Meet the team

Meet the team behind the local content funding decisions. Here we meet the staff working at NZ On Air to ensure the best local content gets made. As of 1 January this year there are some new team members, some new roles and responsibilities.

15th December 2017

Assistant Accountant - Gemma Fulton

Gemma Fulton - Assistant Accountant

Gemma joined NZ On Air two and a half years ago as Television Payments Coordinator. This year she moved into the Corporate Services team as an Assistant Accountant.

What do you do?

I’m one of two assistant accountants at NZ On Air. I process all of the reports and invoices from producers of screen content, and a little bit of community radio. I also assess application budgets and assist producers in any reporting queries.

You came straight from uni - so how well did uni prepare you for this?

My degree (Accounting, Economics, Commercial Law) mostly prepared me for having to write opinions and arguments and apply certain skills. I’ve learnt an immense amount on the job.

What are the biggest challenges of the job?

Trying to keep up with watching all of the amazing content we fund! I’m also ridiculously organised (in my head- don’t look at my desk), so one challenge for me is wanting to expand my knowledge within NZ On Air but also wanting to hold onto all of the other tasks I enjoy.

When you’re not at work what’s your favourite place to be and why?

I love summer, so anywhere I can go for a swim and sit on the beach. My summer break plans include Napier, Rotorua, Tauranga and Whitianga, which I think is pretty self-explanatory.

I also love animals so when I’m in Wellington I always enjoy a coffee from Spruce Goose and a stroll along Lyall Bay down by the dog walking area.

What’s your favourite TV show & music artist?

That’s so hard, but if I had to choose just one I’d probably say Katchafire.

I’m really enjoying listening to the Fresh Cuts playlist at the moment so I can discover some new NZ music while walking to work! My Spotify account is currently paused on the Fresh Cuts playlist- Chelsea Jade’s High Beam.
I don’t know if I have a favourite TV show at the moment, with juggling work, study and flying to Auckland every second weekend it’s hard keeping up with serial shows. I mostly try to watch the shows we fund and I’m a fan of documentaries so I tend to watch one-offs and also a lot of web series on demand.

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

I was a bit of a child genius at primary school and I once got something like 98% on a Australasian science test.
I went to University to study Science in Biotechnology, that only lasted six months and then I realised I was good at accounting instead.

Executive Assistant - Nicky Andrew

Nicky Andrew - Executive Assistant

Nicky has been with the organisation for more than four years. Her role as Executive Assistant to the CE is a challenging one as she also supports the Senior Leadership Team and is Secretary to the Board.

Tell us about your role.

Great question! In two words EXTREME multitasker. The role is not specific to any one area of the organisation. I cross paths with all of my colleagues on a daily basis from supporting in the deadline of the moment to donning my fire warden vest. When I take the minutes at our Board meetings there is always something new and exciting on the go. Future directions and ways of collaboration.

On another note, while I am not a fluent Māori speaker the organisation has allowed me to grow with my language by teaching my fellow colleagues Te Reo. And while it’s not compulsory all staff are hungry to learn and engage. Pronunciation of te reo is a big thing to me and while it was very hard on the hearing at first, I can honestly say that I am very proud of all of them.

How is it different to jobs you’ve done before NZ On Air?

I can watch and listen to different media while sitting at my desk without getting a growling. I’ve never worked with an organisation that delivers local content for New Zealanders. It’s humbling to be able to be part of an organisation that enables local content that is Aotearoa.

What’s the biggest challenge of the job?

Deadlines, deadlines deadlines! Always have a number of tasks on the go and at times having to start these months in advance means that you have to be super organised. There is always something new going on with NZ On Air and adapting and improving processes to make the job easier can be challenging.

When you’re not at work what’s your favourite place to be and why?

After a hard working day my favourite place to be, after fighting the through the Wellington traffic, is home with a glass of wine. I think that’s every day! But seriously I do work in an organisation that allows me to go to events from time to time and having an eclectic range of media to indulge in is really awesome too.

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

I grew up with my grandad in a beautiful place called Matauri Bay. While it was a tough upbringing he nurtured me into the lady I am today. I have two sons (22) and (19) and a grandson who is just over a year old.

Nō reira kāti ake mō tēnei kōrero. Kia ora.

Music Promoter - Content, Hannah Brewer

Hannah Brewer, Music Promoter - Content

Hannah has been with NZ On Air for about three years. She started out as Online Promotions Assistant, working both for NZ On Air as a whole, and the Music channels. Now she spends all her time with the Music team.

