COW TV (2004 – Part 3)

Continued on from part 2.

So with free afternoons and a lot of grand ideas of helping on the production, I was thrown straight into helping. Cam was brilliant and was always telling me more about shooting for sequences, editing tips, and cut downs. Some of the earlier things I did were far too long and needed better editing, but this was also helped by better shooting plans.

I ended up shooting with Hamish for the Night and Day News segment quite a bit, and Hamish seemed to enjoy having someone to shoot for him that he didn’t have to direct much, that I could be expected to go off and shoot the content and cutaways needed outside of his pieces to camera and interviews. Otherwise being around during the early evening meant I was also asked to come shoot Flat Raids and other such events too, plus any other crazy things in and around the station for that evenings show. I also ended up doing the shooting for the Walk of Shame segment after a couple of months, and Cam gave me great feedback on the material I brought back. The experience there also led to me working on a few paid jobs for Channel 9 itself and eventually rolling into working on the News in a variety of ways.

On top of this I continued my studio shoots for Cow in the evenings too. More and more often I was doing handheld camera work and enjoying every moment of it. For the first few months I didn’t miss a single show, and so 5 nights a week I was there no matter what.

One night it snowed, and minimal crew came in. So Ivan and I built a fort out of the set materials.

One night it snowed, and minimal crew came in. Ivan and I built a fort, and most of what screened that night was highlights from the year so far.

Sun, Rain, or even snow. The first snow night was cold, and we went out and shot students being crazy in the sea level snowfall. Some of the out of town students had never seen snow that wasn’t on a mountain. It could only be called snow madness what we saw. The studio was so quiet that night that Ivan and I were the only crew for the two presenters, and we built a fort for the presenters to use. Aside from the snow content, we played recent highlights because little else had been shot. For some reason, other than the photos I have from the night, this sticks out as a clear early memory.

It wasn’t until probably late April before I missed any shows. The only one I did at first was a debating show for who knows what, and I still watched it from home. Around Easter I went back up to Wellington for the long weekend, missing the Tuesday night show. But after that for the rest of the year until just after mid July I didn’t again miss a single episode. I was hooked, and most of the time I was in on camera, on the studio floor, having a blast.

Me getting ready for a night of shooting sometime in early 2004. I don't look as thrilled as I normally was when we were on air.

Me getting ready for a night of shooting sometime in early 2004. I don’t look as thrilled as I normally was when we were on air.

Shoots out of the studio though were a blur after a while. I did some event at the Meridian Mall with Nathan Rarere being interviewed, numerous Night and Day stories with Hamish, more Walk of Shame’s including one on a particularly frosty morning with Ivan as my presenter after a major Rugby game between the All Blacks and British Lions. Music interview after music interview, usually with Craig Easson interviewing, flat raids with Rob Dixon, Who Dares Wins Beers with Jim Bush, plus sports interviews with whoever was there to do them. The Hyde Street Keg party (where I got hit with five month old rotten milk while filming, thanks to William Miller), 24 Book Sale coverage, New Zealand Idol coverage, talked to Politicians. We covered the Leith Bike Race, Jaffa Race, setup a Supermarket Trolley race and filmed it as an event, did milk challenges outside on the street by the studio live, filmed events at the Uni Games which was in Dunedin that year. Went to pubs and shot bands. But then also Lip Syncing and Air Guitar competitions at student pubs as well, and many many many more.

Rob Jackson gets hit in the face by a unexpected snowball during filming in the snow in 2004.

Rob Jackson gets hit in the face by a unexpected snowball during filming in the snow in 2004.

After Gwyneth Paltrow filmed a movie in Dunedin (the movie Sylvia) Hamish, Ivan, and I visited Corstorphine House, the most expensive accommodation in Dunedin, where she stayed. And compared it to a scummy student flat on Hyde Street. Hamish and Ivan did some inappropriate things in the Russian Room and Hamish jumped onto the beds, climbed into empty baths, and slid down stair railings. The owners weren’t impressed apparently.

One of the events we filmed at the Oriental Tavern (‘The Ori’) was a talent competition which introduced us to Callum Macdonald. Callum was studying Television and started to come into help on the show. From then on until just last year in 2013 he was a face you’d see around the station a lot.

We had guest try to pin the "tail on the honkey", in reference to a then recent event with Don Brash.

We had guest try to pin the “tail on the honkey”, in reference to a then recent event with Don Brash.

