New Workshops and Seminars Page

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Check out our new workshops and seminars page.

It has details about workshops we have coming up and will also have a record of past workshops. That way if you see a gap in what we’re offering you can email us at with any ideas.

The workshop page currently has details about a seminar with US talent scout Jason Siner in Wellington on August 18 and an Improv for Auditions workshop with Greg Ellis of The improvisors in Auckland on September 30

Membership Renewals

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you are a Foundation Member of the NZAG check your email inbox for your renewal information. 

Thanks, as always, for your ongoing support!

The NZAG helps out with a Fundraiser

August 11, 2012 § Leave a comment



On Monday 20th of August the NZAG join forces with other members of the Wellington performing arts community to raise funds to assist The Court Theatre. Although The Court is in its new home at “The Shed” there is a real need to fill the venue with lighting, props and costumes – many of which were lost.

All tickets are $30 and can be booked through Circa Theatre

The line-up includes TJ McDonald, Amiria Grennell, The Improvisors/Wellington Improv Troupe, Whitireia School of Performing Arts, Vance Fontaine and many more.

Get along and support your fellow artists.

Improv for Auditions workshop in Wellington

June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment


So many auditions require actors to improvise – either solo or in groups. Everything from dialogue to action needs to be made up on the spot in a way that also allows an actor’s performance to shine. Yet so many actors panic in these situations, give bland performances or worse dominate the audition by shouting down the other performers. Its never a good look.

The NZAG is pleased to present a professional development workshop for actors focusing on one of the trickiest skills for an actor to master – improvising in an audition.

The workshop will cover areas like:

–             spontaneity

–             listening

–             working with other actors

–             developing a scene that make sense

The aim is to give performers some tips and tricks to shine in improv auditions by appearing collaborative, inspired and original without looking like show offs.

The Improvisors have been creating improv theatre in Wellington since 1990. Their performers have appeared in improv shows throughout New Zealand and overseas.

Greg Ellis is the Artistic Director of The Improvisors and has also been performing professional improv since 1990. He has represented NZ in improv competitions overseas and has taught improvisation at all levels from primary school to tertiary levels. He is one of New Zealand’s most experienced performers and teachers of improvisation.

Where:     Toi Poneke Arts Centre, Abel Smith Street, Wellington

When:      Sunday 24 June from 10-2pm

Cost:         $67.50 for NZAG members

$90 for non-NZAG members

Class requires minimum of 10 to proceed.

For further information or to make bookings please contact

Acting for the Best

June 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

This article originally appeared in the May edition of OnFilm magazine:

As I write this I’m sitting, waiting on the set of a low budget film. Self-funded as far as I can tell. It’s an incredibly brave thing to do to max out your credit cards, borrow money off friends and relatives or even re-mortgage your house, to follow a dream. And without any guarantee that you’ll make that cash back. Taking your big movie dream and cramming it down into something that fits a publicly funded budget is almost as brave. But it is this risk-taking and dream-pursuing that is the backbone of film in New Zealand – almost nothing would get made without it.

Many actors are happy to help support the dreams of filmmakers by working for very little, if anything at all. It suits actors for many reasons. For some, film is work and paying any amount of money for a role is better than nothing. For others it’s seen as vital experience and for others it’s simply fun.

But for whatever reason a performer chooses to work on a low budget production, you can depend on the fact that they have dreams of their own. Anyone who tries to carve out a living or even part of a living as an actor has more than a touch of the dreamer about them. So, if you are a filmmaker pursuing your dream with a low budget or no budget feature film, don’t forget that everyone working alongside you has dreams of their own.

Actors understand that filmmakers need them to help fulfil their dreams. And the great thing about being self-employed is that you can choose to help others or not. But filmmakers have to remember that actors can be supported in turn with a little forethought, and at little to no expense to the production. It can be easy to forget all those folk who have volunteered their time to help your project. However, a few little touches can really scratch the backs of those people scratching yours.

Some of the points discussed here may seem like obvious things, but you’d be surprised. In the pressure of a fast turnaround shoot it’s often the little things that get missed. So what we’d like to look at here are some of the things that can put a smile on the faces of your cast and make the final product that little bit better.

To start with, pay is good. Paying actors always puts a smile on our faces, especially when we know the budget isn’t that large. When you’re poring over the budget for your project, factor some pay in for actors as an integral part right up there with the camera you are hiring and the DoP – after all, filmmaking is a collaborative art form.

