LIFE BELOW THE LINE - THE SEQUEL - NZ TECHO SUMMER 2018 ISSUE 72
In the Winter 2017 edition of NZTecho, I commented on the “Hollywood Model” as an approach to managing short term projects utilising the disparate skills of a highly specialized team brought in to do the job, and then go on to other projects. Since then, a small team of specialists based in New Zealand have succeeded on the world stage in spectacular fashion – taking on Silicon Valley’s finest, and emerging as world champions in their field with a mixture of technical innovation, clever man management, dogged persistence and all round talent.
I am referring of course to the America’s Cup. I should disclose my bias and confess to being a keen sailor, but despite comment from those who see the sport in terms of Rich Boys Toys, I am convinced this success has implications for the country far beyond the splendid trophy rooms of the RNZYS. On a very basic level, the Auckland waterfront will be further enhanced, and additional (well healed) tourists will arrive. On a more abstract level, peripheral industries such as hospitality, sports broadcasting and marine suppliers will benefit. And up in the stratosphere, who is to say that the oligarchs and tech giants won’t re-site some of their operations here to exploit this vein of innovation – or at least get their superyachts serviced…..
The lessons for other New Zealand industries from the America’s Cup success started with Team New Zealand’s adoption of an innovative design and recruitment policy. After the disappointment of San Francisco in 2013, a team review identified the need to invest in technology. “Once they had a clear idea, Dan Bernasconi, Team New Zealand’s Technical Director, trailed through Linkedin to find experts in specialist areas such as hydraulics, systems programming, and aerodynamics. He wasn’t interested in yachting expertise, he wanted people with specialised knowledge and a record of innovation” Dana Johannsen “The comeback Kids: How Team New Zealand won the Americas Cup” NZ Herald 1 July 2017. Of course, there were other factors that contributed to this success as well:-
· TNZ consciously learned from past mistakes, but still trusted their own judgment with original and unorthodox design philosophy
· The team was tight, and kept their know-how and developments under wraps
· New technology, and a policy of constant development was adopted as a strategy over the entire event
· The highly specialised individual skills of all team members were coordinated and optimised by great management.
A parallel to the Team New Zealand story can be drawn to the better aspects of the New Zealand film industry. We have State support insofar as the “design” element is concerned – an encouragement to “tell our own stories” that is bolstered by necessity due to our remoteness. We seem accustomed to work collaboratively in a team culture – perhaps due to a small industry where everyone knows each other, and from that (to continue the sporting analogy) to follow a “no dickheads” rule in engaging personnel.The same personnel are usually highly trained and mentored, and frequently well travelled, with imported experience of overseas practices. As a result, the local film industry is able to present itself as a skilled and cohesive unity to both national policy makers, and international investors.
But what of the future? A special report on the future of work, and in particular the practical effect of Artificial Intelligence in the workforce concluded: “There is likely to be a broadening and quickening of computers into everyday life, requiring people to update their skills faster and more frequently than they do at the Moment” The Economist “ Artificial Intelligence” 25 June 2016. The type of jobs that were most likely to be threatened were routine as opposed to creative, and although the application of AI is of specific relevance to any kind of data, this now affects virtually all sectors “from genes to images to language”.
So what does a career minded crew member do faced with the uncertainty of disruptive elements in their industry? In the short term, being the best in your field, and ensuring the best producers are aware of this seems sensible. Conversely, being difficult to work with, and reluctant to upskill does not enhance employment prospects. Taking a longer view is something lawyers are not renowned for – we tend to look backwards rather than forwards – so I can safely leave that for other futurists. “Hollywood and gaming industries will collaborate to create customisable virtual realities with avatars based on real-life actors and tailored to your specific preferences” Joe Lonsdale “AI and robots will take our jobs – but better ones will emerge for us” Wired magazine 12 April 2017. This article goes on to identify 12 jobs of the future, including VR/AR and Personalised entertainment, Nanotechnology and E-marketing. Other jobs with perhaps not such great appeal include senior care, and chamberlains and stewards.
From a bystanders position, especially that of a lawyer, it is easy to see where things have started to go wrong in film projects. Usually it’s personality differences – from creative bickering to poor management and people skills.
Conversely, projects that go well usually involve selection of crew who work well together, agreements that actually reflect the deal that has been reached, a script considered exciting and worthy, good communications, and a general optimism generated by a professional approach from all concerned, particularly leadership. In sailing terms, when everything combines for optimum results, the boat and crew are said to be “in the groove”. Team New Zealand certainly were, and have added another chapter to the legacy of Auckland as the “City of Sails”….. Surely there is enough action, locations, heroes and villains there for a film…or a Netflix series…or something on MTS featuring foiling wakas?