Tag Archive for: work

I originally studied cinematography at film school and ended up getting work in the lighting department for about four years on TV commercials, TV drama and films. I’m a fairly quiet person and had romantic notions of being quiet, cowering behind a camera.

One workless winter, I asked my flatmate, who was an editor about her work and I took an immediate interest in her response. After downloading the trial version of Final Cut Pro 7 and working through hours of tutorials, I made the impulsive choice to switch from lighting to editing, trading one kind of back pain (standing) for another (sitting). Through my flatmate, I spent a few months interning and an additional year working full-time in a tape library, so I could get a handle on the technology.

After cutting a few short films on the side, I really wanted to end up cutting feature films. I did some research (googled ‘how do I become a feature film editor’) and found the best way for me was to become an assistant editor on scripted dramas. I could upskill on the technical side and learn as much as I could working for editors who had made it.

I bothered every production company I’d worked for as a lighting technician and got work ingesting and syncing on travel and cooking shows. From there, I got my first scripted assisting on TV commercials, scripted TV and films until I ended up in assembly editing on set for an NZFC short film. After that, the producer got me into commercial editing work, so I was able to move on from assisting.

I was getting a lot of advertising/content work, but the drama work was pretty scarce. I’m quite bad at networking, but reluctantly ended up bothering a producer I wanted to work with. I met with her for a coffee and from there I cut a music video that she produced.

Brendon’s Diagram of Connections

  • Through this, I got to cut a drama pilot through the DoP of the music video.
  • After cutting the music video, the producer I’d spoken to offered me an NZFC short.
  • The director of the music video offered me another NZFC short.
  • From someone who’d see the pilot, I was offered a (paid!) web series.
  • From the two NZFC shorts I’d cut, I got offered a TV drama.
  • The producer of the web series recently offered me another TV drama.

What I think I’m trying to say is that being keen and possibly the last person a producer had coffee with before crewing can have a huge knock on effect.

The one thing I’d recommend for anyone is to make those seemingly unattainable connections. You could be extremely skilled, but that doesn’t mean a thing if no one knows who you are. I’m admittedly quite shy, however, the last few years which are the best of my career were only possible because I tried to make meaningful connections, despite being extremely reluctant. From there, I was able to trade cowering behind a camera for cowering behind an edit suite.


About Brendon Chan

Brendon entered post production in 2010 as an assistant editor, where he worked on feature films, such as Born to Dance, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Black Christmas. He made the leap to editing full-time in 2017, working across a broad range of television, web and film content. The most recent work he’d like to shamefully promote is the TVNZ drama series The Pact.


How I Got Started in the Industry is a new 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.


My first job right out of film school was to take over an overnight unpaid assistant editing job on a low budget feature… and I had no idea what I was doing.

Film school gave me friends in the same industry, and a good grasp on how to use Avid and what editing was about creatively, but at the time there was little instruction on the technical aspects that the assistant editor role required. I think we only had one day on how to assist!

I was given a short overview of the job by the previous assistant and was left to it. It was a little bit of a trial by fire but (thank goodness for the internet) I was able to google answers to just about everything I had questions for.

I communicated with the editor via a notepad, and he offered something amazing—if I wanted to cut some of the rushes, he would watch and give me feedback. So I spent half of the night importing, syncing and organising, and the other half cutting! It was an excellent learning experience and when we eventually met in person, he told me that he always offered that to his assistants, but nobody ever took him up on it! My next three projects were with the same editor, since at the time nobody else knew who I was.

My first job outside of my editing mentor came through Women in Film and Television (WIFT). I met a producer at a networking event who needed an assistant. My following job also came through attending a WIFT meeting, though kind of sideways… I had been offered a data wrangling job via email but the message went to my spam folder! Luckily the person who messaged me saw me at a WIFT event and asked me about it.

My first job, the unpaid overnight one, was in December 2009. The data wrangling job came in July 2010, and it allowed me to finally quit delivering pizza and move into the film industry full-time.

Kerri with her first editor carpark as an editor on The Brokenwood Mysteries / Photo: Supplied

My first bit of advice, and I know this may be super obvious, is to make sure you do your job reliably. You don’t have to go overboard, but producers and editors expect you to get your work done. Make sure you know what they need from you—and do it well. If you make their working life easier, they’ll call you again.

I assisted full-time from 2010 until 2016. During this period I cut as many side projects as possible in my spare time. At the beginning, most were unpaid (or lightly paid) passion projects from other creatives who were also in the early stages of their careers. It took a lot of energy, and it sucks that most of these early jobs are unpaid, but working on so many short films and music videos really honed my storytelling skills. I should also shout out the DEGANZ editing masterclasses! I had the opportunity to attend two of them and they were so valuable in helping me upskill.

