Canterbury’s film ‘renaissance’ gathers pace with new curriculum on state-of-the-art digital campus

Canterbury’s mini film ‘renaissance’ has been given a boost with a new course to be launched at the new Digital Screen Campus in Christchurch.

The Digital Screen Undergraduate Degree will begin next year, giving the next generation of filmmakers access to studios, stages and the latest in storytelling technology.

It was well received by Screen CanterburyNZ, who said it was important to attract new talent to the area and ensure local filmmakers don’t walk away.

The University of Canterbury’s $95 million Digital Screen Campus, being built over the next three years, will have film and visual effects editing suites, recording, green screen and motion capture studio.

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The new four-year professional degree will be the first course offered there, with registration now open and lectures starting in February.

It will include a range of subjects, including screenwriting, game development and animation.

The new Digital Screen Campus at the University of Canterbury will be built in phases over the next three years.

Provided

The new Digital Screen Campus at the University of Canterbury will be built in phases over the next three years.

Dr Kevin Watson, executive dean for the arts at the university, said it was designed to be a “convergence between the arts and more technology-focused subjects”.

“The screen industry is a very close collaboration between these things,” he said. “The whole degree is about storytelling.”

In their fourth year, students will produce a final major project, and there will be an “unimaginable number” of career options open to graduates, Watson said.

A bespoke virtual production facility was erected at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch in January.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

A bespoke virtual production facility was erected at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch in January.

“They’ll end up producing something that we hope will be good enough to get into distribution channels and networks, to get their name out there.”

There will also be a One-Year Certificate in Indigenous Narrative Studies from next year, which will include Maori writing in English and Indigenous New Zealand literature.

Petrina D’Rozario, Manager of Screen CanterburyNZsaid it was great news for the region’s film production.

“We’re getting more and more production, which means we need to increase the talent in the team’s pipeline,” she said.

“With the digital screen campus and incredible infrastructure, this is going to give local filmmakers the confidence they need and hopefully inspire people to move here.”

The new course will be very hands-on, and D’Rozario said it was important to have “industry-ready” students.

“When producers hire a team, it gives them the confidence to know they are equipped with the right skills.

“Filmmaking is a pretty different beast, you can’t just be in a classroom and learn it through a textbook, you actually have to get your hands dirty and be there and work on set.”

Director Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu on location at Lyttelton Harbor during production for a new film.

Provided

Director Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu on location at Lyttelton Harbor during production for a new film.

Canterbury is said to be experiencing a ‘minor renaissance’ for cinema, with two more productions securing funding from the New Zealand Film Commission last month.

The production company behind Taika Waititi’s hit films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit recently wrapped filming in Lyttelton Harbor in August.

And the company behind TV hits like Mad Men, Orange Is The New Black and The Walking Dead is helping fund a six-episode TV drama set to film in Christchurch early next year.

Canterbury has featured in many productions in recent yearsoften serving as the backdrop for fantasy or historical films, such as Mulan and Only Cloud Knows.

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