NZ Update #4: Writers & Directors A-Z
From the ongoing NZ Update series over at Wellywood Woman, up to #13, The Brilliance of Molly O’Shea, by December 2017.
New Zealand women who write and direct long-form screen works — many of them also actors — are blossoming. Five years ago, if I created this kind of list, I would have been confident that I included most of them. And because there were so few women whose work reached cinemas I also found it straightforward to offer to interview them all. Those things are no longer true. It was a fine moment when I realised I could (just about) do an A-Z of those I do know about. A less fine moment when I realised that it would take me all year to make it comprehensive: I haven’t got enough time to do that.
So how did I compile this list? It’s arbitrary and a little random. I thought about whose work excites me, whose work I hunger for. Sometimes these writers and directors also excite me for how they work. The photos and clips are a bit random too, chosen from the heart.
I asked some women for an update (not always available). Others I tracked online. I tried to give everyone a similar amount of space, but somehow that wasn’t possible.
I’ve linked to personal websites and/or — if it is more current — a page at the superb NZ on Screen, an amazing source of information about individuals as well as our screen-based stories. Warm thanks to Script to Screen (*StS), too, for some of the more detailed entries, which come from its 2016 Writers Lab, where eight out of eleven participants, over eight projects, were women.
Other entries come thanks to the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (*DEGNZ)’s TV Drama Director Attachment Scheme now in its third year, funded by New Zealand On Air (NZOA) and the production company involved. It is intended to give emerging drama directors the opportunity to shadow an experienced director through the pre-production, production and post-production process as a means to improve their craft skills. Those selected also have an opportunity to direct one or more scenes during their attachment, at the discretion of the series producer and episode director. Four of the six directors selected so far are women. The DEGNZ also ran its inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016, with ten women selected.
Sometimes I’ve linked to my own interviews with directors (*WW i/view).
If you’re not here, and are serious about long-form screen story-telling, please feel free to send your entry through, with a pic, and I’ll add it, *especially* if your name begins with I, O, U or V! If you are here and I’ve omitted something essential or — o horrors! — got something wrong, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
After I finished this list I realised that, as women-written and -directed work becomes more supported by the the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), New Zealand on Air (NZOA) and various production companies, New Zealand long-form works for the screen are beginning to benefit — as years ago I hoped would happen — from our deep pool of accomplished, successful literary writers: in New Zealand, unlike many other countries, these women are as likely as men to get published and reviewed.
What else did I learn? That we’re versatile and move across mediums and from narrative fiction to docos; some of us move from film-for-cinemas to online work or television or text or theatre (where playwrights are usually much more prominently acknowledged than screenwriters are!) or, in at least one case, to immersive digital storytelling. I learned that webseries are introducing an exciting, fresh, vitality. That there are tons of interconnections among the women on this list. All strength to all of them!
And after I finished, I realised I’d left out many women who currently write (or direct) for New Zealand television only, and/or are playwrights, and whose cinema features, cineseries or webseries I’d love to see: Dianna Fuemana; Donna Malane & Paula Boock; Jo Randerson; Lorae Parry; Maraea Rakuraku; Pip Hall etc etc.
(A few weeks later I saw some embarrassing errors, hope I’ve now caught them all; and added a few more women. I think this will forever be a work-in-progress.)
Top Three Exciting Moments
My most exciting #womeninfilm moment of 2016 came in July at Te Papa Tongarewa/Museum of New Zealand. Legendary writer Patricia Grace, in conversation with Briar Grace-Smith, (Patricia’s daughter-in-law, a multi-award-winning playwright, the New Zealand woman with the most-produced feature screenplays and a director) said that she had finished the screenplay adaptation of her extraordinary, classic novel Cousins.
And then Briar attested to the screenplay’s beauty and power. There have been many attempts to adapt Cousins, often by other writers, and I love it that Patricia’s own version is now ready, that the NZFC has provided development funding and that Sima Urale will direct it.
I’d hoped that Cousins would be a cineseries, like Queen Sugar, or Top of the Lake, or (see below) The Luminaries. But regardless, it will be wonderful: this is one we’ve awaited for a long time and I dream that the world will see it soon(ish).
There were two more very exciting moments.
It’s a webseries, featuring New Zealand women who make content on their own terms, use new forms of distribution and navigate a media industry often set against them. Louise is doing the same by making this elegantly and promoting it meticulously.
Here’s what Women & Hollywood said about Online Heroines–
[Online Heroines] chips away at the fourth wall, that barrier that usually separates the world of the audience from the world of the art… [This] docuseries provides New Zealand’s women online content creators the chance to talk about their work and experiences. They use this spotlight as a way to communicate with their industry peers as much as they address the series’ audience. Theirs is a unique project because it is a two way street between the interviewees and the other New Zealand women making waves online.
So who are these remarkable women?
Alix Whittaker & Anna Duckworth from Candlelit Pictures
Kimberley McManus from Our Daily Life
Bea Joblin from CNT Live
Britney Hazeldine from URBN WILD
Hazel Gibson & Morgan Leigh Stewart from K’Rd Stories
The Candle Wasters collective from The Candle Wasters
Charli Prangley from Charli Marie TV
Tegan Morris from Tegan Meets World
I could write full posts about each of the Online Heroines: I learned so much from the series. But instead I suggest you check it out and have a wee binge watch yourself.
I learned that some of Louise’s participants pulled out, ‘unable to be a part of my project due to fear of the consequences’. She acknowledges that for people with intersecting marginalised identities, it can be even harder to speak out; she plans to do a second round of interviews, to address this imbalance. My fingers are crossed that — because the culture is changing so rapidly and the quality of what Louise has achieved is so high — everyone she invites to take part this time will say ‘YES PLEASE’. (ScreeNZ interview with Louise here.)
