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Guide to NZCS Awards Categories

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General notes

  • Please re-read the category definitions each year before submitting your entry, because categories are refined and amended in the light of experience and the types of productions being made.
  • Joint entries will not be accepted. If a project has more than one cinematographer then only the cinematographer who has overall responsibility for the visual content and lighting of the entry i.e. the Director of Photography or Principal Cinematographer may enter (except for specialised and second unit category).
  • In every case the cinematography of others and details of their involvement must be provided in the entry notes, highlighting their work by description or giving approximate time codes. For example: ‘Jane Doe shot the aerial sequences,’ or ‘fight sequence at 5:30 minutes was shot by second unit DP John Doe,’ or ‘I was assisted by a second unit DP Jane Doe who shot establishing shots, multi-camera sequences etc.’ 
  • The judges will take into account the relevant information you give them in the notes to the media submission, so entrants are strongly advised to include them.
  • Student films should be entered into the relevant categories and the entry notes should indicate it is a student film, the name of the film school, and whether it was totally student led, or supervised by a tutor. 
  • NZCS may reallocate any entry it believes has been entered in an inappropriate category.
  • If you do not have a copy of the entry media yourself then when gaining the producers approval please ask them to supply a copy. Department of Post are kindly giving their time towards managing the entry portal for us, they are not to be used for sourcing your entry media. Contact Awards PM if you need help.

Cutting edge award

The cutting edge award is a discretionary award made in some years by the judges to a cinematographer for breaking new ground in technical, creative, or craft in New Zealand. There is a wide latitude in the kind of production or cinematography eligible for this award. 


Category 1: Student films


Student at time of filming the entry. A maximum of 2 entries per student is allowed. Entrants must state which cinematography / film course or school they attended at the time of filming their entry. 


Category 2: Music videos

Musical or concert items shot for the purpose of entertainment or promotion.
  • Entrants should be responsible for lighting, particularly in the case of stage lighting. 


Category 3: Short films

Short dramatised productions.


Category 4: News and current affairs


News or current affairs stories or segments broadcast on regular television news or current affairs programs. 

  • Enter a single story, segment, or episode.
  • Entries which are more documentary in nature and which run for the entire duration of the program, also have the option of being entered into Documentaries.


Category 5: Magazine, lifestyle and reality

Light entertainment human-interest productions or segments. For example: travel, leisure, gardening, property, cooking, entertainment, science, sports, arts and reality shows.
  • Enter a single story, segment, or episode.


Category 6: Corporate and Educational

Productions specifically shot for a corporate or educational market designed to teach or inform. Includes longer online infomercials.


Category 7: Documentaries and factual series

Traditional documentary productions normally dealing with people in relation to their environment. Entries can include feature documentaries, documentary series and documentaries subjects within current affairs programs that constitute the entire program.
  • In television documentary shows, enter only one episode, per entrant.
  • Current affairs segments that constitute the entire program should be entered in this category.


Category 8: Web series


An episode from a drama series (more than three episodes) made for free online distribution.

  • Enter a single episode per season where you were the DP.
  • Acknowledge in the notes the DP who set up the series look.


    Category 9: Commercials

    Commercials for national or international release. Entries must have been specifically shot for this purpose and not repurposed from other material.
    • Includes all distribution channels including online.
    • Includes promos, TV station IDs.
    • CGI or computer manipulation must be clearly identified in media submission.

    Commercials are generally distinguished from corporate and educational entries by shorter length (under 90 seconds), TV commercial style, and high productions values. 


    Category 10: Specialised and second unit 


    Second unit sequences or specialised cinematography sequences or productions.

    • This category includes examples such as microphotography, macro photography, ultrahigh speed, underwater, aerial, stunt sequences, chase sequences, fight scenes, or other 2U drama scenes.
    • A list of scattered shots or time codes is impractical for judging so an entry in this category must include one or more sequences that can easily be described in plain English and recognised by the judges.
    • The sequences will be found using an approximate start time and a description such as at “fight sequence at 10 minutes where hero leaps from building and fights monster” Main unit shots cut into the sequence should be described. For example: “CU’s of hero were MU shots”
    • Test footage or show reels are not eligible, as entries are based on a particular production.


      Category 11: Drama and drama series


      A standalone drama, dramatised documentary, comedy, or one episode from a series. Made for TV broadcast or subscription service. In case of a teleseries:

      • Enter a single episode per season where you the DP

      • Acknowledge in the notes the DP who set up the series look

      Combines teleseries, telefeature and dramatised documentaries “drama is drama”. This does not include webseries which have their own category.


      Category 12: Feature films


      Feature productions first released through national or international theatrical channels.



      What about colourists and operators?

      We are asked from time to time about widening the awards to include colourists, operators, and animation and so on. These roles are all worthy of recognition, and no cinematographer would underestimate their contribution.

      The Turtz Award is a very prestigious award that acknowledges contributions by non-cinematographers.

      However apart from that, we simply can’t fit any more awards into a manageable event, so we have to focus on the directors of photography – the people responsible for the look.

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