Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Arts and Culture’ Category

All that Glitters is Not Gold

Posted by on May 17th, 2013

After the hurly-burly of Budget Day died down yesterday evening I turned my attention to the Arts, Culture and Heritage aspects of the Budget. Expectantly, I looked for the media statement from the Minister Chris Finlayson extolling his government’s commitment to our cultural sector. But it was nowhere to be found. A look at the Vote Arts Culture and Heritage papers, and it was clear why. Cuts to public broadcasting, regional museums, MCH and more.

My tweet about this discovery led Chris Finlayson to respond to me that I was “tragic” because I did not realise that this was “a golden age for the Arts in New Zealand“. The reaction on Twitter soon made clear that not many people shared the Minister’s golden glow.

To be clear, the role of the Minister or the government in the lustre of any particular time for the Arts is only partial. Artists themselves will define that. It is certainly true that there is terrific creative content being produced all over the country. What the Minister has to answer for is the extent to which the government is supporting, promoting and developing that.

If we are looking for a “golden age” in that regard, Helen Clark’s cultural recovery package of the early 2000s stands out. After a decade of declining investment in the arts and culture, an $86 million jolt breathed new life into CNZ, film, music, heritage preservation and more. Michael Volkering has argued that the package was only one part of her cultural legacy that also stretched to our military heritage, pushing creative industries and regional arts.

I am not trying to make out everything was perfect in the time of the Clark government. But it did represent an injection of pride in ourselves as a nation, and of the place of the Arts in New Zealand. The Prime Minister was the Minister for Arts and that status meant something.

Chris Finlayson deserves credit for his personal contribution to various artistic endeavours, and for continuing much of the good work of the Clark government. But where he lets himself down is in his dismissal of Clark’s legacy and his vainglorious attempts to cast himself as the saviour of the Arts.

As we stand today, there are number of significant issues that require urgent attention. One issue that is raised with me often is the difficulty for artists in working with key government cultural agencies. For example, the changes made to Creative New Zealand funding over recent years by the Minister have led to a cumbersome and confused process. In sectors such as theatre there is strain, threats of court action and people simply walking away. Overall, there is an absence of regional and local understanding in funding decisions. Meanwhile legislation to reform Creative New Zealand sits moribund on the Parliamentary Order Paper.

Another example is the freeze on funding for public broadcasting is taking its toll. (This Budget funding actually drops by $3 million). New Zealand On Air has managed to fund some terrific programmes in the last few years, but budgets simply can not keep pace. Radio New Zealand in particular is struggling, and seems set to be commercialised in some way by a new Chief Executive. Public television is all but non-existent. Overall the government does not seem to see the importance of public broadcasting nor realise its significance to our cultural identity.

Despite the undoubted success of film and music, both sectors struggle to sustain artists beyond an elite few. New strategies are required for the new world of technology and distribution, but leadership and inspiration are lacking.

Now is the time for Minister Finlayson to show that leadership and inspiration. That is how a Minister can contribute to a golden age, otherwise it’s simply fool’s gold.


Dear Sir Peter and Fran

Posted by on February 26th, 2013

“Thank you for your email of 4 October 2010 raising issues of actors work permits and possible amendments to the Commerce Act 1986 and the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA).

Having considered the possibility of amendments to the ERA or Commerce Act carefully, our view, following extensive consultation with the Crown Law Office, is that, for the reasons set out below, it would not be appropriate to recommend such amendments.

“…….In our view, the relevant legislative provisions provide sufficient clarity such that no legislative amendments are required.”

Hon Gerry Brownlee

Hon Christopher Finlayson

This was the government’s position in mid-October 2010.  But by the end of the month, they had caved into demands to change our employment legislation to exclude film and video workers from their right to challenge the status of their employment.

The government released more information on this sorry saga today after being told they had to by the Ombudsman. It makes for fascinating reading.  Put to one side the florid and over the top language about the union and the MEAA union leader, Simon Whipp that has attracted some media comment.

Read the documents and see for yourself the hand New Zealanders were dealt by a weak government, not prepared to stand up for all of us.


Just do it

Posted by on December 27th, 2011

I meant to write about this a few days ago.

US comedian Louis CK (I hadn’t heard of him, but he seems pretty popular) decided to produce a good version of his latest live show and make it available online for $5.

Nek Minnit (well 12 days later) he made $1 million.

The Age reported today:

Comedian Louis CK has proved a point: People are willing to pay a reasonable amount of money for DRM-free content from a performer they love, even though it would be trivial for them to pirate the same content for free.

Twelve days ago, Louis CK decided to skip the distribution, DRM, ads and everything else that goes into marketing and sale of a video, and simply offer the video of his latest performance on his website for $US5.

