Director Chantelle Burgoyne: How I Got Started in the Industry


Growing up in Auckland in the late 80s and 90s, the idea that filmmaking was in my future seemed like an impossible dream.

On my mother’s side I come from an Afakasi German-Samoan family that migrated to NZ in 1965 and my father’s side a working-class Pākehā and Māori family from Auckland’s South-Eastern suburbs that my dad was adopted into. Neither side were creatives; my mum was a Policewoman and my dad’s lifelong love of Rugby League had led him to the Kiwis in the 70s, so whenever the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ was asked my answer was usually very practical – a lawyer or doctor.

But I always remember the love of film being there. My parents split up when I was a baby, so my sister and I only saw our dad on Sundays, but I vividly remember him taking us to the movies and getting lost in another world. It wasn’t until I was a teenager seeing Jane Campion making films on the world stage that I secretly wondered if I could do that, but it felt out of reach.

I put the dream aside, went to uni to study law and ended up meandering through various courses while taking film theory papers on the side. When I finished, the flicker of that teenage dream remained, so I enrolled in an 18-week Film Production course and haven’t looked back since.

The course gave me the opportunity to write and direct my first short film Sunday’s Child, a far from perfect film that confirmed filmmaking was what I wanted to do. I then got into the MA programme in Screen Production at the University of Auckland where I was fortunate to be taught and mentored by Vanessa Alexander and Dr. Shuchi Kothari. I made more short films and mistakes, learnt many lessons, and made my thesis film Tatau which got into festivals in NZ and overseas and won a couple of awards.

Director Chantelle on set of her short film Tatau / Photo: Supplied

After I finished, I found myself in a position of not knowing what to do next whilst figuring out how to make a living, so I worked as a freelance editor and interned at DEGANZ before getting a one-year contract at the NZFC looking after Fresh Shorts working with Lisa Chatfield. It was a role that gave me insight into the NZFC and connected me with many filmmakers in the industry. One connection, Andrew Cochrane who had produced a Fresh Short, offered me a production role on the Crouching Tiger sequel shooting in Auckland. That job led to many more working on Hollywood Film and TV productions here in NZ giving me a first-hand view of what goes into making those types of productions which is incredibly valuable for me as a filmmaker. One of the most important roles I’ve had was as the executive assistant to Barrie Osborne who I learnt so much from in terms of his wealth of experience as a Producer navigating Hollywood and as a person.

I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had working on these productions and the people I’ve met, but my filmmaking dream has never left me. I have continued to apply for funding and opportunities and have been lucky to get accepted into the DEGANZ Woman Filmmakers Incubator and Script to Screen’s Film Up programme and was mentored by Tusi Tamasese. I also received Fresh 30 funding for Sista which I directed and co-wrote with my sister Leilani under the mentorship of Dana Rotberg. Sista was a film that had many challenges, but one of the best and invaluable experiences I had was working with the wonderful Annie Collins as an editor.

Director Chantelle on the set of short film Sista / Photo: Supplied

Most recently, I directed part of the indigenous anthology We Are Still Here, a co-production between the NZFC and Screen Australia that opened the Sydney Film Festival and had its international premiere at TIFF. It was a film that faced many obstacles (not the least of which the global pandemic) but overall, it has been an incredible film to be a part of and I have really valued working with so many other indigenous filmmakers and creatives.

Director Chantelle on We Are Still Here set / Photo: Supplied

Looking back, my journey into and through the industry is one that has oftentimes felt circuitous with many ups and downs; but truthfully, I think the biggest obstacle I often face is myself and my own sense of confidence. Yet despite that I’ve kept forging ahead as there’s nowhere else I want to be.

So, I’m still holding on to that dream which no longer feels quite as out of reach.

About Chantelle Burgoyne

Chantelle is New Zealand-born filmmaker of mixed European and Samoan descent. She has directed award-winning short films Tatau and Sista. Chantelle was also one of the directors on feature anthology film We Are Still Here, which opened the Sydney Film Festival this year.

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 if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Last updated on 1 December 2022