Studio shows weren’t slacking often either. From hallway jousting, cooking segments, setting up former CH9 news reader and TV3 reporter Shaun Summerfield (walking through an old CH9 new promo banner with his face on it), a ‘pin the tail on the honkey’ game (Don Brash inspired, pic above). We had bands play (including one punk band which overfilled the studio – probably should have got us in trouble on the weight and fire hazards no doubt), setup a Female Boxing bout between Sasha and Anna somehow, had Highlanders Cheerleaders in the studio (cheering for anything and everything on that episode), plus numerous other celeb guests and sports stars in and on as interviews between anything else Cam could get in each night. So many I could probably go on and on if I could just remember them all.

Craig Easson often did music interviews, like this one with some possibly well known guy... or whatever....

Craig Easson often did music interviews, like this one with some possibly well known guy… or whatever….

Sadly it couldn’t last forever, for both me and others. In around mid July I left for a couple of weeks back to Wellington, and out of some luck secured some paid contract work while I was away, it didn’t start for a month or so though. I returned to Dunedin in early August and continued to help on the show for a few more weeks until I was due to be back in Wellington for the job. At the same time Cam had also found other work outside of Dunedin and left as the Cow producer in early August. Matt took over now presenting and producing the show.

I can’t comment much on what happened after I left. The biggest highlight for the guys was probably a whole saga with presenter Rob Jackson’s flatmate calling up and playing random midi music frequently, being labeled the “Musicman” and then a Beastie Boys inspired Cow Squad thing trying to hunt him down. William Miller got in trouble for helping himself to a large amount of beer trying to secure an interview with a famous international rap star who visited Dunedin (he didn’t get the IV but the singer got the beer). The guys got on the final episode of the show Sportscafe being filmed in Dunedin and literally tore the set to pieces. There was probably much more again but I never saw much of it.

By the time I returned just before Christmas the year was well over, and because I had so much fun in 2004 I wanted to come back for the 2005 year. Little did I know just how different it would be.

To be continued…

COW TV (2004 – Part 2)

The poster for the show... "We're Back Violating Your Television"

The poster for the show… “We’re Back Violating Your Television”

Continued from part 1.

So I turned up on the following Monday evening to Channel 9. As I mentioned last time, the station is located in the Allied Press building – home of the Otago Daily Times. Allied is currently the only remaining independent newspaper company left in NZ, and had taken full ownership of Channel 9 after it faced financial problems in 2002. This meant that for most all of my time at the company, the station never spent money it didn’t have to. Regional television is done bare bones, smell of an oily rag most of the time… but this generally means the people that come out of working from it really do well with challenges. The station itself is on the top floor of the building, floor 3, and you either took the full set of stairs up or crammed yourself into what is likely to be the world smallest elevator.

Once you’re inside there is a reception area with no receptionist, just a TV showing the current on air material from the station and some couches. At the time I first arrived, the News team was in the front area with the sales people. The office behind that was the production managers, who at the start of 2004 was Dan Wright – who’d been there since 2001. Beside that a large office for the station manager, Keith Collins. Then two edit suites, one analogue tape-to-tape, used mostly by the news guys and a digital suite with two computers running Adobe Premiere.

The Channel 9 station logo and slogan, which used to be at the end of the main hallway.

The Channel 9 station logo and slogan, which used to be at the end of the main hallway.

Behind this area was the old CowTV room, then used for random storage. Beside that a tape store, and then beside that a large space that was the new Cow office… the “Cow hole” I believe I mentioned previously. The other areas in the floor included the studio space, and a moderately small control room with vision desk, three tape machines, Grass Valley switcher, sound desk, and a rack of broadcast equipment that should have probably had it’s own room but never did.

My intent was to do a great job being part of the studio crew, hopefully jump on a camera and show I felt confident as a camera operator, and show my enthusiasm for the work. When I arrived, I was instructed to help setup both the remaining pieces of the set not yet out and the camera equipment. The studio space was surprisingly not as big as I had expected, having not seen it when I originally visited. I’d seen plenty of COW and also the local news, and straight away remembered that things always generally look larger on camera. Half of the studio was taken up full time by the news desk, the other half was where every other production was made at the station. The split was made by two doors on either side – one which went out to the front offices, the other intro the control room. Of the half of the non news space, COW used up half of this space again for the set, and half or so (spilling slightly back into the news area) for a 3 camera setup for the hour of live content. The studio was probably only 4×8 meters square in total size.