My third very exciting moment was learning about WARU (Eight), an 80-minute feature produced by Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton of Brown Sugar Apple Grunt and now in post-production. It follows the lives of eight women connected by a single event. Shot over eight days, each episode of WARU has a different director and follows a different character in a self-contained 10-minute vignette, told in real time, and shot in a single take.
…its indepth discussion of how we come to our truths and how we support one another to access and speak and show our truths. It’s a ‘how-to’ talk par excellence, with eleven different perspectives…it is ‘how-to’ with heart, intelligence, courage, humour and spirit.
WARU offers so much to the world already, just through this inspiring audio. Listen if you want to be inspired? Thank you to Ainsley Gardiner, Awanui Simich-Pene, Briar Grace-Smith, Casey Kaa, Chelsea Winstanley, Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu, Katie Wolfe, Paula W. Jones, Renae Maihi. I bet each one of them has an individual feature screenplay on the go: look out for them all. I can’t wait to see WARU and their other new work.
Abigail directed Eleven, one of my favourite shorts of the last few years, written and produced by Kate Prior. Over the last ten years she’s worked as a director, actor and production and costume design assistant in New Zealand film, theatre, and television.
Eleven was her first short and screened at the Berlinale and the Melbourne International Film Festival, won Best Short Film at the Rialto Channel NZ Film Awards 2014, the year she also won ‘Distinctive Creative Achievement as a Director’ in the New Zealand International Film Festival ‘NZ’s Best’ competition 2014.
Abigail has worked as a co-ordinator and assistant to Kirsty Cameron on The Hopes and Dreams of Gazza Snell, Lovebirds, Sione’s Wedding 2, The Weight of Elephants, Field Punishment №1, Slow West, and recently The Rehearsal.
Abigail’s acting credits include Brave Donkey (short film), Piece of My Heart (telefeature), and Outrageous Fortune (TV series).
Theatre directing credits include collaborative works The Height of the Eiffel Tower (New York Fringe Festival 2010, Silo Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe 2014), and Nick (Edinburgh Fringe 2013), as well as And Then You Die by Thomas Sainsbury and Cow by Jo Randerson for Auckland Theatre Company’s Young and Hungry.
Abigail was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016 and for the DEGNZ’s TV drama attachment programme early this year, on Filthy Rich. (*DEGNZ)
Abigail has been selected for Script to Screen’s 2017 FilmUp programme.
Aidee is a well-known actor who has written and directed four short films. Her Friday Tigers won Best Short Film at the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2013 and was selected to play at the Melbourne International Film Festival. In 2015, she was the DEGNZ TV drama director attachment to SPP’s Westside 2 television series. In 2016, Aidee was one of ten women selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator (*DEGNZ; WW i/view).
Alyx’s short-film The Tide Keeper screened in over twenty film festivals world-wide and won numerous awards including FIPRESCI Film Critics’ Choice Award, Best Short Animation at Warsaw, Best International Short at Whistler and Best film/director/cinematography at Show Me Shorts. Alix also wrote, directed, produced and self-distributed feature film The Red House in 35 cinemas in NZ. In 2015 she was awarded SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year and last year was one of the recipients of the 2016 Gaylene Preston Directors Award. Alyx recently choreographed Alison Maclean’s The Rehearsal and with Lani-rain Feltham is currently developing feature The Surrogate (selected for Script to Screen’s Story Camp Aotearoa) and producing a short, Mouse. She is also in early development of The Underwood, with Michele Powles. (*StS)
Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader’s The Great Maidens Blush is, I believe, a landmark film, their third feature. I’ve written here about my experience watching in it a crowded cinema where, at the end, the audience erupted into debate about what they’d seen.
Perhaps because it didn’t have a mainstream marketing budget to connect with all the audiences it might have and it was self-distributed, The Great Maiden’s Blush didn’t earn a lot, but it’s on DVD and in planes and will seep its way further into the culture.
The Great Maiden’s Blush was the only New Zealand feature in critic Graeme Tuckett’s Top 10 Films of 2016. In the New Zealand Film Awards it won Best Self-Funded Film, Miriama McDowell won Best Actress for her role and it was the only indie film to be nominated for Best Script. Andrea’s currently helping out with Emily Innes’ independent short film Hazel, about stillbirth; and thinking about her next feature.
Anita, an actor, producer and playwright, took her feature script, Cloud Piercer, about climber Freda Du Faur, to the Stowe Story Labs, eighteen months ago. Today, she writes: ‘Cloud Piercer is in an advanced draft stage and has been getting really ecouraging feedback and was for instance shortlisted for Story Camp Aotearoa last year. I’m gearing up to talk to producers. In the meantime, I’m a co-producer on a local anthology feature Encounters through the Oneshot Collective, production managing someone else’s shorts, developing two other feature film ideas and in the early stages of directing my first short film.’
I also really liked Anita’s Facebook posts about Script to Screen’s Story Camp Aotearoa–
Just reading the bios for the filmmakers of the eight projects selected for Story Camp Aotearoa is making me blush and go all wide-eyed that Cloud Piercer made it to the top 13 shortlisted projects in the first place. On the right track… and about to start the one day workshop here in Auckland!
(later) My brain is still decompressing from Monday’s fantastic Script to Screen workshop, led by the formidable Joan Tewkesbury. My notebook is bursting at the seams and I feel immensely lucky to have been prodded and challenged by Joan, and to have been privy to her immense, gentle wisdom. It was hugely daunting to be in a room with all these amazing, accomplished writers and directors, and to share my writing with them. I believe it has been hugely beneficial in ways my still fried brain hasn’t even begun to comprehend. Biggest lesson: throwing yourself off balance is a great way to make yourself dig deeper into your characters and story. (*WW i/view here.)
