NHNZ/Otago University: en years of natural history graduates

Press Release – Natural History New Zealand

In just ten short years, the University of Otago and NHNZ’s natural history and science filmmaking partnership has gone from one class of 12 students to being a world-leader generating dozens of graduates gathering production work and accolades worldwide.14th November 2011

NHNZ and University of Otago celebrate ten years of natural history graduates

In just ten short years, the University of Otago and NHNZ’s natural history and science filmmaking partnership has gone from one class of 12 students to being a world-leader generating dozens of graduates gathering production work and accolades worldwide.

NHNZ Managing Director Michael Stedman says the course was created to immerse scientists and other specialists in the art of story-telling, and it has truly excelled at doing that.

“Ninety-six people from 14 different nations have graduated from the course over the ten years, producing 62 documentaries, and winning 40 international awards.”

“This is the finest example of a town-gown partnership, where the benefits are real. The graduates have had the advantage of a world-class academic education together with being immersed in a world-leading production company, and that makes this course different from any other in the world.”

“The Otago graduates are excelling in what they do. We know all too well how challenging natural history is in the television industry; we’ve got to ensure the filmmakers we’re putting out there are ready for it in every way. They need to be creative, adaptable, and tough.”

Furthermore, the course has played a very important role in future-proofing NHNZ. Without it the company’s future scenario would have looked very different.

“An impressive array of young filmmakers have ended up at NHNZ over the years. There are currently seven graduates working at NHNZ, including award-winning graduate Jane Adcroft who produced Love in Cold Blood with Carla Braun Elwert and Brant Backland, who was behind Exhuming Adams, also an award winning film. Others have gained experience here at NHNZ, which has boosted their careers, like Chris Kugelman who went on from NHNZ’s award winning Orangutan Island to become a part of the Emmy-award winning team producing and shooting Deadliest Catch.

“The graduates we choose to enter the company have to perform at international level from day one. This comes down to a couple of things: one the quality of the student and two the quality of the course. They have to be at an incredibly high standard and they are.”

NHNZ contributes to the course in a number of ways; from producers EPing the students’ documentaries to the General Manager John Crawford advising students on business affairs and Head of IT Wayne Poll giving them the technical advice that will stand them in good stead out in the world.

Centre for Science Communication Director Professor Lloyd Davis says the film-making Masters programme was conceived to fill a communication niche, and it has well exceeded that aim.

“In 2001 people making natural history documentaries either came from TV pathways with the technical skills but little real knowledge of animals, or they tended to be zoology or botany graduates with great biological knowledge and no real idea of film-making.

“The Science Communication Centre was created to take graduates from zoology and other disciplines and top up their skills so they were able to make a film – learning how to direct people, how to use a camera and how to effectively tell stories.

“When you get a science degree, you tend to learn how to communicate with other scientists, but most people are in science for some greater good or to gain a bigger understanding of the world we live in. That can only really be satisfied if they can communicate with the rest of humanity and that requires a very different set of skills.”

To celebrate the decade past, NHNZ is hosting a cocktail party on November 16th during the University of Otago’s inaugural ScienceTeller Festival (wwwscienceteller.com) from 15-19th
November 2011. Following the NHNZ event is the 2011 Masters students’ film premiere at the Regent starting at 6.30pm. The premiere event is open to the public.

For more information about the ScienceTeller Festival visit www.scienceteller.com.

ENDS

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