We snagged NZ-born LA-based filmmaker Dean Cornish – caught in Auckland by lockdown – to shoot a ‘Welcome back to Britomart’ video.
You recently came back from LA in March. Where did you spend your self-isolation?
I had my self-quarantine time in Matakana, which then turned into lockdown. So what was a two-week plan ended up being eight weeks. I’d planned to be back here for work commitments, just not for lockdown.
So a lovely spot on the Tawharanui Peninsula ended up holding up a two-family bubble, and also fostering some nice creative ideas. Like this weird little comedy/talk show we made in the bush, called ’The Alone Rangers’ [featuring comedians Rhys Darby, Jonno Cook and Jamie Bowen]. We made it with no budget/no funding, and just some gear I threw in my suitcase before leaving LA. It turned out to be a hit, and a nice touchstone for many people in New Zealand as they went through lockdown. Once things opened up, I moved to my place in the city.
What were you working on in the US before you decided to come back to NZ?
Most of the last six months has been spent in Japan, making a travel show with Rhys Darby. This is coming out on TVNZ in early June, and also on Channel 10 Australia, ITV in the UK and on a yet-to-be-named US network.
So I’ve been nomadic since November ’19 – between the US, Japan, NZ, Japan again, the US, and then NZ again. Before that, 2019 saw me working with Viceland/SBS in various US states, as well as Sweden and Thailand. That year, I also finished my first feature film, which got on the short list for the Academy Awards for documentary features.
How are you enjoying being back now?
Every time I come back to NZ these days, I leave a little of my heart here. After six years in the US, I breathe a sigh of relief when I’m in an environment where the government cares about its citizens. Recent world events really highlight that. So I’m happy, relieved, but not done living this strange pan-Pacific lifestyle just yet.
You're a long-time city resident – how's the CBD feeling for you at the moment? What stood out when you were shooting your footage for Britomart?
Every time I come back to Auckland, I’m amazed and impressed by the development, particularly in hospitality and infrastructure. I have a place just off Karangahape Road – it’s going off around this area right now. And when the retrofitting of the rail link is complete in a few years it’ll be stunning.
On the Britomart side, it’s looking great. It was really fun to film the textures of the precinct – the sensitive architectural refits of historical spaces like Amano… the generous and thoughtful public spaces that people are enjoying again after a time of isolation. The place has a buzz about it. Having lived in that area 10 years ago, it’s really interesting to see how it’s developed. I’m not just saying this because I shot the video – but I think Britomart is a valuable guardian of heritage spaces, public spaces, and the general vibe of a really interesting slice of Auckland’s downtown/waterfront area. It was really fun to revisit the area and film it.
How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to change TV and movie production in LA (and around the world)?
No one really knows. Popular opinion is that New Zealand is going to open up for production more quickly than the US – albeit on a smaller scale. I think that’s exciting for content-creators here.
Freelancing is always a somewhat uncertain lifestyle, but how does the short-term future look for you at the moment?
I’m super-excited about the change and flow that this new environment provides. There are some interesting projects on my production slate at the moment that merge the US/Kiwi markets, and I feel really lucky to have NZ and the USA. The goal is always to have a really interesting lifestyle between both places.
See our 'Welcome Back to Britomart' video shot by Dean here