Two months into her permanent role as Screen Auckland Manager, Jasmine Millet shares some of the things her team has been working on during lockdown, and other screen news.

Along with the rest of ATEED, we moved to remote working in the days before New Zealand moved to Covid-19 response levels 2 and 3. As screen production came to a halt by 25 March and the country went into Level 4’s lockdown, business as usual ceased to be anything but the usual.

The screen skills programme launched last December as a partnership led by ATEED and Ministry of Social Development was no longer viable so was put on hold when lockdown took effect; we were obviously no longer able to issue Council film permits.

Several of our Screen Auckland team were quickly deployed to support ATEED’s Business and Enterprise unit, which delivered the Government’s immediate ‘triage’ support for Auckland companies grappling with the immediate effects of closing their doors for at least four weeks and the country shutting its borders. This was through ATEED’s role as the Government’s Regional Business Partner Network (RBPN) delivery partner for Auckland. Screen Facilitators Juliet Williams, Jesse Joseph, Tania Frampton and two others from our wider team staffed a busy helpdesk for enquiries, helping 533 local small or medium businesses receive funding and advice.

We made sure screen businesses on our mailing lists were included in all ATEED communications about available support for Auckland businesses. Anyone who would like to be added to this database for business-related support in the future or help navigating the Government’s wage subsidy and other mechanisms, should not hesitate to contact ATEED’s recently appointed screen business growth specialist Rob Lyver (Rob.Lyver@aucklandnz.com)

Thank you to the 190 Auckland screen businesses who responded to ATEED’s business survey in late March. It was fantastic to see the screen sector well represented in the data, which was used to influence the Government’s advice package.

An outcome of the survey and the strong participation by the sector is a webinar series for Auckland screen and creative businesses presented in partnership by ATEED, Auckland Screen Alliance (ASA) and the RBPN.   The series is designed to stimulate conversation about Auckland’s screen sector and help it adapt and flourish despite the impact of Covid-19.  Webinars will be held every Tuesday and Thursday for six weeks, starting 05 May. Please add them to your calendar.

The rest of our time in lockdown has been spent preparing for a return to work for screen production and advocating for the sector’s vital role in the region’s wider economic recovery in the months ahead. 

Facilitation Manager Marie Jenkins and Screen Health & Safety Specialist Frans Jonker have contributed to a nationwide ‘joined up’ approach between industry, the New Zealand Film Commission, Regional Film Offices of New Zealand  and WorkSafe to create safe-set standards and guidelines for crews to operate under Alert Levels 3 and lower. Industry-specific Covid-19 heath & safety resources are being updated here.

For now all screen productions wishing to shoot should register their site-specific safety plans with WorkSafe before applying for a permit. Please also note that due to the current risks, all filming on public space in Auckland now requires a permit – including those which previously didn’t because they were deemed “low impact”. These will be fast-tracked as much as possible, but the new process will ensure guidelines are communicated to those involved in any shoot. 

Marie will publish an update for location managers with specific Covid-19 relevant information as soon as the production protocols are WorkSafe endorsed. Anyone who would like to sign up for these location manager updates is encouraged to subscribe to the mailing list here

Inquiries about location feasibility are welcome at any time, via this same email address, and the team is keen to hear from any productions considering filming on location in Auckland over the next couple of months. 

Conversations are underway with Auckland Council, the wider council group including Auckland Transport, and other stakeholders to prepare them for the industry’s return to filming.

Acting Screen Attraction Specialist Kirsty Donoghue also remains available to support production inquiries both domestic and international. Kirsty has been checking in with local producers and film studios over the last fortnight, compiling data to help advocate for the screen sector’s needs in areas such as immigration. For attraction enquiries, email Kirsty.donoghue@aucklandnz.com.

We are working to support multiple studio development opportunities, alongside our wider team, and believe an increase in studio capacity for all types of production will help smooth the sector’s recovery over the months and years ahead.

The draft Screen Sector Strategy NZ 2030 was published in April, after more than a year’s hard work by the Government-appointed group developing it. We have reviewed the strategy from the perspectives of ATEED and from Screen Auckland as part of the network of Regional Film Offices of New Zealand. I encourage all industry members to take the time to read the draft strategy and respond to the 2-question survey to convey your feedback before 5pm, 8 May 2020. We look forward to supporting the final strategy when it is released. 

We applaud the quick response by the country’s screen content funding agencies New Zealand on Air, New Zealand Film Commission and Te Māngai Pāho, which have fast-tracked funding rounds and are creating new opportunities for New Zealand content creators to develop or advance projects. We look forward to working with some of those productions once they head into pre-production.

Film Auckland, the region’s industry advocacy group, is offering to help industry members access government support, stay connected with each other during these unprecedented times. Membership fees are temporarily waived and new members are welcomed.

Our thoughts are with all of those in the industry riding out the uncertainties of the current situation Covid-19 presents. It appears that the right steps are being taken to get the screen sector working safely and the demand for content is stronger than ever, but we will all have our part to play in remaining vigilant to prevent any future spread of Covid-19.

Some production and post-production, VFX and animation related practices will need to change. Already some fantastic examples of Auckland screen businesses collaborating and evolving are beginning to come through. We’ll cover some of them in the webinar series mentioned above, and profile others here on our website in coming weeks.