Circuit Breaker Prop
A new series of Circuit: investigative journalism by Stuff Circuit.
A further series of in-depth investigations, launching from Circuit’s track record, to continue to
expose, delve, probe, and analyse issues of vital importance to New Zealand society.
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FRAME GRAB - Inﬁnite Evil
New Zealand on Air funding for Circuit has enabled us to produce signiﬁcant investigative journalism in the public interest
that we would have been unable to achieve otherwise.
We want to continue that good work and to capitalise on the reputation we have gained, with NZoA’s support, for challenging,
necessary, groundbreaking journalism, such as that in our most recently published investigation False Proﬁt.
Our other investigations broke new ground with Big Decision; Inﬁnite Evil analysed the far-right site 8chan; Life + Limb
exposed deaths and injuries of civilians in Afghanistan connected with New Zealand ﬁring ranges; The Fraudster revealed
how our justice system had abetted a major fraud against the taxpayer, and Alias exposed how that fraudster had continued
her cons, further costing the taxpayer and making a mockery of parliamentary process.
We need NZ on Air funding in order to continue this complex, rigorous, risk-taking investigative journalism because it’s time
and resource-intensive - and expensive. But the need for this kind of journalism is now arguably greater than ever.
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FRAME GRAB - Big Decision
Through these investigations we have learned, though, that we have previously over-committed in terms of the number of
pieces we can reasonably deliver, to the standard we set for ourselves.
For 2021, we propose a series which gives us greater ﬂexibility to match the production to the nature of the story.
We would like this series to comprise a minimum of 90 minutes of programme in total, divided up in whatever way suits the
investigation, but an individual episode would be of at least 30 minutes’ duration.
For instance, it could be three x 30” pieces, or one x 60” plus one 30”.
We have reduced our budget in order to reﬂect the shorter total minutes.
While the overall duration will be shorter than in previous years, what won’t change is our commitment to telling the most
important stories in the best way possible, in terms of both the journalism and the production.
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FRAME GRAB - The Fraudster
90 minutes of investigation comprising:
3 x 30” Or 1 x 60 + 1 x 30”
Or, possibly, 1 x 90, if the investigation is signiﬁcant enough to warrant that much attention, such as was the case with our
landmark NZoA-funded project, The Valley.
These investigations will sit inside a new, bespoke website which will also house text analysis and explanation, alongside
whatever other mediums we think best suit the story. We have previously experimented with VR for The Valley, 360 cameras
for Caught, and cutting edge digital presentation for Drug Deals. In 2021, we aim to make further, more far-reaching innovations.
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FRAME GRAB - Life + Limb
TREATMENT - Narrative
The experience we have gained over the past four years as Stuff Circuit has enabled us to take what we knew from
our work in television, and develop it into a style which modernises visual journalism.
We reject the formulaic techniques often deployed in broadcast storytelling.
We work hard to tailor our scripts and writing to achieve the clearest narrative possible, right down to the individual
words we use, the style of voiceover and pieces to camera, the way we ask questions in an interview.
We are constantly striving to hone and develop the way we tell our stories, while valuing the fundamentals of
investigative journalism: accuracy, veriﬁcation, corroboration, and a commitment to the responsibility we have to
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FRAME GRAB - Inﬁnite Evil
TREATMENT - Visual Identity
Our six investigations so far have each had a distinct look and feel, united by a strong cinematic style,
while also aiming to try new things.
Throughout this series the style will be cinematic and atmospheric, but still experimental and original.
We intend to be brave and bold in our visual treatment, and we think our back-catalogue shows we are
up to the task.
Camera, editing and overall artistic direction will continue to develop our look of dramatic framing,
multiple angles, non-traditional vision, and ﬂuid camera movement.
Use of natural light - or at least the appearance of natural light - will give our subjects and subject
matter an authenticity rarely seen outside the feature documentary ﬁeld.
The stories will continue to be colour-graded and sound-mixed by teams of people who share our
interest in delivering the highest quality stories possible.
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Frame Grab - False Proﬁt
TREATMENT - Online
We intend to establish a new online destination that maintains a familial link to the premiere Circuit series while
introducing its own, fresh design that will revive our audience’s interest and again present new invitations for
Interactive and digital designers will continue to work closely with the Stuff Circuit team to tailor a unique online
presentation for each of the episodes that further pushes the boundaries of what is possible in storytelling. The
design will follow the series’ overall visual treatment to ensure the consistent and high-quality experience that
we’re known for.
Again, each new episode will present new ways to bring the audience back to the previous investigations, so that
the series is both cohesive and inherently self-promoting.
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Frame Grab - Life + Limb
WHO WE ARE
Stuff Circuit has an unrivalled record in producing long-form video-led investigative journalism, complemented by
striking story art, text news and feature stories, and stand-out photography.
