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Report on Gender Diversity Placement Zyanya Jackson on 'Black Christmas'

22 Sep 2019 11:16 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

These placements are an important part of our strategic plan to increase the numbers of women within the world of cinematography. They would not be possible without the hard work and backing from the Productions who agree to take on the placements. Productions not only meet the NZCS halfway in funding, but there is also a large amount of behind-the-scenes work to ensure these placements run smoothly. In this particular instance, we would like to thank Chloe Smith. Without your help, placements such as this would not have been possible. 

Report from Zyanya Jackson 

This winter I was lucky enough to be the camera trainee for the 6 week shoot of “Black Christmas”, an American feature film from Blumhouse Productions, filming in the South Island.

I joined the crew in Dunedin for the first day of production and spent the first week getting to grips with the camera equipment, processes and observing how the crew in the camera department worked as a team and as part of the production as a whole. 

It was important to me to make the most of my time on this placement and get as much hands-on experience with the camera gear as possible.  Fortunately for me my 1st AC’s Pete Cunningham, Kirsten Green and Roger Feenstra, and 2nd AC’s  Declan Cooke, Jake Stanton and Nani Conforte , were always more than happy to answer any question I had and gave me every opportunity to be involved with builds and to spend time getting to know everything we had to work with.


As this was my first time working on this level of production, there was something new to learn every day, from start to finish, and my second week was definitely a steep learning curve performing 2ndAC duties for the C camera when it came into play. It was a great opportunity to really get involved and get used to working on set - knowing where to be and when, set etiquette and how to work efficiently as a camera assistant alongside the rest of the crew.

The second half of the shoot was spent in Alexandra and the Waitaki Valley. Dealing with the logistics of filming on location vs in the studio, and the way this affects how we functioned as a department was a good lesson in on-the-spot trouble-shooting and adapting quickly in different environments. Night shoots on location really gave a sense of how well prepared you need to be for working out in the elements, whether the conditions were real or created by SFX.

Something I really enjoyed was working alongside all the other departments on set. Being a horror movie it was really interesting to see how our director Sophia Takal and DP Mark Schwartzbard worked together to set the tone for each scene, and from Art Dept and Lighting to Sound and Continuity, it was pretty amazing to watch how each different faction comes together once a take is called. I was very lucky to have such supportive crew around me as I got more and more involved in the production.

My placement on “Black Christmas” has been invaluable. I was definitely expecting to spend more time observing from the side-lines as a trainee, so I’m really grateful to everyone I worked with in the camera department for the generosity they showed me with their knowledge and patience and for taking the time to train me and get me involved in the job. I feel like I’ve gained so much from working with such experienced crew that I can hopefully take with me into future projects.

A huge thank you to the NZCS and the NZ Film Commission for creating these opportunities, and to Line Producer Chloe Smith and Unit Production Manager Annie Weston for such a great contribution to the ongoing success of the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program.





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