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Five minutes with: Leal Butler

D-Photo had a brief chat with Leal Butler, the course coordinator for the Film Department at the SAE Institute, learning about his background.

20 January 2016

D-Photo had a brief chat with Leal Butler, the course coordinator for the Film Department at the SAE Institute, learning about his background.

D-Photo: Can you tell us a little about where you’re from and your career so far?

Leal Butler: I was born in Hollywood, California. After high school, I graduated from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in California, class of 1991. Then, in 1995, I moved to New Zealand with my wife.

In terms of my career so far, from 1996 to 2000, I was the patron services manager and web designer at Auckland Theatre Company. I then went on to work in web design and IT for a school-uniform business until 2007, when my well-being came to depend on a career change. I enrolled in the SAE’s Diploma of Audio Engineering course and ended up graduating with high distinction in 2008. I’ve been working at the SAE Institute, Auckland, since 2008 — first as a studio supervisor, then as the teacher for our basic Media Certificate, and then I became a film lecturer after completing our film course in 2011. In my spare time, I write screenplays and practise photography with my current camera — a Nikon D750.

Where did your interest in what appears to be all things creative stem from?

My great-grandfather, Frank Butler, arrived in Hollywood, California, circa 1920. He acted in short films for Hal Roach before becoming a screenwriter. In 1942, he was nominated for two Academy Awards — Wake Island and Road to Morocco. He was awarded an Oscar for co-writing Going My Way starring Bing Crosby. 

My great-grandmother, Aurania Rouverol, was a playwright. She created the character Andy Hardy, who Mickey Rooney starred as in the cinematic adaptation. My grandfather, Hugo Butler, adapted Lassie Come Home, A Christmas Carol, and Robinson Crusoe — among others. During the McCarthy era, he lived in Mexico and worked pseudonymously while the FBI kept notes. The Academy nominated him for an Oscar for his screenplay Edison, the Man. My grandmother, Jean Rouverol, received two Emmy nominations for her work as a writer of daytime television. She co-wrote Autumn Leaves, starring Joan Crawford. More recently, she taught screenwriting at USC [University of Southern California]. She’ll turn 100 years old in 2016. My father, Michael Butler, wrote screenplays for Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Chuck Norris, and Kris Kristofferson, among others. 

And, finally, my wife and daughter have created a fantastic American-style dessert pie business, The Pie Piper.

If you’re interested in studying with Butler, there are still a few spots left in the January intake of the Diploma in Film Making. Head to for more information.