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.


1 Response to “New Home, New life as a “scarfie””

  1. 1 Mitch
    March 24, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Interesting insight into the football madness of Europe. Perhaps if it was me, and thinking about the audience (being Kiwi’s) I would have kept the words exactly the same, but substituted the score for the All Black game at the World Cup! Its that political thing you know! Still you had me hooked – great use of language.

    Good luck – I am sure it will get better. When you are a rich film maker you can employ someone with 15 years in Finance to take the political heat for you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Photos from Flickr.


  • 414 hits

%d bloggers like this: