14 Sep 2023

Punching Beyond Weight: ETNZ delivers winning conference. Again

by Julius Grafton

Every second August ETNZ (Entertainment Technology NZ) run a conference and tradeshow, and late August 2023 it was held at Te Whaea: The National Dance & Drama Centre, Wellington.

Entertainment Technology New Zealand is a professional association of entertainment technology industry practitioners set up 21 years ago. It provides support through professional development, advocacy, and safety.

Significantly, it is an industry association that has, working closely with Skills Active Aotearoa, lodged formal qualifications for the industry onto the New Zealand Qualification Framework and developed unit standards to meet these qualifications.


In practical terms this has seen an entry level (level 3) qualification delivered to dozens of trainees and an apprentice (level 4) qualification currently progressing apprentices. Level 5 and 6 have been structured for future delivery. This is a major achievement that has not come close to reality in Australia where the VET training system cannot provide traineeships for Certificate 3 in Theatre and Events despite some attempts.

That ETNZ itself exists is testimony to the Kiwi culture of working together that has seen a small country of 5 million deliver much on the world stage.

The two day conference ran 24 sessions on topics ranging from ‘Why did that circuit breaker trip?’ to the fascinating ‘Intimacy and Combat Coordinators’. The keynote was delivered by Brian Smallwood, Author of “Productivity Through Wellness for Live Entertainment and Theatre Technicians: Increasing Productivity, Avoiding Burnout, and Maximizing the Value of An Hour”. Naturally he spoke of that very issue, specifically that the issue has always existed but it is only now we are actually speaking about it. A takeout was to aim a little lower and raise the potential for achievement.


Delegates I spoke to were uniformly enthusiastic about the conference, exhibiting a more upbeat demeanour than I’m used to experiencing in Australia. A conference dinner on day one was held at the Habourside Function Centre. Technical awards and Production Pins were handed out. An ‘Archive Project’ was rolled out, inviting members to upload documents and pictures.

A decent resource centre is part of the attractions of membership; I was impressed with “Glossary of Entertainment Industry Inclusive Terminology” which proposes modern suitable replacement terms for old sayings we still hear, such as “grow a set/pair/some balls” be changed to “toughen up”!

On a more serious note,  ETNZ supported the development of the Guide for Safe Working Practices in the New Zealand Theatre & Entertainment Industry and Safe Rigging Practices for the Entertainment Industry in New Zealand. Both of these documents are freely downloadable on the ETNZ Resources Page.


Between sessions, the 150 delegates visited the tradeshow where suppliers rolled out new and useful tech. Jands had a lot of interest in the new top-end ETC Eos Apex lighting control surface, which is finding new homes at venues on both sides of the ditch.

Andrew Maher, Jands with ETC Eos Apex

George Schneider from Theatrelight updated me on progress by the 51 year old firm. Alongside traditional lighting control systems they have a neat ‘Quadbox’ to allow four DMX switched loads switched on or off, making switching circuits with high in-rush easier.

George Schneider from Theatrelight

Innovative roadcase fabricator Fiasco have a series of cases that can stack any which way. Partner Joe Bradford updated me on their USA operation which survived Covid by pivoting to offer work from home desks! Joe and partner Matt Waterhouse have both lived in the USA at different times, so they felt comfortable making the expansion, which now boasts a workforce of 15.

Joe Bradford from Fiasco

The team at MDR Sound and Lighting were busy with Chauvet, Eurotruss and Clair Brothers business – so busy I couldn’t get a timeslot for a chat. Similarly John Herber Theatre Supplies were deep in discussions as I walked past.

MDR Sound and Lighting

Richie Michan from LSC reports growing sales of dimmers as others exit a shrinking market. Their Unitour power racks now have an amazeballs feature – any circuit tripped produces a text message. Better still, you can power the brains using PoE, so no need to plug up 3 phase in the factory at prep time!

Gordon Roberts from ULA showed me the Onyx NX1 lighting desk which – for a novice – appealed to me as fairly straight-forward. Not always the case, in a world where every lighting desk takes a different approach.


Cory Shultz from Kenderdine tells me the Lan Lux 1200w LED is the bomb for film. They do film and theatre. CEO Ruth Kenderdine told me business is fine, but ‘I sell cream, and right now people don’t buy much cream!’

Dom Halpin and Cory Schultz from Kenderdine

Caught up with old mate Vince Haddad of Show Technology, who reported more new hires across the group. They had a lot of interest on the stand, with some new tech from Claypaky standing out.

Vince Haddad and Thomas Butler from Show Technology

Another old mate Peter Grisard from The PA People was lurking on the LS Group stand where Annelise Goodwin showed me the cute Talen, a baby washlight. High End Solaph and Halycon Gold were also featured.

Annelise Goodwin from LS Group with Peter Grisard from The P.A. People

Ryan Oleary from Metro was fielding Prolyte enquiries, fronting for Jeff Hewitt. Metro are big on staging, rigging, chain hoists and lighting equipment in general.

Ryan Oleary from Metro

Overall it was a terrific turnout. It was a little strange that the emphasis of the exhibits was almost all lighting. CX really enjoyed attending ETNZ’s Conference and Tradeshow and resolve to do so every second year.


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