SAE interview

Written by Dave on March 3, 2014

These days, Janette is the founder and Managing Director at The Playground Creative Project Management, and is their expert on Business and Brand Strategy, Marketing, Communications and Project Management.

Around the time she was studying at SAE Auckland, Janette Searle was had started moving into the production side of the film & television industry, where she spent the next fifteen years managing the full range of screen genres, production types, sizes and budgets.  During that time she was also working on a Business degree through Massey University, raising four mischievous boys and managing a small business.

We were fortunate enough to interview Janette recently about how her career has developed.


Q: What qualification did you receive from SAE Auckland, and what did you enjoy most about the program?

My arrival at SAE followed a year hanging with a band in a small morris minor that only had second and fourth gear, whilst I was supposed to be doing my business degree. I was in the second intake when SAE started in New Zealand and achieved a Diploma in Audio Engineering.

Things I enjoyed most … the people, great being around like minded people, playing in the 24 track suite, and splicing & editing tape… cause I was good at it … yes I attended SAE in the dark ages of physical tape, razor blades, and white pencils and when my final creative recording was recorded on a tape spool bigger than my car wheel.

Q: What have you been doing since completing study at SAE Auckland?

My diploma intrigued the sound department at Avalon studios (TVNZ) enough for them to bring me in for an interview not long after I completed my study, and that interview was enough for them to give me a job.   So I started my career on the studio floor, out on location and up the side of the rugby field holding a microphone that resembled a large fuzzy badger on a stick.  I honed my skills in cabling, microphone pinning, and how best to avoid the after match changing room interviews (too much liniment and more than enough ‘it was a game of two halves, full credit to the team’ for me!!).

I bore easily and had it been an option when I was at school, I would have been given the label ADHD…..  I was so bored I hassled the head of production to give me a job in the production office.  After six months of my weekly visits he relented and so began a long stint of my career in television production.  Over the course of 17 years in production I managed factual series’, game shows, live to air programmes, documentaries, commercials, short films, music videos, corporates and docu-drama series’, pretty much everything but feature films.  I loved it.  It was an opportunity for me to use the knowledge I’d gained studying and on the studio floor as well as my geeky business/organisational side.  I think having that on-the-ground knowledge means you have a better understanding of how it works and therefore can manage a production more effectively.

The film and television industry is really a lifestyle, and not conducive to having a family, so I got to a time when it was better for me, and my family, to get out of telly.  I did a few other things in the health sector for a few years and then had an epiphany  - I was actually passionate about the creative industries, so I started my company – The Playground CPM ltd.  Through this I combine my business degree knowledge (I’d finished while I was doing all that other stuff), my television/film knowledge, and my audio knowledge.  Its all transferrable across projects.   So now I work with clients on the business end of creative projects.   I work with bands, creative organisations, and creative projects – but my role is pretty much the same – identify a strategy for development, and implement it, bringing in the people, support and resources needed to make it happen.

Unfortunately I’ve never found anyone in need of my fabulous splicing skills.


Q: What have been some of the more memorable or rewarding moments of your professional career so far?

Memorable moments:

- Interviewing Sir Ken Robinson – expert and world leader in the field of creativity and education…. And very inspiring and funny

- Random meeting and conversation with Prof. Tom Furness at Sydney airport (he’s the grandfather of virtual reality, blew my mind!!)

- Working with James Hood – Drummer for The Pretenders at his house in LA. Very cool large scale participative digital project and wish my part in it had been even bigger.
Rewarding Moments:

- Winning the MMF upcoming manager of the year award last year

- Getting artists onto really cool things like Glastonbury festival, or opening for Slash at Vector Arena, or in front of the most inspirational audience as part of TedX Auckland

- The travel I got to do over a the course of a few years

- Receiving the updates and photos from Pakistan of the people who have received the artificial limbs that they have now because of the project and charitable trust I set up (Take My Hands Charitable Trust).  That is both rewarding and humbling!


Q: You now do some occasional lecturing at SAE with the Bachelor of Recording Arts classes.  What do you teach them and what has it been like working with students?

It’s been great returning to SAE to give back and share what I know.  I hope the students have enjoyed it as much as I have.  Mostly, I’ve been talking about the music business from a manager’s point of view – so working with artists, funders, key strategic partnerships, different perspectives of the industry, etc. I did have one class where no one wanted to be a music manager (wise group they were too), so we covered how to get from where you are now to where you want to be  - it was a small class so we used the opportunity to identify their individual values, visions, what they had to work with now, and possible strategies for achieving that vision.   It was fun and I was really impressed with the vision and determination in the group.


Q: What are your plans moving forward?

The Playground have been working on a range of cool projects over the last 6 months – we managed a one day free to the public festival in Ponsonby,  line produced a promo video shoot for Sony Japan, created a digital installation and sculpture for Splore festival,  are editing a promo video for a service provider, and continuing to manage a few music artists.   So the intention is to continue with that, and allow the Playground to be that space where key to what we do is make it happen, no matter what the ‘it’ happens to be.

For me, most recently I’ve been working in what I like to describe as the social, creative entrepreneurial side of things.    I’ve been working on the development and funding of an arts organization that work with those that have a mental health experience, and at risk and vulnerable youth.  I’m really loving it.    It’s a mix of the strategic, long-term vision stuff and working out, through people, resource, process, structure and knowledge, how you can get there whilst dealing with the challenges of working in a not-for-profit private sector.  I get to work with very cool down to earth people who are really making a difference in the world, and the work I do helps them do that.  So, I’m looking for more of that kind of thing – both the making a real difference and the long term strategic vision / make it happen kind of work.

I’m also considering doing my masters at some stage in the not too distant future.

And waiting for the big come back in tape splicing.

Posted: Tue 04 Mar 2014