My first notice aside from the studio of things was that, while it was still a hive of activity with a number of people around, there certainly wasn’t as many people as had been there the start of the previous week. There was also a few new faces that I didn’t recognize, some people from the meeting, and a few I did simply as they’d who’d been working on the show the last year or so – mostly presenters. Also floating around was Dan Wright, who was Channel 9’s production manager as I mentioned, who I’d never talked to until that point. I had a quick chat with him between setting stuff up, and found him quite an easy to talk to and laid back guy. He seemed to be good friends with some of the crew around, people who’d he’d obviously been working with the last few years.

Those people who’d been around previous years and Dan gave instructions, and so I listened and tried to do or otherwise copy what they were doing. I was spending most of my time setting up Camera One. This was going okay, until I managed to insert the external camera monitor cable into a different plug location. As the camera cables were bundled and already in (power supply, gen lock/picture and reference sets), the power was provided to both front and rear of the camera, and I’d already switched both on being told that was okay… and not knowing this would happen. And so this tripped an internal circuit breaker… meaning the camera was still powered on but nothing would seemingly function including sending out a picture.

As I was providing that feed already into the control room once the power was on, and they’d seen the picture short out… from the control room doorway came this pale dark haired character who proceed to yell at me, tell me I was very stupid, and that I should go home. He proceeded to turn everything off on the camera, flick a tiny hidden switch under the camera which reset the breaker, and then proceeded to finish setting up the camera… give me a glance, and then stomp out.

A voice cut across the room. “Don’t mind him, that’s just Wayne… he’s like that with all the new people.” I didn’t know him at all, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to but I was reassured that I should just carry on. Later I would get to know Wayne… and he was a real crack up. The first few months of 04 he was holding the station together and was under a lot of stress, little sleep, and long hours. He was seemingly difficult and when I had to work with him on actual projects I didn’t know how I would deal with him. In later years when I got to know him better, we’d joke around a lot and I counted on him a lot for helping me with his never ending technical know how. He’d later finally leave Channel 9 in 2006 and eventually moved to TV3 in Auckland, where from what I’ve been told he’s basically just become the same technical guru for them as he was for Channel 9.

Part of the Channel 9 control area. From left to right - Barry, Dan, and Wayne.

Part of the Channel 9 control area. From left to right – Barry, Dan, and Wayne.

Back to that first night though…. intending not to make anymore mistakes, I planned to moved on and just do what I could.

We found that the set of lights in the studio were numerous but old. They were all more or less locked into a general position but could all be turned around with the trusty lighting stick or by climbing up a ladder and positioning them. A call went out for people with lighting experience, and I put my hand up… along with another fellow. We ended up chatting and working out our respective “lighting history.” His name was Ivan Larsen, originally from Levin, and just moved to Dunedin to study medicine at Otago University.

Ivan had done a lot of lighting, sound and tech stuff mostly for school shows, and he had far more experience than I had while I was at film school. I’d done two days of studio work which mostly had us looking over lighting plans. The rest of my lighting experience was just from 3 point light setups for interviews, which was ironically good enough to help out because basically that’s more or less how we were lighting this set – aside from a giant fill light above the door to the control room.

Ivan Larsen on sound duties, looking like a filthy bad man.

Ivan Larsen on sound duties, looking like a filthy bad man.

Between us we went around adjusting lights, having presenters or other people sit in the seats, looking at getting it even, that it wasn’t too harsh or in eye-lines. After a half hour or so, a few placement adjustments, cutting some lights, and some gel/spun work – we’d got it sussed. By then more or less the rest of the studio was set, with mics and cameras all in place. I got to call for a camera position, #3 – one of the close ups. Cam called a meeting and we discussed stuff and did a little bit of rehearsal, probably one of the only ones we ever did that year, just so people could get a feel for the show.

The presenters were Matt and Sasha, both from the previous year. Matt was generally open and funny, Sasha was mostly quiet. As a combo onscreen it generally worked, for some odd reason… both talked fine, they were opposites in backgrounds and seemingly balanced it out. If Matt was over the top, then Sasha was the straight-man… or woman as it was. Two 2003 segment presenters, Jim Bush and Rob Dixon were also around, having been filming flat raids and other things during Orientation. They would be on and off the show during the year based on what they were doing outside the show.

The presenter audition night. Sasha is behind the Cow desk. Matt, in tan, Cam in blue. Tony on the ground getting a shot ready to come back to.

The presenter audition night. Sasha is behind the Cow desk. Matt, in tan, Cam in blue. Tony on the ground getting a shot ready to come back to.

