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Tauranga Welcomes You!

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Ex-Auckland Film Director Leads Bay of Plenty Film Collective to a Bright Future
21 April 2016
Ex-Auckland Film Director Leads Bay of Plenty Film Collective to a Bright Future

Anton Steel’s wish list was straightforward when his wife Kylie DellaBarca Steel suggested they make a sea-change from Auckland to the Bay of Plenty. He wanted a cheap beach-front rental close to good surf. Pukehina delivered. Six years on the couple’s careers and family life are thriving. Anton is emerging as a respected visionary, rallying a passionate bunch of local creative professionals to put Tauranga on the map of the New Zealand film industry.

Anton, what were you doing in Auckand?
I grew up in West Auckland, after moving there when I was young. 
Since completing my Bachelor of Arts, I have been working in the film industry. Prior to the move, I was working as an assistant director, primarily on American feature films.

What brought you to Tauranga? 
Kylie and I were both involved in careers that were all-consuming and striving to pay off a large mortgage was doing nothing for our relationship or our lives.  But we had built our own home surrounded by beautiful native bush on the west coast of Auckland and we had no intention of losing that beloved piece of paradise.

In 2009 we chose to make a short-term move to the Bay, just for a couple of years. This was not meant to be a long-term decision as all our family and friends, and our home, were in Auckland.  However, the quality of life, simplicity, cost-effectiveness, opportunities for young families and good surf got the better of us.  Three years into our two year stay, we sold our house in Auckland and brought a home here in the Bay.


Why do you choose to live in Pukehina?
Prior to moving here, I had never even heard of Pukehina and Kylie had only visited it once.  We moved here because my wish-list consisted of a cheap beach front rental that was not in Papamoa or the Mount. Days later a friend in the Bay rang us about a ramshackle old bach on the beach that met the criteria. Without even seeing the property, we packed our house into a horse float and moved here.  

As time went on, we had two gorgeous boys.  Life had changed and the house prices down here were much cheaper than Auckland. We bought a large property across the road from the beach with great views over the estuary. There is room for fruit trees and chickens and we have access to three main centers with drive times within 45 minutes - no longer than people spend sitting in Auckland traffic.  


What it was like making friends and finding a sense of community here? 
We were lucky in that through Kylie’s charitable work in the kiwifruit industry we connected with some amazing people and their families even before moving to the Bay.  In fact, our relationships with these people was one of the motivating factors for the move.  Once we settled in we found neighbours and the local community to be both friendly and generous.  People are generally more laid back here - interested in spending time with each other and getting out and doing things.  

You wrote and directed an award-winning feature film in 2014.  Tell us about that.
Based on true stories, the 'Z Nail Gang' it is an action comedy about a community uniting together to defy the government and big business and has been described on many occasions as a Kiwi classic. We made it as a community-resourced project here in Te Puke and released it nationwide. 

It was nominated for Best Self-Funded Film at the New Zealand Film awards and won the TrustPower WBOP Supreme Community Award. The ‘Z-Nail Gang’ is available for pay per view on vimeo and will be screened on the Rialto Channel in 2016.

What motivated you to make a feature film project using mostly locals and volunteers?
Kylie had been teaching a workshop around the country based on the principles of Asset Based Community Development. One day she said “You’ve got this script about community coming together and I have this course about community coming together. Why don’t we take this concept I’ve been teaching and apply it?” 

So with a $0 budget and a kaupapa of 'Connect, Create, Celebrate', we did a letter drop around the Pukehina Beach community inviting people to “make a movie”. What began as a meeting of twelve people quickly grew into a sizeable volunteer base including professional actors and stunt men, resources such as limos, helicopters and New Zealand’s biggest tractor, and amazing music from talented local artists.

Only when you see the final credits of over 600 contributors do you get the true scale of this undertaking! We made a film that had been budgeted at $6 million for next to nothing; along the way changing lives, seeing many dreams realised and unwittingly inspiring communities all over NZ. 


Can you tell me about the Bay of Plenty Film Collective and your role within it?

I have recently taken on the role of President of BOP Film, a collective of local film makers and industry professionals. 
We have a three-pronged focus:

1. Developing a financially and environmentally sustainable industry here,

2. Keeping it local by encouraging corporate work through our online database of skills, equipment and locations,

3 .Supporting the creation of conscious media.

We have a slate of local projects in development and we had a BOP Film launch event at the Tauranga Art Gallery on May 4th in conjunction with a fundraising screening of an award-winning locally made documentary.

Our speaker was Sir Bob Harvey, former Mayor of Waitakere City, long-time member of the NZ Film commission board and a key force in the creation of ‘Westiewood’, the thriving West Auckland Film Industry.  He was "wildly optimistic" about our dreams for this region and very supportive.  There was a great turn out and a palpable sense of enthusiasm in the room.  The future is exciting.

People can visit www.bopfilm.nz for more information.

What creative projects are you personally working on currently?
Alongside BOP Film responsibilities, I am finishing a new draft of a feature film, developing a dystopian web series, producing a docu-drama with Tauranga Writers to commemorate their 50th anniversary, and seeking funding to complete a documentary looking at grassroots rebuild empowerment in post-cyclone Pam Vanuatu.

How would you describe the state of the arts in Tauranga? 
One thing I’ve realized in my journey with the ‘Z Nail Gang’, and now with BOP Film, is the amount of creative people we have down here and the willingness people have to collaborate and support across genres and mediums. By building and encouraging this community we will see the Bay of Plenty recognised as one of the creative hubs of our country.

What do you think the Bay of Plenty has going for it?
Sunshine, surf, creativity, passionate friendly people, not much traffic, great communities, varied environment, lower costs, great schools, quality of life, easy access to bigger cities if needed… The list goes on.


What would you say to Auckland families who are considering moving to Tauranga?
It is a great opportunity to reduce costs and have more time for family and friends.  Some expectations may require adjustment because the jobs and pay structures are a little different from Auckland standards, but the reality is you will gain in all other areas of life.  Kylie and I have found so much fun and freedom in being creative and creating our own businesses and projects. We are always trying to encourage our other Auckland friends to come on down.  For us, it has been an open door to living our dreams.

What advice would you give to them about settling in?
There is an adage that you’re not truly 'local' until you’ve been settled somewhere for ten years.  Good things do take time so give yourselves and your family permission to take time to settle in, find friends and establish community.  It won’t happen overnight, but from our experience – it will happen.


Gets You Thinking Doesn't It?

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Meet Kathryn Overall
Explore www.wishyouwereworkinghere.co.nz

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About Kathryn

About Kathryn


Kathryn Overall is the friendly voice behind the 'Wish You Were Working Here' stories and Facebook posts.  Each month she chats with returned Kiwi expats,  Auckland imports and New Zealand immigrants who have moved to Tauranga, collecting their stories and advice to share with you. 

CLICK HERE to read her own story of reluctant homecoming!


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