14 June 2017

Kiwis lead NAFSA Film Festival

Kiwi film Pete’s Dragon followed by a panel discussion led by Weta Digital VFX producer Matt Dravitzki was a star attraction at the film festival which runs as part of the NAFSA event.

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Back row, L-R: Grant McPherson, ENZ Chief Executive, Matt Dravitzki, VFX Producer at Weta Digital with AUT alumni Atereano Mateariki and Toiroa Williams. Front row, L-R: ENZ’s Alanna Dick, Field Director, North America, Lisa Futschek, Regional Director, Americas and Europe, Ute Haug, Senior Market Development Manager, Europe, Kaylee Butters, Director, Student Engagement and Amy Rutherford, Director of Education, North America

The opportunity to showcase Kiwi film expertise in the NAFSA Film Festival came as part of Education New Zealand’s NAFSA sponsorship.

Pete's Dragon is a mix of live action and CGI, and was filmed in New Zealand with Kiwis making up more than 80 per cent of the production crew. The CGI dragon, Elliot, was entirely animated by Weta Digital.

Following the screening, ENZ arranged a guest panel with Matt Dravitzki and two Auckland University of Technology (AUT) alumni, Toiroa Williams and Atereano Mateariki – both recent graduates in communications, film and media.

Matt gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Pete’s Dragon, and spoke about the influence his New Zealand education had had on his career. He noted that in New Zealand people are trained to work in lots of areas within the film industry and become a ‘jack of all trades,’ which he felt gave him an advantage in his LA-based role for Weta Digital. By contrast, filmmakers in the US tend to remain very specialised.

Toiroa and Atereano are now based in LA, having won AUT internships to Sundance and Paramount Recording studios, respectively. They gave an incredible account of how their New Zealand education has opened up doors they could never have imagined.

Toiroa said that his studies had given him the chance to enter the film world and to tell Māori stories that mattered to him and his whānau. “Education is key,” he said.

As a trainee within the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Film Program, Toiroa said he is involved in everything from administration to script reading and strategic planning.

He and Atereano also spoke about the New Zealand ‘network’ in the film industry, with Taika Waititi and Cliff Curtis reaching out to help them settle into their new city.

Kaylee Butters, ENZ’s Director – Student Engagement, said the film festival was another unique and engaging way to show New Zealand’s strengths in creativity and innovation.

“Having high-calibre New Zealand alumni share their experiences helped to reinforce the positive outcomes of a New Zealand education,” she said. 

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