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.