Niki Winer. Photo credit: Te Waiarangi Ratana
Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program:
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 funding from NZ Film Commission, and 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 Line Producer Michelle Turner and Producer Paul Yates for making this opportunity possible.
Report from Niki Winer:
“We have recently wrapped production on Wellington Paranormal - Season 3, shooting in July 2020. I was not only the A camera 1st AC, but the lucky recipient of the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity Program though the NZCS and the NZ Film Commission. This meant that apart from working in my usual capacity I was allowed a certain amount of days in pre-production, production, and in post (which will happen in the next few months) where I was able to shadow cinematographer Bevan Crothers.
The short time in pre-production was insanely busy. The days were spent going on location recces where I was able to watch as Bevan and directors Tim Van Dammen and Jemaine Clement talked through the scenes for the very first time in that environment. Then back to our HQ at Avalon Studios for several meetings with the art department, costume and makeup to discuss challenges such as: practical lights built into costumes, special UV makeup, glow-in-the-dark ghost vomit and a thousand other oddities. Getting to spend this time seeing the lighting plans being developed with gaffer Nick Riini and Bevan’s extremely detailed shot breakdowns was a great way to get my head around the world that’s being built.
My Gender Diversity placement gave me access to situations I would not normally be part of, such as the scene blocking, the director’s tent, the lighting builds and shooting plates with VFX supervisor Stan Alley. With this extraordinary access, I was able to absorb so much information and have a much greater understanding of all of the things a cinematographer works on day-to-day.
Directors Tim and Jemaine were incredibly encouraging, not only taking the time to talk through set-ups and explaining their process, but speaking to me in a way that was expected to be understood by a cinematographer. This program allowed me into all of the conversations I’m not usually privy to and the opportunity to have my many, many questions answered with patience, understanding, and a lot of good humour by all of the HOD’s on this show.
One of the things I enjoyed most was watching all of the set-up plans and diagrams come to life. Due to the mocumentary style of the show and incredible improv from the actors, things often didn’t turn out as planned, or where planned. Knowing this, Bevan and Nick had to be flexible and light entire alleyways or houses, Cam op Matt Henley was always ready to dive out of shot, and key grip Paul Murphy was almost always sprinting after them. Coming into a location with an incredible amount of pre-planning, and still having to work on the fly was such an amazing way of learning.
It has been a fantastic opportunity to be able to be a part of this important program on a job that I am already so involved in. 1st AC Andreas Mahn was super adaptable and open to the days I stepped way and 2nd AC Cam Smith was always ready to jump in and take care of anything that needed doing. Wearing multiple hats became a bit challenging sometimes but the overwhelming support from the crew and my camera team was incredibly humbling. Even though I have spent almost every day on a film set over the last few years, having the freedom and the time to actually step back and observe has been invaluable. From already having the understanding on how we do things, I was able to focus on why we are doing them.
I would like to thank the NZCS and Film Commission for creating these opportunities, Producers Paul Yates and Michelle Turner for being so welcoming, the entire Paranormal Crew for the love and support, and Bevan Crothers for pushing me to be more.”
Cinematographer Bevan Crothers with Niki Winer. Photo credit: Stan Alley
Cinematographer Bevan Crother’s report:
“I recently finished filming Season 3 of Wellington Paranormal and It was a real pleasure to be accompanied by Niki Winer as part of the Cushla Lewis Gender Diversity program.
Niki was the perfect fit and really embraced the opportunity. She was incredibly pro-active and positive with our time, asking and discussing all the aspects of the show’s cinematography.
Niki already has a wealth of on-set experience so it was great for her to be part of the prep side of the cinematographer’s role, with production meetings, VFX meetings, Director/DP script breakdowns, prepping of lighting and camera plans.
What was great about the situation was that Niki knew the show very well, having already worked as 1st AC on Season 2. This allowed us to get into a lot more detail about how the show was being constructed.
The Paranormal crew really embraced the Gender Diversity program and Niki was able to be involved in the lighting rigs and have discussions with Gaffer Nick Riini as well as both Directors Jemaine Clement and Tim Van Dammen, who were more than happy to discuss anything whenever they had time.
Niki has the right mind-set to do great things as a cinematographer, and I look forward to working together in the future.”
DP Wars. Photo credit: Stan Alley
Line Producer Michelle Turner’s report:
"The gender diversity programme was fantastic for us as a production to support and encourage women to progress to becoming a DOP. Both Producer Paul Yates and I were very supportive of this programme and very happy to be part of it.
Niki Winer was a great choice - she was a fast and keen learner and she and Bevan were a really good team. He was also a great mentor. We selected shoot days that were very heavy and complicated on lighting and camera work for the best learning experience. Niki also found the prep/tech recce days invaluable as she was not normally part of this process in her 1st AC work.
I would be very happy to continue to support this programme on other productions."