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Want to be world class? Be original, says Andrew Adamson

Kiwis who want to make their name globally shouldn’t underestimate the power of originality to put them one step ahead, says World Class New Zealand award winner, film maker Andrew Adamson.

1. When did you realise you could be world class and what steps did you take to get there?

I never really contemplated whether I would achieve big things internationally, or domestically. I tended to just take opportunities as they came to me…or in many cases reject opportunities until they pursued me to the point of being unable to escape them. In fact I turned down the chance to direct Shrek for almost six months before I agreed to a three month trial period. That turned into about a four and a half year trial period that luckily turned out well.

2. What’s your advice for Kiwis who want to make their name offshore or in the same industry as yours?

I don’t think we need to separate out achieving domestically or internationally. Things we do now so easily have international exposure. I would say that the film industry has tended to provide more funding for distinctly New Zealand material which has regionalised some of our films. It’s worth looking to the international market to consider the competition as that’s what we are competing with in New Zealand – we are surrounded by international film and TV here.

There is no easy piece of advice to give anyone who wants to make a name for themselves. It’s really all those old adages about hard work and applying yourself. You can’t settle…you always need to examine and re-examine what you do to make sure it’s as good as it can be and as original as it can be. I guess I’d say strive to be original, that’s what the world needs and as Kiwis we are already a step ahead by being so far from the rest of the world.

3. What’s been the toughest time in your career?

The hardest moment for me was one of my first jobs as a Visual Effects Supervisor on a film called Angels in the Outfield. There was somewhat of a dispute between the studio and the director as to what the film was and what the effects should consequently look like. We were caught in the middle of not really pleasing anybody. It was extremely stressful. At the end of the whole experience I watched the film and thought “It’s a sweet little film”…it wasn’t saving lives and it wasn’t worth all that stress. I don’t think I’ve ever let myself get that stressed by work again.

4. What would you would do differently if you had your time again?

There’s not too much I’d do differently. We are the sum of our experiences and wishing things in the past to be different is really just regret, which can really bog us down. I’m sure if I went back now my experiences since would mean I would approach some things differently, but it’s not something I’d reflect on.

5. What are your tips for the best way to use your networks?

I’ve never been much of a ‘networker’. Certainly you pick up friends along the way who you work with many times and help each other out. That becomes a network of a sort, but anything more official than that has always escaped me.

Andrew Adamson won the award for services to film and creative in this year’s World Class New Zealand Awards, a New Zealand Trade and Enterprise initiative delivered by Kea New Zealand. He’s a director, producer and screenwriter based in LA and his work includes the blockbusters Shrek, Shrek 2, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Batman Forever and Batman Forever.

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