If you enjoy watching US television shows like Spartacus, Vampire Diaries and Criminal Minds, you will have come across the handiwork work of New Zealand’s own Hollywood director and proud Westlaker, Jesse Warn.
Jesse, who was at Westlake from 1987-1990 followed his heart and applied ambition to start off his career in drama around 15 years ago when he began directing short films and music videos. It was not long before he picked up two short film awards from the New Zealand Film Commission and a Flying Fish Music Video of the Year Award. His 2003 debut feature film, Nemesis Game, which he wrote and directed, would go on to be nominated for seven New Zealand film awards including best picture and best director.
His next project was a House of Travel commercial with advertising agency Meares Taine. Shooting at locations all around the world, Jesse developed a passion for the TV commercial format. This was the start of six-year period in which he directed many TVCs. His 2007 Tiger Beer Taste It In This Life earned Jesse the Silver Lion and since he has directed many beverage commercials, including Coke and Sprite for China, Summit Lager for New Zealand and Smirnoff Vodka for Australia. In an article in AdMedia last year Jesse said, “I have a real respect for advertising. As a director I believe it is one of the most challenging mediums there is. Consolidating a sharp, visually engaging story into 60 seconds or less is its own discipline and requires a good instinct for what the audience will respond to.”
Jesse’s American break came with the successful collaboration for the action-packed trailer for Legend of the Seeker, for producers Rob Tapert (Xena) and Sam Raimi (Spiderman and Evil Dead). This project was so successful that Jesse was asked to stay on to direct episodes of Legend of the Seeker and was invited to be involved in their development project, Spartacus. Jesse directed some of Spartacus’ key episodes, including the season finale, which gave him Director status in Hollywood and as a result, Jesse landed directing roles on shows such as Criminal Minds. Since then he has directed Season 2 of Spartacus, done more global television and commercial shoots and worked on Shaolin Burning, a feature film based on a graphic novel created by bro’Town designer Ant Sang.
During Westlake Boys’ Culture Week earlier this year Jesse visited his school and spoke to a packed Auditorium at assembly. He quickly captivated the audience with a video showing clips of his recent work and displaying film directing techniques involving all 2000+ students as movie “extras”.
Jesse’s production company, Glider Films, has worked in conjunction with Westlake Boys High School to give work experience to two senior students, Zhan Henderson and Mark Casson. Both students enjoyed working as runners on a Glider Film TV commercial shoot for Delmaine Fine Foods. Over a period of two days the boys worked in every department behind the scenes and picked up invaluable techniques and tips of the trade from Jesse and his team. The long-term goal of this partnership is to develop a Gateway work experience programme that helps young people who are interested in the Film and Television Industry to gain experience and find positions in their chosen field.
Westlake Boys High School is delighted to be back in contact with Jesse. If you know of any Westlakers who might be interested in getting involved at school, as coaches, mentors or in any other capacity, please contact Christine O’Dowd or Vicki Fowler in the Westlakers Office.