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.
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…
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 email@example.com if you’re a member and would like to share your story.
Last updated on 12 October 2023