Ruckus Wins Hottest Production Company Award

From the StopPress Awards:

From TVCs for Kiwibank to innovative studio-based productions for TVNZ’s What Next, Ruckus deserves the accolade of Hottest Production Company. Co- founder Arwen O’Connor reflects on the year that was and explains the company’s "secret engine”.

“It’s been a busy week,” Arwen O’Connor says to kick off our conversation.

She and the Ruckus team just picked up almost all the New Zealand awards at the Doc Edge International Film Festival for feature documentaries Born This Way: Awa’s Story and Stan, including Best New Zealand Feature Documentary and Best New Zealand Editing.

Evidently it’s not just the week that’s been busy for the production company founded by O’Connor, Nigel Latta and Mitchell Hawkes in 2016, but the last two years.

“Yes, it’s been all go from day one,” she says.

And the work hasn’t gone unnoticed, with audiences, media companies and businesses across the country tuning in and getting involved with the team’s innovative and engaging storytelling.

Although Ruckus is still relatively new on the scene, Latta, Hawkes and O’Connor are no strangers, having worked together for more than nine years producing shows such as The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta and Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up.

As passionate storytellers, the aim is to make content they truly believe in and that people want to watch, O’Connor says.

“For us it was simple. We just want to tell important stories and tell them well with integrity and authenticity.”

She says this is true whether it’s a documentary on Stan Walker or an advertisement for Kiwibank. And for a relatively new company, they’ve done a range of jobs.

“For us it’s all about the idea, does the idea resonate?,” she says.

An example is Ruckus’ work with Kiwibank for the Mind over Money series, where O’Connor says the team looked at the bank’s objectives and values and made sure they aligned with theirs.

“They were really great, we didn’t mention Kiwibank at all and they allowed that, they just wanted a series on money.”

Rather than product placement, O’Connor says the value for brands is having their objectives and goals “baked into” the content.

Every story that lands on the Ruckus desk, no matter what genre or length, goes through what the team has coined “the secret engine”.

The engine ensures that whatever’s being worked on has an underlying thread that’s really strong, robust and scientific, before being turned into more humanised relatable content, O’Connor says.

“Nigel is the relatable one, Mitchell is the intellectual one, and I’m the one that goes in and tries to humanise. Mitchell will get this dense intellectual information that you know is rock solid, then I’ll go in – I’m the one that picks it apart, and then Nigel puts it into a language that people really seem to respond to.”

Although very organic, she says the process takes a lot of sitting in the office and talking things through.

“We have a flow that happens naturally and it’s happened for a long time with us, it’s only since we’ve been at Ruckus that we’ve said ‘well that’s how it works isn’t it’.”

A huge achievement for the team was pulling off the new age and very high-tech current affairs Q&A show What Next?

O’Connor says AR, VR, and 360 video are the next big things in content creation and the team are keeping their eyes on advancements in technology and how to use them. But she says no matter what tech brings the teams shared fundamental values and empathetic storytelling will always be at the heart of Ruckus.

“We’ve been blown away by the opportunities that have been coming our way, and at the moment we just keep going,” she says.

“We’re always looking at new, fresh, exciting and innovative ways to tell stories, but it will always come back to the idea.”

Mitchell Hawkes