Tell us about your role.

My role is Music Promoter- Content. I work to help connect New Zealand songs with New Zealand audiences. This ranges from social media management to delivering songs to radio and other broadcasters.

How is it different to your previous role with NZ On Air?

A big part of my new role is creating and distributing NewTracks, a compilation of new songs from NZ artists each month. This means selecting 28 new songs a month, sequencing them, creating artwork and digitally and physically distributing them to different radio stations and broadcasters throughout Aotearoa.

What are you finding the biggest challenges of the new role?

There is a quick turnaround to create NewTracks each month and a challenge I face is organising 28 songs from 28 different artists within a short time frame. Things can change pretty quickly in this part of the industry so we need to remain really flexible and adapt to things happening at the last minute.

When you’re not at work what’s your favourite place to be and why?

I love to be near (or on) the ocean - I grew up near the beach and still love being near or on the water. If I’m not near the water I also love writing, playing and listening to music.

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

When I was a teenager I appeared as an extra in our first NZ On Air-funded daily soap opera - Shortland Street.

Funding Advisor, Nicole Rex

Nicole Rex, Funding advisor

Nicole is one of our newbies - she started with NZ On Air in January this year coming to us from a broadcasting background and a well-connected family.

What’s your role?

I am the Funding Advisor for Community Broadcasting. I look after Spoken Radio, Access Radio, Pacific Radio and Regional Media.

How is it different to your roles prior to joining NZ On Air?

This is a totally different role to the ones I’ve previously had. I come from a broadcasting background, 14 years behind the mic and later behind the scenes as an operations manager. I really enjoy this role because it challenges me. One day I could be writing papers recommending funding for some great Kiwi content, the next I could be meeting with one of my awesome stakeholders watching a poetry recital in beautiful Dunedin! It’s a wonderful role that makes me feel good about the work I do to get Kiwi content funded.

What are you finding the biggest challenges of both settling in and delivering the new strategy and processes?

I had big shoes to fill coming into this role as the previous Community Broadcasting manager was well respected and loved by our stakeholders. The wonderful thing about our stakeholders though, is that they are all amazing people and I get phone calls just to chat or received lovely welcoming emails which made my transition less daunting.

As for the new strategy, this is an exciting time for NZ On Air. The technology age is well and truly upon us and NZ On Air have embraced it and are adapting to meet the rapidly changing environment. The NZ Media fund continues to champion NZ content and content makers. As the funder we want all our providers, producers and musicians to succeed - when you succeed we succeed!

When you’re not at work what’s your favourite place to be and why?

My favourite place is anywhere with my two kids Arty (6) and Senara (5) and my partner Hannay. My kids are my world and it could be us lounging around at home watching Moana for the 100th time or down at the local court shooting some hoops with them.

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

I am 125,233th in line to the British throne. The Queen is a great Aunty and Will and Harry my cuzzie bros. My great great great grandfather is King George III (yes the mad one!) In a nutshell he had three sons to Hannah Lightfoot, a seamstress, before marrying Queen Charlotte. Hannah and her sons were exiled and given the last name Rex. One settled in Tasmania in Australia and his grandson came to a little Island in the South Pacific (best island, btw) called Niue. He settled in Niue and the rest is history!

P.S I dropped the ‘Princess’ title back in the 90s but if you must…'Your highness' is fine ;)

Head of Innovation, Brenda Leeuwenberg

Brenda Leeuwenberg - Head of Innovation

Brenda has been with NZ On Air for almost five years. Previously running our Digital Media Fund, she now has a bold new title and job.

What’s your new role Brenda?

I am the Head of Innovation, which is all about driving strategy and policy for NZ On Air. With a focus on trends and transformation I will be collaborating with my colleagues to explore new options for funding initiatives, ideas for systems improvement and managing new initiatives like our online funding system.

Alongside that I need to keep up with what’s happening in the worlds of content, production, technology, audiences and storytelling - both locally and internationally, and filter the relevant information back to the organisation so that we can make the best informed decisions. I hope to also use this knowledge-sharing role to contribute to the production community, through sharing insights and resources.

There’s also an exciting opportunity to delve into the 27+ years of funding data that NZ On Air has, and look at trends and information in new and relevant ways.

How is it different to your previous role as Head of Digital?

