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Opportunities in digital production

Trust Tairawhiti is investing in the region's digital sector backing TORO Studios, which will specialise in digital production services from its Tairawhiti base.

The region's economic development agency has approved a loan to get the venture up and running, showing its commitment to growing the region's digital and technology sector.

TORO Studios plans to take advantage of opportunities in a global production industry severely impacted by Covid-19, making the most of New Zealand's relatively stable Covid status.

It has partnered with AMO Group, a collective of 20 New Zealand production companies which combine their capabilities to attract global and national work.

“We have a pipeline of projects and have already started work on some, with more to come over the coming weeks and months,” TORO Studios head of technology and partnerships Barry Soutar said.

“These production contracts will be the bread and butter of our venture, however industry training and software development are both key to the overall vision of the company,” he said.

Greenstone TV engaged TORO Studios to design and animate the opening titles for upcoming TVNZ 2 action-thriller VEGAS, filmed in Rotorua in collaboration with Bay of Plenty's Steambox Collective.

“TORO Studios' core principles are to create jobs and develop regional capability in the production sector and that makes TORO the perfect partner for us on VEGAS,” Greenstone TV chief executive Rachel Antony said.

“We have already seen the benefits of having local rangatahi working with us during filming in the Bay of Plenty region and we're delighted to extend our production's economic impact into Tairawhiti as well.”

TORO Studios aims to provide talent and digital production services such as content creation, 2D and 3D animation, virtual and augmented reality and production technology capability. They will also provide education and apprenticeships, cyber-security and undertake project management software development.

TORO will work to attract revenue to the region by providing studio capacity and skilled digital professionals.

“As a region we aspire to diversify our economy, especially as we operate predominantly in a primary-sector space,” Trust Tairawhiti economic development manager Jared Johnstone said.

“We wanted to support this venture as it will assist with the establishment of a growth engine in the digital sector.

“It also aligns with our wellbeing framework by building a more resilient, diverse and future-proofed regional economy with skilled, well-paid jobs available to be filled by our people,” he said.

NZ Tech chief executive Graeme Muller said he was seeing an increase in the number of ICT and digital technology roles, which was being driven by the growth of both the tech sector and the digital transformation in most other sectors as well.

“Despite overall growth in the tech sector, there are not many junior roles and internships being created by companies.” said Mr Muller.

“Furthermore, Maori represent only 4 percent of the digital workforce nationally. TORO Studios has been identified as an innovative new model to address these gaps and as such, is an inspiring national initiative led from a high-Maori-population regional base.”

TRAINING IN ANIMATION: A new digital production studio based at 50 Childers Road will also provide training in animation. Pictured here are Lytton High School students (from front left) Anahera Whaanga-Smith and Amoe Wharehinga with TORO Studios Head of Technology and Partnerships Barry Soutar and Trust Tairawhiti economic development manager Jared Johnstone, TORO Studios chief executive Sam Witters, Tawhirimatea Mua-Crosby and Manaia Tuari. Picture by Cody Keepa
DIGITAL FOCUS: TORO Studios Head of Technology and Partnerships Barry Soutar with Trust Tairawhiti Economic Development Manager Jared Johnstone and TORO Studio Chief Executive, Sam Witters. Picture by Cody Keepa