Hey there! I’m Luke Haigh, a freelance film editor who’s worked in both the commercial and feature film worlds for the last 20 years.

I first fell in love with editing around the age of 15 or 16. It was a Media Studies class in high school in the UK. We were editing linear style from S-VHS decks. It was slow and tedious, and the work was embarrassingly terrible. That was all overshadowed by the art of editing with its magic equation—the process of simply placing two shots next to each other and the sum of their parts wondrously being infinitely greater. Well, it had me hooked…

My first proper break in the industry was in 2002–2003. At age 22, I’d just emigrated to Aotearoa after studying a bachelor’s in film in the UK. I did the usual rounds, hitting up all of the production companies and post houses I could find in Auckland. But to no avail. I filled my time that summer driving a tractor on an avocado farm in Pukekohe. Fortunately for me, a friend of a friend heard of a full-time role working as a Directors Assistant at an Auckland commercial production house called Curious Film. It wasn’t editing, but it was a foot in the door.

I spent my time mainly putting together director’s treatments and preparing the pre-production meeting documents. Casting, locations, art department, etc. The hours were extreme, but the money was not. However, it was the perfect crash course in the industry. I got to see the intense creativity that goes into getting a project on film. It gave me a well-rounded view of the process rather than a singular take, which can happen when you only work in editorial or post-production. But most importantly, I got to meet directors and producers and understand what makes them tick.

After a year of dropping hints and schooling up on Avid in the background, I finally got a shot at some of the small edit gigs. Charity spots and music videos.

As Curious grew, I convinced the owners to support my post-production dreams. We took editorial in-house and grew a full-service post-production arm at both their Auckland and, later, Sydney offices. I started as a DA and Assistant Editor, and about 5 years after starting, I focused on editing and post-production full-time. That eventually saw me in the dual role of Senior Editor and Head of Post-Production.

Curious Film Pre Axis Awards (2015) / Photo: Supplied

I was lucky enough to work alongside some incredible talent during my time there. Taika Waititi, Zia Mandviwalla, Miki Magasiva, Robin Walters, Steven Kang, Tara Riddell, Matt Noonan, Darryl Ward, Seth Wilson, Dan Higgins, Josh Frizzell, Steve Ayson… the list goes on. They gave me my first breaks; we were like family, and those relationships continue in my work today.

I spliced literally hundreds of commercial campaigns during my time there, and we would spend evenings and weekends cutting short films and honing our craft. I cut my first short, USO, with Miki Magasiva in 2006, a raft of others, and finally, in 2011, I cut Blue with Steven Kang, which went on to win La Semaine de la Critique (Critics Week) at Cannes. That was a defining sea change in my career.

In 2014, I landed my first feature film edit, Turbo Kid, with producer Ant Timpson and Canadian director trio RKSS. As I was still full-time at Curious, I also post-produced and post-supervised that project. Brutal. That year was so intense. I was even late to my own New Year’s Eve party as we were racing to get everything delivered by the January deadline. I’ll forever be in debt to colourist Dave McLaren and Flame artist Leon Woods for pulling that one out of the bag. We delivered for the Sundance Premiere in 2015. It reviewed well, and finally, I was a feature film editor…

‘Turbo Kid’ Sundance Premiere (2015) / Photo: Supplied

That same year, Taika was shooting Hunt for the Wilderpeople. I did the same Editor/Post-Producer/Post-Supervisor role on that one. It premiered at Sundance 2016, and it felt like the right project to springboard off. I finally went freelance to focus on editing around June of that year.

Since then, I’ve tried to find a balance between editing commercial campaigns (here in New Zealand and repped in Australia by ARC Edit) and long-form projects. I’ve been lucky enough to edit the Daniel Radcliff action-comedy Guns Akimbo, the US Netflix rom-com The Royal Treatment (line-produced by my good friend and Curious EP Matt Noonan), and most recently Lee Tamahori’s pre-colonial Aotearoa/NZ epic The Convert, starring Guy Pierce and Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne, which premiered at TIFF 2023.

I’m currently editing a feature with the director who gave me my very first edit gig at Curious 20-odd years ago. Miki Magasiva. Pretty cool to finally complete a loop on that relationship.

I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up a few awards along the way, only been fired once, collected a bunch of incredible people, and even after 20-odd years, it is still a job that I love.

About Luke Haigh

Luke Haigh is an award-winning freelance film editor. He’s edited feature and short films that have screened globally at A-list festivals and even won Critic’s Week at Cannes. Having cut literally hundreds of commercials, his specialty is the big kind. Beer ads, car brands, soft drinks – often on a global scale. Many go on to become award-winning campaigns – Grand Prix at Cannes Lions, Clio, and D&AD. His work can be both quirky and emotive and he will happily lean into something that’s a little unusual.

