I was expelled from Penrose High in the fifth form after getting caught wagging for a month (I faked the absentee notes from Mum and Dad). I ended up going on the dole (unemployment benefit) for a year. At the dole department you had to show signs of actually seeking work and when they asked me what I would like to do for a living, I said, “A film director” and she looked at me like I was mad. She gave me a French Polishing apprenticeship instead, of which I never attended. Anyway, I showed her!

After a year of bumming around, a friend (Matt Palmer, who also became a director) suggested I go to Auckland Metropolitan High School, an alternative school in Mount Eden which basically accepted high school dropouts from hippy parents. Metro is where I finally met like-minded people and made lifelong friends. I met Matt Noonan at Metro (later to become my first producer). It was after passing the University Entrance and sticking around Metro for a seventh year (then called a Bursary year) that I discovered ‘The Film Industry’.

Early in that seventh year at school, I got a job as an extra in a period coal mining TV drama called Heart of The High Country. I’d never seen a film set before, it was a real eye-opener, lights, actors, 1st AD’s smashing radios in fits of rage. It was a lot of fun. I loved it. I befriended the standby props guy, Al Ford, and he let me do the smoke pots for background smoke texture. I actually made friends with a lot of the crew and at the wrap party offered my services on the next production. A few weeks later I was on an epic Hong Kong Feature film called Aces Go Places, as standby props assistant, choppering up the Shot Over River in Queenstown with prop machine guns on my lap. I never went back to high school and have been working in the film biz ever since.

Josh working as Art Department Assist on ‘Never Say Die’. He’s standing under the ‘W’ with Robin Murphy; Matt Murphy (Art Director) with Matt Palmer (Stand-by Props) are in the bottom right holding the white dots / Photo: Supplied

I moved to Wellington and Matt Palmer and I became a bit of a hot shot art department team working on commercials and films in the hay days (or the end of the hay days) of the Wellington film and TV commercial industry. Working on projects with some of New Zealand’s top directors, Geoff Murphy, Lee Tamahori, Barry Barclay, Gaylene Preston, Geoff Dickson and Fane Flaws to name a few. Matt was an art director and I was standby props. 

My brother was in a hip-hop band, Mc OJ and The Rhythm Slave, and they received one of the very early NZ On Air music video grants and asked us to make it. Matt Noonan produced it, Matt Palmer directed it and I art directed it.

It was hugely successful, and we went on to make a few more (with our company Hip Operations) until Matt Palmer got picked up by a commercial company to direct ads (with Fane Flaws and Jeff Williams at Black Stump Films).

With Matt Palmer busy making ads, that’s when my break came. I art directed a few more music videos with various artists. I was always good-ish at illustration and had been storyboarding the videos. One video in particular for the band Head Like a Hole (for a song called Fish Across Face), was really well received and I had storyboarded the whole thing. They were my shots and my ideas. I was like, ‘Hang on, I’m doing all the work here’. So, when they asked me to storyboard/art direct the next one, I said to them (and I remember this moment very clearly as I had to really pluck up the nerve to say it), “Not unless I’m directing it”. 

Josh on set of one of his first big ad campaigns for the NZ Electoral roll with Darryl Ward (DOP) and Rob Marsh (AC) / Photo: Supplied

And that’s how I got started.  

Here’s the Head Like A Hole clip, my directing debut. Not that it did huge things, but I was asked back and went on to direct multiple award-winning videos and ads. The Emma Paki video won a lot of awards. Then I followed up with a Shihad video for ‘Stationswhich won Best Video at the Film and Television awards that year. Certain projects catch people’s attention and simply generate more interest. I shot a huge campaign for the NZ Electoral role on the back of this, my first big proper ad campaign. I made a commercial for Sony Home Theatre Systems out of Singapore which made the cover of the Shots Magazine, with the commercial in the first dozen showcase ads (Shots Magazine was the international benchmark trade rag back then and the mail-out VHS showcase was everything). My international commercial career really took off after this.