It took four days for Louis to earn $US200,000, and another 8 days to earn a whopping $US1 million.

It  blows out the water the view that content has to be locked up with laws to enforce it because too many people will only steal it. In fact people will pay money to get access to new content. If the price is right and the product is what they want.

Louis CK posted a blog saying he would keep just $220,000 from his $1m.

He said:

So I’m breaking the million into four pieces.

the first 250k is going to pay back what the special cost to produce and the website to build.

The second 250k is going back to my staff and the people who work for me on the special and on my show. I’m giving them a big fat bonus.

The third 280k is going to a few different charities. They are listed below in case you’d like to donate to them also. Some of these i learned about through friends, some were recomended through twitter.

That leaves me with 220k for myself. Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my children. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business. In any case, to me, 220k is enough out of a million.

I had a quick look at Louis CK’s stuff. Here is is a clip on Youtube (not the $5 version). Pretty out there, but worth paying for. I think the business model is pretty obvious. It’s just a pity that he had to spend the money himself upfront to develop the tools to distribute his work.

Imagine if that technology was readily available to artists for a small fee. Imagine if the New Zealand tech industry was encouraged to go for it.

Another point to end on. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is the technology used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale.

Companies such as Amazon, AOL, Apple Inc., the BBC, Microsoft and Sony use digital rights management. In 1998 the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was passed in the United States to impose criminal penalties on those who make available technologies whose primary purpose and function is to circumvent content protection technologies.[1] The use of digital rights management is controversial. Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and that it can help the copyright holder maintain artistic control[2] or ensure continued revenue streams.[3] Those opposed to DRM argue that there is no evidence that DRM helps prevent copyright infringement and that DRM helps big business stifle innovation and competition.[4] Proponents argue that digital locks should be considered necessary to prevent intellectual property from being stolen, just as physical locks are needed to prevent personal property from being stolen.

I thought it was interesting that I learnt about Louis CK’s online  business endeavours through twitter via the ABC’s managing director Mark Scott who tweeted:

“The comedian (is) providing lessons in the future of digital rights management”.

Prescience from the head of Australia’s public broadcaster. It would be good to have a bit more debate about it here.


Creative Industry Apprenticeships

Posted by on November 6th, 2011

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On Thursday, along with Shane Jones I visited MainReactor. (That’s not Shane in the middle of the photo by the way ;-) ) This is a great Kiwi firm based in Henderson that makes props and prosthetics for the film and television industry.  If you are watching Spartacus you are watching their work, and numerous movies as well.  They have employed dozens of people over the last few years, drawing together those with artistic skill into what is also a complex engineering environment.  Roger Murray the founder of the company (pictured on the right above) has ideas for expansion, and is on a roll which sees studios seeking out the integrated skills present in his team.

A major point of our discussion was around the training needs to keep this industry going.  Roger and his firm have invested  a great deal in training of people in what is a highly specialised area.  The nature of the film and tv business is that there will be down times, and it can be hard to keep the infrastructure of a skilled workforce in place.

Labour released its Arts, Culture and Heritage policy last week, and a core part of it is the creation of Creative Industries Apprenticeships, that will support people into the industry to give us the workforce that can keep our creative industries going.  Roger and his team were excited to hear about the idea, and so are others in the creative sector.  Its one thing we can do to draw together the brilliant creative talent we have with the kind of economic growth that is the future of New Zealand.   Good policy that will make a difference.


Bring down the curtain

Posted by on September 23rd, 2011

There appears to be an on-going vendetta against workers in New Zealand’s entertainment industry.

Sure, the NActs are happy to line up beside local artists at events like the Rugby World Cup, but their actions are spelling doom for many of our most talented.

First, there was the decree from on high that all NZ entertainment workers are “contractors” and have no right to challenge their status under New Zealand law. There was the shameful spectacle of our government depriving New Zealand workers of rights in order to bow to Warners and Co., along with the ugly denunciation of anyone who dared speak out against this move as “hobbit-haters”.

Now, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced that New Zealand has cleared the way for overseas actors and musicians to come here whenever they feel like it, even if it’s at the expense of New Zealand entertainment workers. His policy changes mean that those representing actors, musicians and other entertainment workers no longer have to be consulted when overseas acts want to come here. Understandably, the Screen Directors Guild of NZ is expressing concern about the implications of the moves to alter the process for the entry of temporary entertainment industry workers into New Zealand. They say it is potentially damaging to the local screen and entertainment industries.

My old union, the Musicians’ Union did its best to promote New Zealand music, but they never stood in the way of overseas performances unless it meant New Zealand musos would be disadvantaged. It was their job to stand up for New Zealand talent and they did it responsibly.