Supporting them in doing the “Night and Day News” segment was Hamish Coleman-Ross, also another last year veteran. Although I think if Hamish was there that night at all, he wasn’t there for long. Hamish’s then girlfriend Victoria Rushton was probably also wasn’t, though later on she often did work on the sound desk. Barry Findley was directing, he’d been doing the show for a while, and was in almost every night to do this. I think William Miller, who was then this young kid was also around, he just wanted to help out and ended up in the control room most of the time (If he wasn’t put in a giant cow suit which had been made). And there was Tony Pratt, who was often the main camera 1 operator and who was on “handheld” for good chunks of the show. Tony and I would usually end up working together on a lot of studio shows, tag teaming the camera work around the static #2 wide cam. The rest of the guys running around were mostly friends of Cam’s who were involved in early shoots, including John Day who’d done heaps for Cam during Orientation – who I’d end up working with a few years later somewhere else entirely. He now does the Sports news for the Rock FM radio station morning show.

The other person that came in for camera in the early days was Harley Neville. Harley was well known for doing a segment in 2003 called ‘Cow’s Rear End’ and mostly was dumb and/or gross stunts that would have fit in with Jackass or similar. The story for why Harley got in trouble for this is better left for another post, but he wasn’t supposed to be allowed to make new content for the show… but Cam had somehow convinced Keith to allow him come work on the show floor at least.

Then as my memory is, I don’t remember much who else was there… and aside from glaring gaps – there was a simple reason probably. It turns out that the promotion of “work” there meant lots of people turned up, as I’d seen the previous week, but the drop off rate was quite high. Between people realizing it’s not at all paid, or could be a while before they’re going to get paid work, as well as students not really having time for it and realizing this, or the simple fact people can’t volunteer every day. This would later work to the advantage of anyone who stuck around – including my own – and was probably a bigger factor than me just doing ‘awesome work’.

The first show went off almost without a hitch. As the week went on I helped on a few small segments, but turned up for every show. By later in the week I got to do some handheld segments and shots, and felt like every day when I came in I was contributing to the show. By show 5 on the Friday, Hamish did a special on party pills mixed with alcohol, and I can still clearly remember getting an extreme close up of his eye which we cut to showing the effect you could see on his face as well as a “party” zone with a smoke machine and strobe light, that the entire cast and some of the other studio crew was in by the end of the night.

In studio the following weeks, later in March, we had a “be a cow presenter” comp, people had auditioned during Orientation and came in. Out of it the show got a new host in Anna Hegarty, who was already friends with some of the guys anyway including Cam, John, and others; and Rob Jackson. Rob lost the presenter challenge by a small margin but hung around to help on the show. Later on in the year Anna took off overseas, and so Rob filled in the presenter position he’d originally gone for.

Anna interviews a guy they found busking outside the Countdown supermarket.

Anna interviews a guy they found busking outside the Countdown supermarket.

I’d started an advertising design course at Aoraki Polytechnic, which was a 2 minute walk from Allied’s building, to up my graphic abilities. I’d done this as I’d found I’d enjoyed making graphics for edits the previous years, when most students were just using basic text in the films. My course normally finished mid-afternoons (and at lunch time once a week on Fridays) so within a few weeks in I started popping in after this time.

By doing so I began helping out on going out and shooting segments… and without knowing a new chapter began already…

To be continued once more…

Visa 2

An update to my original article on my Ancestry Visa application

While I’d originally been told that the application could take up to 12 weeks to be processed, surprisingly the Visa arrived in less than two and half weeks. I posted the package at lunchtime Thursday, and Wednesday-week later received an e-mail telling me the Visa was dispatched and my materials will be returned within a few days. The package arrived before lunchtime on the following Monday. It begins in mid May and provides me with up to 5 years cover for my existence in the UK.

Now I just need to get there around August and find a job…

COW TV (2004 – Part 1)

Last year I somehow entirely missed the fact it had been over a decade since I went to film & TV school at Avalon… which I did in the later half of 2003. So it’s with a little forethought that I think slightly in advance at what I did with my 2004.

The Allied Press building, Channel 9 (now Freeview 39) is located on the top (3rd) floor on the right side of this photo. Image from TrekEarth.

The Allied Press building, Channel 9 (now Dunedin TV Freeview 39) is located on the top (3rd) floor on the right side of this photo. Image from TrekEarth.

In December of 2003 I arrived back in my home town of Dunedin, just shortly before Christmas. Having just finished my course I decided to check in with the local TV station in town, Channel 9, to see if I could put my hand up for work. I met with the then station manager, Keith Collins, and we discussed the simple point of working at the station usually started with those who worked their way up through from volunteering for the student TV show. That show was COW TV.