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.

Looking back, I would say that my life’s theme is, “There are no wasted moments.”

It’s a lesson I have clung to working in the film industry, where there are all sorts of twisty roads lined with the bloated corpses of dead passion projects and empty promises of paid work. In film and in life, I’ve learned that the people you meet in year one might just be the same people who come back and change your life in year twelve.

Born and raised in the Philippines, my favourite childhood memories were of days spent at the cinema watching back-to-back screenings of the most random movies available. It was a lawless time, back when a 10-year-old girl could watch The Sixth Sense at the theaters, and it was glorious and revelatory.

I originally thought I was going to be a comic book artist and author, some kind of 5ft tall Filipino Alan Moore. I loved film but the thought of becoming a filmmaker felt sacred and untouchable. Unable to shake the urge to try, I wrangled a job at an advertising company earning what would now amount to NZD450 a month. I had a short stint working on Filipino independent films doing random odd jobs before moving to New Zealand, where I did a year at film school.

Being an immigrant in the film industry is harrowing, especially when you have a less desirable passport, as I did. I’m the only international student from my year who managed to find work and, subsequently, a visa that allowed me to stay. I traded four years of my life for a chance at a resident visa, meanwhile, unable to apply to any local film programs or get paid for any creative work.

But – there are no wasted moments.

While I was treading water, I networked and volunteered to get on set whenever I could. I worked on music videos and passion projects, hopping into any role that would have me, trying and testing and learning my own strengths and weaknesses. I learned that I loved being on set and that I could thrive in the vicious ups and downs of late nights and cheap pizza.

Director Mia Maramara and longtime collaborator Hweiling Ow at 48 Hours / Photo: Provided

Most importantly, I made contacts — and friends. I saved up enough money to cobble together my first short film, a zombie movie called Bites, which got into Tropfest that year. There’s something to be said about the blind confidence of your early years, where a good attitude and some stamina can net you a zombie movie for NZD2,000.

I did Foodie as part of the Someday Stories program and participated in 48 Hours for a few years, where one film became a Grand Finalist and won me Best Female Director.

Along the way, I met my longtime collaborator, Hweiling Ow, who won me over with a bucket of vomit. We won awards and money, which gave us the opportunity to keep on trying to win more awards and money. We co-wrote a feature film, Grafted, which finished filming this year and is being distributed through international channels.

Hweiling and I co-founded MHM Productions, a genre-oriented production company, with fellow horror fiend Morgan Leigh Stewart. Through MHM, I wrote and directed a TV episode called Albularyo that, as far as I’m aware, made me the first Filipino director to helm a slot on New Zealand TV.

Mia and Hweiling on set of ‘Albularyo’ / Photo: Provided

Other key career highs include writing Candy for anthology feature film Kāinga, the third in the portmanteau trilogy that includes critically acclaimed films Waru and Vai. Another personal highlight was working with the writing team of Power Rangers, where I fulfilled my childhood dream of pretending to be the Pink Ranger.

My career careens wildly about due to the fact that most of my work is self-generated. It involves a lot of quiet, tortured nights hunched over a keyboard, trying to write something good before my bank account hits zero. But it’s a fulfilling way to make use of my personal talents, and I’ve never lost sight of what a privilege it is to be in my position.

I haven’t yet cracked into my dream of being a full-time features director, but I’m taking my time and enjoying the journey. After all, there are no wasted moments.

About Mia Maramara

Mia Maramara is a Filipino-born filmmaker with work that has been screened both locally and internationally. Her passion for authentic, trailblazing stories has led her to wear different hats in the industry, most notably as a writer and director. In the Philippines, she participated in Philippine National Artist Ricky Lee’s Cinemalaya Masterclass. In New Zealand, she won the SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year award in 2021 and participated in DEGANZ’s Emmerging Women Filmmaker Incubator in 2022. She is currently one-third of MHM, a collaborative production company between her and fellow creatives Hweiling Ow and Morgan Leigh Stewart.

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.

I’ve always been a tinkerer.

Growing up, I spent most of my time drawing, carving, and making things. I would pick up the tools and teach myself by doing, feeling my way through it. As an editor, it’s something I still do to this day.

My career started with my whānau in Tūrangi. My uncle hired me to be his graphic artist and edit a tamariki show he was producing in preparation for the launch of Whakaata Māori. It was an opportunity to ‘learn while you earn’, and I found huge satisfaction in crafting images with sound. I equally enjoyed learning about the tools.

By day, I was cutting. By night, I was researching components.

Soon after, I met a DOP named Mike Jonathan. I moved to Rotorua and started cutting shows with him and Hula Haka Productions. I got to cut a range of genres and work with different directors and producers. They gave me the freedom to try new things, which was important groundwork for figuring out my style as an editor.