Annie’s a veteran documentary maker, as you can see from her Occasional Pictures website. Her latest, Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, is one of twelve films to screen in the Documentary Spotlight section of SXSW this year. Here’s Annie talking about it in a Radio New Zealand interview.
April, an actor, musician, playwright, screenwriter, producer and director wrote and co-produced two short films, Letter For Hope and Utu Pihikete that had some success on the international festival circuit, garnered some awards, and screened on CTV and Air NZ inflight entertainment.
Then she wrote/produced/directed/acted in the horror REM. It screened at the Los Angeles Independent Film Awards and won Best Foreign Horror Short and Best Sound Design (Tane Upjohn-Beaton) and Best Foreign Short at the Hollywood Boulevard Film Festival Awards; and other awards in the Accolade and Best Shorts competitions. April was nominated for a Best Director award at the Swiss Ouchy Film Awards and received an Award for Excellence Special Mention in the Indiefest Film Awards. And, REM has just been selected for the Women in Film & Television International (WIFTI) Short Film Showcase as part of the celebration of International Women’s Day in March.
In 2016, April also produced and performed in two music stage shows, The Glory of Gershwin and The Retro Pack and attended the Christchurch premiere of her latest stage play Blind Eye. She is working on a feature screenplay to co-direct with Craig Hutchison that they hope will go into production this year. Another screenplay, a thriller, has been optioned to some Hollywood producers who are optimistic that the film will be greenlit during the year. There will be more musical shows, another stage play in the works (back to her comedy roots), and possibly another short film.
Armagan’s short films have screened and won awards at festivals around the world including Venice, Melbourne, Telluride, London and New York. She developed her debut feature film The Strength of Water at the Sundance Institute and it was selected for competition at the Berlin Film Festival, Rotterdam Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Armagh also directed Lily and Ra, written by Briar Grace-Smith, a short film for Art for the World for the Human Rights Commission. It had its first official screening for the UN General Assembly in New York and went on to screen in gallery spaces, and festivals. In 2014 She attended Werner Herzog’s Rogue Film School and last year she co-directed film excerpts for Nga Hau, a large installation for the Wellington Museum. (*StS)
Athina, a writer/director/producer, released her third feature, Stars in Her Eyes, in 2016. It was short-listed for Best Self-Funded Film in the New Zealand Film Awards and ScreenNZ wrote a lovely article about Athina and the film that’s a great read for #womeninfilm. She recently resigned from teaching to develop her next feature, Posthumous Advice from Mum, with Sydney production company, 412 Entertainment.
Bea is another busy actor/writer/director/producer, who has been involved with various webseries, including CNT Live; I first came across her in Online Heroines.
She writes– ‘I am a film maker from Te Whanganui a Tara with an interest in telling stories that mainstream film making doesn’t show me often enough, particularly female stories. My work has mostly been shot in a hand held style, I have explored ways to work low production values intentionally into my narratives as a way to make low budget film making feel more possible and special.
My feature film, Births, Deaths and Marriages is currently in the final stages of post production. It was shot in 2014 for about $3000, in a state house in Upper Hutt. The film is a fictional home video set in a family home where the camera is held by one of the characters as they record a weekend in their family’s life. The film is a celebration of working class women and the dirty, overcrowded chaos of life.’
I’m impatient for Births Deaths and Marriages to arrive, but in the meantime have enjoyed its The Making Of series.
Becca Barnes, a 48 Hours veteran, is one of the most committed screenwriters I know and the Power Rangers lead writer, which means ‘I manage the writing team and coordinate with my boss, who is the story editor/executive producer, and also the other writers, to create the stories and scripts for the season. It’s pretty busy at the moment because we’re in production. It’s a very cool show to work on cos there’s so much scope for creativity. I’m super lucky to have a TV writing gig in NZ, especially for a US show’. She’s writing her own scripts ‘with stolen time in the supermarket car park before work, because there’s no Internet to distract me in the car’.
Briar Grace-Smith writes short stories and award-winning plays and scripts for film and television. Her produced feature screenplays include The Strength of Water, directed by Armagan Ballantyne, Billy and Fresh Meat. She co-wrote, and directed, the short film Nine of Hearts and is one of the writer/directors of the feature Waru.
Briar was one of two directors to be awarded a Ramai Hayward Directors’ Scholarship for wāhine Māori from the New Zealand Film Commission in 2017 and received $50,000 to develop her film scripts and directing skills, with the goal of directing her first feature film. She has won numerous other awards, including the Te Pou Marohi Ngā Aho Whakaari Melissa Wikaire Memorial Award in 2016 — for tenacity and strength in bringing our stories to the screen — and the Best Feature Film Script Award for The Strength of Water. She is also an Arts Foundation Laureate.
Catherine Bisley has made two short films and interned at Killer Films in New York, where she wrote great blog posts like this one. She has worked as a script editor/story developer on a number of film projects including Alyx Duncan’s The Red House and writes about film; and was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016.
Cathy has over 15 years experience as a director in short film, television and advertising. She has won nearly 20 international awards for her work as a writer/director of promos and branded content including Young Creative at Promax Europe, Best Director at Promax World, Best Campaign at Promax World, and Best Director nominee at the New York Festivals. Her short films have been selected at 12 festivals including BAFTA and Academy Awards qualifiers Encounters Film Festival (Bristol), London International Documentary Festival, Rushes Soho Shorts (London), and Show Me Shorts (NZ). She was selected for the DEGNZ TV drama attachment programme and the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016. (*DEGNZ)
Chantelle Burgoyne is a filmmaker of mixed Samoan and European heritage. She has a BA (Hons) and MA (Hons) in Screen Production from the University of Auckland specialising in directing drama. Her MA thesis film Tatau won the Geoff Evans Prize for Excellence in Screen Production in her year and went on to screen at film festivals in NZ and internationally. Since graduating Chantelle has been working for the NZFC as the Fresh Shorts Assistant before taking on roles in production on major Hollywood productions such as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II, Pete’s Dragon, and Fox’s Alien: Covenant.