Left: Josh showing the actors what to do on set for Shihad video ‘Stations’ with Darryl Ward (DOP) in a clay pit with one of the old Arri ST 16mm cameras. Note there is no video split/feed! Right: The final shot of the video / Photos: Supplied

My first break in drama came when I was asked to pitch on a Colin McCahon doco, but I didn’t get the gig and I said to the producer (Fiona Copland) that documentaries weren’t really my thing but I would love to do drama, and she suggested I give Greenstone Pictures a call because they were producing a kids action hero TV show called Amazing Extraordinary Friends. It was super low budget, but super fun. This was at the height of my commercial career and I had to take a significant hit on my earnings, but I really wanted to shoot drama and this was my chance. The people I worked with then on AEF are still the people I am working with today. Dave Cameron was the DOP and he shot my first tele feature years later, Ablaze. With the success of my work on AEF, I was picked up by Chris Bailey at South Pacific Pictures where I worked on multiple shows and really cut my teeth and learnt the craft. Getting a chance to direct a block on Westside, a legacy NZ show, was a real highlight. I was also a finalist for the NZTV Awards’ Best Director for The Brokenwood Mysteries in 2017. SPP has really helped a lot.

So, a lot of luck, a lot of sacrifice and a lot of hard work. I am currently in post-production on a six one-hour TV mini-series called Friends Like Her, produced by Great Southern TV. A show I am immensely proud of, so keep an eye out.


About Josh Frizzell

Josh Frizzell is one of Australasia’s most well-known drama and commercial film directors. Since starting out in the art department after dropping out of high school, he went on to direct a run of music videos in the 90s before moving into film and TV. Frizzell has gone on to helm episodes of Under the VinesThe Brokenwood Mysteries and Fresh Eggs. In 2017 he was nominated as Best Director for his work on The Brokenwood Mysteries at the NZ Television Awards’. In 2019, he was a finalist for the Huawei Mate30 Pro NZ Television Awards’ Best Director for Fresh Eggs. Ablaze was nominated for Best Tele Feature at the 2020 NZ Film and Television Awards. His advertising work has won multiple awards both in New Zealand and abroad.

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 27 March 2024

As a Guild, we fully appreciate the mahi and dedication that goes into creating screen content. As such, we celebrate the efforts of all of our members when they release their work. We appreciate that some work is controversial – particularly in the documentary genre – and It should be noted that acknowledging its release does not necessarily mean that DEGANZ endorses the content or message of the work. We congratulate those who have released content this year and we wish all of our members the best in completing their projects – we know it’s tough out there! Please contact DEGANZ if you need help or advice.
E te tī, e te tā nei rā te mihi manahou ki a tātou ngā mema o DEGANZ.
Ko tātou ngā kaitiaki, e haere tonu ana i ngā mahi o rātou mā, kia eke ngā kaitohu me ngā kaiwāwahi ahua o Aotearoa ki ngā taumata e hiahia ana.
Tūwhita te hopo, marangitia te angitū.
Ngā mihi,

The DEGANZ Board.

Last updated on 23 November 2023

Pictured above from left to right: Ben Powdrell, Celia Jaspers, Grant Campbell, Howard Taylor, Sam Kelly, Robyn Paterson, Tui Ruwhiu, and Bryce Campbell.

Earlier this year, the DEGANZ board put forward a motion to give life memberships to dedicated past board members, editor Annie Collins and directors Grant Campbell and Howard Taylor, for their significant contributions to DEGANZ and the Aotearoa screen industry. The votes were unanimous in passing the motion at the Extraordinary General Meeting in August.

Now, DEGANZ celebrates these long-time board and guild members and awards them their life membership certificates. To commemorate the occasion, DEGANZ hosted a lunch. Unfortunately, Annie was unable to attend due to Covid, but later received her certificate at the 2023 combined Screen Guilds Christmas party in Wellington.

Read more about the new life members below:

Annie Collins

Annie has been editing film since 1975, beginning on celluloid through to digital and across multiple formats. Since joining the DEGANZ Board, she has prioritised skills training and workflow knowledge not only for editors and assistants but across the spectrum for all involved in the film industry. She continues both editing and training while putting energy into the government reform of tertiary education for the film industry.

Annie served on the board from 2016 till she stepped down in 2023.

