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Waikato Film Culture Creates Buzz with short film 'Drink up You're Next', filmed here in the Waikato

Photo of the filming of drink up your next by Nathan Higgins

Recently I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes on the short film, Drink Up, You’re Next, that was being shot in the rural Waikato.  It was an eye-opening experience of what the film community in the Waikato is like and what makes it unique.

The short film is written and directed by Nathan Higgins, a Waikato filmmaker.  This project is not only filmed here, but he is using the local film community to produce it.

“There are so many great filmmakers down here who I have already worked with; we definitely have a community spirit.”

This sentiment is a shared around the crew on set.  While some know each other from previous projects, others are working together for the first time.  Observing their interactions on set and the ease of their collaboration, you would not know some had just met.  Gaffer, Sam Eton-Walters, says that people grow during production.

“People that are making films, as we do, they all find each other… you have to love it.”

The natural integration with one another comes from people with experience, a level you wouldn’t expect to find here in the Waikato.

The cast and crew members’ degree of skill and knowledge was unexpected. And a lot of them have come from impressive backgrounds.   Some crew members have worked on multiple short films, or in the theatre, or have studied and worked in the United States film industry.  Best Boy, Sam Murphy enjoys the team environment that film industry demands.

“It is pretty rare that you find a medium that can’t exist without an army of willing and creative people.  And it has to mesh.  If it doesn’t mesh, it doesn’t work.”

Unifying and supporting this community is one of the aims of the Waikato Film Hub.  It is an organisation that provides workshops, facilities, and networking opportunities for local filmmakers.  Drink Up, You’re Next Production Manager, Kelly Keith Fritz, is also a member of the Waikato Film Hub.

“It has been the key that has bought me to work on film in the Waikato.  I joined when I first arrived in Hamilton.  That was where I met a lot of my colleagues, my fellow filmmakers. It’s a very community-minded group.”

FROM HAMILTON BOYS’ HIGH TO DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

FROM HAMILTON BOYS’ HIGH TO DIRECTOR’S CHAIR

The global pandemic killed many film projects here and around the world – for Nathan Higgins, it provided an opportunity for a project to come to life.


Nathan is a Waikato-based filmmaker who has an impressive background in film as actor, crew member and is a talented script writer.

His journey started at Hamilton Boys’ High, learning the basics in moving image.  With encouragement from his teacher, Quentin West, he continued his studies at the South Seas Film and Television School in Auckland, which cemented his decision to work in film. I caught up with Nathan on the set of his current project, Drink Up, You’re Next, that he has both written and directed.

Drink Up, You’re Next is a short film that discusses the adverse impact that New Zealand drinking culture has in our rural communities.

“It’s about a 21st from hell. It centres around a dysfunctional family and how their bad drinking traditions have negative effects on the next generation.”

Inspired by personal anxiety that Nathan had from his 21st, the story developed into an honest view of a party that has gone bad.

“I always had this little anxiety in my head about my 21st. That little nightmare that continued to stay and provided me with the inspiration for the film.”

Nathan grew up in the rural Waikato and this provided the inspiration for the story. So, it was a natural decision to work with the local film community to produce the project. By using a cast and crew familiar and supportive of the subject matter, he has managed to recreate a realistic recreation…

“The Waikato film scene has a community spirit. Always willing to help out. Pay is always nice, but we want to do it because we love it.”

Following suit, the local community have rallied around the project, be it by providing a rural hall as the location, to Hautapu Rugby providing realistic rugby scenes. Even the creative organisation Creative Waikato has been able to help out to get this project off the ground.

“We were allowed to use their audition space, which made it feel a lot more professional than just having actors turn up to my house. Just keeping it professional makes everyone feel that we are doing a real project that needs to be taken seriously.”

Filming for the project is now completed. Nathan and his editor, Adam Harvey, will have a task to edit the film over the summer ready for film festivals next year.

“While everyone is enjoying the beach and the summer weather, me and my editor Adam will be sitting in a dark room editing. But it will be fun. We will remember the fun times we had on set, so it should be okay.”

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Written by Paula Jacobsen / Features - Waikato Independent
Reproduced with permission