Editor Te Rurehe with his daughter while working on ‘Ka Haku Au’ in 2008

Like many, I was drawn to the creative energy of Wellington. From musicians to writers to animators, the city was bursting with expression. It was infectious. I hit the streets, knocking on doors and saying yes to anything from cutting news and current affairs to adverts, web series to new series. By default, I set myself up as a business, which made it easier to freelance around town. In my downtime, I sharpened my tools, kept up to date with new tech and software programmes, bought new (and second-hand) computer parts, and started designing systems. I trained myself to use everything; the industry demands relentless evolution. It pushed me to broaden my skills from the basic NewTek system to Adobe Suite, Avid, DaVinci Resolve, Blender, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, and many others that came and went. I honed my craft, learning from incredible storytellers like Annie Collins, Tainui Stephens, Fiona Kupenga, Tina Wickliffe, Ngahuia Wade, and Maramena Roderick (my now mother-in-law). It was years of hustling, layers of grunt work, and a special time with incredible people.

Editor Te Rurehe at Fifo Film Festival in 2019 after ‘Making Good Men’ won Best Documentary the previous year

A few years ago, I moved to Auckland, ready to do something different. Off the back of some of my long-form factual work, I’ve had the opportunity to work in scripted drama and films. It’s broadened my relationships with Māori creatives, challenged my limitations, and deepened my craft as an artist.

Right now, I am again cutting with Mike Jonathan, this time on his first feature as a director. It’s taken us twenty years of patience and perseverance. Maybe it’s serendipitous. Maybe it’s planned. Maybe it’s whakapapa.

I still love tech. I still love learning new things. I still love to tinker.

Through the grace of many who’ve supported me, I’ve built a career that is all three.

I’m a Māori boy from Tūrangi with no qualifications or formal training who never spoke English until he was 16. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. If I can do it, so can you.

About Te Rurehe Paki

‘Ko te ahi whakakakā, ko te ahi whakahikahika, ko te ahi whakakihihī, hei whakahoro kakā i te manawa. Ka tuu ki te mura o te ahi, pae tu, pae hinga, karawhiua ki ngā pari karangaranga, whakapaohotia atu rā, kia haruru ki te rangi, kia rū ki te nuku, ko Te Rurehe tēnei, e tau nei e.’

Te Rurehe is a video editor and owner of The Suite Limited, the post-production facility that has shaped numerous television series and films including, 2021 NZIFF Jury Award Winner Washday, 2019 Victoria Film Festival Winner Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen, and the 2018 Fifo Film Festival Winner Making Good Men. As an editor, he focuses on the narrative and pace of a story, following his intuition that he has honed from working on various formats and genres throughout his career. He approaches each project with a fresh perspective, applying his skill as a storyteller with his passion for computers and technology. He promotes opportunities to do this in his first language, te reo Māori, and share with audiences what was nurtured in him – a unique Māori worldview.

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.

I am a Film School dropout and my slow but steady trajectory from PA to Director/Producer is the classic example of working my way up from the bottom.

In the mid-eighties I was studying at one of the best TV/Film Schools in Toronto, Canada; an institution formally known as Ryerson. In my first year a Kiwi boy I’d met while traveling in the Middle East the year before turned up on my doorstep. He convinced me to take a year off (it was a 3-year programme) to come with him to NZ. I did, and I never went back.

In NZ I got a job as a production assistant at a company called Northern Television. Northern made TV commercials, broadcast programmes (drama/comedy/entertainment), and corporate videos. I was lucky to work across them all in a junior ‘do whatever is needed’ role. I worked with industry luminaries like Robin Scholes (producer), Andy Shaw (director/TV exec), John Cavill (DOP), and Brian Shaw (Editor). My boss was the extraordinary, smart, and slightly terrifying Linda (Tex) Milton. Sadly, Tex passed away a few years ago but she was a wonderful mentor who was generous with her knowledge and very supportive of my aspirations to learn as much as I could about production.

Director Leanne Pooley in Rome and Africa for BBC documentary ‘God’s Candidates’ in 1994 / Photo: Supplied

After Northern, I became a TPA (Television Producer’s Assistant) at TVNZ and spent four years there working on everything from sports to drama. I was then hired as a trainee director on a programme called First Hand; a series in which directors used new lightweight cameras (Hi-8) to make documentaries. First Hand storytellers filled all the production roles; camera, sound, editing, writing, and directing. We were the original one-person band. It was an amazing opportunity to learn under the tutelage of Richard Thomas and George Andrews; two stalwarts of the documentary genre. Doing every role meant the filmmakers came to appreciate all the components that go into a documentary. We were also faced with our own mistakes in the cutting room, a very steep learning curve indeed. First Hand was responsible for launching the careers of a number of highly successful broadcast professionals. Alan Erson went on to become Head of Documentaries at the ABC. David Ambler is a BAFTA-winning producer at the BBC, Mark McNeil runs the highly successful award-winning company Razor Films, and Peta Carey is a celebrated filmmaker and author. It was an incredible breeding ground for talent and I was very lucky to be part of the First Hand incubator.