What’s appropriate? There are plenty of places to turn and ask this question. There are the two professional organisations for actors – NZ Actors’ Equity ( and the NZ Actors’ Guild ( Actors’ agents and casting directors are a great source of advice as they’ve seen it all before, and don’t forget actors themselves.

Paying something is always better than nothing, even if it’s only paying your actors their expenses as a flat fee.

Credits are a very valuable thing for actors. Having lots of roles on your CV can be a really good thing. It shows that you are working and that you’ve spent time in front of the camera. But if all your credits read “Angry Woman” or “Soldier 3”, that’s not so impressive. Named roles look better on the resume. No matter how small, when you’ve been cast in a named role it brings a smile to your face.

If you are taking a couple of minutes to write some dialogue, take another couple of seconds to name the role. Then “Angry Woman” becomes “Beryl Thomas”, which looks a heck of a lot better on paper. For those actors seeking a better CV this can be gold, and it takes nothing out of your overstretched budget.

Productions that have realistic scheduling are also a great thing for actors. To take part in a film, chances are they are missing out on something else. It might be a real paid day job, it might be family, it might be working on projects of their own, but few actors can afford to sit around doing nothing. If the budget is close to zero we understand if you can’t pay much, but a production that at least gets you back to the real world as quickly as possible is a production you’ll be happy to turn up to work on.

The film I was working on wrapped me ahead of schedule both days – this makes for a happy family and therefore a happy me! A big thank you to those productions that are honest and upfront about how long it’s going to take, and how much waiting around everyone is really going to have to do. If actors know they are signing up to lots of long days and plenty of night shoots, and then whinge about it, they have only themselves to blame.

For many actors, especially those who are just starting out, having a record of your performance to show friends and family, or include as part of your showreel, is a great thing. And it is a nice touch to get a copy of the film on DVD at some stage. It doesn’t have to be immediate and it can be a nice surprise to be told that your agent has a copy sitting at their office to pick up.

But I have been on sets for low or no budget projects where extras have asked for a DVD copy and have been flatly told that they can’t. It doesn’t have to be immediate. It doesn’t have to be flashily presented and it doesn’t have to be until after release date – but these sorts of things are nice touches. It does cost money, but certainly not the cost of paying market rates for your cast, and it helps nurture an actor’s dream – figure it into the budget beforehand.

Another option is placing the final work or a rough edit on a site like Vimeo, where access is password controlled. That way people can be sent an address and a password and no outlay is involved.

And how about letting them take some pictures? Is it really going to destroy your production to have a few pictures of folk in costume up on Facebook? Might not a couple of shots actually help create a bit of a buzz? It’s always worth remembering that your show, despite its importance to you, is not a Hollywood blockbuster and so rampant secrecy probably isn’t the order of the day.

People are getting much better with the idea of running cast and crew screenings but these are generally affairs that you can’t bring your grandparents to, and you certainly don’t walk away with things to put on your showreel.

The reality of low budget filmmaking is that your cast isn’t always generally super-experienced or knowledgeable. There’s often quite a bit of enthusiasm but not a lot of experience from about four or five down on the cast list. So filmmakers – try and take a moment or two to help those with less experience to learn a bit about the industry, on set etiquette, or what tasks some of the crew are doing. All this sort of stuff can take a moment or two but it can really make a less experienced performer feel part of the whole deal. It can help the actor’s performance in your film. And it has the positive spin for you of educating them a little bit more and helping the flow of things on set.

“Thanks” is also a great thing to hear. It takes only a few seconds but being thanked by those folks driving the production makes a performer feel like they were valued. Often actors can slink away from set, sometimes even unsure if they are wrapped, whether they need to sign anything, or even how to get back to their cars! So a thank you from someone, a handshake, or even a round of applause is always welcome.

Think of that spirit of collaboration that exists in a 48 Hours film – it’s contagious and keeps people coming back year after year. The same spirit exists in the best low-budget productions and means everyone feels they are getting something out of the work. Done right, everybody wins and there’s a fantastic product at the end.

Written by Greg Ellis

NZ Actors’ Guild Submissions on further Immigration Issues

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

Recently the NZAG was asked, along with various other industry guilds and unions to comment on further aspects of the new immigration regulations – this time relating to production companies applying to become accredited employers for the purposes of bringing in overseas performers.