Most recently Chantelle worked as the assistant to Executive Producer Barrie Osborne ONZM, on the Warner Brother’s film Meg and as the assistant to the producers on the NZ location shoot for A Wrinkle in Time. In 2016 Chantelle received Fresh 30 funding from the NZFC for her short film Sista which is currently in preproduction and set to begin shooting at the end of April 2017. She’s also been selected for Script to Screen’s 2017 FilmUp programme. (*StS)
Chris wrote the ‘cult feminist classic’ I Love Dick twenty years ago, when she was back in the US after spending part of her childhood in New Zealand and going to university here. Now it’s been adapted for a television pilot created and directed by the legendary Jill Soloway, with Sarah Gubbins as writer. And I’ve just learned that Chris also shot part of a feature here, Gravity & Grace (1996), with some New Zealand actors, including Alan Brunton, Ani O’Neill and Jennifer Ludlam. I’m off to track it down at the New Zealand Film Archive! Especially after watching these interview clips about it and about I Love Dick, with Martin Rumsby. So much of value in them!
Desiree Gezentsvey’s a Venezuelan-born screenwriter, playwright and poet whose latest stage play, Caging Skies, will premiere at Circa Theatre in Wellington, in August, directed by Andrew Foster. Inspired by Christine Leunens’ novel (nominated for the Prix Medicis and the Prix FNAC 2007), Caging Skies is set in 1944 Vienna, where 17-year-old Johannes, a zealous member of the Hitler Youth, discovers that his family has been hiding a young Jewish woman, Elsa, in their home. ‘The story is very close to my heart — my father was a Holocaust survivor, who was alternately saved and betrayed by those around him during the war years…Taking the wide world of the novel with all its landscapes and characters, and distilling it into its essence, has been a thrilling journey. I’m looking forward to… the surprises that undoubtedly lie ahead when rehearsals begin for this story… as relevant in today’s world as it was over half a century ago.’
Dorthe Scheffman is a producer and director with a huge range of credits. Her short film The Beach was shown in competition at Cannes in 1996 and her Vermilion feature, funded by the NZFC, will go into production in late February. DP Maria Ines Manchego, winner of the JC CineFem Scholarship in 2015 (and see also below as a director), is part of a 90% women crew. Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Teresa Healey, Goretti Chadwick and Emily Campbell take the leads in this ensemble, a contemporary urban tale.
Eleanor Catton’s written the scripts for a BBC adaptation of her Booker Award-winning The Luminaries and spoke about that process in this interview with the Arts Foundation; and this one, with Finlay Macdonald. ‘Learning to write for television has been a bit like learning a new musical instrument: the melody is more or less the same, but absolutely everything else is different’, she’s said. The Luminaries will be shot in New Zealand this year. Because Eleanor is an Executive Producer as well as the writer, I’m hoping at least some of the episodes will be directed by women. Preferably New Zealand women.
Fiona Samuel is an actor, writer and director who has created award-winning dramas for television, radio, film and theatre, including telemovies Piece of My Heart and Bliss and two NZFC-funded shorts, Bitch (1995) and Song Of the Siren (1997). Both shorts screened both locally and internationally and Song Of The Siren was awarded Best Drama at the Bilbao Film Festival and Audience Favourite at the Turin Film Festival. Her website says she has features in development. I hope they go into production soon.
Gaylene Preston has been busy on My Year With Helen, about New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, currently Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. She also won SPADA’s Industry Champion Award and the New Zealand Film Awards Services to Cinema Award, selected three women directors for the NZFC’s Gaylene Preston Directors Award and gave a workshop for all the applicants.
‘My feature screenplay, At the End of the World, is a coming of age comedy where two Iranian women take a road trip across New Zealand, has been put on the slate for Miss Conception films, run by the amazing Ainsley Gardiner and Georgiana Conder and their aim is to support and produce women writer/directors with films centred on strong (and funny!) women leads…I am so lucky and excited to be working with such incredible women who I definitely see as mentors. I am also currently looking for funding for my short film, The Waiting Room, that was shortlisted for the NZFC’s Fresh Shorts last year and is being produced by Craig Gainsborough.’ (*WW i/view here.)
Hanelle is an actor who has produced short films. She’s now creator and director of and acting in Baby Mama’s Club, ‘born out of a desire to see authentic representation of Māori and Polynesian women on screen’. Flat3’s Friday Night Bites (see below, in Roseanne Liang entry) and Baby Mama’s Club also created ‘an epic, unPC rap battle between Poly/Māori and Asians’.
Hannah Marshall is another New Zealand actor /director. She’s made Sitting Room Only, a webseries about New Zealand creative women working in LA: Antonia Prebble; Pip Brown; Gin Wigmore; Keisha Castle-Hughes; Rose McIver; Zoë Bell.
