Is it October already?

The end of academic year already! Doesn’t seem like yesterday since I started this new adventure.

Apologies for the lack of blogs, but I have been keeping a separate blog going for the course, as part of the paper. Hopefully some of you kept up to date with that at http://www.nathistfilm2008.wordpress.com

So, supposedly I should know have all the skills required to make a documentary film! Well, actualy I know I have, because we just did so. One of our assignments was to produce (research, film, direct, edit and manage) a 5 minute film on the topic of “Wild Dunedin”. We then had to package these up into half hour commercial episodes (with yours truly the project manager for the whole thing), and the first one got shown on local TV last week. Yes Mum, I was on the Telly!

Admittedly Channel 9 in Otago probably only has about 5% of the audience of Border TV in the UK, but its a start!

Channel 9 were meant to be uploading the episodes to their website after each broadcast, but have been a bit slow. So I have uploaded the first episode, which includes me and my film, onto You Tube. have had to split it into 4 bits, as YouTube only allows 10 minute clips.

Here they are:

Part 1 –

Part 2 –

Part 3 –

Part 4 –

So what now?

Time to try and earn some money! I might be able to get some contract work back at the bank if need be, but I am hoping to get some work down here in Dunedin getting experience in the TV/film industry.

I have a summer scholarship project that is funded – producing a short film about “wilding pines” for a charitable trust. basically Pine trees that were planted in an area of the south island to prevent soil erosion, that have now spread and are becoming an potential ecological disaster. they want a short film to give to people to help fund raising. So I am off towards Queenstown this weekend to meet the key people, and do some prelim filming.

Then its lots of research for our thesis film that we have to produce to gain the Masters qualification. I’m working with another student – Steve Ting, on a film about 1080. 1080 is a poison that is used to control the pests in New Zealand such as Possums, stoats and rats, but there are a lot of people in New Zealand who are vehemently against the use of 1080, as it has effects on recreational hunting animals such as wild pigs, deer, and is also deadly to dogs. If anyone in NZ has good stories to tell about 1080, please drop us an e-mail at 1080documentary.com.

Other things:

Sinead is soon to go off on her big adventure. She is moving up to Christchurch for 4 months to undertake a course on Antartic studies. This involves 15 days down in antartica itself. Something she has always dreamt of doing. So we are frantically trying to find a short term flat mate, or Sinead will be paying double rent! I have also had to buy myself a cheap $500 car to get me around over summer, as Sinead is taking her car North. Christmas for Sinead will be in Antartica, so I’m heading North to catch up with mark and Family Cleghorn. Back in time for New year, to hopefully collect Sinead off the plane (if the weather allows).

With the rising price of vegies, I have also taken to trying to grow my own. Our landlord lives nextdoor, and he has a patch in his garden that we have turned into a joint veggie plot. Just planted Sprouts, lettuce, broccoli, spinach. Hopefully it will all bear goodness in 10 weeks or so. Although the weather doesn’t always help out. Yesterday it was 28 degrees and sunny here in Dunedin. Today the winds have turned, and its cold and rainy. Just as unpredictable as the lake district!

Have caught up with a couple of people recently on Skype (my skype name is nomad_pete, get in touch!). Had a bizzarre early morning watching the England game via skype webcam that Steve Bamber kindly set up for me. Still miss my footie. Although ironically, the only other game I have seen on the internet was the  Sheffield Derby that we lost controversially!

Will soon be setting up another Blog site for our 1080 film – http://www.1080documentary.wordpresss.com, so keep checking that out.

Feel free to pass on the Wild Dunedin links to friends family. Its all about networking apparently. Who knows – Steven Speilberg might get wind of my on screen talents!

On a last note:

This Christmas – Why not encourage friends/family to make a donation to their favourite charity, rather than buy something that you don’t need and will never use (and in my case will have to be flown half way around the world). Give something to people who really need it? I’ve known of a few people that have suffered or passed away from Cancer over the last year, so I am asking family to donate to one of the cancer charities.


