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Lowdown: Pay Equity Needs Addressing

03 Aug 2023

A thorny issue goes from anecdotal to concrete evidence in this week's arts news bulletin, along with crucial recognition of some outstanding achievements across a multitude of creative practices

Director of Photography Tammy Williams is one of many leading female lights in the NZ Screen industry. Photo: Supplied.

The screen sector gets plenty of support and accolades - and so it should, given its proven track record of thrusting Aotearoa creatives into local and national success.

But that's not to say there isn't room for it to up its game when it comes to the contentious area of pay equity.

Women In Film and Television (WIFT) have this week highlighted information gathered from a series of industry surveys that have "revealed the extent of the gender pay imbalance in one of New Zealand’s most successful sectors."

The basis is built around the most recent census data currently to hand, the 2018 information. 

It was found that 40% of women in the NZ screen industry earn less than minimum wage from all sources - that's compared to 25% of men.

Given minimum wage in 2022 sat at just $44,096, that most workers are freelancers who work in the volatile gig economy, and that the sector's standard working week is clocked in at 50 hours - those are tough conditions to sustain a career.

As the below graph suggests, men dominate women in all the pay brackets - except the lowest pay band.

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Of those earning less than $35,000 in the sector, 54% were women and 46% were men. But as the pay grows, the numbers switch.  Only 12% of women earned more than $100,000 compared with 28% of men.

WIFT has driven three surveys over 2021-22 to get more specific proof of the situation. An 18% gender pay gap was identified in the production office while that rose to 19% in editorial and 22% in general post-production.

Of particular concern are women working in the camera department - they face the highest disparity in their income with a 53% gender pay gap.

Experience can't be used as an excuse for the pay discrepancy, according to WIFT. Of their survey respondents, 28% have worked in the industry for more than 20 years, while 23% have done so for less than 5 years, showing both ends of the spectrum have been taken into account.

And of no surprise to most in the creative community - 45% of those involved in the survey completed unpaid work in that period.

One of those in question agreed to share their experience with The Lowdown under the condition of anonymity - for fear of it costing them future opportunities.

I have been judged more harshly than my male counterparts when discussing or negotiating rates throughout my career. Often with a threat of personal discrimination and blacklisting if I don’t simply take what is being offered to me.

WIFT NZ Executive Director Patricia Watson told The Lowdown that they're committed to working with sector bodies and the wider industry to address these issues.

"Although there has been discussion over the years about a gender pay gap, this survey - completed by 854 people across genders - brings facts to the table.  This is WIFT’s role – creating awareness and stimulating discussion.

"The current gender pay gap in New Zealand is recognised as 9.2% by Manatū Wāhine, the Ministry for Women.  The results of WIFT’s gender pay surveys show a gender pay gap of 18% or more in almost all roles within the screen industry."

The exception to this rule seems to be directors - obviously headlined by an incredible crop of Aotearoa talent like Dame Jane Campion, Niki Caro, Briar Grace-Smith, Ainsley Gardiner, Jackie Van Beek, among others. The data shows those calling 'action' are paid equitably, no matter their gender. As Watson points out, "It shows that equality can be achieved if there is the will."

As for the steps forward, Watson underlines "It is up to the producers, line producers and heads of departments to stand up for equity now in their employment practices.  It would also help enormously if there was pay transparency, something the Ministry for Women has been calling for as a way to attain equity in the workforce."


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Short and sweet

Thomas Coppell, Olivia Shanks, Jo Randerson, Maza White, Vicky Pope, Tusi Tamasese, Paloma Schneideman, Pulkit Arora, Rachel Fawcett.jpg
Thomas Coppell, Olivia Shanks, Jo Randerson, Maza White, Vicky Pope, Tusi Tamasese, Paloma Schneideman, Pulkit Arora, Rachel Fawcett. Photo: John Rata.

There has been reason for some women in the screen sector to celebrate - after the winners of the Whānau Mārama New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF) best local short films were announced.

Wellington filmmakers Jo Randerson and Loren Taylor have won the $7,500 NZIFF Patrons Award for Best Short Film for their film Hey Brainy Man.

The 6 finalists were selected by Nick Caro and the selection jury - made up of film critic Tom Augustine, film editor Peter Roberts, and 2021 Best Short Film Award joint winner filmmaker Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu - noted “Formally daring, bitterly humorous and dreamily unsettling, Hey Brainy Man is a heady alchemical mix of absurdist flourishes and clearheaded warnings about humankind’s hubris. Backed by an endearingly batty chorus of Neanderthals, directors Randerson and Taylor are clear in their messaging, sounding the alarm without ever succumbing to overt or obvious preachiness.”

