Monday, October 9, 2017

For David

This post is specifically for David Mamea who I only ever see at the NZWG Awards and who always asks me why feck all is happening on my blog. 

So this year I actually presented the awards but due to a terrible venue - who refused to turn down the music from the bar - and the shittiest sound system in christendom no one actually heard a word I said. No problem I'll be able to use the same jokes next year. Also I got a lot of pity drinks brought for me. 

So here's the speech that no one heard...

Fade in.


A bar. 


It’s a salubrious bar. Lit by a half-light. 

A handsome, bearded man stands on the stage his luxuriant salt and pepper hair puts us in mind of a young George Clooney. Before he got all preachy.

The man is sober we get the feeling this is not a regular occurrence which gives us the impression this must be an event of some importance. We will call this man Nick Ward he is, for want of a better word, the hero of this story.  

In front of him is a crowd filled with a motley collection of individuals reminiscent of the bar scene in Star Wars. There are young faces here. Faces filled with hope, yet to have their dreams smashed on the ground in front of them like a ice cream dropped from the hands of a child. 

(There is some faint laughter not as much as I was hoping for but it’s there)

There are other faces too, older faces, impossibly jaded faces. Faces where hope is a distant, distant memory. 

Something is in the air. These characters are perhaps not used to associating so freely with each other. But tonight there exists an uneasy truce. 

They all look expectantly at Nick hoping that he will shut up and get on with it. 

Tension grows. 

They wait. 

And they wait. 

And they wait some more. 

Someone shouts “get on with it” 

Finally he speaks his rich voice reminiscent of honey poured over aged leather. A voice of authority…

Good Evening everyone and welcome to the eighth annual SWANZ. The New Zealand Writers Guild is delighted and honoured to have you all with us this evening, to celebrate and congratulate your works. Writers we salute you!

Since the SWANZ inception many things have changed in our local market, with the introduction and growth of subscription, online and streaming services like Netflix, Lightbox, Hulu and Amazon. Video games now have sweeping story arcs. Broadcast TV still has so much to offer as well. We watch on our laptops on our phones and our watches. In fact we don’t just watch a show any more we binge it. Which makes it even harder for us as writers to get anything done. Personally I’m only still half-way through Twin Peaks because I got distracted by Narcos, Ozark, Rick and Morty and S-Town. Then they went and released Destiny 2! There’s always a lot of talk about how prolific Charles Dickens was - that’s only because all he had to distract him from writing was mutton chops, pickles and ale. 
Viewers have become “eyeballs”, quality scripted material is now “content” and our kiwiness is now called “original” or “unique” selling points.
Still the craft of writing has stayed the same. The magic of creating worlds and characters, no matter what the format, is the gift of the writer to their audience. To entertain, to provoke and to educate. At the guild we want to see the best possible scripts come to life on a screen – no matter how big or how small. 
So tonight, we raise our glasses to the creators, the idea generators, the story magicians, the space jockeys, the skilful ink manipulators the wild-eyed loners licking the electric banana of life… the writers. You lot. Yes you.
Now onto the Awards! This year along with the Trophy, winners of the script awards will also receive the latest version of Final Draft!
First let’s talk business. 
  • These are Our awards, put on for writers and by writers.
  • The scripts were assessed on the quality of the writing only. No consideration was given to budgets, subject matter, director’s vision, genre, box-office or critical success.
  • All judges were either full members of the NZWG or experienced industry practitioners who have shown support and loyalty to NZ writers and to the NZWG. 
  • No employees or members of the Board of any networks or funding organisation such as the NZ Film Commission or NZ On Air were judges or in any way involved in the judging process.
  • We are very grateful to the support of our sponsors: 
    • Final Draft, ATEED - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, South Pacific Pictures, Filthy Productions and the New Zealand Film Commission.
  • Most importantly, thank you to the judges for their time and effort!
Finalists and guests be prepared; these awards are fast. 
So have you been to the loo? Have you filled your glasses? Have you got your 30 second thank you speech ready? We don’t have music to play you off the stage, but keep in mind there will be a lot of writers out there who will be resentful of you prolonging their chance to get to the free bar.  
So if you’re sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…


Congratulations to all of our SWANZ winners this year.
And thank you again to our sponsors – Final Draft, ATEED – Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, South Pacific Pictures, Filthy Productions and the New Zealand Film Commission 
A final word from NZWG - New Zealand is a small market with unique frustrations and challenges, at the Guild we are working hard, alongside our guild sisters and brothers, to improve our industry. NZWG is part of a bigger global community of writers, and in 2018 we are creating pathways to help our writers become part of that wider community!