Consultant Executive Producer Terence Taylor will oversee each investigation, bringing a huge depth of current
affairs and investigative experience.
Journalist Paula Penfold and Producer Louisa Cleave collaborate to identify and research the stories, strategise
the interviews, write the scripts and deliver the best public interest journalism they can.
Editor/Director/Illustrator Toby Longbottom and Cameraman/Illustrator Phil Johnson give Circuit its signature
look, disrupting the traditional ways of presenting investigative journalism.
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Frame Grab - The Fraudster
Due to the element of unpredictability, given these investigations will be topical, this schedule will be
ﬂuid with some aspects overlapping.
There will be no ﬁxed time-slot for publication - it will be on an as-ready basis, but we aim to
complete the work within the calendar year.
This schedule outlines the process for 3 x 30” pieces, but would be adapted to reﬂect a different
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Frame Grab -Inﬁnite Evil
January - February 2021
Subject identiﬁcation and research
Identify the ﬁrst areas for investigation. Analyse and
Publish investigation one
gather background, contacts.
Begin ﬁlming investigation two
February - March 2021
July - August 2021
Plan structures/pre-script, design aesthetic for each
Transcribe/script/story art/edit investigation two
January - April 2021
Publish investigation two
Begin ﬁlming investigation three
Design/plan begins for series website
October - November 2021
March - April 2021
Transcribe/script/story art/edit third investigation
Begin ﬁlming ﬁrst investigation
Publish investigation three
April - May 2021
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Frame Grab- Inﬁnite Evil
Stuff Circuit is home to some of New Zealand’s most experienced and recognised investigative journalists, whose
work relies upon the quality of their research. When required we can also harness the skills of Stuff journalists
throughout the country to augment the work of the Circuit team.
The process will vary depending on the nature of each investigation, but generally speaking,will involve:
Seek other contacts/sources for corroboration
Submit Oﬃcial Information Act requests where appropriate
Create spreadsheets to collate data/information
Collate existing articles/research/statements
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Frame Grab - Life+Limb
CONTRIBUTION TO NZ ON AIR GOALS
NZoA funding has allowed Stuff Circuit the time and resource required to produce world-leading journalism. We’ve
won awards at the Canon Media Awards, the Voyager Media Awards, the New Zealand Cinematographers’ Society
awards, the PANPAs, and the International News Media Association (INMA) awards.
We work hard to reﬂect diversity in story and talent-identiﬁcation and we consult and engage outside expertise
Stuff is the biggest website in New Zealand, meaning Circuit is easily accessible to audiences and remains on
the platform in perpetuity. It’s also free. Our stories are often picked up by other media outlets, amplifying
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FRAME GRAB - Inﬁnite Evil
DELIVERY & AUDIENCE
The main platform will be Stuff’s website and apps, home to the Stuff Circuit team since 2016. We will continue to use editorial
and marketing drivers to promote the content to Stuff’s substantial audience - including homepage story slots and pointers,
native advertising, email newsletters, smartphone push alerts, pre-roll video advertising, and house display advertising online
and in Stuff’s stable of newspapers.
Stuff is a credible, trustworthy platform that has in recent years built a formidable reputation for high-quality original
journalism, not just from Stuff Circuit but also from our national correspondents, our climate desk, and our special projects
team. Now in New Zealand ownership, Stuff is also a very popular website. Most months, we are not just New Zealand’s
most-visited news site but the largest domestic website of any kind, with a unique monthly audience of 1.964 million (source:
Nielsen Online Ratings, August 2019-July 2020). We serve an average 10.9m video views per month (Source: Adobe Analytics,
Brightcove, January-August 2020).
Stuff’s audience is the most authentic online mirror of the New Zealand population, drawn from all ages, ethnicities, income
brackets and locations. The combination of these factors gives New Zealand on Air-funded projects the chance to reach a
large and diverse audience in a reputable environment.
Stuff editor in chief Patrick Crewdson says: “The Stuff Circuit team have blazed a new path for longform documentary
storytelling on Stuff. Our audience loves the beauty of their unique visual style and respects the investigative chops required
to deliver impactful stories like Life + Limb and Alias.”
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Frame Grab- Alias
Launch and release plan
The power of Stuff as New Zealand’s biggest website and owner of national, metropolitan,
regional and community newsprint titles will giv e launch and release of this series unrivalled
As previously stated, we intend for this series to be journalism-driven in its timing; therefore it’s
not possible to predict publication dates.
However, as and when each investigation is ready, Stuff will launch across all its assets,
including text in its nationwide stable of print publications. Circuit will also be promoted through
the vast range of Stuff’s marketing channels.
The estimated internal marketing investment is valued at a total of $862,500.00 over the 3
episodes, comprising print advertising, digital advertising, email marketing and PR activity Note
that the ﬁgures listed here are estimated market values and subject to change.
