Art x Community with Wellington Public Cinema

Arts Counsel
Feb 12, 2018 · 9 min read

Interviewed by Kaiya Waerea, 1st February 2018.

I video called Oscar Thomas and Kyle Awa to chat about Wellington Public Cinema, a free to attend short film festival they started in 2016. My morning their late evening, my winter their summer.

Do you guys wanna give me an overview of Wellington Public Cinema?

O: Wellington Public Cinema is a short film festival. It’s there to provide an oppertunity for up and coming film makers to have their stuff shown regardless of their age or experience, or the quality of their films.

In that case, what is your selection process like?

K: That was part of the whole thing in setting it up was that we didn’t want to be exclusive, and for people to send us their films, and if they were proud enough to show us then we are proud enough to show it for them. On top of that though, we have to go around Universities and scout films as well, and thats where we actually start to choose films we want to show. But yeah, if it gets sent to us then we will show it.

O: We organise it around a certain amount of films from each school, and there is a certain amount of high school films, so everyone has a fair share. In our second year, we definitely had more films then we could show, so there had to be some decisions around that.

K: But if it comes to that, its always people who send us their films over films we find.

Do you show your own films?

O: We did in the first year. We showed the one that started it, it was called Car Ride to the Beach. We made it and we were like, we wanna do something with this but there was no where to put it. Kyle had been talking about these guys in France who were screening films on bicycles?

K: Yeah.

O: They were projecting off the back of bicycles.

Thats pretty cool.

O: And then we were like, maybe we could try that? and that evolved into…

K: Yeah we had this film, and because it wasn’t festival worthy or anything, the only platform there was to show it on was Vimeo or Youtube, and we knew other people who had films like that as well who we had spoken to, who were interested in the kind of platform we were talking about, so that was where a lot of the idea came from.

O: We had noticed that a lot of films did that, they would get ten views then live in this limbo, this dead space. We wanted to meet a whole bunch of people who were local and made films so we thought, lets all get together into a community and organise it a little bit.

How has this effected your idea of local?

O: I think that the whole thing about WPC was film makers coming together, by film makers for film makers, and that sense of local community was really important to us, and having local Wellington businesses involved seemed like a natural progression from that.

K: It was just the easiest way to start, locally, just starting with the city. Its been nice having it small and low key. Its easier to focus on what we are doing.

Are you interested in something thats more national, or is this how you want it?

K: I wouldn’t want to do a national one, but if it took off city by city… I think it should always be local. Wellingtonians watching Wellington films, Auckland people watching Auckland films, Christchurch people watching Christchurch films, because then its more about the community of people who are watching it and the people who are making it.

O: We always wanted it to be like a big show and tell event you know, everyone sits down and says ‘Hey I made this! I made this!’

K: It kind of takes away from it a little bit if you are say, showing films from Wellington in Christchurch and the people who made the films aren’t there. Then there would be no communal thing, where everyone is meeting each other.

O: The whole second half of the night is everyone having a drink and meeting each other, and thats such a big part of it.

K: Thats also why, in a way, its not really a festival.

O: Its more of a show and tell kind of thing.

How has this effected your individual practises? as people who do stuff?

O: We don’t get to do as much stuff. (laughs) We are too busy showing other peoples’ stuff, that’s why we are taking a break this year.

K: Its interesting because its still working with stuff we love, just taking a different angle on it. And thinking about, we have made films before but how do you go about distributing them? Exhibiting them? And all this other stuff that is a huge part of the industry but that film makers don’t really think about.

O: Its been very eye opening for us, and I think a lot of things that we have had to do, we will take into making films in the future. If we ever get around to submitting things to Sundance, then we will have a bit of an insight into how they are looking at things and picking things and what not.

How have you guys found event organising?


O: Last year, I don’t think we were as into it last year as we were the first year.

K: It was just a bigger job.

O: We got more ambitious with the zine and the marketing in the second year, whereas the first year we were just trying to get it off the ground.

K: We were just blindly fucking hitting at it the first year and then last year it was like, okay, we have to actually make ourselves a charitable trust, and set ourselves up to get funding as an actual charity.