The logo for CowTV

The logo for CowTV

I’d watched quite a bit of COW in 1999 and 2000, it’s first couple of years, and now and then at random through 2001-2003. The show was created by Clarke Gayford, who’d gone on to reasonable success in New Zealand as a presenter and producer among other work, as a university focused entertainment show. While he’d created the idea while at study in Christchurch, he’d instead managed to get it up and running in Dunedin focused for the students of Otago University.

The first season in 1999 was hosted by a few different people, but the main duo for the bulk of the first year was made of Andrew Mulligan (still on TV, as main co-host Sky/Prime’s Crowd Goes Wild) and Marcus Sonntag (who last I heard is working in upper level banking for ANZ Bank). They probably remain the best known of the hosts as far as the history of the show is concerned, although some other hosts in later years would be more well known for other work in other shows.

CowTV Presenters from 1999, Marcus Sontagg (L) and Andrew Mulligan (R).

CowTV Presenters from 1999, Marcus Sontagg (L) and Andrew Mulligan (R).

The show itself, which started as one recorded, usually in the field, half hour per week for around 40 weeks of the year, was very funny… with skits and segments, the most infamous being the Walk of Shame. I’ll come back to this aspect much later to further discuss the content. However the title itself reflected this screening slot, originally meaning “Campus Otago Weekly TeleVision.” In the 2000 season some sort of outside research told Channel 9’s owners they should move the show from a night slot to a live studio based AM show to boost viewers – which was later found to be a bad move and the show later returned to nights. As the years went on the show increased in duration and episodes per year, and when I’d started watching it again more regularly by early 2003 (following some dramatic changes to the station in 2002) the show was around 1 hour long per episode and on, absurdly, 5 nights a week at 10pm.

Anyway, I was told in the meeting with Keith that he’d take my details and pass them on in the new year to the shows producer, who hadn’t yet been organized, and I’d probably hear from him in early Feb once the show was coming together.

I got a call from the show’s producer in Feb as Keith had said I would. His name was Cam Williams and he’d been working on the show on and off for a few years while also working on other “actual productions” around the country. Being COW’s producer was seemingly a last minute thing for him, as I believe he’d been planning on being elsewhere but when some expected work seemed to be pushed back or cancelled he ended up taking the gig of COW TV Producer for the meantime. Channel 9 it seemed had also struggled to see someone take the position until then and so it seemed of benefit to both parties.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Cam was the best first producer you could hope for. I would find out later that he knew what he wanted, was assertive when it was needed, yet entirely laid back otherwise. He taught you stuff which was important, and while he may not of specifically cared about the show on the surface all the time, he still always appreciated what it allowed for people in learning and always made sure it was fun for the volunteers. I guess especially because he appreciated the people giving up their own time to make his job easier.

On top of it all he did simply his job as the producer, including coming in the day after each show and cutting out highlights from each episode before for highlight shows and reels, pleasing the sponsors with material, and making sure as best he could there was content for every night. This seems like something you don’t need to state, producer does his job… how amazing. However I would learn the following year what the complete antithesis of this would be. but that’s a story for another time.

My brief meeting with Cam was straight forward, he asked what I had studied, what I was interested in as far as the content, and then told me he’d let me know when to come in – but said that it would likely be the first week of the University’s orientation week around the middle of the month. I’d known some of the guys who’d worked on the 2003 season through my Web Design/Animation course the start of 2003 (they were doing TV training in the same building), and I expected a few people to be there and I was hoping I could do something good with my more recently earned skills.

When I got a call to come in during the first week of Orientation I was excited, and I arrived shortly before the time I was supposed to. I was however disheartened when I walked into the back office space, which I would later find out was designated “the COW hole,” was crowded with no less than two dozen people. The meeting divvied up the planned work over the couple of weeks during the University orientation… people being sent to cover concerts, toga parades, doing the ‘find a presenter’ drive, shooting opening credits and stings, creating skits, crews raiding flats in the evening, being sent out to do the years first Walk Of Shame coverage… the list seemingly went on and on.

However once everything was divvied up I, along with a few others, were left with nothing because our unspecific skills didn’t seem as well suited to field shoots it seemed or didn’t know the existing guys well enough to join in. I was instead told to turn up around 6.30-7pm on the next Monday for the first show of the year.

