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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.

We know as directors, that our films are not just a line of scenes strung together to tell the story. Maintaining and amalgamating tone – the emotional and intellectual heartbeat of cinematic storytelling – is what we do. Communicating clearly through all creative departments to maintain a cohesive whole regarding tone is an essential skill for long-form storytelling.

In this workshop on May 28 with Dame Gaylene Preston, we will discuss issues of genre, performance and visualisation. Two actors will join for half the day to explore performance in a masterclass setting.

About Dame Gaylene Preston, DNZM

A leading filmmaker since 1978, working across drama and documentary for cinema and television, Dame Gaylene has made a number of classic New Zealand films including Mr WrongRuby and RataHome By Christmas, and War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us. Her work, notable for the strength of her human connections and its deep commitment to telling New Zealand stories, have been selected for many film festivals including Venice, Sundance and Toronto.

She is a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and New Zealand Arts Laureate. Dame Gaylene is a committed mentor and has recently taken up an honorary residency at Jesus College Intellectual Hub at Cambridge University.

Who’s it for?

Directors wanting to better understand tone – you’ll come away with useful ideas that can be applied to your own process, whether you’re directing on your first narrative short film or moving onto longer content (e.g. a first feature or series). This workshop does not cover documentary, but documentary makers interested in directing drama are welcome.

Workshop Details

When: Saturday 28 May 2022, 9:30am – 5pm

Where: Taia Studios, 4 Bay Road, Kilbirnie, Wellington 6022

Cost:
DEGANZ member – Free
Non-member – $49 (billed upon selection)

Includes tea/coffee and lunch.

Our Payment and Cancellation Policy

Orange Traffic Light Notes

For the safety of yourself and others:

  • Please do not attend if you are sick with COVID-19, cold or flu symptoms or have been asked to self-isolate.
  • Face masks are encouraged.

Travel Support

DEGANZ Full members based outside of Wellington and Auckland can apply to the Guild for travel support up to the value of $250 (incl GST). We have two grants available.

To apply you must meet these criteria:

  1. Your primary residence is outside of the Wellington region and Auckland region.
  2. You are a NZ Citizen or permanent resident.
  3. You have a confirmed place in the workshop.

For additional information and criteria, see here.

To Apply

Applications Close: Wednesday 18 May, 10AM

Please complete the application form below and email your CV to admin@deganz.co.nz. Your CV should clearly list your directing credits and include details such as festival selection and year, commissioners and/or platforms where your work has publicly screened.

Places are limited – the Guild will select based on applications. We will email you to confirm.

Application Form

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Made possible with the financial support of the New Zealand Film Commission.

NZFC

Loading Docs 2022 has announced the eight projects selected to take part in their ninth season titled Powers of Emotion. Our members are among the different teams selected, and are now looking to secure funding.

Director Sophie Black will explore the mysterious phenomenon of psychogenic illness in Believing is Seeing. With the help of Dr. Robert Bartholomew, this short discovers the effect of technological advancement on our brains – is social media making us sick?

Shred, set to be directed by Harry Wynn, follows male bodybuilders as they prepare for a local competition. Pushing the pursuit of looking good to the extreme, these young men deal with the pressure of social media as they try to achieve an unattainable physique.

The E Blacks follows kiwi video gamers as they fight for the chance to represent their country at the Commonwealth Games. For the first time ever Esports will be included in a major international sporting event and the pressure is on to level up for the event. The E Blacks will be directed by DEGANZ member Ashley Pitman and produced by Rajneel Singh.

Produced by Vea Mafile’o, Beneath the Surface follows a world champion swimmer as she prepares for the Commonwealth Games. Revealing hidden truths about her experiences and motivations, the short is as much about equality as it is about the pool.

The teams behind each project must now raise $3,500 through their Boosted crowdfunding campaigns. Once achieved, the teams will unlock funding from Loading Docs and go on to produce their films.

See here for more information about the projects and to support your fellow filmmakers. Loading Docs is funded by NZ on Air, with support from NZ Film Commission and Te Māngai Pāho.

Congratulations and good luck to our members!

After months of waiting, the trailer for Nude Tuesday has dropped this week, capturing the unique comedy’s entirely made-up language and eccentric characters.

Written by DEGANZ member Jackie van Beek and directed by member Armağan Ballantyne, the film follows a conservative middle-aged couple, played by Jackie van Beek and Damon Herriman, who are on a mission to save a failing marriage. The couple end up at a new-age relationship retreat rich in sexual liberation and extreme nudity.

The movie also stars Jesse Griffin (DEGANZ), Jemaine Clement, Jodie Rimmer, Chris Parker and Yvette Parsons.

The film is set to release on 16 June in cinemas. In the meantime, watch the trailer below.

 

 

Ready, set, go… Now what? Navigating the TV and film industry can be a confusing and challenging process; who can you trust? What are your options? But you’re not alone.

Join us for a Q&A panel with established filmmakers as they share their career experiences and how they navigated their entry into the screen industry. Director/editor Charlotte Evans (OK Chlöe, Give Kate A Voice), director Jeremiah Tauamiti (For My Father’s Kingdom, Liliu) and editor Jack Woon (Three Wise Cousins, Hibiscus & Ruthless) will join DEGANZ to discuss the ups and downs of trying to get a foot in the door.

If you’re at the start of your filmmaking journey, or looking to embark on one, you don’t want to miss this honest Young Creators session.

WHEN: Wed 4 May, 7pm – 8:30pm. Talk starts at 7:15pm.
WHERE: Horse & Trap – Loft, 3 Enfield St, Mount Eden, Auckland

Cash bar

Because of liquor license conditions, under 18s must be accompanied by their parent/legal guardian.

Face masks are required to be worn indoors by all attendees. We may shift the event to Zoom at the same date and time if COVID-19 cases are a concern and will notify all registrants.

Parking: Horse & Trap customer carpark and free on-street parking nearby.

DEGANZ members – Free
Non-members – $5
Please register below

Our Payment and Cancellation Policy

Panellists:

Charlotte Evans is a film director based in Auckland, New Zealand. She started her film career in London in 2008, where she trained as an editor under Rick Waller. Since returning to NZ, Charlotte has worked as a freelance director and editor on various projects ranging from TVCs, music videos, TV series, documentaries and short films. She is currently in the final stages of post-production for her soon to be released documentary Nowhere To Be.

Jack Woon is a Kiwi-Malaysian multi-hyphenate filmmaker with over a decade of cross-cultural experience in New Zealand, China, Samoa, India, Czechia and Canada. He has edited three commercially successful micro-budget Pacific Island comedy features, including Three Wise Cousins and Hibiscus & Ruthless.

Jeremiah Tauamiti is a Kiwi Samoan who started his career as a camera operator on television show Fresh. He then went on to direct films of his own, including shorts Maria and Liliu. In 2019 he co-directed his first feature, For My Father’s Kingdom, with partner Vea Mafile’o. The documentary, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, is about Mafile’o’s Tongan father, Saia.

 

Registration Form

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DEGANZ Young Creators is a programme of events with a mission to inform and inspire younger or emerging directors and editors to build successful, sustainable careers in the screen industry.