The NZAG had several points to make, which included:

  • there needs to be more drilling down into the types of NZ employees that a business or production has. It is all very well to say a production has 25 kiwi employees but if they are all admin staff this is no use to us. At minimum a production, crew, and talent breakdown is necessary. It would be also desirable from the NZAG’s perspective to see whether the performers employed were principals, supporting cast, featured extra or extra. Again it is easy to say “we employed 200 kiwi actors on our film” but if all 200 were extras then this is not the best outcome.
  • Ideally the NZAG would like visiting performers to be involved in upskilling others – especially if the visiting performer is deemed to be possessing skills that aren’t available in the country.
  • When applicants reapply the test is to be that INZ that must be “satisfied the employer still meets accreditation requirements” It would seem desirable that other relevant guilds and organisations are referred to. Especially since they operate in the industry whereas INZ does not.
  • We also sought clarification with the process of the rescinding of accreditation.  Is INZ the only party who can initiate this? The NZAG believes that there needs to be a robust complaints process that is clearly spelt out because, again, it is the guilds and unions who work in the industry alongside these accredited producers.
  • Finally the NZAG is concerned with how INZ plans to include the NZAG in the process. Given that we are now an industry organisation the NZAG needs to be involved in any process.
  • Finally – on the subject of silent approval – this point has been made before but is worth making again: silent approval has removed one of the ways to encourage producers to engage with a wider industry. Whilst we understand the underlying purpose of the new regulations is to streamline the process we think that at this level, where producers may now no longer need to make any applications for a 12-24 month period that one more involved and active approval engagement with guilds and unions isn’t too onerous. And it gives a proper chance to make sure these producers and productions are legitimate and avoids many disputes later on. Especially since so much of the application process requires demonstration of involvement with relevant unions and guilds then surely the process itself should encourage this sort of involvement?
This whole accreditation process for productions and producers is something that needs to be very carefully managed because, as we have stated elsewhere previously, it can be seen as a real tool and benefit for producers and has potential for abuse.

One Year is upon us

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

With the NZAG formally becoming a year old on the 15th of December here is a bit of a look at what has transpired during 2011 and some basic plans for the future of the Guild:
2011 for the NZAG has been about getting things started, consolidating, building and finding our feet. It has been a largely successful year but with a few frustrations and whilst some of those frustrations are unsurprising there is a bit of work to be done.

On an infrastructure level the Guild has its Committee in place, an office with basic equipment, Greg Ellis onboard as Secretary for 20 hours a week and a website up and running. With an office in Wellington we are finding some pre-conceptions that NZAG is the “Wellington Actors’ Guild” which need to be overcome. In reality this is not the case and whilst there are still more Wellingtonians than any others in the guild there is an ever-increasing number of Auckland actors and now people in Christchurch, Taranaki and Palmerston North. We have made 2 visits to Auckland this year and will need to keep this momentum going into 2012.

2011 saw the NZAG make submissions several times on the DOL’s immigration policy for visiting performers. Whilst we understand the benefits for producers in being able to use visiting performers with much greater ease, streamlining many aspects of production and giving greater surety to finances, the NZAG remains vigilant that Kiwi professionals don’t get overlooked in this process. We have recently held a meeting with the DOL to fully understand the new process, how it will be monitored and what will be the review process in 18 months time. This is as a result of some lobbying which we hope to expand on post-election. There will also be a further meeting with the DOL in the new year to concentrate on our perspective on the accreditation process for production companies. 

In regards to the new immigration policies for visiting performers it is reasonably clear that there is little to be done, short-term, in altering these regulations. Therefore its is our proposal that we work within the structure to find the best ways to maximize the exposure of kiwi actors to productions from overseas and convince producers that New Zealand is not just a place filled with stunning locations and ingenuity behind the camera but loaded with great performers too. At the moment we are trying to get a meeting with FilmNZ to discuss the feasibility of such a project. We hope to also canvas producers, casting agents, agents and performers before moving ahead to try to secure funding for this project. 
In 2011 we have run a meeting in Auckland, a Fringe Festival forum in Wellington and a successful Branding workshop for actors with Peter Feeney in Wellington. This workshop gained us new members and was a success for the participants. Peter and Miranda Harcourt appeared on Radio NZ discussing branding for actors as a result of the workshop and there is demand for the workshop to be replicated in Auckland. Hopefully we will be in a position to do this in February. We have other workshops planned, including a casting directors forum, and there are plenty of suggestions from the membership. We have been told by Creative NZ that if we can show that our particular workshops are being offered by no-one else in the country then we stand a much better chance of getting these funded. 