New Home, New life as a “scarfie”

As mentioned, my arrival into Dunedin was very undignified, on the back of a removal truck. But at least I had somewhere Semi permanent to move into, rather than a motel room. Our house is a fairly old 3 bedroom house, owned by the landlord who lives next door. He is doing up his smaller two bedroom house, and wanted someone to rent this place short term. When he is done we will have first option on the smaller house. We were lucky to find the place, as the alternative would have been a few nights in an expensive motel, and stress of having to find a rental property at short notice. This gives us the time to look around for a couple of months, and get a feel for where we want to live.

The area we are in (Font street, Roslyn), is not too bad. The only downside are the hills. Dunedin’s street layout was apparently designed by someone in London, who had never visited the area, but based the layout on Edinburgh’s streets. The result are a lot of very steep streets. In fact there are supposedly streets that were on the original plans that were never built as they were not practical.

The worlds Steepest Street – Baldwin Street is here in Dunedin. A popular sport for coach loads of Japanese tourists, although not sure how many of them make it to the top!


We live about 1.5 km away from the University Buildings, which are more or less at Sea level. And our house is about 140m above sea level. And the last 30m of the walk home is downhill! So getting to and from town is a bit of a task. But other than that its not a bad location. Not overlooking the beach or harbour like our flat in Auckland, but makes up for it in other ways.

Sinead had a fairly eventful 4 days tramping over in Fjordland. Ironically, as I sat under warm blue skies in Dunedin, they had a day of torrential rain, which made them cut their walk a bit short. Meanwhile I had lots of practical stuff to sort out – I had to enroll on my course, and do some meet and greets.

Back to School (Am now officially a Scarfie, the colloquial name for students in Dunedin)! – The course I am studying is a Masters course in Science Communication, and I am studying the film-making component. basically I am learning how to become a wildlife film maker. Studying everything from story telling to the practical aspects of using the cameras and editing the film. A major change from previous career working in Finance, but seemed like an opportunity that I could not turn down. There are only 15 people on the film making stream, and another 10 doing creative writing, so I have done pretty well to get on the course. Its a pretty popular course as well, due to the fact that it is linked to a company called NHNZ (Natural History New Zealand) who are the second largest producers of documentary programmes in the world. We spend Friday Afternoons in their boardroom, meeting people from the business who tell us that its a very commercial world, basically lots of politics (no news there then!).

The first couple of weeks have been a bit daunting and stressful. A wide variety of people on the course, different ages, nationalities, and backgrounds, with most having some knowledge of film making, or a degree in Zoology or Biology. My “15 years in Finance” is definitely original when it comes to doing the introductions. I think many people now think I am an accountant, and will be asking me for assistance when it comes to funding their projects.. I forgot how frustrating University can be as well. We are meeting a lot of people who are experts in the field of documentary film making, which is fantastic to glean their knowledge. However, the most knowledgeable people don’t always make the best teachers, and this has been a bit frustrating at times. Especially since my back condition has not been behaving, and so sitting for hours in lectures is not always comfortable (my new physio seems to think that it is all to do with bad posture and is not convinced with the Ankylosing spondilitious assessment. More frustration!). There are days when I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Its going to cost me a significant amount of money and time to get qualified and then just get a foothold in the industry, time that I could be spend earning decent money elsewhere.

I will try to be patient, and hoepfully things should get more enjoyable as we start to do more practical exercises – very much a practical person, and don’t enjoy listening to people tell me how to do things. We are off on our first field trip next week – heading out to the Otago Peninsula which is abundant with wildlife, such as Sea-lions and Penguins. This is only a few miles from Dunedin. There is also the Albatross colony centre, about 30 km from the centre of Dunedin, one of the few places in the world where Albatross breed on mainland. Most of their colonies are out on Islands like Stewart island. Chekc out www.albatross.org.nz – you can check out the flight path of some of the birds. 80% of their time is spent out at sea.

We have already had a day trip out there, Sinead, Myself and an Aussie from the course called Nathan. Few pictures on the Flickr site.

I am finding that watching TV is becoming a different experience, much to the annoyance of Sinead! I am looking at the way programes are edited, fading from one shot to another, using different lighting techniques to portray different mood. And also looking at the way stories work. One of the key components of our course is story telling. Wildlife films are no longer just sequences of informative dialogue over stunning cinematography. In week 2 of the course we were given a lecture on short stories, and then sent off to write one of our own! I haven’t written a story since I was about 14, so was an interesting test! Attached is my effort. Welcome any feedback! We have to read everyone’s stories and then will be having a feedback session next week.


