The dark side of New Zealand’s film industry


NOTICE: I work as a movie extra, and no, it’s not because I want to be famous or because I want to meet famous people, it’s because I love stories, playing the part and being part. of the big picture that is a feature film or a television series.

And I know it takes a lot of dedicated, long-working people to make that happen.

I am no stranger to hard work, I have run a business in Auckland, served in the military, and worked in the emergency services.

When I’m not on a film set, I volunteer as a financial mentor, helping people at the lower end of the income bracket make ends meet or get out of crippling debt.

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Last year I spent two 12-hour days on set for a film production, including one of the hottest days on record in Auckland. It was 30 degrees, heavy and relentless.

That day we got to the set before dawn and put on our gear: flannel pajamas were bad enough to wear on a hot day, but then I was covered head to toe in gear PPE in thick plastic.

I had a cap, mask, plastic face shield that misted up immediately when I breathed so I couldn’t see. Not an inch of skin was free from plastic and it was very uncomfortable.

Long days of filming can take their toll (archive photo).

Ben Collins / Unsplash

Long days of filming can take their toll (archive photo).

My “role” was to walk up and down stairs for hours, in slippery, blind shoe covers.

Of course, I was sweating profusely and felt dizzy and sick. So I was relieved when finally, after about four hours of filming, someone walked past me with a tray of water. I went to get one, but I was shouted that the water was for the cast and crew, not the extras!

I asked when I would have water and was told “soon”, but soon did not come for four o’clock.

There was no air conditioning and I recognized the signs of severe dehydration on my body. I took off my mask to vomit and was told not to remove any part of my uniform.

We finally got a break, but still in our plastic diapers in a smoky, crowded room with no ventilation or air conditioning. We were not allowed out of the large room where we were all held, with a guard posted outside.

There was water, no tea or coffee or ventilation, only about 80 people were bored (some had not been used at all on the set) or exhausted people sitting and lying in a room that looked like a prison.

For this particular production, we were given lunch under a big tent (in costumes), but more often than not, the extras don’t get food. In these circumstances, you can bring something from home and a bottle of water.

I got home around 11pm after logging out, then waited and stood in line to undress and return my soaked plastic suit.

I was really surprised that people can be treated this way in New Zealand in 2020.

It took me days to recover from this ordeal.

A few makeup artists or caterers may get a short-term contract, but there are no decent job opportunities for film crews here in New Zealand (stock photo).

123RF

A few makeup artists or caterers may get a short-term contract, but there are no decent job opportunities for film crews here in New Zealand (stock photo).

For our pain, we received $ 200 per day. It seems like fair pay, but wait, GST is deducted from this amount (15 percent = $ 30), followed by a commission on the total before GST of 20 percent ($ 40), plus the 20 percent industry wide. cent income tax ($ 40 more), regardless of your annual income.

That leaves us $ 90 for 12 hours of hell. It’s $ 7.50 an hour, under conditions that I’m sure violate basic human rights.

The industry feeds on students, travelers, and people in between work, or those naive young New Zealanders who think they are on the right track to a decent acting career.

On top of that, most extras paid an agent a fee to register for this type of work, usually between $ 50 and $ 100. Many break their contracts (paying an additional fee for it) and fail to show up on the second day, agreeing to lose any profit they might have earned. They find out that they have paid an agent for the fun of that day.

Next time you're watching a billion dollar production, think about those extras who work their butt (stock photo).

Krists Luhaers / Unsplash

Next time you’re watching a billion dollar production, think about those extras who work their butt (stock photo).

So, the next time you’re watching a big billion dollar production, take a look at the background and think of those extras working like slaves to bring this masterpiece to your TV.

As I understand it, no tax is paid to New Zealand by these giants.

No one I spoke to outside of the industry who had watched this particular production knew that it was shot in New Zealand as there was no mention of it as a location.

So what does New Zealand have to gain?

A few makeup artists or caterers may get a short-term contract, but there aren’t any decent job opportunities for the abundance of talented film crews here in New Zealand. The cast and crew all come with the production company.

I ask New Zealand to rethink its values ​​when it comes to this industry.

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