Our sponsorship of an acting award at the 48Hours Film contest was also a great way to lift our profile. And, as the final was in Auckland, it was great positive exposure for the NZAG brand. We are also getting exposure for the NZAG from our ads in OnFilm magazine. We hope to have an article featured in the December issue and possibly further ongoing pieces.

The NZAG is also working along with a couple of pieces of research. We are looking into a comparison of actors’ contracts from various overseas markets to actually make an informed decision about things that NZ actors could benefit from and pitfalls to avoid. The area of online advertising has also received some research. We are particularly interested in what happens to the actors’ work when their contract for online performance expires. One of the early findings is that a schedule should be supplied to actors saying where and for how long their work will be displayed there. The next stage here is to actually talk to some advertising companies and get their feedback on this. Another thing to come out of this research is that actors are going to need to think about what their own online postings expose them to – anything from copyright issues to damaging their own character and appeal. This particular area needs to be further explored and can be a possible workshop in the future.

We have had some early success getting partners to provide benefits to our members, we are able to drive these memberships through our membership cards which are now with all our members. Communication with members continues to be primarily through our email newsletter and Facebook page. 

Overall 2011 has been a positive year for the NZAG. 2012 promises some challenges with continuing uncertainty over any industry standard contracts and conditions. We also have a new immigration environment to work in and the idea with this, as with any other challenges that come our way, is to roll up our sleeves and consult with industry partners before making the best of the given situation whilst working to benefit our members in the long term.

New Policies – lots to look out for

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some significant changes were made yesterday relating to the employment of overseas actors on productions in New Zealand, including those productions funded in whole or part by public money.
One of the main changes relates to the employment of performers on contracts of less than 14 days in duration and makes it easier than before for overseas performers to fill those positions. The NZ Actors’ Guild and other industry groups have worked hard during the consultation process to shore up jobs for kiwi performers and we are concerned that new regulations do not undermine these job opportunities going forward.
Whilst we understand that barriers to productions being made in New Zealand are not always desirable care must be taken that under these new regulations New Zealand talent is not overlooked both behind and in front of the camera. If this was to happen New Zealand may become merely a filming location and the creativity and innovation currently present in our creative sector could be lost.
We will continue to work to make sure that Kiwi actors get their chance to shine alongside our fellow creative professionals and that we are an integral part of making this happen

Brand new workshop for actors rolling out in Wellington

September 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s some details of a new workshop to help actors function as arts entrepreneurs which the NZAG is running in October in Wellington. If the workshop is a a success we will be looking to an Auckland version in the near future….


Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th October 2011
Saturday: 9.15 am registration, 9.30 am start – 5.30 pm
Sunday: 9.15 am arrival, 9.30 am start – 5.30 pm

Toi Poneke Community Room, 61-65 Abel Smith St

COST: $300 +GST for non-members / $225 +GST for members
Introductory membership fee until 31 March 2012 is $50 +GST

What’s My Brand? is a professional acting workshop to learn what typing and branding can do for you and to get some perspective from leading industry professionals – Peter Feeney (actor / teacher), Miranda Harcourt (actor / acting coach) and Liz Mullane (casting director/ actor). The workshop will give you a better understanding of your strengths as an actor and how best to serve your talent.

Miranda Harcourt will talk about the importance of ‘Connection in Performance’.

Liz Mullane will conduct a Q&A session about casting, headshots, presenting yourself at auditions.

Peter Feeney will work with actors on their monologue and scene, and facilitate workshop exercises on Branding, First Impressions and What’s My Type.

– To book your place contact Anita at NZAG, include headshot and CV
– Invoice on acceptance
– Pay 20% non-refundable deposit to secure your place, pay outstanding amount by 1 October
– Workshop packs will be sent out upon receipt of deposit
– We have places for up to 20 actors
– Place preference goes to NZAG members, including new members

Miranda Harcourt

Miranda Harcourt’s long-running career as both actor and acting teacher has seen many notable excursions into screen work – from television soaps like Gloss and tele-movie Clare to the dramatic feature For Good, which she helped bring to the screen.