Previously I was responsible for the Digital Media Fund - various funding streams that involved digital projects - like webseries, interactive documentaries and apps. I managed the digital funding rounds, and coordinated the assessment and recommendations for project funding.

Now that we have merged the different funding streams into one NZ Media Fund, there is no more Digital Media Fund. Digital projects are considered within the Scripted and Factual funding streams.

I think now I’ll have a lot more hard thinking to do and less dealing with a constant flow of emails and tasks!

What will the biggest challenges of the new strategy and processes be for you?

This is a hugely exciting time to be part of the world of story-telling and production. Things are moving all the time. It’s a massive challenge to keep up with what’s going on, to sift through all the news and hype and figure out what’s real and what’s relevant to us. And then to work through all the noise to determine where we need to be focused - where we need to start doing things, or to stop doing things.

There are some very big questions to answer - for example we need to develop a framework for measuring views and engagement on digital and broadcast platforms. Something that is consistent across different platforms, that is not too onerous to collate, and that gives us a useful baseline for measuring success.

New Zealand creatives tell amazing stories, make incredible documentaries, sing awesome songs. But our biggest challenge is making New Zealanders aware of this. Faced with the deluge of content online and a constant shift of platform options, how do we make sure our funded content achieves cut-through? As we support more content on digital platforms, how do we ensure it doesn’t just disappear into a giant online swamp? How do we make sure our children grow up with their culture reflected in the media they consume?

All of us at NZ On Air believe in the importance of local content, of having our voices, our faces and our stories and songs on screens and on the airwaves. We say that with what we fund there is always something for someone, but most likely not one thing for everyone. Our new strategy will allow us to continue to support diverse stories and songs for a wide range of audiences - but our challenge is reaching the audiences.

When you’re not at work what’s your favourite place to be and why?

I love being out on my bike, I love the beach, and I’m also pretty happy at home on the couch!

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

Until I started working on I was pretty skeptical about NZ television. But that project opened my eyes to the incredible creativity of NZ storytellers. Our history is more rich with film and television stories than I could ever have imagined. I developed a deep and major respect for our creative industries as a result and that’s what’s led me to working with NZ On Air - a job I feel hugely lucky to have. But before all that I was a scientist.

Head of Funding, Glenn Usmar

Glenn Usmar -Head of Funding

Glenn has been with NZ On Air since 2007. Until now he managed television funding. Today he has a new uber-role which he explains.

What’s your new role Glenn?

Head of Funding which involves managing the funding policy and processes for the NZ Media Fund, with oversight of the Factual, Scripted and Platforms funding streams.

How is it different to your previous role as Head of Television?

It is quite a bit different. When I came back after the summer break it literally felt like I had changed organisations and had a totally new job. My previous role involved NZ On Air’s television investments and to a lesser extent some online projects. Our new strategy has replaced NZ On Air’s multiple strategies and created a single fund with four different streams (Scripted, Factual, Music and Platforms). This requires quite a different head space when thinking about how we can best serve audiences with a range of different local content.

As a team we are all shifting from operating in platform silos to embracing a new more flexible approach that prioritises great creative ideas that have a clear sense of the intended audience, an ability to reach them, and have a strong business case that justifies public investment. The fact that the audience might access content via broadcast television or radio or online is only important to the extent that it is accessible to the intended audience and enough people will see it to justify the cost.

What will the biggest challenges of the new strategy and processes be?

First the operational challenge to establish good processes around operating this fund. The NZ Media fund has resulted in a transformational change of both the structure and operation of NZ On Air. Prior to the launch in July we are establishing a new online application system as well as publishing criteria, assessment processes and documentation for operating the new fund. No small task but a great opportunity to review how we do things.

The second major challenge is not ours alone; it is how to connect audiences with the content we fund. As the media landscape continues to evolve and the way people consume content changes, it is much harder to make people aware of content, particularly when there is so much global content available. We are now very focused on how producers and platforms intend to find and engage audiences before we commit to fund the content.

Third, the simplicity and agility of the new fund will likely result in more applications. The more applications we receive, the more we will likely have to decline. Our team is small so we are changing our processes to cope with an increased volume of applications.

When you’re not choosing great local content to fund what’s your favourite place to be and why?

Lyall Bay beach with our dog Archie. It’s always exhilarating sun, wind or rain. However, I would vote for more sun and less wind after this summer!

What’s something surprising people won’t know about you?

In my early 20’s I made a commercial that featured Rachel Hunter. I was a tap dancing cowboy dressed in pink – cliché I know!