Community Pixels + Bits // Edition #1

Start of the year is upon us and it's going to be huge (well, that's hopefully thinking that my topic idea is one that can be done. possibly, even extend to further shooting + editing next year).

Topic Idea

Given the fact that people have heard about the Invercargill Aluminium Smelter within national news headlines in the past (with a story about a long settlement being reached within the Employment Relations Court) - I thought that it'd be a good idea to make a documentary to not just look at those stories in particular, but also focus on the people who work there, had worked there, their communities, the ups and downs (i.e: all background stuff); but also film the current events when it comes to the topic of either the plant itself or the people involved in it.

With "The Smelter/Smelter" as a working title, the piece itself should strongly reflect, in my opinion, the community that surrounds the facility itself. Whether or not the film follows a life or three of workers for the plant to give some human context to the documentary (possibly impractical, due to restrictions on what employees can say to generic media persons [incl. myself]), then talks to each one to see if they were affected in anyway when news stories broke out. (following a chronological sequence [order] of events) and also have proper interviews with certain members such as the local MP Sarah Dowie, someone from the local council etc.

However through this, my goal as a filmmaker is not only to interperate stories in a way that is true with the intent from those who deliver it - but to also make sure that I'm not getting the 'status quo' from either the human participants that we follow in the documentary or (more importantly) official representatives. Capturing real reactions/moments. This requires myself to probe and ask open questions that could lead to new discoveries - but to make sure that I remain ethical and within boundaries, if not, on the boarderline. (which I'll need to go into great detail this week, when developing my concept + oral presentation).


This year is definitely going to be interesting. For me, this is the first project that I'm considering my first major project. A 23-minute documentary that follows human subjects over a period of time, whilst also investigating why this smelter has been the subject of modern national news coverage since 2013 (or at least, I've come this far in the research so far).

Also, the story about the Smelter itself is an interesting one. Found out so far that the plant was undergoing financial troubles back god knows when, that was until the government stepped in with $30 million to help. Perhaps it's good to say that a large cost to the plant itself was the use of electricity - since they use a shitload just to do the work they need to do.

English said the broader picture was the 800 well-paid jobs and the uncertainty for the electricity market if this deal was not done.

"Anyone who can take a business away has its community over a barrel and has its workforce over a barrel," he said.

The public now expected the smelter get on and make the business work and today's deal make its ongoing viability much more likely.

Without it, and with power prices rising rapidly, higher transmission costs and falling aluminium prices, the smelter was almost certainly not viable, English said.

source: Govt pays $30 million to Tiwai Pt (stuff // 08/08/13) (link to article)

As I continue reading, it seems that thanks to previous contract/s signed between the plant and Meridian Energy - the plant had a right to lower the price of the energy being supplied to them.

Fears the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter might close have receded for now but a new agreement only guarantees it will remain open until 2018.

In a deal, Meridian Energy has won an increase in the price it gets for the electricity it supplies to the company. But it said the price was still less than the smelter would have paid if it had relied on the rest of the market to supply a big chunk of of its power.

Under previous agreements the smelter had the right to do this.

Meridian will now supply most of the smelter's 572 megawatts of power, but fuel 80 megawatts from Contact Energy into that mix.

It said the agreement committed Meridian to cover the full 572 megawatts currently used at the smelter at more competitive rates for the smelter than would have applied if it had chosen to rely on other suppliers.

The smelter meanwhile reiterated that its power was still too dear and was pinning its hopes on a cut to its transmission costs.

This matter is being debated by the Electricity Authority.

[audio clip / news report]

source: Tiwai Point aluminium smelter to stay open (radio nz // 3/7/15) (link to article)

Now considering the short discussion between myself and Patrick Gillies, tutor, he stated that the smelter is a great contributor to the local economy (especially with 800 jobs) and that if anything was to happen to that place - the local economy would be dealt a hard blow. Something that could inevitably change the way that Southland continues to develop as a growing region.

It's important for me to make sure that this documentary has no or little negative effect on either the plant, the people in the film or the community in general. Really don't want to be known as a filmmaker who walks and films in his own caused disaster zone - it'd be strongly condemned against and I'm not planning on ending my career now.

Next week, after oral presentation, I will start to think more seriously about how to style the documentary - as well as finding participants, after I get more preliminary research done.

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