Creative Centre puts film education in the heart of Wellington's film industry
It's a part of Wellington that's become synonymous worldwide with world-class film-making. Home of Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, Park Road Post Production, Stone St Studios and more, Miramar now has a home for talented film students hoping to become the next generation of movie makers.
Nestled in among these businesses, a campus has been created that will link masters students with the big names in the film industry, and provide facilities for those students to not only create their own projects, but collaborate with each other and industry experts based just a stone's throw away.
The Victoria University of Wellington Miramar Creative Centre might never have happened, or at least not in the form it's taken, were it not for a chance encounter between the university's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Frazer Allan and Kristy Grant, a director at Miramar Creative.
The two met in April 2016, and, as Allan tells it, started talking.
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"I found out she was working out at Miramar, and posed the question, why isn't the university doing more out there ... there were bits and pieces happening, but not a co-ordinated programmed effort, I guess, to work more closely with our creative film industry."
Grant talked to her people, Allan to his, and serendipity again stepped in, in the form of a premises becoming available at 133 Park Rd. The building is owned by Oscar award-winning editor Jamie Selkirk – who is also a director at Miramar Creative.
Allan says in "almost record time" the university agreed to start work to make the creative centre a reality, realising it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"We pieced together a business case and pulled out all the stops really to ensure we could secure an agreement with the landlord."
There are obvious benefits to having a facility for film students in the heart of arguably one of the best film hubs in the world.
"It's not just about the building," Allan says, "it's about the relationships we have developed with Park Road Post Production, and Weta Digital and Workshop, and having absolutely world class practitioners being able to teach and contribute to the programme, and be able to walk across the road to do that."
Through the collaboration between Miramar Creative and Victoria University, and Weta Group businesses Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, and Park Road Post Production, aspiring film-makers can choose between two masters programmes on offer, the Master of Design Technology, or the Master of Fine Arts – Creative Practice.
The first offers students the chance to learn visual effects, animation and augmented and virtual reality. They'll be taught by people from within the industry who have worked with some of the world's biggest studios, including Weta Digital.
Within the Master of Fine Arts, film and music will be taught from a studio within the facility, and students will study film production, post-production, film scoring and audio post-production.
Miramar Creative will also provide short courses at the centre, including writing for documentary and film, sound composition, editing, and how to be an effective producer.
For Selkirk – one of the original founders of the Weta group of businesses with Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor – the centre provides an opportunity for him to give back to the industry by fostering the next generation of talent. Miramar Creative has already been working towards opening young eyes to the opportunities within the sector through the Roxy5 Film Festival.
The annual short film festival is for schools across the Wellington region.
"I think we've always wanted to sustain the industry, a good way of doing that is having something available in this circle of film-making companies," Selkirk says.
The location of the centre gives young people the opportunity to be bumping into people from the industry.
"All the key players involved in the current film-making are people who have been there so many years. They're all fairly talented, but you've got to have the young people. I think that's really important."
As well, "an amazing amount of people have been in touch asking how to get involved".
The centre itself is smaller than one might expect, but is essentially a mini film studio large enough to house up to 80 students, who will have access to everything they need to create a film, including post production.
There are two large studios. One, where a green screen hangs, is for physical performance like motion capture; the other is for sound performance, says Grant.
The latter has an editing suite and rooms to create foley, which is the creation of everyday sounds which are added to a film's soundtrack in post production. Sounds like footsteps, or doors closing.
There are also two large computer suites for students to use, with the same software used by film production companies around the world.
The fitout and equipment for the centre cost about $2.55 million.
The creative centre will also offer short courses outside of the two degrees. Grant says as much as it is Victoria's centre, it will be open to the wider Wellington community, providing training for any gaps the industry identifies.
Selkirk adds: "We want to set up short courses for the areas that aren't really covered in the university curriculum, producing and production management, bits that get a bit lost, we're always sort of lacking in New Zealand.
"Generally New Zealand is short of script writers, producers, production managers, those sort of areas, that's what we need to keep the momentum going."
For students the opportunity to learn their part of the craft in Miramar is a dream come true.
Jess Hill is studying for a Master of Fine Arts in creative practice this year. It's broken down into different majors, and Hill is focusing on film.
With the creative centre opening for that Masters in time for the third trimester, Hill is excited about her study moving to Miramar.
"I think I'll feel more inspired out there, and more motivated around such talented hard working people," she says.
Hill has been working as an intern for a producer in Miramar and while learning on the job had met other people from within the industry.
"I do feel more exposed through this degree, I don't think I would have been able to meet the people I've wanted to meet, or had my foot in the door."
Murali Krishna is studying a Master of Design Technology, and believes it is the course that will "fulfil his dreams".
After working as a software engineer for 10 years, Krishna was looking for a career shift, but didn't know how to get where he wanted, until he found the degree.
He and his classmates have been based out of the creative centre for about a month. Before that, they were learning at Park Road Post.
"The best part is the well-known people ... are coming in here and teaching us their experience and knowledge learnt over the years. We're learning things from people who have worked on 10 to 15 blockbusters.
"We are actually studying from the place where this all happens."
Lecturers are as excited about the new campus as the students studying there.
Professor John Psathas of the New Zealand School of Music, drove the establishment of a film score programme in New Zealand, which is being offered for its fourth year this year.
The creative centre will provide facilities that are very specific to that programme.
"It's a big step for us, and extremely exciting. It is amazing for our students ... because they are going to be engaging in not just the facilities but people from the industry.
"Engaging with expert practitioners from Park Road Post Production, a facility that mixes soundtracks to Peter Jackson films, and being in a facility right in the heart of that industry, you can't overstate what impact that has on the educational experience of a student coming through."
Psathas reiterates the collaboration the facility will allow, describing the centre as an incubator for "these brilliant young creative people", where students from different disciplines will be able to work together.
Raqi Syed, lecturer and director for the Master of Design Technology degree, worked for about eight years as a lighting technical director at Weta Digital.
Her students are already in the centre, and she says the facility allows her to teach film in a "very pure way in terms of digital tools and the film-making process".
Her vision for her students is bold – to learn core skills, but also be visionaries creating their own stories.
"We want them to be the next generation of creators, directors and storytellers. Not just realising someone else's vision, but eventually they'll have their own vision that they'll channel into doing their own work."
Selkirk describes the centre as "the final cog", in making sure the village of film-making he helped found has a second generation to keep it going.
"We've set up a space out here – you come through to Miramar, you've got the Stone Street studios, then you go past the Roxy and head down to Weta Digital, and Weta Workshop. You've got Park Road Post next door, and you're right in the thick of it, and that's what's so exciting about being involved with this."