 

 

 

I am humbled to be recognised in this way by DEGANZ. The work of all the Guilds and industry Associations is extremely important for the well being of each person who works in the industry, and therefore affects the well being of the film industry itself. To have had the opportunity to be part of Guild work has been fantastic, and life membership means having an ongoing part in that developing vision. Thank you DEGANZ.

– Annie Collins

 

Grant Campbell

Grant Campbell is a producer, writer and director who has worked across documentary, comedy and drama in Los Angeles, Australia, the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. Notably, he produced the classic Kiwi documentary Cinema of Unease.

Grant was a founding board member of DEGANZ, and remained on the board until stepping down in 2017. He is a past DEGANZ representative on the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Society (ASDACS).

 

 

 

 

Howard Taylor

Howard Taylor is a Wellington-based writer, director and producer. After training as a film editor with the NZ Broadcasting Corporation in the early 1970s, he produced Country Calendar and was a field director on the arts and magazine series Kaleidoscope, 10AM, and Sunday. He went freelance in 1995, working as a director and documentary maker for production houses including Ninox Films, Greenstone Pictures, Natural History New Zealand, and his own company, Howard Taylor Productions. He also stepped into the staged performance space, producing professional theatre for a stint in the 2010s. In recent years, Howard returned to his roots to direct Country Calander.

Howard was pivotal to DEGANZ’s origins as a founding board member of the guild, serving for 26 years. He was Board President for his final five years before stepping down.

Working for the Guild and, by extension, the welfare of its members has been hugely satisfying. The thing I am probably proudest of is giving the Guild a bit more muscle by working with Tui to get it registered as a union with the CTU. Copyright has been an ongoing issue. Back in 2006 ED at the time Anna Cahill and I appeared before the government’s select committee to argue for directors copyright. We were green and very disappointed when the great reception we received didn’t produce a change of the law. We were better prepared and more sophisticated planning the campaign in the latest (still on-going) Copyright Review. I wish the current board the best in the on-going fight.

– Howard Taylor

 

Last updated on 11 December 2023

After the Party is out now on TVNZ+, with new episodes releasing each week. DEGANZ member and Incubator alum, Stella Reid, worked on the show through a Director’s Attachment.

Stella joined director Peter Salmon through pre-production, shooting, and parts of post-production as an active observer. She shared,

I saw this opportunity as an investment in my career. I aim to shoot long form content, so it was invaluable to witness Peter’s methodology — well paced and technically proficient. He could balance an economy of coverage by envisioning the edit while shooting.

As production got busier, Stella was entrusted to direct and shoot supplementary content with a splinter unit. She told DEGANZ how grateful she was that the attachment also allowed for hands-on experiences and the opportunity to work with that team.

In addition to the professional development side of the attachment, Stella was also drawn to the show itself. Set in Wellington, the gritty drama series follows Penny, played by Robyn Malcolm, after she accuses her husband of assaulting her teen daughter’s friend at a party. Years later after the accusation, people still don’t believe her and she struggles to keep her life together. She said,

Many aspects of the story pulled me in. I’m writing a feature with two older female characters, and I’m also a lifelong Wellingtonian. I find such beauty in the south coast, and am pleased to see it be a character in the show.

Congratulations to Stella for completing the attachment! It’s always great to hear what members get out of DEGANZ’s talent programmes.

This DEGANZ Director’s Attachments was funded by New Zealand on Air and the New Zealand Film Commission.

Last updated on 22 November 2023

An exciting update of DEGANZ member Loren Taylor‘s directorial debut: The Moon is Upside Down won Best First Feature Film at the PÖFF Tallinn Black Night Film Festival! The film screened in the First Feature Competition, a collection of first features by promising global talents.

The jury commented:

The film is a bittersweet, multi-layered combination of three stories intervending in a perfect way about people who try to find their place in the world. Shot magnificiously in the outbacks on a distant land in a very impressive and smart way, especially for a first feature.

Along with the accolade, Taylor won a grant of €5,000 to be shared with the film’s producers Phillipa Campbell and Georgina Conder.

PÖFF is one of 15 festivals with an International Federation of Film Producers Association credential. Other festivals in this A-list group include Cannes, Venice, and Berlin.

Keep an eye out for The Moon is Upside Down when it hits screens in Aotearoa in 2024.

Congratulations, Loren and the team!

Last updated on 22 November 2023