Tag Archive for: commercials

This year marks the 44th edition of the 2024 AXIS Awards, celebrating the creativity, talent, and innovation of the Aotearoa advertising industry, with DEGANZ members Luke HaighCushla Dillon, and Gaysorn Thavat shortlisted as finalists.

Luke secured four of the 11 finalist spots in the Film Craft – Editing category for the following ads:

In the same category, Cushla was recognised for editing Exit Films’ Would You Rather for Waka Kotahi (NZTA).

With the same commercial, Gaysorn was recognised for her mahi in the Film Craft – Direction category.

Congratulations Luke, Cushla, and Gaysorn!

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.

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.

DEGANZ members Perry Bradley and Harriett Maire (2023 Incubator) have a new commercial for Rainger & Rolfe and Honda out now. This is Harriett’s first time directing a car commercial, and she joined forces with TVC veteran Perry to work on the ad, promoting the launch of the new ZR-V e: HEV hybrid SUV.

Following a family trip in the new Honda, viewers will get a sense of what dreams are made of. Classical music played by the grandmother inspires her granddaughter to daydream about her own musical passions. Within their marketing, Honda aims to touch the hearts of their customers by appealing to their emotions. They often highlight how their cars can bring people together and take them where they want to go. As R&R CD Kelly Putter said:

The brief was to connect with the hearts, minds and aspirations of New Zealanders and I feel we’ve achieved this with some really bright, bold and emotive work.

You can watch the light-hearted Honda commercial of Perry and Harriett here.

I was born curious and enjoy figuring out how things work, which is essentially what I still do today as a director.

I drew a lot as a kid and wrote and illustrated comics at school. Art was always my focus, so it seemed like a natural progression to go to art school. I did a first-year foundation course and hated it, so I continued illustrating and started a freelance career to make money doing what I loved. I tried a few other things along the way, like animation, which seemed like another logical step (taking still images and making them move).

While looking for illustration work in advertising, I was offered a trial as a junior creative. I was curious, so I accepted and was hired after three months. I didn’t realise how lucky I was at the time. This job was a turning point for me creatively – advertising taught me to interrogate my ideas, and I started working with directors. I’d write a script and was able to observe them make it, which I found fascinating. I thought directing was something else I wanted to try, and I asked a director I connected with if I could help them out in any way to learn more. They said, “If you really want to direct – then direct”.

I wasn’t sure how to take that first step, but when a band I was playing in received an NZ on Air video grant, I put my hand up to make it. I instantly fell in love with the process of taking an idea from my head to the screen. This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life (a fortunate realisation at the age of 22). The music video was nominated for an award, and I quit advertising (my first and last full-time job). I went back to the freelance world – this time as a director.

The next few videos I made all involved aspects of animation, but eventually, I fell in love with the immediacy of film. I was repped by Fish n’ Clips, a division of Flying Fish films. I wanted to make a living from music videos, but the NZ scene had never been sustainable. Through the music videos I’d made, my advertising connections, and the help of Flying Fish, I started making commercials to save for a trip to London.

Director Wade Shotter on set for Mint Chicks music video ‘Post No Bills’ / Photos: provided

In the five years I worked in London, the bottom fell out of the industry (they blamed downloading). But due to the work I’d done there, I was lucky enough to win some great NZ commercial work, which kickstarted my commercial career worldwide.

I moved back to NZ and eventually joined FINCH, an inspiring Australian-owned film production company. Making commercials has supported me in branching out into other realms, like shorts and a tv series I’m developing. I’m still trying new things, ticking boxes, and having realisations.

Wade on set of his short film ‘I Will Not Write Unless I am Swaddled in Furs’ / Photographer: Thian Benton-Fieulaine

Being a director is a constant challenge. In an over-saturated industry, there’s a never-ending balance between being true to yourself and being relevant. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and there were several stretches of unemployment. But there have also been some amazing rewards that made it all worthwhile.

There’s no ‘right’ way to become a director. You can come at it from any angle, and you will succeed if you’re passionate enough and stick at it. I never went to film school, although when I think back – I’ve always had a deep love of film that was omnipresent throughout my life. I’d forgotten that I used to animate flip book stick men, make Lego-men films with my friend on his dad’s Betacam, and although I almost failed art school, I got an A+ in the subsidiary filmmaking course. For me, everything was pointing towards filmmaking.

Wade’s Self Portrait / Photo: provided

Everything you experience will make you the director you are. I developed an eye for composition and light through illustration, a sense of tone, emotion, pacing and energy through composing and performing music, and learned to hone my ideas and storytelling through advertising.

Nobody will make your project for you. You must take the first step and the last. But it’s also never been easier to make something and put it out there. So be a sponge, find collaborators, never get too comfortable, and stay curious.


About Wade Shotter

Wade Shotter’s origins are in illustration, where he worked on children’s books and created eight comics. From pen and paper, he moved to animation, where he worked with Disney for a stint in traditional 2D animation. Since shifting gears to film, he has directed his short film, music videos for various bands, and commercials for clients such as Fire & Emergency NZ, BNZ, Uber, Qantas, and more. He continues to play with form through his work and is drawn to deeply cinematic and visually expressive styles that engage and surprise. Currently, he is developing a pilot script for a television series.

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.