Helena Brooks was selected for a DEGNZ attachment in 2016, on The Brokenwood Mysteries, with a strong background in TV commercials and a highly successful short film, Nothing Special, to her credit — it was selected for amongst others the Cannes and Berlin film festivals. (*DEGNZ)
Jackie van Beek is an actor, writer and director in theatre and film. She has made seven award-winning short films produced in New Zealand, Australia and London. Her short films have played at numerous festivals including Berlin, London, Palm Springs and MIFF. Jackie won SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year in 2013 and was awarded first prize in the 2015 WIFT International Shortcase for her short film Uphill. As an actor she is best known for her role as the eager familiar in What We Do in the Shadows and the inept producer, Pauline, in Funny Girls. As noted in the first part of this series, her The Inland Road has just premiered at the Berlinale, and another feature, The Breakerupperers with co-writer and co-director Madeleine Sami has been offered conditional production funding from the NZFC. (*StS)
Women & Hollywood recently interviewed Jackie about The Inland Road.
Jaya Beach-Robertson, also an actor, has created PSUSY, a six-eps-so-far webseries. In a Spinoff interview, when asked what she’s bored with or frustrated by, she says–
Women being pretty, clean, and nice. We’re not. When was the last time you saw a depiction of a female character that made you go “Ewwwww”? Particularly in television. It’s better now, but there’s not a huge amount of really flawed, gross female characters. And we are very flawed and gross…
I just wanted to make people feel something. Whether that’s disgust, if they hated it, if I offended them, at least I made them feel something rather than them saying “Huh, *murmur murmur* it’s a thing.”
It’s the internet — you can take risks.
The twenty minutes or so of PSUSY isn’t feature length but it’s absolutely proof of concept and I bet there’ll be lots more to come.
Jess Zee and Maha Albadrawi are creative producers of the webseries So This Happened, a series of short animated stories from women who have experienced everyday sexual assault or racism. They’re so good and were made with ‘a diverse, all female and non-binary team’, according to a great interview with Katie Parker from The Wireless. As with PSUSY, I bet there’s more fine work on its way, from Jess and Maha and from the animators, Chelsey Furedi, Jess Zee and Kali De Wild.
Here’s Caterina’s story from the series, animated by Jess Zee.
Jessica, aka Coco Solid, is another amazing polymath: musician, writer, director, visual artist, performer, most memorably for me (because I don’t get out much) as Wahine Jones in Brown Eye.
After she released her webseries Aroha Bridge this year, Women & Hollywood wrote–
Aroha Bridge is that rare series that has a defined point-of-view, a balance of specific and universal humor, and the advantage of just being entertaining. The first episode alone, ‘Angeline in Concert’, hilariously mocks generational resentment, the appropriation of Māori culture, political hypocrites, men’s affection for free food, and vapid pop stars. And it’s only five minutes long.
Her Boosted campaign last year, Coco Solid Presents the Can I Live Fund, provides the best overview of her work that I can find. She has a feature-length animation in development with Piki Films.
And has totally won my activist heart with the panel series she’s organising, ‘focused on rape culture and gender inequality in New Zealand music and media, as this is a much-needed conversation and no one in the industry is doing anything about it’, supported by The Spinoff.
Jessica has been selected for Script to Screen’s 2017 FilmUp programme.
Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu
Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu is a writer and actor. Her play The Black was named one of Auckland Theatre’s Best Moments of 2015 by The Pantograph Punch. Her most recent play, Sean Penn in His Boat, was awarded runner up at the prestigious Adam Play Awards 2016 and is in the process of being developed by Playmarket New Zealand. Josephine is one of eight filmmakers selected to participate in Script to Screen’s 2016 FilmUp Mentorship Programme and is working alongside her mentor, Mexican (and New Zealand!) filmmaker Dana Rotberg, developing her first feature film script. Josephine has written Titty & Bash, a short film directed by Awanui Simich-Pene, that is part of WARU. (*StS)
Kathleen has been working on Minimum, with writer and busy director of photography Jess Charlton (if you need some drone work, or something else…) and co-writer with of the screenplay with Kathleen: Jess wrote Existence, which won both the Best Feature Film Script and New Writer awards at the 2012 Swanz Script Writer Awards –
Minimum follows a day-in-the-life of five women working lowly-paid jobs in Aotearoa. Inspired by true stories, these intimate portraits reveal the black humour and strength needed to get through a day in our most under-appreciated industries.
I loved helping out a bit with Minimum, last year when Kathleen and Jess were recording the true stories, and Kathleen is now waiting ‘to hear back from a funding application, and depending on how that goes we’ll probably get crowdfunding to push the project forward, so no real news on that right now’.
She also writes: ‘I did just get funding to make a short documentary for Loading Docs! The film will be called He Awa Mutunga Kore — A Takatāpui Journey, and looks at queer/LBGT Māori identity in contrast to the glamour of the annual pride parade. We’re in early pre-prod and I have found a producer — Jaimee Poipoi. Also getting some production support from Jeremy Macey who has done it all before.
I released this short doco online late last year: DVD Dreams is about the last few DVD rental stores in Wellington and is a bit of a love letter to the end of an era.’
Katie Wolfe is an actor/writer/director/producer.
Her first short film This Is Her, written by Kate McDermott, played at festivals around the world, including Sundance, Edinburgh, Aspen (Best Comedy), Palm Springs (Future Filmmaker Award) and Prague (Audience Award), won the prize for Best Short Film at the 2008 NZ International Film Festival and was a finalist in all four short film categories at the 2008 Qantas Film and TV Awards.
She co-wrote her second short Redemption with Tim Balme and Renae Maihi, working from a short story by Phil Kanawa. It travelled to the Berlin Film Festival and Sundance and won Best Short Film at Toronto’s Imaginative Film Festival in 2010.
Katie’s first feature as a director was Nights in the Gardens Of Spain (aka Kawa), a telemovie adapted by Witi Ihimaera from his novel, with Kate McDermott. Katie is also one of Waru’s writer/directors.
