Kathleen: "This internship helped me connect with the wider world and gain an understanding of how film productions with larger teams and budgets operate."
I applied for this internship as an independent documentary maker, wanting to experience documentary workflow on an international production. Aotearoa’s documentary industry is full of talent and energy, but often feels restricted by limited options for funding and distribution. This internship was a window into a whole new continent of opportunity.
This internship was a window into a whole new continent of opportunity.
Beach House Pictures is a Singapore-based production company who primarily make documentary and reality television for Asian and international markets. The scope of their productions is massive, and I was especially impressed by the high standard of their science-doco content.
I was thrown onto the research and development team of a science-based documentary series, made up of six one-hour episodes to be shot all over the globe. I was working with an incredibly international team - remotely connecting with teammates in Singapore, the UK and Portugal.
Kathleen was part of the research and development team of a science-based documentary series
Having a team of multiple people during development of a documentary is rare in itself in Aotearoa, and I was able to move between areas of focus during my internship to contribute where most needed. It was absolutely a learn-by-doing experience, which I stand by as the best way to learn in film.
I started off in research, searching for content leads and exploring archival footage that could support our stories. By the end of my internship, I was focusing on casting the scientists who would lead the show, and spent most of my days zoom-interviewing scientists from all over the world, from Greenland to Japan to Ōtautahi.
Casting was an unexpected area to end up in, but became my favourite part of the experience.
In my filmic work it’s important to me to prioritise minority group voices, and I found that the Beach House team was really on board with that.
My casting search focused on women, gender minorities, indigenous scientists and scientists of colour, and I believe that those voices will enrich the show greatly by speaking from perspectives that are outside the (white, male) norm and much needed on screen.
Kathleen: "In my filmic work it’s important to me to prioritise minority group voices, and I found that the Beach House team was really on board with that."
I found that celebration of diversity was also reflected in the crew I was working with - our team were mostly women, a sadly still unusual experience in the film industry, but a lovely one to have happen across so many borders.
As the only member of the team based in Aotearoa, I was also called on to provide specific knowledge and support in preparation for a shoot in the South Island.
I spent quite a bit of time shivering as the team talked about wētā - a strange creature they’d heard about on the internet and wanted to include in the show. They wondered if I’d ever seen one? I had to explain that I’d seen many, often hiding inside my gumboots, and that I didn’t share their enthusiasm for hunting down a giant wētā for the show. Luckily there were plenty of local scientists who did.
In 2021, Kathleen was named a VF48Hours Outstanding Female Filmaker
Our team took a break over the Lunar New Year and taking pause to celebrate it in New Zealand was a lovely way to feel connected. I had dinner with a local Singaporean friend and talked at length about what life in Singapore would look like over the holiday period. It’s made me pretty desperate to visit once I can.
I know that for me, these two years of Covid have affected my ability to ‘dream big’ and think internationally - we’ve been locked inside our borders for so long, which has been an important safety measure, but an isolating one.
This internship helped me connect with the wider world and gain an understanding of how film productions with larger teams and budgets operate. It opened my eyes to the accessibility of international industry and co-production, and made me excited for a future with open borders.