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STORY ART - Inﬁnite Evil
DISTRIBUTION - Stuff
Channel Details (per episode) Total Value
Sunday-Star Times ad
$87,000 per episode
Two ads in each of Stuff’s nine daily mastheads
Digital display advertising on mobile and desktop for 2.5 weeks: $36,000
$133,500 per episode
Native advertising (1 million impressions): $10,000
Video pre-roll on article videos (one week): $11,000
One-day mobile rectangle blast: $12,000
One-day Home Page Takeover: $35,000
One-day Mobile Splash: $17.500
Neighbourly Sponsored Post (Nationwide): $12,000
Seperate email to Stuff audience: $50,000
$60,000 per episode
Additional promotion in all subscriber and other external marketing eDMS:
$7,000 per episode
Press release on project launch: $4,000
Bespoke media pitching for each episode: $3,000
Total (with contingency)
$287,500 per episode
The total value has been reduced by 30% for contingency
(i.e. if the marketing spaces are booked out)
In accordance with NZoA guidelines, none of these ﬁgures are included in the budget.
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STORY ART - False Proﬁt
Measures of Success
Stuff has made a conscious and public pivot away from clicks, in favour of building trust. As Editorial Director Mark
Stevens says, “There is no more valuable currency for journalism than public trust.”
Trust is diﬃcult to measure, of course. But one of the ways we can get a sense of the value of our work is to look at
For instance, within 24 hours of the release of Life + Limb, the prime minister ordered defence chiefs to the Beehive and
ordered them to have New Zealand’s ﬁring range in Afghanistan cleaned up.
With False Proﬁt we received overwhelming feedback about the importance of journalism like ours in a climate where
conspiracy theories have taken hold around the world.
Trust in our journalism and making an impact with our stories will continue to be a key driver for us. But of course we
also want to know that people are watching our journalism.
Circuit to date has attracted 500,115 unique visitors, 710,645 page views, and 152,001 video views.
Target for Circuit 2021: With growing awareness of our work, we hope to achieve similar overall ﬁgures with fewer
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STORY ART - Life + Limb
(TO ACCOMPANY THE DETAILED SPREADSHEET)
The budget we are proposing is as follows
Total budget: 795,348
External cash cost: 243,700 Internal cash cost: 130,500 Total NZ On Air cost: 374,200 Stuff non-cash contribution: 421,148
Salaries and oﬃce expenses: We believe the production of these documentaries (to the standard we require of ourselves) will
take us all year. In order to keep costs down however, we have budgeted for nine months’ worth of salaries and other costs.
EP / legal costs/ insurance / wardrobe etc: Some items of expenditure are more related to the number of documentaries
rather than the time taken to produce them and these items have been assessed on the (lesser) basis of 1.5 times the
current July-December 2020 budget (which was for two documentaries of 30 minutes each).
Travel / freelance crew / ﬁle footage: With Covid still raging around the world, it is extremely diﬃcult to predict how much
travel we will be able to undertake in 2021. We have budgeted for two overseas trips, but these may not come to pass. In
that case, we envisage using some of the existing travel budget to hire overseas crews and/or researchers. The cost of doing
this, though, would be less than the cost of travelling ourselves, so in the event that Covid prevents international travel, the
project as a whole would end up under-budget.
Outsourced coding: We are very keen to continue innovating in the production and presentation of our on-screen journalism.
Unfortunately Stuff’s own brilliant interactive designer, Suyeon Son, is moving on at the end of 2020, we have taken the
precaution of budgeting for outsourced coding. These funds may not be required, in which case, again, we may end up under
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STORY ART -Big Decision
Stuff Circuit is proud of the work we’ve managed to achieve with the assistance of NZoA
funding, and grateful for that opportunity.
We believe that with your support we can continue to make important, public interest journalism. We
are an experienced team that New Zealanders can trust to provide accurate and thought-provoking
information. Engaging our audience through visually powerful, in-depth investigations will support NZ
on Air’s public media funding objective: to produce the sort of quality content that is vital to an
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STORY ART - Alias
What the critics and judges have said
“This world class investigative documentary takes the viewer beyond the horror of Christchurch to look at the
dark driving forces that lead to the massacre. It is a stellar example of tenacious reportage with high production
values and meticulous research. In a very competitive category, it was the clear winner.” - Judges, Best
Documentary, Voyager Media Awards 2020.
“...genuinely very important contemporary television... made by a team of people who’re among New Zealand’s
best investigative reporters and they’re pushing the boundaries of the medium...” - RNZ National.
“The whole thing is beautifully shot, it’s a work of art all the way through. The combination of using all these
different platforms was really, really revealing. It sort of gave a wholeness to it… A must watch. All power to the
Stuff Circuit team.” - RNZ National.
“Absolutely amazing work… I’ve got nothing but praise for this”. - Former TVNZ current affairs executive
producer, Phil Wallington.
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STORY ART - Life+Limb