O: Its been 70% not looking at films. I think that the start up… there are so many things we did last year that we won’t need to touch in a while.

K: Yeah.

O: Things that have set us up so we can do stuff in the future.

K: Its still early, we’ve only done it two years in a row and there is still stuff to set up that we need to set up, but I am sure it will get easier as we go along.

At the actual event, what kind of role do you two play?

K: By the time the event comes around, we have already given the films to the film archive, so we kind of just have to show up and introduce ourselves.

O: A week before the first screening its already too late to do anything, so we just turn up on the Saturday, do a little speech before hand, hang around, sometimes we might bump into people from the film society, organise a few things…

K: Its just like being a nice host, and having a hundred people in your house and you just have to get them beer and pizza, sit around and have a good time.

O: We always get a bunch of friends and run down the road to get Tommy Millions Pizza. We have a chat, and then we go get pizza, that is pretty much what we do on the night. Its always fun coming back and like five people with pizzas and everyones like, oh man they are having a feast.

The archiving, can you explain that to me?

O: So we partner with Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, and they help us host it, they have a cinema, and they are really great. They help us with…

K: Censorship.

O: Yeah because we have to get each programme censored, they have to go through a censorship board to get a rating so we can show it publicly, and they organised it for us because they do that on a regular basis.

As well as that, they open up the availability for those showing their films at the events to have their film sponsored by Nga Taonga, and that gets them put into the national archives of New Zealand. People can go and look them up. I think thats a cool thing even though I don’t think anyone has really taken advantage of it too much.

K: We leave that up to the film makers.

O: Its just nice to have all this up and coming material officially archived. I don’t think it is now, but hopefully as we go on it will be a regular thing.

How do you guys see the longevity of this project?

O: I think… at the moment…usually you have money before you try and do this. We just started it without having much money, without having any.

K: Yeah, I think I paid for it out of my course related costs.


O: Yeah so we didn’t have a super planned out funding scheme, which we probably should have had before we started, so I think its good to take a break and take things a bit slower before we start back up again.

If you did have loads of money would you do it differently do you think?

K: It would have been nice to delegate to other people and pay them for their time. Thats what we have talked about if we do get funding next year, we will delegate all the back and forth emailing and all the super organisational stuff to one of our mates and then just pay him for his time, so we can focus on doing the stuff that we are passionate about so that it doesn’t loose steam.

O: Yeah yeah. The ideal situation is we have someone else to do all that, and then we can creatively direct all the social media and then curate it and its all emailed by someone else and we don’t have to deal with that.

Have you guys got other people doing stuff at the moment?

K: Its just us.

O: Just us, yeah.

K: All of the money we put into it goes into running it, and there is nothing left over to pay anyone.

How do you guys find working together?


O: We aren’t living with each other this year which I think will help with our professional relationship a lot.

K: Yeah yeah. It was good before we were living together because we would come for meetings and then that would be it, this is what we are doing, go away and do this. Then we moved in together and it was like, have you done this yet? Have you seen that email? Have you done the dishes? Fuck!


O: We got through it but yeah it was tougher.

What are you guys planning on your year off from WPC?

K: Make our own films.

O: Yeah.

K: Save our money.


O: Go travelling. I am going to Japan in a few weeks so I wouldn’t have enough money to run it this year anyway!

K: It will be nice. It is six months out of our year so we wont have to worry about that, it will be nice to have those six months this year, to plan our own stuff.

O: Sit down and shoot some stuff. Yeah.

K: Then next year we will have some stuff to show.

O: We go though everyones films like urgghh! I wish we could be making stuff!

K: It was the reason we started, to show our own stuff. Its become more about showing other peoples stuff, which is cool, I like it…

O: You just get inspired then don’t have the time to get it out of you.

Do you guys see what you are doing as being against something else?

O: We aren’t competition based. You look at other festivals, there is an awards structure, its about selling the films… We are more communal, and I suppose relaxed about it.

K: We are different, but I wouldn’t say oppositional.

O: Its communal. Lets keep saying communal.∎

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