The Bachelor of Design (Stage & Screen) is an intensive course that makes the designer a major collaborator in the creation of live and screen production. By challenging traditional ways of working, this innovative course offers an exciting alternative pathway towards the creation of visually extraordinary work for theatre, film, video and live performance. The course emphasises highly practical learning through experimentation and risk-taking.
"I would describe Toi Whakaari as a playground for artists. It’s a three-year opportunity to be grounded in a space with equipment, books, spaces, experienced staff and guest tutors and, most importantly, peers who can be collaborators, critics, mentors and examples of success and failure. In its prime the design degree is a mix of diverse crafts, where you learn through experience and through each other. The design degree deals especially with developing one’s process and self awareness through practical applications, which have proved to be invaluable skills."
In this degree course you will be guided to challenge conventional boundaries between disciplines through a range of studio-based and collaborative projects. You might be the set or costume designer, audio-visual or lighting designer, live art maker or event designer on these projects. You will gain practical design experience combined with a strong set of transferable skills. Established expert professionals and strategic work placements will expose you to current industry practice and relevant skills.
Practical Design Skills I: drawing, model making, and computer-aided design programs, basic filmmaking skills and work in the art department on a music video.
Conceptual studio-based projects including costume design for film and working from a script to design a live production.
Cross-disciplinary projects that focus on collaboration and developing a critical language for evaluating performance.
During this year, there is increased flexibility to develop your own design practice through industry internships and performance work.
Cross-disciplinary, experimental film-making.
Internship to professional companies and designers of your choice.
Practical Design Skills II: advanced drawing, on-set film and live production (including exhibition and event design) experience.
Conceptual studio-based project: film design and site-specific event design.
Develop a proposal for Independent Practice projects in the final year.
During this year you will be mentored through fully realised productions and self-initiated projects.
Lead designer on theatre or film production
Independent Practice Project
Professional Practice: Internship, Website/Portfolio and Graduation Exhibition
2022 DESIGN APPLICATIONS WILL OPEN 21 MAY 2021 AND WILL CLOSE 1 OCTOBER 2021. All applicants are asked to submit an online application form and a portfolio of your work.
Personal Statement Info:
In the Personal Statement section of the Application Form please answer the following questions (150-200 words each MAX):
You are encouraged to share some personal insights and influences that have shaped you.
In the Portfolio section of the Application Form you can either: enter a link to your website/Tumblr/Dropbox or other online portal, or you can email us a ZIP file of images of your work. We are looking for potential and ability in the following areas: drawing; creative innovation; design process; collaboration; visual communication and conceptual thinking. Put together a portfolio which gives us an insight into:
You are more than welcome to bring hard copies/made items from your portfolio to your interview.
For nearly 15 years, Toi’s design programme has produced innovative designers of the highest standard who have worked in New Zealand and overseas. Our graduates are leaders in performance-based arts practice and have successfully forged careers in dance, events, film, and stage productions.
They are well-known in the industry as independent thinkers with strong practical skills. Many of our graduates go on to work as designers in the costume and art departments on independent and large-scale films. Some work in live performance and events as costume, set, lighting and projection designers. Others develop their own practice as artists and continue post-graduate studies.
Film: Production designer ● Costume designer ● Set designer ● Props designer ● Art director ● Set dresser ● Art department buyer ● Costume buyer ● Props buyer
Live: Performance designer ● Costume designer ● Set designer ● Props designer ● Lighting designer ● Projection designer
Other: Events designer ● Director - film, television, music video ● Education and Academia ● Visual or Fine artist
“Since graduating in 2007 and completing a Masters of Design in 2010 I have worked as a freelance performance designer and director on projects that include live art, contemporary theatre, video, projection and installation design.”
Meg Rollandi, Graduate 2007, Masters 2010
- Lecturer in Spatial Design
College of Creative Arts,
"My time studying at Toi Whakaari allowed me to not only further my craft in scenography and design but also to work alongside performers, technicians and directors. It was an invaluable experience to be able to develop collaborative relationships in this early stage of my career and be guided along the way by experienced teachers and practitioners. The relationships fostered in my time here are still a huge part of my practice and will stay with me for years to come."
Rowan Pierce, Graduate 2009
- Sound and Spatial Designer
Toi Whakaari - New Zealand Drama School is a treasure, producing independent creative thinkers for the stage and screen industries. Teamwork, independent thought, understanding the creative processes, and craft are at the forefront of what a Toi education provides. It is for good reasons that graduates occupy many leading roles within the industry. The design course is right up there - equipping graduates with the skillsets, and approach to engage with the most challenging projects,and triumph.
Simon Bennett - Graduate 1988
Director & Executive Producer
Emma is the Academic Coordinator for the Bachelor of Design (Stage and Screen)degree. She works alongside the Head of Department to support the Design team and the on-going development of the degree programme. She also provides pastoral care and academic support for the Design students. Emma has worked at Te Kura Toi Whakaari O Aotearoa for eight years and her career as an artist spans 15years-highlights include: First Class Honors Bachelor of Performance Design(Hons); international recognition by being awarded Best Costume Design in the world by the prestigious institution The Prague Quadrennial; research protects exhibited internationally; leading the Design department (2017-2020); costume designing productions Hui by Mitch Tawhi Thomas and Pohutu created by Bianca Hyslop and Rowan Pierce.
Emma is passionate about arts education and fostering strong relationships with the students and the next generation of performance designers.
Born London UK,
New Zealand citizen since 1968
Since 1995, Helen Todd has been Light and Technical Director for Lemi Ponifasio and MAU. After studying music and following her own practice in visual art, Helen started to work with light in 1986. Her independent work in the exploration of light in performance has placed her work at the forefront of performance research and often outside current theatre practice. Her work with Ponifasio and MAU is presented at notable venues and festivals worldwide including the Venice Biennale, Avignon Festival, BAM New York, Ruhrtriennale Germany, Lincoln Center New York, Edinburgh International Festival, Theatre de la Ville Paris, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, London’s Southbank, Holland Festival, Luminato Festival Toronto, Vienna Festival, Berliner Festspiele, the New Zealand Festival, and with MAU Mapuche in Chile, with MAU Wāhine on marae through New Zealand, and in Samoa, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.
Her work was nominated for a Bessie Award, USA 2014, and for the Dora Mavor Moore Award, Canada 2016.
Dr Sean Coyle is a performance designer, photographer, artist and educator. He originally trained at Toi Whakaari (Technical Production) and has since completed a Graduate Diploma inDramatic Arts Design from VCA (University of Melbourne), an M.A (Art andDesign) from Auckland University of Technology and a PhD from the School of Creative Arts - University of Tasmania.
He was previously Head of School at the Pacific Institute of Performing Arts (PIPA) in Auckland for 12 years and was a lecturer in Theatre at Victoria University of Wellington from 2018 to 2021.
He has been a designer for theatre and television throughout New Zealand and Australia for nearly 30 years and is currently developing his art practice which moves between scenography, photography and performance.