NOW… Once more unto the bar dear friends, once more unto the bar.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The ugly truth behind "that" Pepsi Ad.

As you skid, out of control, towards the gaping abyss of a flaming garbage fire you might have pause to think how did it all go so wrong? 

Without fail a raging storm of fecal matter begins with one poor decision. The trouble is, at the time, you can’t see where that first step will inevitably lead you. Like following a trail of MMs into the dripping maw of a slavering failure beast that first choice seems so sweet. 

For instance, a group of people sat around and said you know what’s cool right now? Protesting. Standing up against the man. Everyone is doing that. Counter-culture that’s what the kids love. Then they took that thinking another step further. One more MM on the trail to disaster. 

What if we use protesting to sell our soft drink? 

This is the point where someone needed to stop the train of thought because that bastard was coming off the tracks and it hadn’t even left the station. I can only assume this “idea” came from someone in a position of power surrounded by drones that could only utter variations of the words “Yes, Sir, we love it.” 

That bad idea was soon followed by a succession of dreadful mind spews that included such gems as “Kendall Jenner in a blonde wig” and “An ethnic gentleman playing a musical instrument on a rooftop” and “A woman in a hijab getting angry at a pile of photos” and “A cop accepting a Pepsi rather than spraying pepper in faceholes.”

While everyone around me was reeling back in horror at the Kendall Jenner/Pepsi/Black Lives Don’t Matter clusterbarf I couldn’t stop thinking how on earth did Pepsi ever let this happen? So I started digging, I did what any good detective does. I asked the interwebs. 

Where was the creative genius behind this “ad”? A short time later I arrived at the virtual doorway of “Creators League.” Yep they actually called themselves that. What do we you? We create, because we’re creative. Who are we? We’re a group of people. Toby get the thesaurus and look up “group” - what’s the first word? “League”? That’s it! From this moment on we shall be known as “Creators League.”

They live in a 4,000-square foot content studio in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. Whenever the hell a “content studio” is. Soon my trawl through cyberspace turned up the ugly truth about “Creators League” namely it is an agency entirely staffed by puppets. That’s right, puppets., because there’s a corporate hand jammed up right their sock slot.

In May 2016 Pepsi proudly announced the opening of “Creators League,” in the hope it will let marketers, not agencies, sit in the creative driver’s seat. Before this stroke of brilliance, if Pepsi needed to get an edit made to an online film or piece of content, it would involve sending that piece off to an agency, who then in turn would perhaps send it an editor — a process that took, on average two weeks. Nowadays it takes an hour.

Just an hour. Awesome. Not a creative person comes near it. The marketers come up with a thought, something along the lines of; “Hey did you see those Black Lives Matter marches on TV last night? We should tap that.” Then some work experience kids wired to the eyeballs on energy drinks will take out the office camera, shoot it, edit it and put it online. Job done. 

They had removed all the pesky things that stop ideas skidding towards the world like a sledge loaded with TNT and piloted by a masturbating monkey.  Those things were 1) people who would’ve actually taken the time to craft an idea and, more importantly,  2) people who say NO to a bad idea. 

There’s a lesson to be learned here and it’s an old lesson. If you go to a restaurant and order a three star meal then don’t go into the kitchen and tell the chef how to cook it. If you create your own agency and tell them what to do then you will get something that looks like an idea, smells like an idea but dear baby jebus, it will not be an idea. In fact, chances are, it will a very bad idea. Yes it’s an idea you paid half as much for and it was created overnight but will that be worth all the damage it will do to your brand?