Kirsty Hamilton is an actor/writer/director who has made three short films and is committed to producing films that create positive social change for women and children. Cold is the latest, funded through a Kickstarter campaign. She was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016.
Lani-rain is a writer/director/producer. She has written two feature film scripts for Storm Films New York, Le Bomb and The Saint of the Impossible which is currently in development. Lani-rain has worked in development with award-winning filmmaker Vincent Ward for the last 6 years where she co-wrote his memoir, The Past Awaits (2010). Lani-rain has produced numerous documentaries, museum installations and art projects and is currently directing her short film, Mouse, and producing the short Each to Their Own, with director (and cinematographer) Maria Ines Manchego. Lani-rain is also the writer on Paora Joseph’s new film Maui’s Hook and producing Spookers directed by Florian Habicht. (*StS)
Leanne is a director and producer and made Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, no 14 in NZ’s list of all-time Top Twenty features. Her latest documentary is 25 April, about the World War I Gallipoli campaign, is the first New Zealand movie to qualify for a Best Animated Feature Academy Award this year and the only work in the category to have been directed solely by a woman. She commented: ‘As a female filmmaker, as a New Zealander, and as a documentarian it’s exciting to be pushing boundaries’.
U.S. company Bohemia Group Orginals has optioned Linda’s TV/web series based on Professor Colin Adams’ Zombies & Calculus and is soon to option her feature ’The Tear Collector’ to be directed by Jesse Warn. Last year she focussed on adaptation of existing works, in particular French writer Pascal Garnier’s dark novella Too Close to the Edge. Linda also completed Lorraine with her Quebecois writing partner Vincent Thibault, which has interest from esteemed Canadian actress Genevieve Bujold and Williams Belle, parkour aficionado. She’s working on an application for NZFC’s Premiere Pathways, to direct her feature film Poppy, recently completed a music video for Death of the Disco King, is in script development for The Catch and was Assistant to Mr Donaldson on the soon to be released McLaren. (Interviews here (WW) and here (NZWG)).
Lisa Reihana: Emissaries will be Aotearoa New Zealand’s contribution to La Biennale di Venezia later this year, ‘an expansive multi-channel project that includes in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (2015–17), alongside new photo-based and sculptural works’. It is ‘conceived as a meditation on ideas generated by cartographic endeavours and scientific exploration, unravels Enlightenment ideals and philosophy, the colonial impulse, and the distant gaze of power’.
Actor/writer/director Loren Taylor is always busy and in demand for many things. She received NZFC Short Film funding to make Bee, and development funding for her feature Hawk, Mountain and has just directed Treat Her Right!, a remake of Donna Summers’ She Works Hard for the Money, for a New Zealand Council of Trade Unions equal pay campaign.
Maria-Ines Manchego was the recipient of the Jane Campion CineFem Scholarship for a female cinematographer, funded by the New Zealand Film Commission in 2015 and has completed a Masters degree in Cinematography from The American Film Institute. She’s shot music videos and shorts in locations around the world and this year completed principal photography on Dorthe Scheffman’s Vermilion. Her work includes Pulp which was awarded Best Music film at the NME awards, screened at multiple film festivals including SXSW and opened the Sheffield documentary festival; and Love Story, which played at the London Film Festival and Hotdocs & for which she was nominated as Best Feature Film Cinematographer at the NZ Film and TV awards. Her photography has been exhibited in NYC and her commercial work won her a Young Directors award at Cannes in 2012.
As a director, her short film Each to Their Own was selected for Locarno and the New Zealand International Film Festival.
Michelle Savill’s short film Ellen is Leaving won the Best Narrative Short Film Award at SXSW Film Festival and the Golden Gate Award for Best Narrative Short at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Since then it has been screened in prestigious international festivals, which include Clermont-Ferrand, Chicago International and Aspen Shortsfest. Michelle’s other shorts, Elaine Rides Again and Betty Banned Sweets have been accepted into several international film festivals including MIFF where she was invited to participate in the festival’s Accelerator programme. In 2011, she was awarded a Script to Screen scholarship in New York working as an intern in the script development department of Killer Films. Michelle currently works as a freelance commercial director and is represented by agency Thick as Thieves. (*StS)
Monica De Alwis
Monica is a director/producer and cinematographer who trained at Elam Art School at the University of Auckland, where she won the Head of the School’s Award for Moving Image & Sound. She also won Best New Zealand Director, Best New Zealand Feature and Best New Zealand Editing at the Documentary Edge Festival, for her first doco, Pretty Brutal, about New Zealand’s first roller derby league: the Pirate City Rollers, also selected by other festivals.
Nathalie is an actor/writer/director who has written and directed two shorts, worked on three episodes of a webseries, Dropped Pie, and is in development with her adaptation of Joy Cowley’s novel Holy Days. She was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator, in 2016. (WW i/view)
Ness Simons is a writer and director who graduated from the Film School in 2011. She’s made Actually Alex (NZFC Fresh 10), Active in Hell (documentary webseries) and Pot Luck (narrative webseries), and a range of content for businesses and organisations. Ness works with producer Robin Murphy on Pot Luck, which has recently received NZOA funding for an ‘even better’ season 2, which she’s just re-writing and preparing to shoot in a few months.
In Pot Luck three lesbian friends make a pact which plays out at their weekly pot luck dinners, and the naturalistic comedy explores themes of friendship, family, and finding love. It received 1.2 million views across the first season, and is available on on TVNZ On Demand, KindaTV, OML, and REVRY. It’s also been an official selection for festivals: NZ Web Fest, DubWebFest(Dublin), UK Web Fest, Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and OutWebFest (LA) and was just selected for the Rome Web Awards.