I was disheartened over what had happened and I left the Channel 9 building feeling quite rejected, perhaps even more so because it was volunteer work and yet I didn’t seem like I’d been used for even that most simplest of jobs. But the more I thought I simply just realized there was so many people helping out and there just wasn’t enough work to do. Instead I just decided that I’d try to do my best for that first show at the station itself… maybe that’s where my skills would be best put to use, in the live studio shoot. And so indeed in making this decision to do the best job I could for the live studio part I had, unknowingly, set forward the best plan I could have ever decided.

To be continued in another post….


UK Visa Page

Having to constantly log into this page hasn’t been the worst of my issues, but it hasn’t helped…

It’s been a few weeks since I last made a post on here, and most of that has to do with the requirements of working towards getting my UK Ancestry visa… which is almost over, as far as me sending the application. I’ll then have to wait up to 12 weeks for it to be returned to me which at this point, if it’s that long or longer might be cutting it a bit close to our travel time.

The system that allows you to get the visa is very obtuse, partly one assumes to make sure it’s kinda idiot proof and they don’t just allow anyone in, but sometimes it’s just generally vague and occasionally back to front and I don’t know if that’s intentional or not. For example the Ancestry visa information on the UK Border site doesn’t tell you any specifics on what you may need for your application. However once you’ve filled out your form details via the online application site, paid your application fee, and set an appointment for Biometrics (where they scan you finger prints and take your photo)… when you turn up to the Biometrics appointment they give you a sheet which has more information on it about what they specifically want from you as visa application evidence. At that point it’s like “Gee, that might be more helpful at the start before I filled out the forms.”

I also found the forms I printed for the biometrics were missing information the website gives you while filling out the forms, and silly me forgot to take along my passport (obvious I know) like it said in small print on one particular page but not on any of the print outs I was supposed to take. So I’ve had to rebook.

That also was difficult. Or not. In the end I could change/cancel my original appointment online and rebook it for another time. But the person at the biometrics didn’t tell me this. And I otherwise had to call an 0900 paid toll phoneline and then also pay $12NZD on top via credit card to get them to try to rebook it for the next day, which they didn’t. Nor did they tell me I could just do it myself on the online application. And this was after ringing and ringing and ringing just to get someone. And the first time I called, their line – which was terrible quality – dropped out. So I had to start all over again.

In a slight panic the following day trying to find out if I was re-booked, tried calling them again only to never get through. A call to the local Immigration office where the biometrics are held didn’t help that much (they tried, but the system doesn’t give names for the biometric interviews until the time comes) and a suggestion to try the British High Commission only resulted in the same websites and numbers I knew because they are apparently completely separate. In the end I just re-booked online as I mentioned.

The internet is mostly, thankfully, helpful for the problems you’ll face as far as people telling you what they sent…. but it’s even unclear as to what you need to send so much. Things like birth certificates and name changes files are obvious, and while you need to show you have money to live in the UK while you look for work… how much they consider correct is up in the air. Some people have reported to have as little as 3000NZD (or about 1500 UK pounds) and still got through, but then again no one is that sure about it.

None of this also deals with me having to get all the birth certificates, and the problems with errors on those I had to deal with… or the overall costs for all this ($570 for the visa application, probably like $30 in phone calls, more again in petrol, parking, etc. and then the certificates which must have been between $150-200 in total).

In any case this is what I’ve put in my package for evidence, and I’ll write another post later letting you know if I got the visa or if there was problems. Which I hope not as that might cause later issues.

1 x Visa Application Printout – signed at Biometric Appointment
1 x Booking Form for Biometric Appointment – signed at Appointment
1 x New Zealand Passport & Photocopy of ID Page
2 x Passport Style Photographs – Meeting required UK format standard
1 x Grandfather’s Birth Certificate & Photocopy
1 x Grandparent’s Marriage Certificate & Photocopy
1 x Father’s Birth Certificate & Photocopy
1 x Parent’s Marriage Certificate & Photocopy
1 x Personal Birth Certificate & Photocopy
1 x Proof of Current Employment and Remuneration Letter from Employer
8 x Most Recent Payslips from Current Employment
1 x Certified Bank Statement showing current funds for UK Travel
1 x Letter confirming certification of Bank Statement and Account
1 x Recent Curriculum Vitae
6 x Job seeker website confirmation e-mail printouts
1 x Pre-addressed returned Signature Courier bag for my materials to be returned to me

Wish me luck…


DVD Shelf

My collection of DVD’s and BluRay discs… probably obsolete by 2017 :p

I generally think I watch a lot of movies… more than the average person anyway. I’ve also, since 2002, purchased a large amount. I’ve met a few people who buy more, but the majority of people I know rent, borrow, and probably download most of what they watch. I generally have a backlog, and I always have a list of things upcoming I want to see. They see my shelf and just don’t quite get why I have so many discs, especially when they’ll likely all be obsolete in a number of years.

