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I’m 18, with frosted tips, earnest to a fault, about to graduate South Seas Film & TV School. I post out my CV to every production company I can find: nobody bites. (Though, I did send it with a bar of soap wrapped in 16mm film and the opening line, “You don’t know me from a bar of soap…” *double cringe*).

Then one of my tutors puts me in touch with a graduate student who is working on The Lord of the Rings, shout out to Dan Story! Dan takes my CV to the production manager, Brigitte Yorke. While unimpressed with the soap, Brigitte, an alumnus of South Seas, appreciates my grades and hires me as a runner for two weeks. I martyr myself to the job. Changing lightbulbs, making coffee, spilling coffee, wearing my studio-issued ID like an Olympic medal. Two weeks turns into two months, and before I know it, I’m off to Wellywood, leaving behind my hometown in the Tron.

I quickly learn the magical business of show business can be a high stakes, lawless place, and I’m sucked into the pressure, the hierarchy, the people. It’s intense, intoxicating, compulsive… a wild west of bullshit, politics, nepotism, sexism, slave drivers. And I bloody love it. Because when you finally see your name roll up in the credits, it’s suddenly all worth it. Addicted, I jumped from one film to the next… King Kong, The Water Horse, The Lovely Bones, Avatar, The Hobbit… going from runner to driver to cast PA. Watching. Learning. It wasn’t until I became James Cameron’s driver, 8 years after leaving film school, that I decided I had to tell my own stories. I quit James and made my first short film… and then the next one, and the one after that.

One day, producer Katie Millington saw my short Darryn Exists and took a punt hiring me, believing I could learn how to direct commercials. I moved to Auckland, but had nothing to show for myself, and advertising people want you to prove you can tell a story in 30 seconds or less. So I self-funded a couple of ‘spec ads’ to build a showreel for myself. This got me my first job directing a TV commercial. I guess things snowballed from there, but not without the loving mentorship I’ve received from great people and places along the way.

Director Jamie Lawrence on set / Photo: Supplied

Looking back, it really does feel like a collision of passion and opportunity that got me into (and keeps me in) the industry. Thank you South Seas, thank you Dan, thank you Brigitte, thank you James, thank you Katie.

It can be a long road, so when it comes to weathering the storm, the things I tell myself:

Turn away from rejection, towards something you love. I’m quick to go on the offensive, taking shit personally. But actually, the truth is sometimes it’s them, not you. If I lose a job to another director, I reframe it in my mind like an actor that loses the role to somebody more “quirky looking” and “on brief”, while I must be too handsome for the part. Then I lock myself in my room and write my screenplay. This way, I not only ‘bounce back’ from the setback, I also have something to ‘bounce to’.

Phone a friend. Nurture these relationships and connections because they are a wellspring to refuel from when you’re in the eye of the storm. Having a cup of tea/gin with a mate toughens/loosens me up every time.

You can say ‘no’. It’s human rights. Sometimes you can’t afford to turn down an opportunity. And sometimes you can’t afford not to. It’s okay to say ‘no’. For better or worse. It can be bad for business (ask my producer or my husband) but it also makes room for other important stuff. I’ve made a list of deal breakers that match my values – a way to measure a job and decide if it’s something I want to do. Yes… it’s idealistic, probably unsustainable, and sometimes I get a nosebleed on my high horse. But it’s not as bad as doing something I hate.

Good luck out there. Thanks for reading.

 


About Jamie Lawrence

Jamie is a director who has balanced short films with a career directing commercials. His debut short in 2008, Somewhere Only We Know, showed he could tell a story without any dialogue at all. Follow up short comedy Darryn Exists debuted in the NZIFF, and got an Honourable Mention at the Oscar-Qualifying Nashville Film Festival. Jamie has received a NYC Film Academy scholarship, a DEGANZ Director’s Attachment, and a Script to Screen FilmUp mentorship. As a commercials director, he has ranked in Best Ad’s top 10 Kiwi directors, and has received nominations for the Emerging Talent Award and multiple Best Direction Awards at the CAANZ Axis Awards.

mrjamielawrence.com

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.

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday! In the lead up to Mother’s Day, Noel Leeming’s campaign is making the rounds on TV, digital, and social platforms. The offline edit for the 30-second spot was done by our member Ben Chesters.

Created by TBWA\NZ, the campaign aims to continue to build on the ‘Always happy to help’ brand Noel Leeming has been pushing.

The commercial spot joins Ben’s large portfolio of advertising work, including the recent Lotto NZ Imagine On Ice campaign.

Read more

Award-winning editor and DEGANZ member Luke Haigh has joined ARC EDIT, a boutique post-production company, for Australian representation.

Luke joins a diverse roster of editors at ARC. His editorial range in film, TV and commercial work makes him a “perfect addition” according to Peter Sciberras, a fellow editor on the roster.

The easing of border restrictions between Aotearoa and Australia has allowed Luke, who is based out of Auckland, the availability to work from ARC’s Australian studios in Sydney or Melbourne as well as remotely.

Congratulations to Luke and the team at ARC, it will be exciting to see your future work and collaborations. You can view Luke’s previous work here.

Film Construction’s Perry Bradley (DEGANZ) has been nominated for the Best Direction category at Australia’s 43rd AWARD Awards.

The nomination is for his work on NZ Blood campaign Unseen Emergencies, which details the need for blood supply and the importance of donating. New Zealander Alex O’Shaughnessy is also a finalist for Best Editing on the campaign. 

The AWARD Awards attract over 2,000 entries in the following categories: Advertising, Design, Craft, Film & Entertainment, Purpose, Innovation, Media & Planning. The Australasian Writers and Art Directors Association hosts the annual ceremony to celebrate and support the creative industries. It will take place in Sydney on May 20th.

Here is the complete list of finalists. All the best to Perry and the other Kiwi nominees.

Production company Eight has welcomed Charlotte Evans (DEGANZ) to its list of directors.

A recent top finalist at the 2022 Clipped Music Video Awards with her MV for Benee’s Happen To Me, Charlotte is continuing her commercial work with Eight. Outlined on the mad-daily website, she spoke of her move to the production house:

“I’m looking forward to pushing my creative boundaries on commercial projects with them and creating a body of work that we can all be proud of.”

Charlotte started her career in London working as an assistant editor. After 14 years in editing, she moved into the directorial space. She has since gone on to make several award-winning projects both overseas and here in New Zealand.

She joins other DEGANZ members Jamie Lawrence and Josh Frizzell at Eight.

Congratulations Charlotte, we are looking forward to seeing your future work.