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EIT Student the Apple of Film Crew’s Eye

August 1, 2011

Napier video student Amanda Dawson is proud of her part in promoting New Zealand apples to the wider world. 

A second- year Diploma in Video & Electronic Media student, Amanda was employed as a “runner” for an Auckland film crew earlier this year.  Her role quickly evolved into much more, however, and the grateful production company, delighted with her input, flew her to Auckland for the recent launch of the short movie Simple Pleasures.

Explaining why the filming was done in Hawke’s Bay, Good Life Films director Chris Graham says that his client, Pipfruit New Zealand, looked at how New Zealand’s Braeburn apples could be differentiated from Chilean and South African exports which compete for European buyers at the same time of year. 

Rather than making a conventional television ad for the UK and German markets, it was decided to produce a short film that would make an emotional connection between the apples and the New Zealand brand – a vignette based on a romance that develops in a Hawke’s Bay orchard.

Amanda cast locals to play the parts of supporting actors, co-opted classmates and lecturer Jonathan Rodgers as extras and, with her on-the-ground knowledge of Hawke’s Bay, was able to pinpoint suitable filming locations. 

 “When we weren’t shooting, the team from EIT were shifting lights and gear,” Chris enthuses.  “They were really helpful.”

In Hawke’s Bay for five days of filming, Good Life Films crafted a 13½ minute movie and a one-minute trailer.   Made for the internet, where viewers have an average 3-4 minute attention span, the movie has been structured in three acts with “cliff-hanger moments” to encourage viewers to continue watching or to return to the website.

“When they see the short film, buyers will look at New Zealand Braeburn apples differently,” Chris declares.  “We will see how it goes in the UK, and subtitle it for the German market next year.”

The website nz.com has already gone viral, attracting 100,000 hits in the first couple of weeks after the first act went online.

Chris says his film company knew EIT had a media course, and he and his colleagues were impressed to learn how elaborate it was.

“We were flying in three main actors to Hawke’s Bay but needed others, so we wanted someone who had the contacts and knew the locations.  Producer Neil Stitchbury thought of approaching EIT.  The staff associated with the diploma course recommended Amanda and we took to her immediately.

“She was much more than a runner, she was the crew contact and liaison for everything else.  So when we had the wrap party in Auckland, we wanted her to be there for that.”

Chris, who graduated from New York’s School of Visual Arts and directed the feature film Sione’s Wedding, is keen to return to Hawke’s Bay with Neil to talk to EIT diploma students about the New Zealand screen industry.

Amanda, now busy crewing on and acting in her classmates’ films and preparing to direct her first short film which will screen at Reading Cinema in November, says it was a great experience to work with such a talented crew.

“I feel very privileged to have worked with someone like Chris.  He made everyone feel like we were one big family.  I would love to work with him again.”