Graduate of Southern Institute of Technology (SIT)’s Bachelor of Screen Arts programme, Jonathan Bowes-Onions is currently working as a camera assistant based in Auckland. Having worked on some of the biggest films recently shot in New Zealand, including, Ghost in the Shell, The Meg, A Wrinkle in Time and The Shannara Chronicles, Jonathan has been lucky enough to travel all around the country, including to some extremely remote locations, which most people would never have the chance to see.
While studying at Christchurch’s Papanui High School, Jonathan always envisaged himself having a career in something that would allow him to visually express himself. At the time, he was leaning towards fine arts painting, taking as many art subjects as he could in Year 13 including, painting, photography, graphic design and art history.
“Papanui High School had such an amazing art department with so many different art subjects to choose from and great facilities. This is where my passion for art started.”
During Jonathan’s last year of high school in 2011, Christchurch experienced a 6.3 magnitude earthquake which caused a huge amount of damage, destruction and disruption to the city. As a consequence, Jonathan’s parents moved away from Canterbury and settled down in Invercargill. Jonathan however, persuaded his parents to allow him to stay in Christchurch and continue his studies at Papanui High School. Intent on undertaking tertiary study in Fine Arts in Otago once finishing high school, Jonathan started contemplating his future career in fine arts and how successful he might be as an artist. Around the same time, he noticed a flyer on the wall in the art classroom at school which advertised SIT and the arts programmes on offer at the Invercargill campus.
“One particular course stood out to me, the Bachelor of Screen Arts degree. This course specialised in making films and I thought that it could be a more viable option for being visually creative as well as financially secure, as opposed to the stereotypes of a ‘broke artist’.”
Jonathan came straight from high school into tertiary study and as such, didn’t really have particular expectations when it came to what it would be like in a tertiary education setting.
“I did conjure up the images you might typically associate with tertiary study, of sitting at the back of a massive lecture hall amongst hundreds of others, listening to someone at the front reading off a PowerPoint.”
The above couldn’t be further from Jonathan’s experience studying at SIT. “In reality, my class had around 11 others, with tutors that allowed us to use their first names. This made it a very comfortable environment where we would sit around the table in a group and bounce ideas off each other. It also meant we got a lot of one-on-one time with the tutors which was helpful to walk us through any difficulties we may have been having and to get great feed-forward with our projects.”
One of the main benefits of studying at SIT for Jonathan was the networking opportunities available. “Whenever any big film projects came down south, SIT film students would usually be able to intern on the projects, not only helping us to learn from multiple different professionals working in the industry, but assisting with networking to increase our chances of securing future work after graduation.”
One notable internship Jonathan managed to get through SIT was working on Disney’s film ‘Pete’s Dragon’. After working as a camera trainee on the project, Jonathan was offered a role to work with them up in Auckland after finishing his studies.
Still climbing the ladder of his career in the camera department, Jonathan's future plans include working his way to start shooting smaller projects as a Director of Photography. Not taking anything for granted, he counts himself lucky to be where he is and recommends putting everything into it and getting your hands on every internship opportunity possible.