I was born curious and enjoy figuring out how things work, which is essentially what I still do today as a director.

I drew a lot as a kid and wrote and illustrated comics at school. Art was always my focus, so it seemed like a natural progression to go to art school. I did a first-year foundation course and hated it, so I continued illustrating and started a freelance career to make money doing what I loved. I tried a few other things along the way, like animation, which seemed like another logical step (taking still images and making them move).

While looking for illustration work in advertising, I was offered a trial as a junior creative. I was curious, so I accepted and was hired after three months. I didn’t realise how lucky I was at the time. This job was a turning point for me creatively – advertising taught me to interrogate my ideas, and I started working with directors. I’d write a script and was able to observe them make it, which I found fascinating. I thought directing was something else I wanted to try, and I asked a director I connected with if I could help them out in any way to learn more. They said, “If you really want to direct – then direct”.

I wasn’t sure how to take that first step, but when a band I was playing in received an NZ on Air video grant, I put my hand up to make it. I instantly fell in love with the process of taking an idea from my head to the screen. This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life (a fortunate realisation at the age of 22). The music video was nominated for an award, and I quit advertising (my first and last full-time job). I went back to the freelance world – this time as a director.

The next few videos I made all involved aspects of animation, but eventually, I fell in love with the immediacy of film. I was repped by Fish n’ Clips, a division of Flying Fish films. I wanted to make a living from music videos, but the NZ scene had never been sustainable. Through the music videos I’d made, my advertising connections, and the help of Flying Fish, I started making commercials to save for a trip to London.

Director Wade Shotter on set for Mint Chicks music video ‘Post No Bills’ / Photos: provided

In the five years I worked in London, the bottom fell out of the industry (they blamed downloading). But due to the work I’d done there, I was lucky enough to win some great NZ commercial work, which kickstarted my commercial career worldwide.

I moved back to NZ and eventually joined FINCH, an inspiring Australian-owned film production company. Making commercials has supported me in branching out into other realms, like shorts and a tv series I’m developing. I’m still trying new things, ticking boxes, and having realisations.

Wade on set of his short film ‘I Will Not Write Unless I am Swaddled in Furs’ / Photographer: Thian Benton-Fieulaine

Being a director is a constant challenge. In an over-saturated industry, there’s a never-ending balance between being true to yourself and being relevant. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and there were several stretches of unemployment. But there have also been some amazing rewards that made it all worthwhile.

There’s no ‘right’ way to become a director. You can come at it from any angle, and you will succeed if you’re passionate enough and stick at it. I never went to film school, although when I think back – I’ve always had a deep love of film that was omnipresent throughout my life. I’d forgotten that I used to animate flip book stick men, make Lego-men films with my friend on his dad’s Betacam, and although I almost failed art school, I got an A+ in the subsidiary filmmaking course. For me, everything was pointing towards filmmaking.

Wade’s Self Portrait / Photo: provided

Everything you experience will make you the director you are. I developed an eye for composition and light through illustration, a sense of tone, emotion, pacing and energy through composing and performing music, and learned to hone my ideas and storytelling through advertising.

Nobody will make your project for you. You must take the first step and the last. But it’s also never been easier to make something and put it out there. So be a sponge, find collaborators, never get too comfortable, and stay curious.

About Wade Shotter

Wade Shotter’s origins are in illustration, where he worked on children’s books and created eight comics. From pen and paper, he moved to animation, where he worked with Disney for a stint in traditional 2D animation. Since shifting gears to film, he has directed his short film, music videos for various bands, and commercials for clients such as Fire & Emergency NZ, BNZ, Uber, Qantas, and more. He continues to play with form through his work and is drawn to deeply cinematic and visually expressive styles that engage and surprise. Currently, he is developing a pilot script for a television series.

How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with admin@deganz.co.nz if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Last updated on 1 June 2023

While Aotearoa trudges into winter, feature films Dame Valerie Adams: MORE THAN GOLD and Red, White & Brass head to the Hawaii International Film Festival (HIFF) 2023 Spring Showcase.

