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The Canterbury Champion of Children's Television

The Canterbury Champion

Of Children's Television

Whitebait Media is a full-service film studio in central Christchurch, catering to small and large-scale productions with pre- and post-production facilities. It’s led by Jason Gunn and Janine Morrell-Gunn, a couple that have shaped Children's television in New Zealand for more than 20 years.

Screen CanterburyNZ sat down with Janine to hear how passionate she is for helping the next generation of television makers and how Ōtautahi Christchurch has always been home.

How long have you been doing children's Television?

Well, my career in television started way way back in the 80’s under the great TVNZ internship scheme. By the late 90’s all telly production roads were leading to Auckland, so we thought it was time put a stake in the ground and sail our own waka, and that was 22 years ago. Whitebait Media has become a one stop production shop with studio pre and post-production facilities. We are proud to have been the springboard for hundreds of young talented creatives starting out in the television and film industry.

Whitebait Owner

Whitebait Media has become a one stop production shop with studio pre and post-production facilities. We are proud to have been the springboard for hundreds of young talented creatives starting out in the television and film industry.

Janine Morrell-Gunn - Whitebait Media

What are the shows and work that Whitebait does throughout the year?

Currently on the slate we are making 40 x 2 hours of live television with What Now every Sunday morning, Darwin & Newts - an early childhood animation co-production with India and 150 x 1/2hr episodes of Brain Busters, a quiz show for 10 -14 year olds – an under-served demographic. Second season in and it's really struck a chord, winning a great audience. What we do isn’t rocket science but it does give kids a voice, showcase their talents and celebrate them. Our kaupapa is to put children at the front and centre of what we do, and carry whanau in our hearts.

Are there any exciting shows in development?

Yes – we’ve always got stuff in the bottom drawer in development. We’re working on a couple of dramas – our own, as well as in collaboration with others. With the huge amount of global content streaming in from platforms around the world, it's more vital than ever that we tell stories with, and for all young New Zealanders, so they get to see and hear people like them.

What has been your all time favourite show to work on?

Ha. They've all been my favourite. I suppose the shows that make it beyond third season are the most satisfying. Season one, you work so hard, and there are always cost overruns and lots of learnings. The second year is awesome because you've worked out how to produce and deliver on time and on budget – but third season is my favourite because we’re working smart, maximised the efficiencies, the team and the content is on point and the audience are loving it.

What facilities and production capabilities do you have in-house for others to hire?

We've invested into every aspect of television production. Studios, lighting, control room, graphics, audio and video post-production and an OB truck. Our home is pretty special and we are super proud of what we have created, paying attention to the important smaller details like wardrobe, makeup and Green Room, theatre screening room and catering spaces. We’ve also got designated props and set areas, with ample open-plan production office space breakout rooms.

What does it mean for you to film in Canterbury?

I was lucky to have been trained by TVNZ and worked in the Auckland Newsroom and Centre Court, Avalon and Dunedin as well as being sent on work experience to the BBC and Children’s Television Workshop in New York. Ōtautahi is home and Whitebait’s base, but New Zealand is a village and collaborations with other like-minded story tellers, creatives and crew are our future. Making sure New Zealand tamariki get the equal access to the same genres and diversity of content as adults is my passion.

Get in Touch

Bree Loverich
Screen CanterburyNZ Manager
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