As part of one of our modules, two of us have set up anther blog site about the course, so rather than go into it too much in detail, you can read more there. http://nathistfilm2008.wordpress.com/

If this blog seems a bit disjointed, its because I have to keep going to make a cup of tea! The other thing about Dunedin, is that it is a bit colder than we were used to in Auckland! We are right down in the Southern End of the South Island of New Zealand, so more like Scotland than Brighton! Although ironically there is a town caled Brighton just down the road!. So far while we have been here the weather has been pretty good. In fact for a while it was warmer here than in Auckland, which got battered by cyclonic winds. But we are already stocking up on wood, ready to fuel the burner. A lot of the property prices seem to be dependent on whether or not the house makes full use of the Sun (which spends most of its time in the North down here in the Southern Hemisphere). When the clouds come over, the temperature drops a bit, so hence the need for cups of tea, or a few star jumps. A lot of the houses have heat pumps, and wood burners, but insulation and double glazing seems not to have made its way down here yet! So the heat that the sun brings during the day is soon lost. Good excuse to cuddle under the Duvet in the evenings watching TV. We can’t start lighting fires yet though, as the neighbours will think we are soft. Its still Summer for them!

We have done a bit of exploring, but a lot of time has been spent catching up with work. Sinead has started an on-line creative writing course. They were a bit slow with her enrollment so she has been playing catch up. She is also hopefully off tramping again next week for 9 days with friends, so needs to get work done before she goes. I say hopefully, because she has a problem with her calf that the physio is trying to sort out before she can go.

Off to write a “Pitch” for as assignment now. We have to come up with an idea for a TV show, and then present this to three of the senior directors at NHNZ in a couple of weeks. Its a cheap way for them to get new ideas. Any good ones may be taken further, and there could be an opportunity of some research work. So quite an important bit of work. Good to make an impression with these guys as well, as they could be one of the potential employers after the course.

And then do some more playing around with one of the movie cameras. We get access to some good equipment, so I am trying to figure out how it works. Not much different from a digital stills camera really. terms like White balance, aperture, shutter speed all apply. Framing subjects is similar as well, you just have to factor in the fact that they move, and can make sound! I am still getting into the habit of not talking while filming. Although to be honest, a lot of the sound affects on natural history films are done at a later stage, and often are not even noises made by animals!

Have set up a video sight, which you can link to from the side bar to the right. There is my first attempt at a sequence, “princess comes home”. We had to film a sequence of shots showing someone coming into a room, selecting a book, and sitting down to read. Just chance to play with the cameras, try different angles and joining shots together.I am going to try and make an effort to keep the blog up to date, as its all good practice for story telling, so hopefully a bit more in a week or two.

Note: Pictures will be uploaded to Flickr, which you should be able to see on the right hand side of the blog.

Hope all is well in your respective lives.


The Road trip

Mass panic on Friday the 8th of february, as we frantically try to load our remaining possessions into a toyota estate car, and a 1987 VW Golf Diesel called “Little T”. The T standing for the piece of agricultural transport that is sounds remarkable like (or sounded.. more on that later)
We had sold some of our furniture, and a removal company had come round on Wednesday and carefully loaded up about 8 cubic metres of stuff + two bikes, that we would not see until we got to Dunedin. This left us with a house full of stuff that we were convinced would fit into the two cars.
The initial confidence soon wavered, as the cards started to fill up, and more and more stuff was brought out. However, some re-arrangment, and the donation of a bean bag to our next door neighbour and we managed to get everything aboard. But then we remembered that we had to collect Sinead’s friend Roz, who was joining us on our road trip, together with any luggage that she may have.
Some further reorganising, and we were on our way.
Me and Bruce, my pet preying mantis set off in the old Golf, and set off down state Highway 1, figuring that if we made it over the Bombay hills (not a Curry House, but hills to the south of Auckland), then I would make it to our first destination – Taupo in the central North Island where we were meeting a few friends to do a man relay race.
Bruce was a matis that took up residence in our bathroom. He had problems shedding his skin, and so I fed him mosquitoes and adopted him as a pet. He is a South African import, so no issues with removing a native from the wild).
I made it over the hill, and parked up an hour or so south in Cambridge. Touring New Zealand is like ding a very crazy zig zag tour of the UK town names. Sinead and Roz soon followed.
Roz is our celebrity companion for the trip. She is an an an amazing lady who had the drive and determination to row solo across the Atlantic, and is now in the process of planning a cross pacific trip. She is very modest about her achievements, but very interesting to talk to, and was in New Zealand to do a series of motivational talks.
Check out her website which is a very interesting read. http://www.rozsavage.com

