Jo Pilkington - First Scene

Guest Speaker at our meeting on 10 October was Jo Pilkington

TVNZ made the decision 20 years ago to divest itself of certain assets, one of these being its Set Design and Costume department. First Scene was thus formed as a private company with a staff of 3 and 50,000 items.

Jo Pilkington joined the company 6 years ago as GM, and purchased the company 3 years ago. They now have more than 20 staff and 400,000 items with 18,000 clients.

The staff are “interesting” as John Meadowcroft put it in his thank you speech, or probably more honestly, “odd” as Jo put it. They consist of musicians, actors, photographers, fashion designers – all very creative and with a passion for the industry.

40% of the clients are industry: film, theatre, TV. First Scene provides the props and scenery for top films such as “Once were Warriors” and “Hunt of the Wilderpeople”, for top TV shows such as “Jono & Ben” and “Shortland Street”, and many films that are produced in NZ every year for the world stage, many of which aren’t shown in NZ.

The other 60% of clients are the public: corporates, conferences, churches, schools and individuals. Branding is a big focus for organisations and Jo gave the Flight Centre Annual Ball as an example where they create the scene, provide the costumes and make the event for over 1,000 employees.

First Scene moved from Kingsland to a 2,000m2 premises in Avondale 2 years ago, transporting the 400k items in 58 truck loads, a huge task that took 2 weeks. This move allowed Jo to create First Scene as a showcase for itself, and also lend it to be great for tours.

Last year, Jo created the Community Give-back programme that she envisaged with the move, and now has at least one tour a week of clubs, mostly retirees, who nostalgically interact with their lives from the past, and everyone dresses up. On one recent birthday tour celebration for an 80 year old, he had always wanted to be a Samurai warrior, so that’s what he became!

The tours last 1 ½ hours and are lead by staff and volunteers.

First Scene’s website is its catalogue: Jo invited everyone to come and have a look or organise a tour – an interesting venue for our Christmas party?

It seems that the biggest concern for the audience was the database they hold on all clients – just what costumes has John hired over the years??