The recent NZCS workshop in Christchurch on 14th January was a huge success with 30 people turning up to learn composition and lighting techniques from Auckland based DP Matt Gerrand
Gerrand, who won a gold last year for his work on #DefendNZ, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share what he has learnt along his journey. “A lot of what I’ve learnt is through experience, so I’ve always wished there was a platform for DP’s with greater knowledge to pass on that knowledge, rather than people having to start from the ground up.”
A broad range of experience levels turned up to learn and mingle, with NZCS member and Canterbury University lecturer John Chrisstoffels doubling as a model for part of the workshop. “It was refreshing to hear him teach with such enthusiasm and confidence. People skills are also important. It was not lost on me, and I hope others noted the respectful way that Matt spoke to the talent and his crew. Attitudes can make a huge difference on set.”
Chrisstoffels, who has been a cinematographer for 30 years, has seen the ups and downs experienced by the region in recent years. With TVNZ withdrawing in the early 90’s and many of the big local brands relocating north, locally made national commercials all but disappeared. More recently the earthquakes, coinciding with technical changes in the industry, brought new challenges to an already thin local industry.
Winning a gold for his feature film Human Traces, Chrisstoffels has been part of a recent resurgence in local productions. “Feature film making has always been deemed too difficult by North Island producers despite stunning locations and predictable weather. Peter Jackson made 2 of his first 5 films here in the 90’s.” Other recent films that utilised the region include The Stolen and The Changeover which won Andrew Stroud Cinematographer of the Year in 2018.
Greater interaction between the regions is something local gaffer Zac Beckett-Knight wants to see more of. “Canterbury has some awesome offerings in terms of locations but often gets overlooked as productions can't find the necessary filming infrastructure to service projects. It is here, and it is growing. There is a ground swell within the local community to take things to the next level. And there is ever increasing interest from productions outside of Christchurch to bring projects here.”
Beckett-Knight provided his combo truck for the evening and can see a huge benefit in the NZCS workshops. “Every DOP has different wants/focus/styles due to their learning process or influences and it's fun learning how they operate and problem solve on set so, as a gaffer, we can anticipate and give them more of what they want.” The broad spectrum of experience was also welcomed, with Beckett-Knight saying “It's great to see the up-and-comings asking outside-the-box questions and thinking creatively about light rather than functionally.”
Gerrand also emphasised the importance of community in a job that can often feel isolating. “It can be quite a solo journey as a DP, so to have a platform to be able to share, and people to receive is very high up in terms of what's needed, not just in Christchurch but across the country.” Community is a sentiment echoed by Beckett-Knight, “The region gains huge benefit from these sorts of workshops. Not only do they impart new skills too cinematographers, but they bring the community together regularly for catch ups and to chat about recent projects, new purchases and let them hone their craft through discussion in person.”
Thanks to Christchurch based cinematographer John Ross for this write-up, organising this event at short notice and collaborating with the NZCS, Screen Canterbury and local suppliers to make it a most successful evening.
With more workshops planned for the region in the year to come, connectivity between regions will continue to strengthen the cinematography community within New Zealand.
Donald Duncan - NZCS Professional Development Manager
Photo credit: Andrei Talili