Big film wins for 'ridiculously talented' Wakatipu High School students

by Lauren Pattemore - Dec 04, 2023

A mini documentary made by two Wakatipu High School students on the set of an Otago short film has reaped awards, as the pair become well-known in Otago's film scene. 

Over four days in March, Year 12 students Jack Smilie and Jack Trounce, who also go by 'the Jacks', worked as production runners while making the award-winning behind-the-scenes documentary for the Arrowtown-filmed Pulling Up Stumps, set in an old wool shed. 

The Jacks' featurette won Best Documentary at this year's New Zealand Broadcasting School Shorts awards and also received recognition at the New Zealand high school students short film competition Onscreen for Highly Commended Cinematography. 

Pulling Up Stumps director Elinor Teele loved the featurette too. 

"It reminded me that the greatest joy of the film was the experience of making it. Now I will remember all the wonderful people I worked with in a dusty and memory-strewn woolshed."

During the shoot, the Jacks got to work with and see some of New Zealand's best in action, along with director Elinor Peele, there was cinematographer Alun Bollinger on the project, and actors Ian Mune and Mark Mitchinson. 

"I think observing the quiet way that the crew and cast worked together - no drama, no histrionics - was an invaluable experience," Ms Teele says. 

"The crew were always available to answer questions about their gear or chat about their choices. I told the Jacks afterward that we were handed a gift."

And, on the other hand, she says it was a privilege and pleasure having the students themselves on set, and she thinks Otago is lucky to have them. 

"They're ridiculously talented, intensely committed, and always willing to help. Better yet, they balance each other's strengths...And I'm looking forward to seeing what they choose to do in life."

The Jacks were able to come on board and help with the project thanks to a stipend provided by the Queenstown Lakes District Council's film department Film Queenstown Lakes, and manager Kahli Scott says ‘The Jacks’ are becoming known locally as talent to watch.

"We’re very proud of their achievement and also acknowledge the local filmmaking team behind ‘Pulling Up Stumps’ for offering this great training opportunity. Big congratulations to the Jacks – I’m sure it won’t be the last time we say that."

Elinor Teele directing two actors, Ian Mune and Mark Mitchinson (Image: Supplied/George Cassells).

Ms Scott says encouraging more young people to get involved in the film industry and consider it as a serious career path is a key goal of the council’s economic diversification work.

Nurturing our creative talent is central to getting more local stories on screen, and providing stipends for training and upskilling local crew helps grow a more well-rounded film industry here, Ms Scott says.

There's no rest for the Jacks, who are headed to Wellington this weekend for yet another film awards night - this time in the running for a win with another film project.

As for the Pulling Up Stumps film, editing has been completed and it has been submitted to a number of film festivals, which the team are waiting to hear back about.

Back in March, Crux headed along to the last day of filming at the Arrowtown shed, and was there when the crew called wrap. Read our recap, 'Locals and veteran stars shine in 'sensitive, emotional, and nuanced' Arrowtown movie'.

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux