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Why New Zealand is a great place to prepare for film and TV careers

Victoria Spackman and Gareth McGhie, who have a wealth of experience in the country’s film and television industry, share some excellent advice for students interested in creative careers
BY Uma Asher |   28-11-2017


Victoria Spackman is Vice President, Creative, at the Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec) and Whitireia New Zealand. She is recognised as one of New Zealand’s most influential businesswomen and advocates for the creative arts sector. Her executive producer credits include NZ Idol and two series of Street Hospital. She has also undertaken legal, financing and structuring work on films and international TV co-productions.

Gareth McGhie is Associate Head of School, Creative, at WelTec. Before joining WelTec in 2010, he worked in a range of film-related creative fields. After an early career in hairdressing, where he won national and international awards, Gareth entered the NZ film industry and worked for Weta Workshop, a world-leading TV/film special effects and prop company,y where he oversaw production on film, gaming, and public art work projects including King Kong, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe trilogy, and the Avatar films.

During a recent visit to India, Ms. Spackman and Mr. McGhie took time out for an email interview with BrainGain Magazine to talk about what students of the creative arts can look forward to in New Zealand.

Victoria Spackman
Victoria Spackman, Vice President, Creative, WelTech and Whitireia NZ

 
What makes New Zealand a destination for anyone interested in studying for and working in the film and TV industries?

Victoria Spackman: New Zealand, and Wellington in particular, has a vibrant film and television industry at both a national and international level. There is lots of local and central government support for the film industry and for hard-working and committed people there are plenty of opportunities to connect with those industries.

Gareth McGhie: Our teaching staff at WelTec and Whitireia working together in the new Creative School, Te Auaha have close industry ties, many have come directly from industry and so industry materials and processes are embedded within course curriculum. Real-time industry-responsive platforms for 3D design and concept work in particular is standard practice.

Gareth McGhie
Gareth McGhie, Associate Head of School, Creative, at WelTec (image is a still from this video)

Please tell us a bit about your own career journey.

VS: I started out my formal working career as a lawyer in employment, entertainment and media. I've always had a strong connection with and interest in theatre, television and film, and have used those throughout my career, too. I've also worked on visitor experiences for museums, galleries and the like, as well as in leadership roles in the creative sector. My advice for those with an ambition for the entertainment industry is to keep doing your own work; stay active. Prove that you can gather people around you to work on joint projects. That's the way to start and the way to get noticed.

GM: My creative journey began with a hairdressing apprenticeship at 17 years of age, which led to national and international competition success. After 10 years in hairdressing I moved into Wellington’s film industry at Weta Workshop a world-leading TV/film special effects and prop company based in Wellington. I spent the next 11 years at Weta working on multiple film projects and public art instillations crossing multiple genres and encompassing a breadth of materials and processes. In 2005 I was appointed the workshop supervisor for Weta Workshop, supervising 120 artisans working in fields ranging from engineering, mould-making and casting, costume design and manufacture, special effects makeup artistry, 3D modelling and milling, and concept design. In 2010 I made the move to a teaching role in Creative Technologies at WelTec (Wellington Institute of Technology) where I was able to share skills and knowledge I’d gained in the New Zealand film industry with my students. All in all, my journey has illustrated to me the importance of always staying mobile, learning and developing new skills, taking opportunities as they come, but most importantly of all the interconnectivity of all creative practice. There is no worse action than inaction.
 

What kind of training does Te Auaha the New Zealand Institute of Creativity offer? Are the qualifications recognized worldwide?

VS: The New Zealand Institute of Creativity is part of Whitireia and WelTec, the two Wellington government-backed Institutes of Technology. We offer a wide range of qualifications in subjects including film production, journalism, music, dance, acting, radio broadcasting, visual arts, digital media, writing, publishing, and plenty more.

Our qualifications, including one- and two-year diplomas, and our exciting new Bachelor of Creativity, are all government approved and vetted for quality. The Bachelor of Creativity offers majors in music, digital media, performing arts, writing, Maori art and visual arts. Our film production courses, and indeed everything we do, is government approved and audited, and therefore internationally recognised. We work hard to ensure our students are well catered for.

GM: Interdisciplinary and integrated creative practice is the foundation of what we are trying to achieve at Te Auaha; a practice which is industry standard both in New Zealand and internationally. Qualifications are recognised both nationally and internationally as relevant, adaptive and industry-applicable.

 
What advantages can fresh graduates of the Institute look forward to?

VS:Fresh graduates can expect to leave us having had a practical hands-on learning experience, with close connections to industry and an intimate understanding of contemporary working methods. We provide a high quality education and students leave us with work ready qualifications. There are definitely internship and work experience opportunities.

What would you expect to see in an application from an international student?

VS: We always love to see strong extra-curricular work from our prospective students. Some courses require portfolios of previous relevant work too. Students should have good English and good grades from their previous study.

GM: Sound English skills and evidence of academic progress are important but most important for me is evidence detailing the development of a personal art and design practice.
 

How expensive is it to study there, and are scholarships available to international students?

VS: Our pricing is competitive for an international education, ranging between NZD $18,000-$20,000 for each year of study. We have excellence awards in both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in select areas of study.


 
Interested in a Film & Television career? Check out the links below!
What do you need to become a documentary film maker?
Creative Technology careers: 5 questions with Darryn Melrose of Media Design School
6 great funding opportunities from the Charles Wallace India Trust
What to do with a degree in Design and Digital Arts
Documenting what you've done: the resume and digital portfolio
6 questions with a music technology major
Filmmaker Masterclass: Director Alessandra Zeka on her art 
Director's Cut: 8 questions with top film maker Gurinder Chadha  
"The Lunchbox" director Ritesh Batra on film making and taking risks
The lucky filmmaker: 9 questions with Nitin Madan
Brandeis graduates grasp the history, art and craft of filmmaking
Film, TV and Digital Media programs
5 international courses in Film Studies you need to know about
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