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Up Education

Riding the South Seas to success

14 Feb 2019

14 February 2019 — Two recent graduates from the South Seas Film and Television School have been making waves at film festivals around the world.  South Seas is a premier training ground for aspiring film makers and television producers, and operates out of Auckland.

Phoebe Driver and Alyssa Bhikha graduated with Diplomas of Screen Production late last year, and immediately put their skills to use, winning prizes at prestigious film festivals overseas.

Phoebe won a Special Jury Award for the Best Student Film at the Indiana festival in the USA, while also being a finalist at the Sydney Festival.

Alyssa was presented the Outstanding Achievement for best Student Film at the Calcutta Cult Film Festival, as well as being selected for the Independent Shorts awards in Los Angeles, and the Global Indian Film Festival in Mumbai.

The pair specialised in Documentary Directing and Research with South Seas, and have the drive and ambition that’s needed in the competitive world of filmmaking.  They’re both honoured, and surprised, to win at such well-known festivals, but know the skills they learnt with South Seas gave them the edge.

Phoebe said, “I was really surprised to win at the Independent Talents International Film Festival (part of the International Film Festival in Indiana USA), but it tops off an amazing year where I have found something I love doing and have met like-minded people in this creative arena.  It was the best decision of my life to take this programme at South Seas, and I’ve learnt an array of practical skills that will come in handy while working in the industry and in life in general, and it showed when producing my film”.

Phoebe’s film grew from a random observation when she was walking around Auckland, and realised that toilets, although a public facility, were often overlooked and were an underappreciated necessity.  She ended celebrating the facility by telling the story from the perspective of five people who spend more time in public toilets than the average person.  Hannah – a heritage toilet enthusiast; Lucy – a sufferer of agoraphobia; Rob – the cleaning supervisor, and his colleagues in the field Zee and Nui.

Alyssa’s goal is to tell people and cultural stories that resonate, particularly due to her cultural heritage.  Her film, “Miss Kataria” follows Shivani Kataria, a young female born and raised in New Delhi, India but now living in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand.  Shivani is presented with a unique opportunity to compete for the crown of Miss India New Zealand 2018 –  a beauty pageant which not only celebrates diversity and culture, but allows young women of Indian heritage to be welcomed and recognised within New Zealand society.

Alyssa began her path towards film making while studying media studies at high school.  She knew she wanted to be in documentary or drama film making.  As South Seas is so well known in the industry, she jumped straight in directly from high school.  Alyssa says, “I loved the programme and especially the hands-on practical work experience, and I’ve just finished an internship at Sky Television.  One day I hope to direct factual television!”

South Seas Film & Television School, Head of Documentary is Sacha Handsaker, who has been a tutor at the school for the last five years.  She says, “The documentary students are very well-rounded individuals – in that they learn to research, write, produce and direct their own work plus work with a small crew of three – including the editor, which makes for a tight knit working environment where you need to get everyone on board. I couldn’t be prouder of the amazing amount of mahi/work that come out of our little department!”

She continues, “At South Seas, we want our students to value both commitment, collaboration and passion – it can be a challenging industry to work in, like most creative careers paths, so we need people to trust in themselves and be open to trying anything in order to learn and get a foot in the door.  It takes perseverance as not many people will walk into a directing role.  In terms of practical ‘hard’ skills, I encourage my students to value the skill of transcribing, production assistant work and script writing, plus keep up with ideas and potentially use their final projects as a ‘proof of concept’ to further develop their idea.”

The documentaries produced by the students are their final projects that are produced at the end of their New Zealand Diploma of Screen Production – specialising in Documentary Directing and Research.