Prof. Dev. –Delivering the Goods at DEGNZ

In the last couple of weeks I have been able to see and or get feedback on DEGNZ professional development initiatives that are in my view really delivering the goods, and increasing exposure and opportunity for directors wanting careers in narrative drama.

The first was our regular Rehearsal Room (RR) run in conjunction with Equity Foundation, facilitated by DEGNZ member and actor/writer/director Jackie Van Beek. I have attended every RR in my time at the guild and this last one proves to me once again what a simple but powerful prof. dev. initiative it is—Four directors with a scene and two actors each, and an experienced moderator to help guide the day, all in a no-pressure environment. The idea of being able to play is a real truism here.

The second was our 2-day Director’s Toolkit workshop with DEGNZ member and director Peter Burger.

Eighteen directors had the opportunity to learn tips, tricks, and methodology and gain insights from one of New Zealand’s most experienced drama directors. Revelatory was Peter’s knowledge about that dark drama art—communicating with actors. The second day was devoted entirely to working with actors with Josh McKenzie, fresh off new drama series Filthy Rich which Peter directed on, and Olivia Tennet, who had worked with Peter on When We Go To War, along to further understanding on communication, and blocking scenes.

For anyone particularly interested in fast turn-around TV Drama directing, this Director’s Toolkit was a major plus. And it ties nicely into our next NZ On Air funded TV Drama Director Attachment, as the successful director will shadow Peter on Filthy Production’s next new drama series, Dirty Laundry.

I have recently had the opportunity to catch up with directors Aidee Walker, the attachment on SPP’s Westside, and Matthew Saville who is on Screentime’s telefeature Bombshell: The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. So far, their experiences are exceeding expectations and that is good news for this particular initiative.

And this week, I have attended a couple of sessions of Equity New Zealand’s Casting Hot House. Equity kindly offered observer status to DEGNZ members and another 18 directors took up the opportunity. I believe producer Matthew Metcalfe’s recent comments at the Big Screen Symposium about using casting directors to access talent prompted this very positive response from members.

Top casting directors from the US, Australia and New Zealand are putting 80 Kiwi actors through their paces, providing insight, guidance and potential exposure to acting opportunities in US Network TV, digital streaming drama and feature films.

For the directors observing, the Casting Hot House has allowed them to see casting professionals at the top of their careers shaping actor performance, all the while watching the best of New Zealand’s experienced and emerging acting talent in action. The networking alone offered through attendance at the Casting Hot House is well worth the price of admission—just membership of the guild.

We have reached the end of the second year of DEGNZ’s NZFC funded professional development programme, with one year to go. There are plenty more opportunities to come in 2016 and I urge you all to make the most of the offering.

Professional development across all the guilds is going to change, as we are now sitting down with NZFC to discuss what future needs there are in professional development and how best to meet them.

You can help us identify what has been successful, what has not and what you would like in the professional development section of the DEGNZ membership survey we will be conducting soon. Please do take the time to respond to the in-depth survey as it will help us understand where the industry is at, where you are at and what is needed as we move forward.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director