Leanne on set for her 2013 documentary ‘Beyond the Edge’ / Photo: Supplied

In 1992 I moved to England where I was hired as a director/camera person on the acclaimed BBC series 40 Minutes helmed by the legendary documentarian Paul Watson. This was the first of many documentaries I made over the course of five years in Britain. I directed films for blue chip series including; Everyman, Omnibus, Frontline, Modern Times, and Eyewitness amongst others. My time in England solidified my position as a documentary filmmaker, I learned from the best in the business and when I returned to NZ to have my first child, I established my company SPACIFIC FILMS (25 years ago).

My trajectory has combined a little bit of study, a lot of luck, and some bloody hard work. It’s been a ride that’s for sure and I’m still with the boy who turned up in Toronto all those years ago.

About Leanne Pooley

A documentary filmmaker for over 25 years, Leanne has directed films all over the world and has won numerous awards (including Best Documentary at TIFF). Leanne is a New Zealand Arts Laureate, a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and was named an “Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit” for Services to Documentary Filmmaking in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List. Her work includes The Girl on the Bridge on suicide survivor and activist Jazz Thornton, We Need to Talk About A.I. for Universal Pictures and GFC, the animated feature documentary 25 April, and acclaimed local box office success Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls. Most recently, she produced Dame Valerie Adams: MORE THAN GOLD on the titular Olympic champion.

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.

When I was in primary school, I never knew I was Māori, or should I say I never understood what being Māori was. I always thought I was a little bit darker than a lot of the other kids, but that was ok. I was introduced to te reo Māori and kapa haka at primary school, and I felt like a gap was being filled. I carried on learning te reo Māori and doing kapa haka at college.

From a young age, I always thought I would be a teacher because I had some cool teachers, and I just thought I wanted to be like them when I grew up. Then in my senior years at Kapiti College, that changed as I found a love for Māori performing arts. Nearing my final year at college, I came across a one-year course in Film and Television at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua. What really caught my eye was that it incorporated Māori culture, and I thought if I didn’t like Film and Television, I could always go and do the Māori performing arts course. That one-year course set me on a path that changed my life, with a job offer in Auckland.

Editor Rāhera Herewini-Mulligan / Photo: @tuhoemaiden

At just 19 years old, I made the move to the big smoke, with no immediate family residing in Auckland. It was 1999, and my editing career had begun as an assistant editor on a new te reo Māori kids show known then as Tumeke. After one season, this was renamed Pūkana and is still in production today. I was fortunate to work with and learn from Francis Glenday, who taught me processes and structure, which I added to my editing foundations and still use and live by today. 

After just five months of being on the job, Francis fell ill, and I was asked if I would step up from assistant editor to editor. I must admit I was freaking out and had major doubts that I really wasn’t ready to step up. My director at the time, Hira Henderson, pulled me aside and said, “We will do this together,” and that gave me comfort that support would be there for me. So I asked myself, “Do you want to sink or swim?” and decided to swim.

That decision threw me into the longest week of my life as I worked as the show’s, now, only editor. But with the awesome support from my colleagues, I survived to tell the story and complete my first solo episode edit ever. And I was buggered! I continued work on the show into its 3rd series before moving on to TVNZ, where I would edit shows like Waka Huia, Marae, Mai Time, and Tagata Pasifika. This extended my editing knowledge base and introduced me to more Māori within the industry. After two years at TVNZ, I ventured out into the freelance world and haven’t looked back.

Sneak peeks into the Mokomoko Media editing suite, Rāhera’s editing team with her wife, Janice / Photos: @mokomokomedia

That’s my humble beginnings as an editor. Back then, I never realised I was part of a small group of Māori editors and an even smaller group that could kōrero Māori, which today I hope to help grow even more. I have worked with and alongside some of the best Māori in the Film and Television industry and am forever grateful for their teachings. One being we are a community that does this together.

‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takatini engari he toa takatini.’
My strength is not as an individual but as a collective.

About Rāhera Herewini-Mulligan

Rāhera is a field director and editor who is a fluent speaker of te reo Māori with 20+ years of experience in the television industry. As an editor, she has a wealth of experience across documentary, reality, children, and magazine-style genres from Police Ten 7 (TVNZ) to Moving Out with Kanoa (Three) and many shows for Māori Television. She is also passionate about Kapa haka and is an event/stage manager for Primary School, Secondary School (ASB Polyfest), and Senior Kapa Haka competitions across Tāmaki Makaurau.

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.