Labour’s spokesperson for Immigration, Ruth Dyson, and Arts and Culture spokesperson Steve Chadwick say the change could mean that roles in local productions could be filled with overseas performers and that these pressures, along with strife in Public Broadcasting and local playhouses, such as Downstage, put at risk many New Zealand careers.

John Key’s justification for changing the laws around the Hobbit was to protect New Zealand jobs, yet his Minister of Immigration has opened the door for all and sundry.

Our proud record of cultivating NZ identity through the Arts, fostered under the leadership of Helen Clark, is faltering.

Who hates who now?


Piri Haka

Posted by on September 7th, 2011

Piri Haka
Door knocking in Moera today and saw this.

Photo doesn’t do it justice – made of native firewood and brilliant.


New Zealand Hip-Hop Dancers win again

Posted by on August 3rd, 2011

Last year we noted the success of Kiwi hip hop dance crew Respect, and now there has been even more success.

Three Kiwis crews won gold medals at the 10th anniversary of Hip-Hop International’s World Dance Championship this last weekend. Bubblegum (younger dancers), Sorority and the ‘megacrew’, The Royal Family, which included people from three NZ crews, all grabbed first place in their divisions.

Fantastic effort. And check out the video that shows some of the Royal Family performance.


Honours List

Posted by on June 6th, 2011

Used to be on the Cabinet Committee that made the honours decisions. Always interesting. Often ten times as many nominations as slots available.

There was a big call involved in stopping knight and damehoods. In retrospect I don’t think Kiwis were ready for it. Doesn’t bode well for moving to a republic.

Always easy to criticise a list, for those who are there and those who are not. This one is no exception.

But this one has more individuals who I regard as personal friends than any I was involved in as a Minister. Over a dozen. All deserved. Feels a bit weird. And using Facebook to congratulate also different.


New Zealand Music Month: Last Day

Posted by on May 31st, 2011

When I was living in New York a decade or so ago, it seemed Dave Dobbyn was a bit of a soundtrack for the Kiwis we kicked around with. I am sure its a similar experience for many Kiwis overseas. I was not actually a great Dave fan before I went away (too much exposure to DD Smash I think) but I have come to be a fan. Welcome Home is a great song, but this is the song the evokes the best of Dave for me, and the best of New Zealand, that we are there for each other through thick and thin. (or at least we should be….)

And appropriately from the opening night of NZ Music Month last year at Mighty Mighty in Wellington.


New Zealand Music Month #8 – For Trevor

Posted by on May 26th, 2011

As John Rowles heads out on his farewell tour, it seems the Mum from Second Hand Wedding is not the only John devotee out there. Our very own Trevor Mallard is a fan. So for you Trevor, here he is in his hey-day. (Actually he looks pretty cool in this vid.)


New Zealand Music Month #7

Posted by on May 23rd, 2011

Been a bit slack with the posts in Budget week last week. This is Stereo Bus who found a really nice pop sound in the late 1990s, off the back of the super talented Dave Yetton from JPS. They got a bit of exposure, but I kind of feel they were never given the credit for two very good albums. I understand Dave Yetton has reformed the band this year, so keen to hear what that is sounding like. And no its not Kris Faafoi in there, its his brother Jason! Enjoy.


New Zealand Music Month #6- Anything Could Happen

Posted by on May 20th, 2011

After the Budget, I think this is an appropriate song. The iconic Clean looking young and sounding great, and even some shots of old Christchurch if I am not mistaken.




New Zealand Music Month #5

Posted by on May 14th, 2011

Last year I featured Lydia by Fur Patrol in the NZ Music Month videos ( a song distinguished by being a favourite of Marian Hobbs and having my old flatmate Simon on the drums). Anyhow, since last Music Month the voice of Fur Patrol, Julia Deans has put out a brilliant solo album, Modern Fables. If you have not heard it, take a listen. Her vocal talent is on show at its absolute best. The single from the album, A New Dialogue, combines both her beautiful tones with some clever songwriting. Enjoy, if you haven’t already.


New Zealand Music Month #4

Posted by on May 10th, 2011

A bit of retro sounds from The Mockers. It is Tuesday still, just, so this kind of feels appropriate. This song was HUGE at my Form 2 social (along with We’re Not Gonna Take It by Twisted Sister.) Its aged a little bit (ok, quite a bit), but tell me you don’t feel like just a little dance….

Andrew Fagan was pretty cool, and when he ended up in a relationship with Karen Hay, it was as close to celebrity as we got in those days. And they are still happily together mixing it up on Radio Live.




New Zealand Music Month #3

Posted by on May 8th, 2011

Still buzzing (almost literally in the case of my ears) from the Shayne Carter gig on Friday. Here is an interesting little combination involving, among others, him, Jon Toogood from Shihad and Ladi6, who we featured last year. (and what looks like Gary Sullivan from Dimmer on drums?) Its a great sound, combining three great Kiwi music talents. They are called The Adults, and the song is Nothing to Lose. It was released quietly about a month ago, but appearently there is an album in the works. UPDATE: Album out in June.