This follows MORE THAN GOLD‘s recent success at the International Oceanian Documentary Film Festival (FIFO) in Tahiti, where it won the 1st Special Jury and the Youth Jury Awards. Edited by DEGANZ board member Margot Francis and produced by fellow member Leanne Pooley, the feature doco follows the candid and inspirational story of Olympic champion, Kiwi icon, and Tongan leader Dame Valerie Adams.

On the other hand, Red, White & Brass, co-edited by DEGANZ board member Ben Powdrell, is just beginning its festival run. The feel-good drama about Tongan pride and community is earning rave reviews following its very recent NZ theatrical release.

Featuring in the HIFF Spring Showcase is incredibly exciting for both films as it will be both of their US premieres. Additionally, this is HIFF’s first run with a completely in-theatre festival after COVID-19.

Along with these two features, NZ-made Muru is also screening in the programme.

Congratulations to all DEGANZ members involved!

Last updated on 30 March 2023

Season three of DEGANZ member Julie Zhu‘s podcast and video series Conversations With My Immigrant Parents comes out on 3 April. In addition to directing, producing, and hosting the series with co-creator Saraid de Silva, Julie is also the series’ cinematographer.

The deeply personal series dives into conversations between immigrant parents and their children across Aotearoa. They cover topics of ancestry, home, food, expectation, acceptance, and love. Through these conversations, whānau learn new things about each other and confront complex issues that are deepened by generational and cultural differences. Previous episodes tackle balancing cultures in an Indian-Māori whānau, interrogating colonial tools in NZ within a Zimbabwean family, and divorce with a Korean mum and daughter.

Julie is a Chinese-born, Aotearoa-raised multi-disciplined creative. She is passionate about telling stories that champion marginalised voices and stories, as seen in her work on Conversations With My Immigrant Parents.

Watch the trailer for season three here, or catch up on previous seasons here!

Last updated on 30 March 2023

Catch Red, White & Brass, co-edited by DEGANZ board member Ben Powdrell, on the big screen! The unapologetically Tongan film is now in cinemas across Aotearoa, sharing māfana and good vibes.

Based on a true story, the film follows Maka when he hatches a scheme to get into the sold-out Rugby World Cup by forming a traditional Tongan marching band. With plastic bottles and tin cans in hand as stand-in instruments, he must band together a group of misfits to make their community proud. What starts as a self-serving plan to see the big game turns into a journey of self-discovery and understanding of the importance of their Tongan culture.

The film has been drumming up rave reviews and is proving to be the epitome of a feel-good movie. It may be just what we all need after a few difficult years. The New Zealand Herald writes: “It’s a heart-warming and uplifting watch that everyone will enjoy” with its infectious māfana on and off screen.

Congratulations to Ben and all on such a successful release!

You can check show times for the film near you here.

Last updated on 30 March 2023

DEGANZ member and participant in this year’s Incubator, Victoria Boult, has been selected for Kōpere Hou Fresh Shorts. This is a massive feat; this year, the final six projects were chosen from 89 applications.

Through this fund, Victoria’s team will receive development support and a grant of $25,000 to make their short film, Invisible Dragons. Industry experts will offer advice over an intensive three-week period. During this time, teams will be able to refine their story, vision, and production plans.

In addition to directing this project, Victoria is credited as the writer.

This has come along with a string of other successes for Victoria recently. This year alone, she has been selected for DEGANZ’s Incubator, Show Me Shorts’ Development Lab, and Screen Canberaa’s POD program. Additionally, since the release of her TikTok series n00b, created as part of NZOA and Screen Australia’s TikTok Every Voice initiative, her work has garnered over 1.5 million views and 12,000 followers.

Congratulations to Victoria and the rest of the team; we cannot wait to see your finished film!

Last updated on 30 March 2023