Randerson explained what this success means to her - along with many other creative musings - on The Big Idea.

"This award acknowledges a beautiful piece of teamwork - it was stellar working with Jaimee Poipoi, Olivia Shanks, Adam Luxton, Paul Wedel and our kick-arse cast of Madeline McNamara, Ana Scotney, Cohen Holloway and Geronimo LaHood - plus the whole crew and team throughout this long process which got interrupted by COVID. 

"This award gives me a confidence boost to say - 'keep being weird, keep following your instincts, keep close to your inspiration people and sources.' "

That was just one of three awards dished out at the sold-out NZ's Best screening at Auckland's ASB Waterfront Theatre.

The $4000 Creative New Zealand Emerging Talent Award was handed to Anu, described as "a soulful and sensitively-wrought portrait of a woman literally and figuratively isolated in her grief" with writer-director Pulkit Arora labelled "a fresh talent to watch."

The $4000 Auckland Live Spirit of The Civic Award went to Freedom Fighter which the jury thought "highlights the formidable talent of filmmaker Tusi Tamasese, working with a broad and talented ensemble to craft an unflinching portrait of the scars of the Dawn Raids." 

Freedom Fighter actor Luz-Eliana Folau-Brown received a special mention as "passion and soulfulness left an indelible mark on this year’s Jury" - as did Adam Luxon, who had the distinction of being cinematographer for both Hey Brainy Man and Anu, showcasing "remarkable flexibility and adaptability in crafting powerful, artful imagery."

The Audience Award, as voted by the public, will be awarded on the closing night of the festival in Wellington, Sunday 13 August, which sees them take home 25% of the box office from NZIFF screenings in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Winners are grinners

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There's been some marvellous success for visual artists in Aotearoa in the past week -and the opportunity to see so many talents on display in exhibitions just launched in both Wellington and Hamilton.

In the capital, the 2023 Parkin Drawing Prize - which promotes excellence and innovation in drawing in all its forms - has been handed out, with local artist Connah Podmore collecting the $25,000 top prize for her work Street light (the room where your brother was born) 

Podmore explains the significance of the win and the inspiration that she took from an experience all parents can relate to in her artwork in an insightful story here on The Big Idea. 

“I certainly wasn’t expecting to win so I am feeling quite overwhelmed. There are some amazing drawings in this exhibition, so just to be part of the show was an honour for me.”

Judge Kirsten Lacey - Director of Auckland Art Gallery - has been busy, naming 12 highly commended pieces for the first time in the competition's history- each securing $500.

They are The Day He Told Me He'd Died by Wellington's Kata Brown, Ironing Bored by Masterton's Jann Lenihan, 40 hour work week by Wellingtonian Frances Krsinich, The beginning and the end by Lucy Dolan Kang from Christchurch, Ruby by Wellington's Bonnie Wroe, New Plymouth is represented by Jordan Barnes with Modernity, I just thought I was really important by Brent Treacher of Hastings, How I Remember It by Allette Ockhuysen of Rakaia, Dancung Grawing by Dunedin's Motoko Kikkawa, self-portraits by Duncan Anderson from Berlin, Take it away by Emily Harris of Lower Hutt and The best I can do for the moment by Clara Wells of Christchurch.

There could be more money-making opportunities for all 86 shortlisted works - all are for sale at the Parkin Drawing Prize exhibition at the NZ Academy of Fine Arts in Wellington, running until 11 September. It gives admirers and collectors the opportunity to purchase pieces which are unlikely to be seen again, given many of the finalists are not represented in any gallery.

The National Contemporary Art Award at Hamilton's Waikato Museum also gives art lovers the chance to see the mahi of some of the country's top creative minds - with the 41 finalists' work on display until 12 November.

As reported here on The Big Idea, Tawhai Rickard was crowned the $20,000 supreme winner last week for his "visual ode to biculturalism", titled Scenes from a Victorian Restaurant (pictured below).


With the dust now settled on his success, Rickard told The Lowdown "I realise the National Contemporary Art Award is a prestigious honour and I am delighted to have earned my place in history. As a Māori artist from humble beginnings and generational adversity, attaining this prize is a great achievement. I acknowledge my God, my whanau and all people of Aotearoa who in my own small way I strive for.