Liz Mullane

Liz Mullane trained as an actor in theatre and improvisation. Liz is a comedy specialist and appeared as core cast in – TV sketch comedy – Issues, More Issues, and That Comedy Show. Her film roles include Heavenly Creatures and Brain Dead. Liz is also an experienced casting director with recent films such as 1&2, District 9, Avatar, and of course The Lord of the Rings trilogy to her name.

Peter Feeney

Peter Feeney has worked in TV, film and theatre in New Zealand and Australia, including at Circa, Court, Fortune and the Queensland Theatre Company. He has had lead or ongoing roles in numerous TV shows and telemovies, including for UK, US, Australian and NZ networks.
Peter has taught actors since 2000 in Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and at Toi Whakaari NZ Drama School in Wellington. He has participated in workshops, theatre and Film productions with Cicely Berry (Royal Shakespeare Company, London), Robert Benedetti (Award-winning US Film producer and Broadway theatre Director), Rob Marchant (Sydney Film Director and proponent of the Mike Leigh method) and Dean Carey (Director, Actors Centre Australia).
See Peter’s full film and TV credits ( and find his full bio (


‘I can thoroughly recommend Peter as a marvellous proponent of the principles and techniques he has encountered and uses himself in his acting processes. He is a gifted man with much to contribute to his profession.’ Dean Carey, Director, Actors Centre Australia.

‘You are a wonderfully insightful and optimistic actor, and this allows you to draw the very best work out of everyone.’ Lotte St. Clair, Sydney Participant, Bell Shakespeare Co Actor

Cake sales for public broadcasting?

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently it has been revealed that the Concert Programme has applied for charitable status in an attempt to secure future funding. This is a further step in the erosion of Public Broadcasting and the wider erosion of arts funding in this country. When combined with the cuts already in place at RNZ and the impending death of TVNZ7 Public Broadcasting is being allowed to wilt on the vine. This may seem to be removed from actors to some extent but it is Public Broadcasting that is supposed to nurture the commercially riskier projects and these projects, in turn, nurture and grow industry professionals who go on to provide further work for all sorts of creative professionals, actors included.

What also happens, when Concert Radio becomes a charity, is that a big and well-perceived player enters the charity fundraising game. The size of the pot doesn’t increase but a large new applicant comes in and can only serve to shoulder smaller players aside as the competition increases significantly for the already existing thinly spread funds.

The dismantling of Public Broadcasting can also be seen in the sale of Avalon Studios in the Hutt Valley. This is a fantastic resource, funded by decades of broadcasting fees, and being allowed to largely rot because of the inconvenience of its location. There is no doubting the quality of its equipment or of the skeleton staff who remain but the fact is – Avalon Studios is not in Auckland where TVNZ wishes to make its television and so it is surplus to requirements. There is every likelihood that it could be purchased by overseas interests or even pulled apart for another use entirely and lost forever.

And funding for bodies like the Film Commission and Creative NZ are also changing and tightening. This means that there is less funding available to nurture less established professionals and foster their growth. An increasing commercial imperative on funding bodies for projects to be commercially successful also takes away any chance that risks will be taken on less than “sure things”.

All this limits opportunities for us, the performers, to have opportunities to work, to collaborate with fellow professionals and to grow and develop. We need to be aware of what is happening around us. True, with the events in the South and around the world we are in “interesting times” but by starving organisations like the Film Commission, Concert Radio, the NZSO and smaller groups a message is being sent out that the arts are not important.

But what will happen is that much of the growth that is being played on on the world stage – that we are a creative and vibrant nation of world-beating lateral thinkers – will be wasted. Its true that the arts sector can’t expect everything to be done for it but we are important. As actors we need to be aware of what is going on and looking for ways to help stop the trend.

The arts, especially live performance, provides a connection with other people through the shared experience of being an audience and the interaction between performer and audience that many people have no chance anymore to experience. When one of the many causes being provided for the violence happening in Britain right now is that people are becoming increasingly isolated from each other surely any experience that is directly shared between human beings is good. It would be naive and pretentious to argue that the arts alone is a solution to these sorts of problems in society but surely anything that encourages a shared experience that takes you out of your own world for a period of time needs to be encouraged.

Which is why the thought of once proud public arts institutions having to go cap-in-hand to the community is not a comfortable thought to deal with.

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