New Zealand Music Month #2

Posted by on May 7th, 2011

I always knew I could never see one of my favourite bands play. The Double Happys had ended, all too soon, with the death of Wayne Elsey, just as I started high school. But Shayne Carter carried on making fantastic music, with Straitjacket Fits, and Dimmer. last night he played a back catalogue gig in Wellington.

In case anyone thinks NZ Music Month does not work, they put up the full house sign tonight. It did feel a bit like a sweaty orientation gig 20 years ago. But it was fantastic. The Double Happys songs stood out for me, especially Needles and Plastic and Some Fantasy. Thanks Shayne, and here is one that was played tonight, and will be familiar to many


New Zealand Music Month

Posted by on May 1st, 2011

Its that time of year again, for New Zealand Music Month. Its been another good year for Kiwi music, and judging by the gigs already up on the website, there are loads of opportunities to get out and enjoy and support New Zealand artists this month. Its been launched down in Christchurch today, with the terrific Lawrence of Arabia and others.

I am not going to do a post a day as per last year, but we will be putting up videos throughout the month to celebrate current and past Kiwi artists. As with last year your suggestions are welcome for any bands you would like to see or for us to highlight.

To start with a bit of nostalgia and nationalistic pride (and for May Day there are a few shots of protesting workers) and you might be familiar with this from the telly, but its Minuit, with their song Aotearoa




Tell the Government: Don’t Cut Our Future!

Posted by on April 27th, 2011

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t Cut Our Future


Lantern Festival to light up Auckland

Posted by on February 18th, 2011
Some of the colour and culture that will be on display at the Lantern Festival this weekend

Some of the colour and culture that will be on display at the Lantern Festival this weekend

Tonight Auckland will be alive with Chinese culture and colour as the 12th Annual Asia:NZ Lantern Festival kicks off at Albert Park.

Following a speech by Labour Leader Phil Goff, Jenny McGregor, Group CEO of Australia’s Asialink will speak – following on in the good will and spirit of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who spoke in Parliament on Wednesday.

Jenny and some of the board members from the Asia:NZ Foundation met today in Auckland. We had a wonderful discussion about the relationship and awareness of Asia to New Zealand and Australia.

In New Zealand the Asia:NZ Foundation is an integral part of developing relationships between New Zealand and Asia as well as increasing Kiwis knowledge and understanding of the Asian region.

As a trustee of the Asia:NZ foundation I’m proud of the contribution the organisation has made to strengthen the bonds between our two regions. The Foundation works by focussing on five main areas – business, culture, education, media and research. This gives kiwis the knowledge, experience and understanding to interact with the Asian region in many different areas.

We have seen the benefits of the Asia:NZ foundation flow on since it was established in 1994 (co-incidentally the same year I migrated to NZ). Business, trade, education and tourism links have flourished between our two regions. Kiwis are now more likely to travel, work, study and do business in Asia than ever before.

I believe we are on the right track with our relationship and understanding of the Asian region and was glad to hear from Jenny McGregor that Asialink is doing the same thing in Australia.

Essentially Asialink is the Australian counterpart of the AsiaNZ foundation. Asialink’s mission statement is to “promote public understanding of the countries in Asia and Australia’s role in the region”.

Thanks to these two wonderful organisations the ANZAC nations are thriving in their relationships with the Asian region.

Asia:NZ will host two major Lantern Festival events this weekend in Auckland and Christchurch. If you are in the area make sure you get down to be a part of the event. Details below:

AUCKLAND – 18, 19 and 20 February 2011 from 5.00pm to 10.30pm at Albert Park.

Christchurch – 26 and 27 February 2011 from 5.00pm to 10.00pm at Victoria Square.


My dirty little secret

Posted by on January 13th, 2011

I have been carrying a secret this past year, in fact for the last couple of years, that I feel the need to reveal. I can’t go on without letting the world know.

My favourite band (and indeed the creators of my best album of 2010) is called The National. There I have said it. I considered writing to them to ask if for New Zealand release purposes they could call themselves The Labour. But they are going great under the other name, so might not work for them.

So great they are selling out everywhere, including three sold out shows in Auckland this week. If you are going, you are in for a great night. I have seen them a couple of times and its always an energetic show.

They have fans in high places, with their song Fake Empire used by Obama during his 2008 election campaign, and they have played at his rallies in recent times.

Anyway here is the first single off 2010′s High Violet, Bloodbuzz Ohio.

The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio” (official video) from The National on Vimeo.