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Tom Frewen: GC In Breach Of Funding Agreement?

An apparent breach of the funding agreement between the producers of The G.C. and NZ on Air is revealed in papers released under the Official Information Act.

The key clause in the standard NZ on Air funding agreement states: “5.1 The producer shall ensure the Programme reflects the Proposal in all material respects and will not alter the tone, content, treatment , theme or genre of the programme from that represented by the proposal without written consent of NZ ON Air.”

In its first pre-production report on October 20 2011, Black Inc Media reveals a cast of nine, with just one of the original seven listed in the proposal on which NZ on Air made their decision to back the “observational documentary” with $419,408 of taxpayer funding.

None of the nine is related to another cast member, further undermining NZ on Air’s initial description of the show as a documentary about “seven Maori families living on Australia’s Gold Coast.” More significant, though, is the impact of the new cast on the production’s “tone, content, treatment, theme or genre.”

Gone with the discarded cast members is their membership of a kapa haka group which, in the original proposal, brought them together for weekly training sessions in their “shared desire to keep their culture alive.”

The kapa haka angle would have supported NZ on Air’s claim that The G.C. would “explore emigration from a Maori perspective and how Tikanga Maori supports them as they adapt to life in a new country.” Without the kapa haka, the show’s plot lines closely copy Jersey Shore and The Only Way is Essex. In next week’s episode, for instance, “The ‘mumsies’ crash the boys’ night out; time runs out for Cole’s gym opening; and Rosie catches Zane checking out another girl.”

Rosie is not listed in the new cast reported in October. It comprises two property investors, a scaffolder, a gym owner, a personal trainer/model, two singers, a rapper and a DJ. Tame Noema is the only survivor from the original proposal in which he’s described as a scaffolder/property developer. Gone are the barber shop owner, a roofing safety inspector, a personal trainer/massage therapist, a make-up company manager, a plumbing supplies sales rep and a Zumba instructor/occupational health and safety administrator.

The October 20 pre-production report gives no reasons for their disappearance while saying of their replacements that “these people were cast in line with TV3’s target demographic of 25 - 54 years old”. The oldest, in fact, is the 30-year-old gym owner and the youngest is a 19-year-old rapper. Their average age is 25.5 years.

The report also says “These people were cast due to a mixture of birthplace (eg Aotearoa or Australia), cultural connection and profession.” The Australian-born cast members are not identified although rapper Nathan Waikato and DJ Elyse Minhinnick admit they don’t know their iwi.

In another departure from the original concept, the report admits that The G.C. is “illuminated by sun surf and sexy bodies but what underpins this series are the cultural anchors (or not) of our selected cast.” From the episodes screened so far, the role of “cultural anchorage” has been all about the “or not” part.

Finally, the genre change from “documentary” through “observational documentary” to “trash reality drama” is clearly signalled in the next production report on December 22. “While observational in treatment,” writes executive producer Bailey Mackey, “the use of two camera operators with the Canon 5D technology, allows a style more akin to drama . . . [and] still means the series has a professional and international look.”

Bailey Mackey describes himself in the original proposal as “the award-winning director of Black Inc Media Ltd, a vibrant production company specialising in Maori content programming for broader audiences.” It makes no mention of the show’s other executive producer, Julie Christie, the chief executive of Eyeworks New Zealand Ltd which owns 90% of Black Inc Media. Christie’s employer is, in turn, the New Zealand affiliate of Eyeworks Holding, the Dutch giant international television production company with global revenue estimated at around $460 million.

With Christie and Mackey as co-directors, Black Inc has secured about $3 million in funding from NZ on Air in the last three years, including $420,000 for The G.C. and $104,594 for last month’s Anzac dawn service. Funding for Eyeworks productions over a similar period has been just under $11 million.

Although there is no mention of Julie Christie in the proposal or production reports, two of her employees are listed with Bailey Mackey as “key personnel” — producer Maria Handas, the head of factual programming for Eyeworks New Zealand and director Susan Leonard is a segment producer on several Eyeworks shows including My House, My Castle, DIY Rescue and Missing Pieces.

Alongside their television production credits, they record their whakapapa as Te Aupouri (Handas) and Te Arawa (Leonard) and Ngati Porou/Tuhoe/Rongowhakaata (Mackey). NZ on Air’s Maori television strategy insists that, “for authenticity, at least two of three key roles of producer, director and writer/researcher must be Maori”.
None of the documents released by NZ on Air indicate awareness by its management of the likely impact of the changes to the “tone, content, treatment, theme or genre” of the G.C. The discussion paper they provided to their board recommending approval of the funding application has been withheld.


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