"It would be my greatest achievement as far as art competitions are concerned.

"My hope is that the conceptual approach of my work - having to do with self-examination and goodwill within the context of New Zealand history and culture - would be wider received and understood. This would also further enhance my practice and create new exciting opportunities."

After soaking in his NCAA success in the Waikato, Rickard will soon be on display a few provinces down in the Bay of Plenty, showing some of his works at Full Circle 12 Years of The Miles,  celebrating past winners of the Miles Art Award at Tauranga Art Gallery from 19 August through until September. 

"I need to get back into a steady rhythm of creating work following COVID-19 and further disruption due to weather and its impact upon our country's infrastructure and economy."

SCAPE's new scope


The new era of Christchurch cultural linchpin SCAPE Public Art is taking shape - after yesterday (Wednesday) announcing its new season dates and the eight artists selected to bring Ōtautahi to life over the summer (above).

It's the first season selected by new SCAPE Managing Curator Tyson Campbell - the 12-week festival of free-to-view public art running from 25 November 2023 to 17 February 2024 kickstarting his three-year tenure.

“The Gift (this season's theme) is an invitation for people to consider the material, symbolic and metaphoric possibilities of gift-giving within communities,” Campbell explains. 

“It’s something that can be interpreted in terms of capitalism and the pressure of gift-giving linked to the public holidays and personal celebrations that emerge throughout the year. Symbolically speaking, a gift can also be something like imparting knowledge to a descendant, or a relational gift – like a really good mentor who can change the way you see the world. 

"The Gift is an exchange of things between people and it is with this theme that I hope to broaden and extend the possibilities of gifting.”

Tyson Campbell. Photo: Supplied.

The lineup of artists for 2023 represents a diverse cross-section of creative communities and cultures from around Aotearoa. Their newly commissioned artworks will range across various mediums and locations.

Several multi-disciplinary artists have been given the nod, including Tāmaki Makarau-based Denise Porter-Howland who works primarily with ceramics; Susu, a Taiwanese artist also living in Auckland, who produces interdisciplinary works in digital production, moving image, drawing and installation; and Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield, a direct descendant of Kāi Tahupōtiki chiefs Kōrako, Taiaroa, Haereroa, Karetai, who is a highly skilled Māori performing artist, creator, composer and artist in the contemporary dance industry.

Young Pōneke-based artists Maioha Kara - whose practice draws on Te Ao Māori narratives - and Ming Ranginui- who reimagines everyday objects into sculptures, often dressed in satin and her signature smocking - have also been selected, as has Synthia Bahati, a photographic artist who grew up as part of the African community in Auckland. Her work is informed by fashion and driven by the people around her as well as her own lived experience of Blackness living in Tāmaki Makarau. Local Ōtautahi artist Priscilla Rose Howe, also this season’s Community Engaged Artist, creates figurative works that explore ideas around queerness and phenomenology.

Finally, Te Ara Minhinnick is a ringatoi (artist) with roots in Waiuku who constructs installations underlining the Indigenous historical, political, and material matter of whenua (land), uku (clay), and wai (water).

“I chose these artists because their practices have a new perspective and are tied to power and place,” Campbell states. “They each provide compelling autobiographical narratives of how art can be presented in public. It’s very exciting to me because their SCAPE projects give these artists opportunities to expand their practice outside of the galleries and to think about how public space can materially transform their skill set.”

The 2023 season will also feature two sculptural and two mural artworks from the winners of the Re:ACTIVATE Aspiring Artists competition, open to young people aged 5-18 from around Canterbury. 

Hit the bricks

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Images clockwise from top left: Chris Bailey (Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Hako, Ngāti Porou), Pou Tū Te Rangi (2011). Photo: Marlaina Key; Fred Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahakura), Kaitiaki (Guardian) (2004). Photo: Marlaina Key; Gallery images from the ‘City Centre Gallery Walk’ on ArtNow.NZ; Michael Parekowhai (Ngā Ariki Rotoawe, Ngāti Whakarongo), Kapa Haka (2008). photo: Marlaina Key.

Getting out and enjoying public art has always been a treasure - but the resource to find these taonga has never been so abundant.

Along with the event-based efforts of the likes of SCAPE, websites like Auckland Public Art and the new Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand (PAHANZ) launched last week (and covered in last week's Lowdown) are making it easier than ever to find what tickles your fancy around Aotearoa.

