Head of Production, Warner Bros NZ
Bachelor of Communication Studies in Television Production
Being on a TV set still gives her a buzz, says communication studies alumna Sara Dwen who is now the head of production at Warner Bros NZ.
“In my role I manage all the production teams at Warner Bros and have intimate knowledge of everything that is happening within each show. I create and manage the budgets and work closely with all other departments. This requires a lot of communication and putting effective systems in place to manage that flow of information. I still get that amazing feeling I first felt in the AUT TV studio every time I step on set, particularly when shooting in front of a live audience.
“When I was offered the role of head of production at Warner Bros, I felt like I had reached the pinnacle of production in New Zealand. I started with Warner Bros – then Touchdown Television – as an intern in 2003 and have returned multiple times. I think I’ve amassed about nine years’ working here so far; all starting with an unpaid internship.”
Throughout her career, Sara has worked on some of New Zealand’s most successful TV shows.
“The biggest show I’ve worked on was New Zealand’s Got Talent. We had an amazing crew and had a fantastic time making both seasons. To have viewers love the show as much as we did was certainly a proud moment. We averaged just under a million viewers a night; numbers that are unheard of now.”
In addition to her work at Warner Bros, Sara also proudly serves as a director of the Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa; a role that allows her to share her own experiences with Meningitis with others.
Finding her path
When she was in high school, she knew she wanted to organise things and be in charge, Sara says.
“AUT’s Bachelor of Communication Studies was recommended to me by my high school careers counsellor. I initially thought I wanted to major in advertising but as soon as I stepped foot in the TV studio, I knew that is where I belonged.
“Those that were in my year will laugh at that, as I won the award for ‘spending the least time in the studio as possible’, but now I know I was just efficient. I get an amazing buzz from being in studio, and I haven’t found another environment that comes close.”
She still fondly remembers the people she met throughout her studies.
“I met some amazing people at AUT, and we had certainly worked out how to balance the demands of the course with a healthy social life.”
Advice for other students
Sara, who graduated from AUT in 2004, has some great advice for other students dreaming of a career in TV production.
“My advice is to take the opportunities given to you. It might not be the role you thought you would take, but you never know where it will lead or the doors it may open.
“When you’re applying for jobs, carefully check your application before you send it. I often receive emails from recent graduates looking for work that are full of spelling mistakes. That’s a massive red flag for me as attention to detail is critical in production.”
Even today she still draws on the skills she developed throughout her time at AUT.
“The effective communication skills I learned at AUT are skills I’ve taken with me through every role I’ve filled. In my role at the Meningitis Foundation, for example, I support fellow Meningitis survivors, offering them an open ear to listen to what they’ve been through and giving them a channel to vent their frustrations. Being able to listen without inserting myself into the conversation unless necessary was something I learned at AUT.”
*The Television Production major is now called Screen Production.