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Congratulations are in order for DEGANZ member Lula Cucchiara whose feature documentary film, Fiona Clark: Unafraid, is about to have its international premiere at Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival (May 26 – June 5).

Directed by Lula and edited by Anastasia Doniants, Fiona Clark: Unafraid brings attention to notable queer photographer Fiona Clark and her work, which captured the burgeoning gay liberation movement and vibrant queer scene in 1970’s New Zealand. Giving visibility to the LGBTQI+ community, dismantling prejudice and fighting for equality through the lens of her camera would cement her as one of New Zealand’s historically groundbreaking photographers.

Member Shailesh Prajapati was the film’s assistant editor. Well done to everyone involved in the making of Fiona Clark: Unafraid!

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.

A child actor standing in a kitchen with three crew members watching.

How do you work with children to get great performances?

This May, the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand is offering training on directing children with sought-after acting coach Miranda Harcourt. Directors can apply for the day-long workshop in Auckland on May 7 or tune in to a 2-hour Zoom seminar on May 11, on a Wednesday night.

 

Workshop

From her years of experience working as an actor, acting coach and director, Miranda Harcourt has developed quick, simple tools to get child actors where they need to be. On May 7, participants will spend a full-day with Miranda learning approaches, tools and exercises that will help you to help your child actors give their best.

We will also have a few young actors helping us out at the workshop and two directors will have the opportunity to rehearse a scene.

When: Saturday 7 May 2022, 9:30am – 5pm

Where: The Community of Saint Luke, 130 Remuera Road, Remuera, Auckland 1050

Travel support is available for Full members of DEGANZ.

Applications close: Wednesday 27 April, 10AM. More info >

Online Seminar

In this online seminar, Miranda Harcourt will discuss some of her successful tools for working with child actors.

Directors will see case studies that will help you implement these tools in auditions, rehearsals and sets. This will be an insightful session answering your burning questions on how to direct children well.

When: Wednesday 11 May 2022, 7pm – 9pm NZST

Where: Zoom Meetings

Registration essential. More info >

 

 


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

NZFC

Written by DEGANZ member Jackie van Beek and directed by fellow member Armağan Ballantyne, unique comedy Nude Tuesday was recently labelled a hidden gem after being promoted at the European Film Market in Berlin.

The film follows a conservative, middle-aged couple, played by Jackie van Beek and Damon Herriman, trying to save a failing marriage with a trip to a new-age relationship retreat rich in sexual liberation and extreme nudity.

Nude Tuesday goes further with its uniqueness by being shot entirely in a made-up language. It was then sent to a few comedians to add their own subtitles. British comedian Julia Davis produced one version of subtitles, whilst Australian comedians Celia Pacquola and Ronny Chieng produced another set. The film will be available with both sets of English subtitles.

Armağan told Deadline that speaking in a made-up language meant that the actors didn’t have to worry about getting their lines right. instead, they could “focus on the tone and emphasis of the emotional exchanges between each other”.

Moreover, in the edit, “We were able to speed up scenes we thought were too slow by literally just cutting out bits of dialogue, knowing that it wouldn’t have the remotest impact on the story” says Jackie.

Well done to Jackie and Armağan. The NZ release date for Nude Tuesday hasn’t been announced yet, but we’re curious as to what to expect out of its two sets of subtitles!

Congratulations to our members involved in bringing Mystic Season 2 to life, as the eight-episode series is now available to stream on TVNZ OnDemand. David Stubbs (DEGANZ) is the series producer, while fellow members Aidee Walker and Caroline Bell-Booth directed on the latest series. Meanwhile, DEGANZ members Kerri Roggio and Peter Roberts served as two of the four editors on the series.

Mystic is an international production between TVNZ and CBBC reaching audiences at home in New Zealand, the UK, Europe, Canada and Australia. It also received support from the Screen Production Recovery Fund and the New Zealand Screen Production Grant.

Shot on location in Auckland, Mystic is an adventure story with a supernatural twist. Teenager Issie and her gang of horse-mad friends will not only have to tackle all the usual trials and tribulations of being a teenager but battle against new and unexpected threats to their beloved stables and local environment.

Production is underway for season 3. All the best to the team!