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Ex-Soldier Joins Ranks Of New Zealand Film-Makers

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Ex-Soldier Joins Ranks Of New Zealand Film-Makers

Starting film studies at EIT, Jason Cayless fretted about his lack of experience.

“Everyone in my class had relevant skills, whether that was technical knowhow, dancing talents or musical flair,” the 31-year-old says. “I’d hired DVDs from Video Ezy!”

While Jason’s abilities may not have been self-evident then, he’s excelled on the Diploma in Screen Production programme. He’s scored roles in a string of movies, headed off classmates in completing his final project and has industry work in Auckland that he’ll take up once he finishes his studies.

Jason’s end-of-year film project, along with those of his classmates, will debut as part of the School of Arts and Design’s end-of-year IS Showcase of events. The Film Screening, featuring 14 movies, is to be held at Napier’s Reading Theatre from 19 to 21 November.

Jason is very happy with the short film he has directed and produced – an action drama set five years into the future. He’s written the script, cast actors, organised the wardrobe and locations, made props, sourced the music and edited footage.

Working in teams, the students help with one another’s productions, covering every aspect of the movie-making process. Jason feels the exercise has equipped him well for the real world – “you definitely learn enough to operate on a TV or movie set and to charge for your abilities”.

As his storyline, he has conceived a one-world government formed to counter an escalation in terrorism. The central role in the movie is taken by a sniper shooter who is a member of a paramilitary force.

Having served in the New Zealand Army for eight years, with missions in Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, Jason has drawn on his working knowledge of military matters in making his movie.

Although leaving the army was “a really hard decision”, he had reached a point where he wondered about what else he might be doing with his life.

“My experience of movie-making was using a camcorder with a VHS tape when I was at school, but it was something I’d been interested in doing since I was a kid.”

Launching into studies, however, he initially felt very awkward.

“At my first class, I didn’t even know how to turn on the Mac computer. The other students knew the language and could talk about focal length and depth of field.”

Determined to bridge the learning gap, Jason volunteered for acting roles in final-year students’ films. And like his classmates, he joined the crew on the movie Siege, working in the lighting department and playing the part of a policeman. His goal was to pass every test and to submit his assignments on time.

Looking back, he now thinks “a bit of anxiety wasn’t a bad thing in terms of self-improvement.” Looking ahead, he’s excited about forging a career in the industry.

“If I could engineer my life, I would absolutely love to have a successful string of films. But I’m not afraid to have a few failures in there as well. I like to be always learning.”

Caption: Jason Cayless views his movie in EIT’s Screen Production studio.


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