At Taupo we were also joined by Carolyn, one of my old housemates from Auckland. We then set off in Convoy to find the house we were staying at for the weekend with Mitch andAndy and a few others to do a crazy overnight relay around lake taupo – a total distance of 150 miles split between 13 people.
We arrived at the house to find no keys had been left, so Andy had resourcefully removed a window pane, which was to be our entrance for the next couple of days, until the neighbors turned up with the keys.
The relay was broken into stages of different lengths, some walking, some running. I had originally signed up for a 14 km running stage, but was having doubts about my back. Roz was looking a bit dissapointed after being assigned to only a 7km walk. So I took my chance and offered to swap. But then realised that Andy, who was only planning to walk, was down for a run/walk leg, so I offered to swap with him.
All very confusing, and thankfully Mitch was doing a great job of organising and making sure everyone knew their time and place.
But in the end I ended up running about 10km, about 7kn of which was uphill! Thankfully the back survived.
A good fun event, and one we hope to be able to get back up for next year if we are around.

We then said our fairwells, and headed off down to Wellington, stopping to see the awesome views passing through Tongariro national park (my playground for 4 months last year!).


Stayed overnight in a hotel that we thought was burning down, as the alarm went off as we headed off to get some food. Thankfully a faulty circuit was to blame, and bruce and all our gear was not to be flambayed

Then up early the next day to catch the ferry across to Picton on the South island. A pretty miserable day weather wise, which was a shame for Roz who missed the amazing scenery as the boat comes into Picton. Then straight on down the East coast to Kaikora famous for the whales and other wildlife which frequent the coastal area.

Slight fears checking the weather forecast, as we were booked on a whale watching tour the next day, and the forecast was for large swells. But that didn’t stop us chowing into the local delicacy of crayfish for dinner.

Another early rise the following day and set off to the Whale watch centre. The water looked fairly calm, but the forecast out in the ocean was showing 4m swells. So myself and Sinead armed ourselves with sea-sickness tablets, ginger tablets and acu-pressure bands.
One or a combination of the above must have worked, as the trip was fantastic, and enjoyed by all, without any need for the sick bags. We saw a couple of sperm whales and a huge pod of Dolphins. here is a sample of the photos. The complete set con be found on my Flickr site, which is linked on the right hand side of this blog.

A quick game of mini-golf at a quaint little place(I am planning to write a Mini-golf blog at some point..), and then back to the cars, and drive on down to Christchurch, where we stayed the night. Unfortunately Sinead’s sister Marie-Ann had cunningly planned to be away that weekend, so we bedded down in a motel.

Then the final part of the journey in convoy. we drove for about an hour, and then big hugs, and farwell to Roz, as the girls headed off across country towards Queenstown where they were going to do some tramping (thats walking for us none NZers). Yours truly had to head straight down the coast to Dunedin, as I had to register for my course.
A fairly uneventful journery, resting at Omaru. No time to see the penguins there on this visit.
An uneventful journey that is until I was about 20km out of Dunedin. Rearing up in front of my was a huge hill. Gaining as much speed as possible on the approach, I encouraged “Little T” to make it. My eye dropped alarmingly to the temperature gauge, which was on the rise.
just made it to the top, and pulled over into a layby with steam starting to eek out of the bonnet.
Time for a rest….For me, and for the car.

30 minutes, and several I-pod tunes later, I topped it back up, and tentatively started up. Seemed to be ok, so I set off thinking it must be down hill all the way to our new home. It was downhill, for about 2 miles, and then another hill, bigger and steeper than the last loomed ahead.
Steam emerging, and nowhere to pull over, so I had to struggle on. I saw the lay-by 20m ahead when the pop of a raditor hose signalled more serious problems.