Ness also has a guest script in development for the Sui Generis Webseries, and a couple of other script projects in development.
Niki Caro is working steadily, outside New Zealand. I loved Jessica Chastain’s article about working with Niki on The Zookeeper’s Wife, being released later this year. And this week’s announcement that Niki will direct a live action Mulan for Disney makes her the fifth woman to direct a movie with a budget of over $100M, following Kathryn Bigelow, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Patty Jenkins and Ava DuVernay.
Another actor, writer/director, producer and camera operator, who’s just published an amazing report from the latest Berlinale Talents. ‘I’m a Polynesian female making films that matter’ she states. Nikki was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator, in 2016.
Pietra Brettkelly is a writer, producer and director who travels the world making multi-award-winning documentaries. Her most recent film, A Flickering Truth, follows a group of Afghan archivists endeavouring to uncover their country’s cinematic past, retrieving over 8,000 hours of film footage that they risked their lives to conceal during the Taliban era. It opened in competition at the Venice Film Festival and TIFF and received glowing critical reviews internationally (*BSS).
Pietra is currently working on a documentary about the Chinese designer Guo Pei, who has designed for various celebrities including the American singer Rihanna. (*WW podcast 2012)
Rachel Davies & Jess Feast
Rachel, a writer/director/producer, started, I think, with short films, including the classic Sweetness (1992). I’ve longed for her features. I believe there would have been at several of them if our culture had been more welcoming to powerful and visionary women directors. But after she went to the Binger Institute and made commercials, she went to the States and changed direction, publishing two wonderful books of prose (I Hate Plot & Queen of the Mosquitoes). And then she teamed up with director Jess Feast (Gardening With Soul, Communists & Cowboys) and wrote The Woman Who Forgot, a digital immersive project that debuted at New Zealand’s International Arts festival last year and then, with Story Box, went to the Shanghai International Arts Festival.
Rachel House has worked as a writer and performance coach and busy director for the stage, as a screen director of three short films and an actor, who has performed in films like Whale Rider, Taika Waititi’s Eagle vs Shark, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor, Dana Rotburg’s White Lies, Moana (as the voice of Gramma Tala, Moana’s grandmother) and currently Monkey with See Saw Films and Robyn Scholes.
She was one of two directors to be awarded a Ramai Hayward Directors’ Scholarship for wāhine Māori from the New Zealand Film Commission in 2017 and received $50,000 to develop her film scripts and directing skills, with the goal of directing her first feature film. She has won numerous awards, is an Arts Foundation Laureate and in 2016 was co-awarded the WIFTNZ (Women in Film and Television) Mana Wāhine award which acknowledges ‘trailblazing Māori women’ in front of and behind the camera.
Rebecca is a freelance writer/director/content producer whose work has spanned print, moving image and online media, and both words and pictures. Her Crossing Rachmaninoff, a concert film/biopic screened at last year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, as did her short Eden. Crossing Rachmaninoff also went on general release in New Zealand and has been screened at international festivals. She has directed a half-hour drama, Waiting Room, which screened on Māori TV.
Renae Maihi is an award-winning and critically acclaimed writer and director in theatre and film. Her debut play Nga Manurere starred Keisha Castle-Hughes.
Renae co-wrote Katie Wolfe’s Redemption and wrote and directed her NZFC-funded and award-winning short film Butterfly that travelled to international film festivals in Toronto and Germany, with local screenings on Maori TV’s Iti Pounamu. Her play Patua won the Adam NZ Playwrights Award for Best Play by a Maori Playwright in 2013 and toured the Far North with New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O’Sullivan standing to mihi to the importance of the work. She directed also NZOA-funded music video Lockdown by ReZIST.
Renae is developing her first feature film and her life’s ambition is to continue to create works that empower and examine the status quo of Maori and indigenous peoples in the world and work as a cinematic writer and director at an international level. She is one of WARU’s writers and directors, was selected for the DEGNZ’s inaugural Women Filmmakers Incubator in 2016 and is a Native Slam Maori host at the Māoriland Film Festival this year, where one of her fellow directors is Amie Batalibasi, winner of this year’s Merata Mita Fellowship. (Some info from Boosted.)
Riwia Brown is the award-winning actor, writer and director who wrote the Aotearoa New Zealand classic, Once Were Warriors, has written two other produced feature screenplays and the telemovie Irirangi Bay and written and directed a short, In the Rubbish Tin. She is also a successful playwright.
I’ve been waiting for her feature(s) for a long time.
Rose Goldthorp gets an unusual amount of space here, because of her extraordinary energy and commitment: her two ‘featurettes’ are among the only 16 New Zealand features with women protagonists that women wrote and directed between 2003 and 2016.
Based in Huntly, Rose has just finished shooting A Ghost in Corsets (AGIC). She writes–
‘Am starting a Communications BA at Auck Uni. (Hopefully, they will tell me how to Market my films…soc media, PR, etc). Have asked my mum (herbalist and ex-Organic small farmer) to come in now, to help me chase funding for post prod and distribution…about which I know nothing! Going to be getting on, next week, with the AGIC rough cut with my editor (Vyoma Gupta, nice lady, much brighter than me). Also have two guy (students) who are going to have a bash at rough cutting the first 5–10 scenes of my double shot version, this other version was shot in 360 degrees for VR headsets (NOT 3D).
Just have the rest of Jan and Feb to write my third feature screenplay Waiheke (working title…..a murder mystery…got scribbled notes!). Have written my second feature, Fleur’s Song (in Yr. 13), this just needs its third revision, as its 3rd assessment came back from NZWG yonks ago. Although I am shooting Fleur’s Song in Jan 2018, and Waiheke, the following Jan, am making the teaser trailer for Waiheke, in March (a few weeks off) as we are chasing full (production, as well as post prod and distribution) funding so this will be my first fully commercial feature. I am only chasing finance for post prod, for my other two features: i.e. AGIC and Fleur’s Song.
