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Workshop brings television industry experts to town

Waitaki App

Ashley Smyth

19 June 2024, 2:21 AM

Workshop brings television industry experts to townThe eight participants chosen for a Southern Pilots workshop being held in Ōamaru this weekend. Photo: supplied

Film Otago Southland is bringing Auckland opportunities to Ōamaru, for a select group of emerging filmmakers.

A three-day workshop called Southern Pilots, and funded by the New Zealand Film Commission, is being held at The Business Hive this weekend, beginning on Friday (June 21).

Film Otago Southland co-manager Stefan Roesch said the workshop is a way for the not-for-profit trust to help local filmmakers get established, and also to have more stories coming from the region. It is the first time the programme has been run.

Film Otago Southland closely works with the regional film offices in Dunedin and Queenstown, and looks after the industry - both local filmmakers and incoming productions - across both regions.

For the incoming productions they help to find crew, the right locations and the service providers they require.

“But another mandate is to enable and help develop our own local filmmakers to generate their IP (intellectual property), and that's something we are lacking a little bit,” Stefan says.

“The opportunities that our local filmmakers have compared to someone, let's say, based in Auckland, because most guilds are based in Auckland, hence most development programmes are being run in Auckland. And they are open to everyone in the country, but how do you get up to Auckland?”

So for Southern Pilots, instead of everyone going up north, Film Otago Southland is bringing the north to them.

The trust decided to team up with Script to Screen, an Auckland-based charitable organisation dedicated to developing New Zealand storytelling for the screen.

“Script to Screen will bring in their own expertise into this programme, which is what traditionally what they've been doing for a long time - and that is running those opportunities, workshops, development programmes,” Stefan says. 

“Once Film Otago Southland and Script to Screen agreed on the rough framework for the programme, Script to Screen from then on has taken over to do the operational side of it.”

Script to Screen executive director Jackie Dennis said three Otago or Southland-based teams, from the more than 20 who applied, were chosen for the programme by three external selectors.

“We brought them all into a room together to discuss which ones they thought were the most viable and the most exciting to develop.”

A team had to include at least a writer and producer. It could also include a director, but that wasn’t mandatory. They needed to be emerging to mid-career applicants, and filming needed to take place in the Otago Southland area, even if it wasn’t identifiable as such.

Applicants were asked to provide a pitch document for a television series, which included the team, the genre, the world of the story and the main characters.

The three teams chosen were “unique”, Jackie says.

“It was just really interesting when the selectors get together and they start talking about it, and you can just hear them buzzing when they start talking about the ones that they like.

“So it was just the fact that between the three selectors, they were all able to agree that these were the three that they thought were really worth putting time into.”

This weekend’s workshop aims to help the three chosen teams develop their idea to the point where they can take it to market.

They get to spend time with industry experts who have proven successes such as The Brokenwood Mysteries, The Dead Lands and Wellington Paranormal under their belts, Jackie says.

“So we're bringing Fiona Samuel, Glenn Standring and Paul Yates to Ōamaru. They'll do a half day each with each of the teams. 

“And then we're also bringing speakers down who can talk about certain aspects, like producing and directing and pitching your project and building your team.”

Following the workshop, the teams will be given more time to work on their projects, and then in about two months’ time, they will get to pitch to the industry, something Jackie says they haven’t been told about yet.

If three new television series’ came about as a result of this programme that would be “amazing”, the two agree.

Ōamaru was chosen to host the workshop in an effort to “spread the love”, Stefan says.

The Waitaki is a less common filming destination than somewhere like Queenstown Lakes or Dunedin

“We try to have a very inclusive approach . . . and Waitaki [District] Council is one of the funders of Film Otago Southland . . . and then, you know, it's a really cool place.

“Oamaru just has this really cool vibe.”