to be very employee based. So, the fact that some of our members have already accessed that is great because we’re in a situation where any kind of assistance has got to be good.” 

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