16 June 2019

Study filmmaking in New Zealand | Study With New Zealand

John Callen
The University of Auckland Screen Tools course convenor

This four-week course for emerging filmmakers gives you the chance to create your own short drama, discover why New Zealand has become a hub for the world film industry, and learn from one of the dwarves in The Hobbit film trilogy.

When I played Oin in The Hobbit, it was a thrill to work with and experience the openness and creativity of director Peter Jackson. It was fascinating to be involved in a $600 million epic – so different from theatre, so different from TV – yet, no matter the budget or format of a production, it’s the storytelling that pulls everything together and makes it a success.

Peter Jackson is a master storyteller. My character Oin is barely mentioned in JRR Tolkien’s book, so he needed to be “fleshed out” through talks with Peter Jackson, the other actors, writers and producers, especially to justify his presence in Lake Town.

On set, we actors were guided through each scene and then told to wait while the crew made it work. Magic was performed on costume, make-up, settings, camera angles and direction.

The collaborative “can do” attitude I experienced working on The Hobbit is at the heart of Screen Tools, the filmmaking course I teach at the University of Auckland.

If you’re an international student aiming for a career in filmmaking or a “study abroad” experience over the northern summer, Screen Tools could be just what you’re looking for.

Whether you’re interested in directing, producing, screenwriting or simply discovering where you might fit in the industry, Screen Tools is a hands-on, practical course that will give you skills to help get your foot in the door of your chosen profession.

Working as a production team, to an industry-style production schedule, everyone on the course must contribute creatively and work together to tell a story that will stay with their audience.

Rather than a stage piece or a major trilogy of high-budget films, we will aim at new media – online, digital output.

Along the way, students will:

  • Create a finished production for their show reel
  • Develop a range of screen production skills in drama scripting, casting, directing and producing
  • Gain experience working to a professional schedule
  • Work in-studio and on-location in Auckland
  • Go on field trips to the Hobbiton Movie Set, from The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, and to Weta Workshop, the world-leading design and effects facility

Storytelling is often underrated as “just entertainment” but it is an art that defines civilisations. Imparting a little of the accumulated knowledge and experience from a lifetime in the industry is just one of the many things that excites me about the upcoming Screen Tools course.

Applicants for Screen Tools should ideally have at least two years’ undergraduate experience. A background in film or media production, drama or creative writing is preferred but not essential. Students with only one year of undergraduate experience and a strong creative portfolio are also eligible for entry.

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About the contributors
John Callen
The University of Auckland Screen Tools course convenor

John Callen has over 40 years’ experience as an actor, director and producer in the film and television industries, and as a tutor teaching acting skills and television production at tertiary level. His most significant film credit to date is one of the core-cast roles in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy where he played the dwarf Oin.