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Inspiring conversation with Leslee Udwin

Last night we welcomed Leslee Udwin to New Zealand in partnership with Script to Screen. Leslee Udwin is the formidable woman behind the making of the documentary India’s Daughter. An actress, producer, director and activist, Leslee inspired us all with stories about her life and career, which spans projects such as East Is East, Mrs Ratcliffe’s Revolution and West Is West. Then there’s India’s Daughter, which moved Leslee to campaign tirelessly for women’s rights and better ethical education around the world.

There’s no doubt that everybody who attended walked away feeling inspired and motivated by Leslee’s words. Many thanks to Shuchi Kothari for her wonderful facilitation of the session.

Wellingtonians can see Leslee tonight at the NZ Film and Television School from 6 – 7.30pm. Please RSVP to rsvp@script-to-screen.co.nz.

Our thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission for their continued support of our events.

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Inspiring night at the Collaborators Series with Wayne Blair

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On Wednesday night, DEGNZ got together with Ngā Aho Whakaari for a Collaborators Series event with Wayne Blair. The topic? Getting Indigenous Stories to the Screen.

Wayne Blair, an actor and director, is well known for his directing work on The Sapphires as well as Redfern Now, Cleverman and recently Septembers of Shiraz.

At the Collaborators Series, Wayne was open and forthright about his film-making and explained how telling Indigenous stories is central to his work. He also spoke of how he feels fortunate to work with so many talented and Indigenous people in the industry.

Many thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission for supporting this event.

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That’s A Wrap: Rehearsal Room With Oliver Driver

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Saturday’s Rehearsal Room with Oliver Driver was a great success, with four directors and eight actors working together to bring their scenes to life.

There was a bit of everything in the scripts workshopped on the day – comedy, drama, romance and action. By the end of the experience, everybody felt they had come a long way developing their scenes, and Oliver offered great practical tips and advice to all of the groups.

A highlight was definitely playing back the work at the end, seeing what everybody had produced and hearing about the journey they took to get there.

Sign up for the next Wellington and Auckland Rehearsal Rooms on EventBrite. More will be added as we schedule for 2016! Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission for supporting this event.

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How To Get Ahead

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Professional development is an important part of the guild’s activities. A number of the opportunities have limits on participants, so we are constantly having to screen applications and respond to questions about what’s required, and “Why wasn’t I successful?”

While there are many factors that come into play when decisions are made by us, and those who help us select or who do the choosing for us, the two key questions that are first asked are: “What has the person done?” and “How good was it?”

The screen industry is all about turning out product, whether it be a video, documentary, commercial, TV episode, film, web series or other. At the bottom end it can be an audio-visual sausage, at the top end a piece of art. Intellectualism can have a big part to play, or not as Michael Bay has proved, but success comes firstly from creating the product, and then is hopefully followed by critical acclaim, box office success, increased sales, high ratings or whatever else is the measure that defines that particular product’s success or failure.

What strikes me with the screen industry is that it’s in the doing rather than in the knowing that success comes.

Recently, we had a Collaborators Series event at which director Lee Tamahori spoke. And last night I attend the NZ Cinematographers Society’s event with cinematographer Michael Seresin. Both are highly acclaimed internationally for their work. I was struck by the similarities between the two. But even more so by how they got into the industry—at the bottom. Lee was given a job by Don Reynolds as a boom operator even though he admitted he didn’t know what a boom operator did. Michael’s father got him a job with John O’Shea at Pacific Films as a gopher to save him from a wayward lifestyle. Both worked their way up with no film school education or knowledge of the industry to being at the top of their careers internationally by being on-set, being smart and doing it. Their learning came on the job.

Before film schools came along, TVNZ and the National Film Unit were the training grounds for people aspiring to careers in the screen industry. People learned there by doing.

Today, with education a massive business, we have courses, diplomas and degrees for people wanting a career in the industry.

I was asked a week or so ago to attend an industry focus group organised by an educational institution that is looking to respond to the industry by shaping their screen degree for the future, and melding it in a way that responds best to industry needs. Admirable.

But as often happens when seasoned industry people sit around and discuss work opportunities for new people entering, it wasn’t long before moans about the attitudes of film and media school graduates surfaced. Most criticisms centre on the sense of entitlement graduates have with their piece of paper in hand, which to most of those there means little or nothing. Getting in and doing it with smarts and a proactive, can-do approach on even the lowliest of tasks still counts over a formal screen education it seems. Just like Lee and Michael and many others in the screen industry have done as they worked their way to lofty heights and good pay packets from the bottom of the ladder.

Old school attitude. Sure. But one that still matters when it comes to those hiring and firing in the industry today. Which brings me back to the guild’s professional development programme.

Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission, we offer a comprehensive professional development programme with a wide variety of opportunities. We have added to this with our latest Drama Director Attachment initiative, supported by NZ On Air and local drama production companies. We hope in the future to offer others.

These are presented by people in the industry doing it. Passing on skills and knowledge—much of it practical— that many of them use on a daily basis.

We always get a good response to our professional development opportunities. But we’d like to see more. It shows to our funders that what we are doing offers real value. And we believe they bring real value to the participants who can leverage off the learning experiences to help them go further with their career and next project.

Formal education does have its place these days. Our professional development programme goes a few steps further we feel. But it’s hard to go past the Nike maxim in the screen industry. Doing it really does count. Making it good, even better.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Updated: Collaborators Series WGTN: Getting Indigenous Stories to the Screen

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Join DEGNZ and Ngā Aho Whakaari in Wellington on Wednesday August 12 for an exciting Collaborators Series discussion featuring Wayne Blair.

Update: Due to a change in production scheduling, Leah Purcell is no longer able to join us at this event – but the show must go on!

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