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From LA to Wainui

For most of human history, most people's jobs have tied them to their location.

But the advent of the internet and modern technology has diluted the connection between place and employment.

And then along came a global pandemic.

Thousands of kilometres from their usual workplaces, a Wainui-based trio exemplify the new era of remote working.

Gisborne-raised Darren Maynard and American partner Amy Matthew normally work in the film and TV industry in Los Angeles, while Darren's uncle David Strawbridge travels as a consultant all over the world.

“I'm lucky to be working on a TV show at the moment called Queen Sugar with Warner Brothers,” says audio engineer Darren.

His CV suggests skill and experience also has plenty to do with that. It includes such movies as Joker, Birds of Prey and Clint Eastwood's The Mule.

Away from the heart of the industry in LA, he has had to improvise with things found in the garage when it has come to to making the sound for the show.

“When you're working remotely you don't have all the resources so you have to go a little DIY.”

“I've been doing some chilly bin recording with a water bottle and ice.”

“Right now we can't work on the set because a lot of the stages are closed and they have very quiet environments and so you just have to be a little creative.”

They work on American time but that does not make much difference as Los Angeles is 21 hours behind New Zealand.

“A large number of the staff working on the show are in different cities following the recording of the show from their computers and I'm able to give feedback via a video sharing device if they're using Zoom.”

But to work online, especially when dealing with a lot of data, high-speed internet is needed and not all connections are equal.

Luckily Gisborne has some of the best internet in the world.

“Internet at my mum and dad's is fibre optic, which got put in a couple of years ago and is faster than at my house in Los Angeles,” says Darren.

It has been the glue that has made his work almost seamless.

Amy, who also works in the creative industries, came with Darren on a holiday to Gisborne.

Once they got here they decided there was not a lot of reason to rush back, she said.

Amy had been working remotely in LA since March of last year so working from New Zealand was not much of a change.

Her employer is happy for her to be in New Zealand but she tries not to bring it up too much as most of her colleagues are still in the midst of the pandemic in the US.

“They are a little bit jealous but I try not to rub it in when I take calls from the porch on a sunny Gisborne day.”

Darren's uncle David says the move to working online has saved him thousands of kilometres of travel.

His work as a consultant involves him visiting such places as Myanmar, Pakistan and Indonesia, helping establish libraries for an American organisation called Room to Read.

“Normally I would be in Pakistan right now helping to set up a workshop,” he said.

The transition to working on the web has had mixed results because working with developing countries online has connection challenges.

He foresees some of his work online will carry on into the future but says being there in person is important.

“One of the things I've missed about working in Pakistan is how I can get a feel for the context.

“I can understand the schools and the teachers and the team I am working with.”

“There is a personal touch I miss.”

IN THE FIELD: Audio engineer and sound creator Darren Maynard catching sound for an American television show. Picture supplied
GONE DIGITAL: Amy Matthew, Darren Maynard and David Strawbridge in their international office at Wainui. Picture by Paul Rickard