The above image is my current shelf, barring a few other DVD’s and boxsets on a shelf to the right just slightly out of shot… I listed over 900 items, including that many boxsets have multiple items – it’s probably over 1000 films… and I’ll probably not get to watch most of it again for a few years at least. It’s staying behind in storage in NZ while I take off overseas.

I started, as mentioned above, with my first DVD in 2002… that purchase was the special edition of Die Hard. For the first three or four years I watched everything I purchased in full, generally including all of the extra features… which was my main incentive for the purchases a lot of the time. These days I don’t tend to watch all the extras like I once did, but on films I’m a fan of I tend to watch as much of the bonus features as I can.

It filled a thirst for film knowledge that I’ve always had, or can at least always remember having. I used to, when very young, always look out for those “Behind The Scenes” specials of upcoming movies, filled with fluff press kit material, but interesting regardless and watch programs like Entertainment Tonight when it was actually mostly about film and TV show production rather than gossip to catch how movies were made.

In the late 90’s I managed to see a few Laserdisc films, and it was here I first saw the extra materials some filmmakers were filling their discs with. The best couple of ones I saw were Peter Jackson’s Director’s Cut of The Frighteners, and without a doubt the most packed for a number of years – James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day release. I would later buy both of these on DVD when they were released, yet the amount of special features are still a rare event.

And so my collection expanded. I got access to a program called DVD Profiler and have been logging them all. If you’re interested in seeing a full list from the program, then check out this link for them. However in recent years I’ve cutback heavily on my purchases, both for lack of space, but also to help save money for my travels.

I will still watch a lot of film once I leave no question, but my future will be rentals and digital purchase downloads. By the time I do return to my stored collection, I suspect a lot of new films might not be available in any other way. It might be sad thing, but it may also save me space in my home and money in my wallet.


Avalon Studios - Stole this from Ric's goodbye post!

I’ve been working at my current job at Avalon Studios for over 5 years now, and aside from the odd moments, I’ve never disliked it. I also had the luck of training here at the school (which closed in 2007) back in 2003 years before working here. I joke sometimes all I do is push buttons a lot, and I do, but what we’re doing is either live content, recorded shows, archive materials, and lots more. I’ve learned a lot and got to teach people too. It might not be in my original plans of working more with field shoots and camera and lighting gear, but as a full time job it’s been great to still be involved in the industry.

Avalon Studios is an amazing facility that sadly for more than half it’s life just hasn’t been used the way it deserved to. I’ve said it to plenty of people, both who work here and others asking about my work, but if it was located elsewhere in the world the place would be always humming along. Instead, outside of contracted company staff, the core company that now owns Avalon runs on only around 30 staff. For a building made to fit hundreds (and did at it’s peak) that’s insane.

Built by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC) in the early 70’s, Avalon Studios opened as a purpose built facility for the main hub of New Zealand television. And that’s what it did when it opened in 1975. Any NZ made television between then and 1990 probably either was made at, shot by Avalon crews, or had begun in it’s halls. And if it wasn’t any of those it was instead being transmitted or retransmitted from the facility. The NZBC was split in the 70’s, radio and TV into separate entitles, and TV became “Television New Zealand” or TVNZ and under the focus of a new “state owned company” things were going to slowly change.

By 1989 the face and shape of TV had indeed been changing as a drift towards Auckland over the years finally reached a flow over and Avalon’s future would be forever changed after 1990. Less and less was produced over the years, and through into the 2000’s TVNZ looked at selling the facility, which it accomplished back in April 2013. And while it’s never fully stopped producing content, come this October 2nd when Trackside, operating two racing channels, finishes broadcasting after almost 22 years of doing so at Avalon (the full run of it existence so far, it too also moves to Auckland), almost 40 years of broadcast operation comes to an end as well.

I’ve spent a good chunk of last year editing a reel to be played in the lobby of around half of the almost 40 years of content made here. And it’s just been crazy to think not much more prime time TV would be made here. The facility will go on as a dry hire site for commercial, film and some TV productions which come in from the outside… but the staff I work with on a day to day basis will sadly be let go. The knowledge and experience of these people, some who’ve been here since before the place opened, shouldn’t be left to go to waste.