Making the move from assistant to editor was really scary. I was at a point in my assisting career where I was very busy. I was also occasionally getting offers for small editing jobs that I had to turn down because I was already occupied by assistant work. You could make a great career out of assisting, but that’s not what I wanted, so I had to stop taking assistant work and focus on selling my skills as an editor. My first year exclusively editing was slow, and as a result I took a big pay cut. But I kept pushing and slowly built a good reputation as an editor and started getting return calls.

My advice for people entering the industry is to say yes to opportunities as often as you can without burning yourself out. Work hard, practise your craft, and be kind. Be comfortable turning down work that won’t take you where you want to be. And let the people you work with know what your goals are—you’d be surprised how much support you will find!

I’ll always be grateful for the willingness of New Zealand editors to be mentors, to give their time and to uplift anyone who wants to give it a go. I hope I can pay it forward!


About Kerri Roggio

Kerri is an Auckland-based editor. In the last few years, she has edited the comedy horror film DEAD; on TV series Mystic (season 2), My Life is Murder (season 2) and The Brokenwood Mysteries (seasons 4-7); as well as short films, documentaries and music videos.


How I Got Started in the Industry is a new 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.

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Professional development is an important part of the guild’s activities. A number of the opportunities have limits on participants, so we are constantly having to screen applications and respond to questions about what’s required, and “Why wasn’t I successful?”

While there are many factors that come into play when decisions are made by us, and those who help us select or who do the choosing for us, the two key questions that are first asked are: “What has the person done?” and “How good was it?”

The screen industry is all about turning out product, whether it be a video, documentary, commercial, TV episode, film, web series or other. At the bottom end it can be an audio-visual sausage, at the top end a piece of art. Intellectualism can have a big part to play, or not as Michael Bay has proved, but success comes firstly from creating the product, and then is hopefully followed by critical acclaim, box office success, increased sales, high ratings or whatever else is the measure that defines that particular product’s success or failure.

What strikes me with the screen industry is that it’s in the doing rather than in the knowing that success comes.

Recently, we had a Collaborators Series event at which director Lee Tamahori spoke. And last night I attend the NZ Cinematographers Society’s event with cinematographer Michael Seresin. Both are highly acclaimed internationally for their work. I was struck by the similarities between the two. But even more so by how they got into the industry—at the bottom. Lee was given a job by Don Reynolds as a boom operator even though he admitted he didn’t know what a boom operator did. Michael’s father got him a job with John O’Shea at Pacific Films as a gopher to save him from a wayward lifestyle. Both worked their way up with no film school education or knowledge of the industry to being at the top of their careers internationally by being on-set, being smart and doing it. Their learning came on the job.

Before film schools came along, TVNZ and the National Film Unit were the training grounds for people aspiring to careers in the screen industry. People learned there by doing.

Today, with education a massive business, we have courses, diplomas and degrees for people wanting a career in the industry.

I was asked a week or so ago to attend an industry focus group organised by an educational institution that is looking to respond to the industry by shaping their screen degree for the future, and melding it in a way that responds best to industry needs. Admirable.

But as often happens when seasoned industry people sit around and discuss work opportunities for new people entering, it wasn’t long before moans about the attitudes of film and media school graduates surfaced. Most criticisms centre on the sense of entitlement graduates have with their piece of paper in hand, which to most of those there means little or nothing. Getting in and doing it with smarts and a proactive, can-do approach on even the lowliest of tasks still counts over a formal screen education it seems. Just like Lee and Michael and many others in the screen industry have done as they worked their way to lofty heights and good pay packets from the bottom of the ladder.

Old school attitude. Sure. But one that still matters when it comes to those hiring and firing in the industry today. Which brings me back to the guild’s professional development programme.

Thanks to the New Zealand Film Commission, we offer a comprehensive professional development programme with a wide variety of opportunities. We have added to this with our latest Drama Director Attachment initiative, supported by NZ On Air and local drama production companies. We hope in the future to offer others.

These are presented by people in the industry doing it. Passing on skills and knowledge—much of it practical— that many of them use on a daily basis.

We always get a good response to our professional development opportunities. But we’d like to see more. It shows to our funders that what we are doing offers real value. And we believe they bring real value to the participants who can leverage off the learning experiences to help them go further with their career and next project.

Formal education does have its place these days. Our professional development programme goes a few steps further we feel. But it’s hard to go past the Nike maxim in the screen industry. Doing it really does count. Making it good, even better.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director