I was the first MSciComm graduate (2007). As part of my Masters, I produced an internationally award-winning documentary called Calici: A Rural Conspiracy,
and wrote a book entitled The Business of Documentary Filmmaking
(which is now used as a textbook).
I’ve just returned from my dream project (the kind I fantasized about all through film school). I spent 9 months filming one of the most significant conservation projects of our time, in one of the most inhospitable places in the world!
My mission was to make a documentary about the AU$25 million Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Project, which aims to rid the sub-Antarctic island of rabbits, rats and mice in one combined operation. In the process I got to hang out with the world’s largest albatross, millions of penguins, elephant seals, and lived in basic field huts. While I was there, I also worked as a wildlife monitor, cruise ship guide, and spent 3 months as a professional hunter, tracking down the last of the island’s rabbits. Check out a couple of web clips here at: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=12997
and an article here: http://www.odt.co.nz/lifestyle/magazine/215851/mud-sweat-and-hares
I realized early on that I didn’t want to be at the mercy of broadcasters, nor stuck in windowless rooms for the rest of my life. So I turned filmmaking into a lifestyle rather than a full-on profession. I enjoy heaps of other things – adventure traveling, teaching, writing for popular science mags, and have managed to combine that with working on documentaries.
I’ve been a bit choosy on the kind of projects that I work on – my main aim in life is to have fun. So after graduating from the course, I cycled around Germany for three months before joining my partner Pete at Wanaka, where I wrote articles for New Zealand Geographic magazine and put together a series of short films with the formidable Sir Tim Wallis, while spending most of my weekends camping in rustic huts in Central Otago and on the West Coast.
The next couple of years were spent in Australia. I joined the rat race for a while, working at one of Australia’s best wildlife footage libraries, Absolutely Wild Visuals. I then jumped ship to Beyond Productions, working for 9 months on a children’s TV programme called Kid Detectives
. My crew and I had a blast – we shot a story a day in locations all over Sydney and beyond. My job as associate producer involved helping come up with over 100 different forensic mysteries, casting, choosing the locations, even acting! Here’s one of the finished episodes: http://www.beyond.com.au/index.php?option=com_vcatalogue&task=view_details&vid=402&Itemid=21%20
After another 3-month trip to Europe, I spent 7 months traveling around Australia with Pete on CT110 motorbikes, before returning to my home town Dunedin where a job in media and communications at the Department of Conservation caught my eye. Stepping away from the film industry was a bit of a scary step, but I was soon up to my old tricks.
Alongside working with media, writing, and traveling all over Otago to see what our rangers get up to, I was soon shooting several short films aimed at highlighting the good work of DOC. I must have made an impression. I’m back there now, working as DOC Otago’s new Community Outreach Coordinator, a job aimed at getting more people involved in conservation and using our amazing natural spaces. And yup, just a couple of weeks into the job and I’m already filming a couple of docos about local conservation initiatives.
The hardest thing about the past 5 years has been to stay true to my dreams, and learning to say no, even when the opportunities were too good to pass up.