When it comes to the entertainment industry in New Zealand, we have some heavy hitters that stack up on the world stage. From films to festivals, Broadway shows to local TV classics, we punch well above our weight. But it’s not often we get to look at the driving force behind some of our best talent, and the people making sure we know all about them.
For our next People of Asuwere we catch up with Chris Henry, publicist to some of New Zealand’s biggest stars. Chris is the founder of 818 and the brand new social partnership agency Social Partners. 818 is a boutique entertainment PR agency who have worked on projects from Dan Carters recently released ‘A Perfect 10’, The Breaker Upperers, What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, alongside Broadway Theatre hits Matilda and Aladdin the Musical, and the music festivals Rhythm and Vines, Spring City and Festival X, just to name a few.
- Thanks for joining us Chris, firstly, you claim to be boutique but the names you are working with are anything but, how has the road of Chris Henry lead to the stellar reputation 818 has in the entertainment and PR industry today?
That is very kind of you to say! I sort of fell into PR after having some time off overseas working on superyachts and came back to NZ and ended up getting a job at Shortland Street. It was the best place to start as the show is just so massive and the talent so well-known so I learnt an incredible amount. Fast forward the beginning of 2014 I had just finished running the PR on X Factor NZ and decided to open the business firstly as a one man band. But the real growth came when I started to take on staff and that really has been the secret to the businesses success, having amazing people who believe in your vision on your team and want to see it succeed as much as you do. It’s the best feeling.
- Whats the biggest PR nightmare you have had to deal with?
The best PR nightmares are the ones that no one ever finds out about! But in all seriousness, we haven’t really had many, we have been super lucky to work with incredible talent, projects and brands who all do their best to make sure that they stay on the right side of the press and we are incredibly grateful for that.
- You have worked with some pretty big names, Taika Watiti, Dan Carter and even Oprah! Have you ever been star struck?
Usually by the time we get to the part where we are actually working with them we have spent so much time on the prep side, you feel like you already know them, and they are always just lovely so any nerves quickly go! However I have just got back from the Toronto International Film Festival though where we were working on a film with Daniel Radcliffe (called Guns Akimbo) and during one of the press days Meryl Streep and her (very large) entourage came into the studio we were in and it was quite something. Just her presence parted the room right down the middle and everyone just went silent – It was quite something!
- How do you see New Zealand’s entertainment stacking up on the world stage? Do you think this will continue to grow and appeal to the world?
I think our industry is absolutely world class and I think the best thing about us is that we pull each other up as we grow. On the film side, kiwi films are smashing it at the moment, Madeleine and Jackie are directing a huge Netflix Show, Taika is opening JOJO Rabbit to the world and locally the industry is just so busy with people making and putting on cool shit. It’s a great time to be part of it!
- Aside of 818, what makes you tick? You run a creative event call LIKE MINDS... tell us a little about that?
LIKE MINDS was a monthly event series we ran this year out of the office where we got cool people like David Farrier, Hamish Pinkham and Kura Forrester to take part in a ‘In Conversation with’ talk followed by a few drinks! In our industry sometimes you can get sometimes get a bit caught in just what you are doing and we thought this would be a fun way to get people from the creative, entertainment and media industries together for something fun and not stuffy! For Christmas we have decided to supersize it and are putting on a party at Studio 230 on Nov 21st called ‘How Creatives Do Christmas’ for the wider industry and especially those have small teams or freelance so they have a chance to get down and disgrace themselves, just like those who work for a Banks or Insurance Company!
- What does a day in the life of Chris Henry look like? Where do you like to unwind or frequent?
I like to say that variety is the spice of life and I am so lucky that my life is full of it. A normal day will see me up before seven to get a plan for the day together and in the office by nine. Once at the office we are straight into meetings and calls and then usually out to execute the PR with our talent. At least once a week there will usually be an early morning start to take talent to TV or Radio or a late day when we have a premiere or in studio IV for The Project etc. In my spare time, I am a good fan of eating and drinking and am lucky to have friends who indulge this so we try and eat our way around Auckland. In the weekends I try and catch up with my mates with kids but my ultimate luxury is an afternoon nap – The best weekends l see one happen both days! #dream
- Any tips for people looking to get into the entertainment industry?
Be the nicest person you can to deal with. NZ (and in particular Auckland) is a village which is totally shit if you are a dick or bad at what you do. However, if you are a good person, who gives it a good crack and is good to people you will have huge success. Remember that everyone knows everyone and a great reputation is your biggest asset!
- What’s the appeal of Asuwere to your lifestyle?
I love that its smart, simple and great quality and arrives just at the right time when you need it. I also love that the brains of it are in our community and actively participating in the wider hustle we are all doing. It’s great to be able to support the vision and also get new clothes every month without having to lose your weekend at Sylvia Park.
- Worst shopping experience?
I think my worst shopping experiences have always centred around being dragged from shop to shop by someone who can't make a decision. If you're not in the mood for it, just quit and try another day!
Thank you for your time Chris, so good to see you representing for not only our best talent in the entertainment industry but also the best in the world.
You can find out more about 818 and Social Partners below.