I will be leaving this job at the end of May, before I end up being another one who is in October, and yet I would have loved to have been leaving knowing that the facility was going to have a future with a well crewed team. I will miss the location, but I will miss the people I’ve worked with even more. The fact instead in a few months it’ll be mostly empty is criminal… people in this country just don’t know what we’ve got right in front of us.


Dunedin Harbor Basin

In around four and a bit months from now I will, all things going to plan, be traveling overseas for the first time. Why it’s taken me so long is due to so many reasons not worth writing into this because… well it would take days to write and read no doubt… but it’s been that I have wanted to leave my country and see more parts of the world for a very long time.

For around 15 years I would stare out of my parents front window to a view, not that different than shown above, wondering what was outside of my hometown of Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island. Until my late teens I didn’t even really venture outside of my own city however, and neither me or my parents could never afford any real travel barring a couple of trips around Otago or into Central Otago in the early 90’s.

I don’t know when exactly my viewpoint really changed on wanting to visit more places, especially given when I was younger I was the type of kid who would really want to stay at home overnight. Not being at home was rare for a while. Sometime around 11 or 12 or so I guess that changed and I would do the usual sleepovers at friends watching movies and playing games (usually stuff beyond our age range we probably shouldn’t have been watching) and having pizza and other junk food. But sometime around high school, and with outside access to the world via the internet in the mid to late 90’s I guess I got more keen on the idea. And so I spent more time thinking about places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do…

It wasn’t until a year or two after high school that I finally went to see a more distant part of my own country, visiting our capital city of Wellington and my good friend Andrew for 3 weeks at the start of 2002. That was my first plane trip, my first visit outside of the South Island, and I had a great time. After this I studied in Wellington for 6 months in the second half of 2003 and it became my second home over the following three years (I went between the two at least a dozen times) until in late 2006 I moved there once more and have been living there since.

I’ve been lucky though, between work and other trips I’ve managed to see a great deal of my own country in the past 12 years or so, probably almost 80% I guess. Most people don’t even see that much of their own country before travel overseas I’m often told and New Zealand is so varied and interesting I feel lucky to have seen everything I have. One day I will return and see the other 20 or so % I’ve missed out on, but currently it’s time to look forward to seeing new places overseas…


Hello there internet.

Sorry about the mess, or more specifically the lack there of, for this is the first post while I get a hang of this whole WordPress thing. So for now the site is in a basic look… I’ll get on to changing this up in time.

This is the first post for the new year, and hopefully I will soon be filling this with the sorts of pointless to the world guff that everyone else does. But simply with major moving travel and job changes in the future I hopefully will post the occasional nugget of something actually interesting.

Until then…

Game Of The Post #6: Black

Format: Sony Playstation 2
First Person Shooter
Developer: Criteron Games
Publisher: EA
Released: 2006
Black was an odd title. But fun. In a world heading more and more towards online FPS titles, especially modern based warfare ones, Black would probably be considered the last hurrah to the old school single player titles. Especially given it’s 2006 release. And yet for it’s time it looked incredible. Gun porn was what the developers called it, the menus alone had high rendered real time weapons firing off in the background and the level of detail on the weapons and enviroments throughout the game was exceptionally high.
The difficulty curve was high and hard, but very rewarding. One level involving a bridge attack in particular was very challenging but ranks high in my memory of the game. The plot however ranked low overall which isnt surprising as it was added as an afterthought and ended on a semi-cliff hanger, which never will be followed up on (more on this below).
The game sold itself to me entirely on what Criteron had been working on with the Burnout series which is odd when you think about it… a car series selling on a first person shooter. But visually the Burnout series had been pushing better and better visuals on the PS2 and thus the looks of this game would be amazing, and of course the screens and video sold this.
I sold off Black sometime last year via Trade Me. Had I never finished it at the time, I would have held onto it longer, but I had done everything I could in the game. These days the title is surpassed by stuff like the Call Of Duty series, but if you’ve got only a PS2 or an X-Box and are looking for something like that – Black is where you should head. In fact the X-Box version is avaliable to download and play on the 360 off the Live service as well.

The team who made Black more or less left Criteron, based on differing issues with how a planned Black 2 was handled by it’s potential publisher, Electronic Arts, and are currently working on a new FPS called Bodycount to be released by UK publisher Codemasters sometime in 2011. Having watched the video of it, it hasn’t grabbed me like Black did… unfortunately the competition these days in the genre is so thick and the games so simular, it probably won’t see my console.