So 1500km out from Auckland, and the Golf finally made it to its new home in Dunedin, albeit on the back of an AA lorry, much to the amusement of our new landlord Chris!

Next chapter – New City, new Student life….


Life change number 367

Forgive me father, for I have sinned, its been over a year since my last blog…

Last time I did one of these things I was in dilemma whether or not to move to Auckland and return to the land of finance, working in an orafice (office…). After spending 4 months living and working on an amazing outdoor education course, it was a tough decision to make.
I was undecided about a career in outdoor education. The course had been fun, and I learned a lot (even though a couple of my course mates were a bit hard work at times). But living and working at an outdoor centre gave me a good idea of the lifestyle. You have to do it for the love, and not the money, and a lot of people there love the outdoors, but its not the positive environment that you might expect. A lot of the instructors would much rather be out enjoying the extreme outdoors, rather than teaching kids all week to do the basics.
I was offered a 3 month placement, which would have been ideal, but unfortunately my application for residency failed, and the centre would not sponsor me. So I had the option of leaving New Zealand, or getting a Job that would Sponsor me.
I decided that I was not ready to leave NZ, and so took a job working for the bank of New Zealand in Auckland.

Am not going to go into detail about the last 16 months. Some of you know the basics.
It was a year of highs and lows.
The job was frustrating and boring at times, and I was tempted a couple of times to leave NZ and return home, especially as I was finding it difficult to settle in Auckland where it is difficult to make new friends.
I was also having ongoing back problems, I have spent the last 18 months seeing various specialists, physiotherapsts and doctors, as well as forking out large amounts of money for X-rays and an MRI. The latest diagnoses is that I am suffering from Anklyosing Spondlytis – an inflamatory disorder which causes my back and hip joints to flare up, especially after long periods of inactivity, such as sleeping. Currently treating it with anti inflammatories and daily stretchng exercise. It is more of an annoyance than a disability, and it has not stopped me from doing some fun stuff over the year, such as the Mud run, or play a bit of football. I just suffer for it a bit more than I usually would the following day..

The year did have its good points though. I had managed to convince the BNZ to let me work only 4 days a week, and I spent the other day working at Auckland Zoo as a volunteer. Not normally a fan of Zoo’s but Auckland isn’t too bad, and when I got work helping to Keepers I got up close and personal with some amazing Animals, including taking Cheetahs for walks, and feeding Tigers.

I gained my residency in march 2007, and have only just left work, so the BNZ wasn’t too bad. mainly because of the people that I eventually worked with. Especially one specific person, a Beautfiul English lady called Sinead (Irish mother), who started work last May. We got on so well that we ended up causing a lot of office gossip, and eventually decided to rent a flat together. 🙂
We also got up to some fun stuff, doing a few “adventure” races which seem to be very popular here in NZ for the mega fit all the way down to people like us who were just in it for fits and giggles..

So we were starting to settle a we bit in Auckland, and even had a fantastic flat with a million dollar view over Auckland Harbour.

But I came to New Zealand to do something different, and would not be happy stuck in an office for much longer, so spent the last few months wondering whether to go back and try the outdoor thing again, or try something different.

Was told about a course that my Kiwi mate mark had applied for a few years ago. A masters degree in Science Communication, with an option to specialize in Film-making. basically the opportunity to learn how to make Natural History films from some of the best in the business.
After a hasty application, and then a very short phone interview which I was convinced I had flunked I was offered a place on the course.
Only thing was, it was in Dunedin – the far south of the South Island, and was starting in 3 months. A lot of soul searching and discussions with Sinead, we both agreed it was an oppotunity not to be missed.
So we both quit our jobs at the BNZ, must to the consternation of our boss who was losing two employees, and after a few farewell do’s, lots of paperwork, and some packing, we set off on a road trip with two carfuls of stuff to travel 1500km down from Auckland down to Dunedin for me to start a new exciting chapter in my life as a poor student, and for Sinead to wonder what she was going to do in Dunedin (there is always the cadburies factory), and why she had left a perfectly good job in Auckland and followed me down to the cold end of the country.

Next chapter – the road trip, Me, Sinead, Bruce (my new pet Mantis) and a slightly famous celebrity in tow..

Photos from Flickr.


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