Now there's a new aid to add to your enjoyment with ArtNow.NZ launching its interactive Art Walks page, set up with support from Barbara Holloway and her team at Auckland Council through the Regional Arts & Culture Grants Programme

As well as highlighting locations of galleries around the city, Te Paparahi Toi Māori, Walks in the City showcases eight walks - across sixty locations - where you can view private and public art, urban and architectural design, and sites of significance from Queens Wharf to Karangahape Road, and from Wynyard Quarter to the Auckland Domain. They celebrate Māori identity, history, knowledge, and contemporary presence. 

Definitely worth having bookmarked on your phone if you're in - or visiting - the Super City.

There are plans to expand to the rest of Aotearoa - with Art Walks set to be further developed and extended to include walks in cities and towns throughout the country over the next few months.

Recognition of a lifetime

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Toni Williams in 1961.

With the countdown on to the 2023 Pacific Music Awards on 9 August at Manukau's Due Drop Event Centre - one winner has already been confirmed.

The late Toni Williams will be honoured with Te Pukenga Lifetime Achievement Award to celebrate his 50-year career and the indelible mark he left on the industry - as well as audiences.

Also known as Antoni Williams, the Rarotongan-born performer with a soulful voice and unmistakable talent first began to rise to prominence as the lead singer and guitarist of rock and roll group The Tremellos in the 1950s, touring and recording on their own as well as playing as support act for international superstars like the Everly Brothers, Johnny Ray and Connie Francis.  

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, his solo career flourished, and his live performances became legendary, leaving a lasting impact on the music scene.  He would spend 10 years working the cabaret circuit in Australia, returning to New Zealand in 1976.

One of Williams' most notable accomplishments was the success of his single The One I Sing My Love Songs To, which reached number nine on the NZ charts for two weeks in August 1977 (you can have a listen in the below playlist).

From 1979, Williams took the place of Wi Wharekura for occasional reunions of the Howard Morrison Quartet.  His career lasted over 50 years and he had an impeccable professional reputation. 

You can find a great profile of Williams and an amazing walk down memory lane on the always thorough and enlightening Audioculture website

Cook Island String Band, the KabinBread Boyz will play at the awards in Williams' honour, with his family present to accept the award.

Exiting with Grace

Black Grace board members, supporters and dancers supporting Neil Ieremeia after his 2021 Kea Award. Photo: Supplied. 

After 17 years, the Chair of the Black Grace Trust Board is stepping down.

Haydn Wong first joined the acclaimed dance company's advisory board back in 2006, initially as a Trustee before being appointed to the role of Chairman a short time later.

During that time, there have been significant operational changes and the development of numerous artistic projects and initiatives, seeing Black Grace enhance its reputation both locally and internationally. Black Grace is the only dance organisation in CNZ’s Toi Tōtara Haemata (investment) portfolio, receiving triennial funding.  

Founding Artistic Director, Neil Ieremia pays tribute to Wong's impact. “Through his leadership and guidance, Haydn has played an enormously pivotal role in aiding The Black Grace Trust to evolve into what it is today, but more importantly assisting in laying a solid foundation for the future. I am eternally grateful to Haydn and I am humbled by his commitment and loyalty to the Black Grace vision over such a long period of time,” says Black Grace Founding Artistic Director, Neil Ieremia (OMNZ).  

Wong joins iconic former Silver Ferns netballer Bernice Mene in leaving the board, after ending her decade-long involvement last year.

Those two openings have been filled by new Board Members.

Financial services and governance veteran Julian Knights has served as chair of Sydney Dance Company for seven years, was Chair of the Major Performing Arts Board (the umbrella body responsible for all 28 major performing arts companies in Australia), as well as a Founding Trustee of The Three Lakes Cultural Trust and a board member of Auckland Writers Festival and Arrowtown Creative Arts Society.

Ngaere Duff brings a formidable background in design and innovation - having 24 years of experience leading projects in innovative architecture, design and the building industry.  For the past 7 years, Ngaere has commanded a strong design team for NZRPG, one of New Zealand’s largest privately owned retail and property groups. 

It's already been a big year for Black Grace - having toured to the UAE, premiering their new main-stage work Paradise Rumour, followed by I am a Renaissance by Company B and this month they partner with NZ Opera on a national tour of (m)Orpheus.