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April 7, 2008 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

The story of film studies in Wellington: Relevance, competence, need

The rise of the New Zealand film industry over the last ten years brought a career in film from pipe dream of only the most narcissistic to a slightly more realistic non P pipe dream. Many young people like myself yearned to be part of the industry. Like most careers that meant training. But where to go? Eight years ago, anyone wanting to study film in Wellington had five different options: now there are only two. If the powers that be deem Vic’s Film Department in need of a ‘down sizing’, students wanting to learn the craft in Wellington are facing a pretty grim future, as the only other option (The Film School) accepts no more than twenty-two students per year. What happened? How can this be, when we are continually being told by the media that film is a burgeoning industry?

The Dearly Departed:

While still teaching a course loosely based around film, primarily in computer graphics, Weltec’s film coverage is a shell of its former self. Once teaching three courses in film (varying from half-year introductory courses to the beginnings of a Bachelor-equivalent degree), they were forced to cut back to one during 2006 due to poor turnout, plagued with “mismanagement” and “wide spread incompetence” according to one former student.

Avalon Film and Television School
Avalon staked most of its reputation on its status as the only industry-run film school. Yet internal power struggles in 2005– 06 and the loss of most TVNZ offices to Auckland ripped the guts out of the school. Like Weltec, Avalon struggled to ensure their equipment and teaching was still relevant in an industry which has moved from analogue to digital.

Whitirea have also stopped their film studies course. These are all polytech level courses, and us self-important university students do not care for the likes of them. But what happened to them is happening now at Vic: the cost of teaching production is through the roof, and rising. Even though enrolment in film at Vic is high, it wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of upgrading our woefully outdated equipment. The movement to HD, digital editing, and maintaining all of this at a satisfactory level can not be ignored, nor can we forget that the film department has been struggling to stay relevant for years. The department may teach theory well, but has unsurprisingly faced difficulties keeping up with specialisation in the industry. Of course, The Film School in Mount Vic remains a relatively unknown but well-respected entity in the industry (up there with The Broadcasting School in CPIT). Its only (but fairly substantial) negative is the cost: at $14,000 annually ($25,000 if you’re not a New Zealand resident), it also offers only twentytwo places each year and is about as easy to get into as MIT. Film is a harsh mistress.


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