Am about a third way through of an adaptation of a novel about witches, set in C17th England. Have got another nice lady (Sandra) who is going to co-write (do the rewrites) for this draft, as well as Waiheke rewrites. I have taken the passwords off my two first featurettes (three quarter hours each) which are on my updated Dark Rose website, above. They are called Silverville (Edwardian rom-com) and Watcher (sci-fi) but I wrote them when I was fourteen and fifteen, so they’re a bit juvenile…sorry.’
And wait, there’s more! Rose vlogs about her filmmaking.
Roseanne is, I think the only NZ director who’s moved fluently from documentary-making to features *and* webseries (Flat3’s Friday Night Bites, created with Perlina Lau, Ally Xue and JJ Fong has just ended with the two-part EP 27).
Roseanne is currently making a standalone short called Do No Harm, within the NZFC’s Premiere Pathways, as part of developing a feature, Black Lotus, written with Angeline Loo, her co-writer on her first feature, My Wedding & Other Secrets. It will be one of the tools for trying to attract interest and finance to Black Lotus, a Hong Kong-style action feature. (Read more about Do No Harm and Black Lotus here; WW interview re My Wedding & Other Secrets, a rom com.)
Shuchi Kothari is a screenwriter, producer, and academic. Both her co-written feature films Firaaq and Apron Strings premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2008. Her films have screened at festivals as diverse as Telluride, Venice, Cannes, and Pusan. Shuchi has also produced and executive produced award- winning short films including Six Dollar Fifty Man, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2010. She is the director of the Screen Production Programme in the Department of Film, Television and Media Studies at University of Auckland in New Zealand where she teaches screenplay writing. (*StS) This year, she has written and directed the short film Shit One Carries.
Sima is a graduate of Toi Whakaari — NZ Drama School and the Victorian College of the Arts Film and Television School in Australia, and her work has moved from drama and acting to writing and developing screenplays; to directing numerous films from drama to documentary, TV commercials, music videos, and corporate videos; mentoring emerging filmmakers; to teaching as a Senior Lecturer in film at Unitec and as Head Tutor at the NZ Film & TV School from 2012 to 2015. Her first short film, O Tamaiti, won Best Short Film at Venice among many other awards and she was nominated as Best Director in the New Zealand Film Awards for her first feature, Apron Strings (written by Shuchi Kothari and Dianne Taylor). She is currently in development with two feature films whilst spending time with her elderly mother. (Based on information from Equity.)
Sophie’s first feature screenplay, Fantail, in which she also starred, was nominated for 8 NZ Film Awards and had its world premiere at Rotterdam Film Festival in 2013. As an actor, Sophie is best known for playing, Cheryl’s lawyer, Bailey Wilson in the final season of Outrageous Fortune. As co-general manager Sophie programmed the Basement Theatre for 4 years, developing emerging artists and new work. In 2015 Sophie worked in the script department for the miniseries The Beautiful Lie and is now writing on new Australian TV drama, Lucky Charming as well as developing her project Manhunt as a feature film and as a play with Silo theatre. (*StS)
Three years ago, Sophie wanted to focus on being the best writer she could be; she didn’t want to direct. But I keep hoping… (*WW i/view here.)
Yamin Tun is a writer/director, and a graduate of the University of Oxford in Philosophy, Politics & Economics. She won the Unitec scholarship prize in the 48hour film competition and was an Asia NZ Foundation Arts Grant recipient for three consecutive years (2011–2014).
Yamin’s short films include Two Princes, Wait (which won won the Best New Zealand Short Film award at the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival and the NZFC Special Jury Prize at Show Me Shorts) and The Dream of the Driver (runner-up, Tropfest 2016). Her feature film script Hong Kong Story was shortlisted by Sundance Screenwriters Lab 2016.
In 2013, Yamin was selected by Film Finances Inc to attend Telluride Film Festival, and meet film industry people in Los Angeles. Yamin has also been shortlisted for the Script to Screen Killer Films internship and the 2016 DDB Showtools New Directors Award. (*StS)
Zia, whose Night Shift screened in competition at Cannes, is ‘still in Auckland, making commercials and writing away on a few feature ideas. I have also been involved with the programming team on Show Me Shorts and continue to mentor and conduct workshops for short film makers through Script to Screen and the NZFC.’ (*WW i/view here.)
Zia has been selected for Script to Screen’s 2017 FilmUp programme.
Best known as a stunt performer, who has had a documentary, Double Dare, made about her and a retrospective hosted by The New York Museum of Modern Image, Zoë Bell: From Stuntwoman to Star, Zoë Bell is an actor, producer and, now, a director signed up by Curious Films, their only New Zealand director who is a woman. She’s worked as a producer and executive producer on genre films since 2013 and came to realise how much knowledge she had assimilated from working with directors like Quentin Tarantino, Shane Black (on Iron Man 3) & Taika Waititi (on Thor Rangorak) and felt strongly compelled to direct and write.
Zoë has returned to New Zealand and says, in a Curious Films release: ‘To be back working where it all began. To work on more and more scripts. To demonstrate what I’m capable of. I live for this’.
Zoe first won attention for a documentary on mail order brides, made while she studying at Ilam art school. In 2010 Lost in Wonderland, her doco about idiosyncratic barrister Rob Moodie, won the Qantas award for Best Popular Documentary. She also helmed award-winning gangster-on-holiday short Day Trip and bogan buddy romp The Deadly Ponies Gang. Directing commercials, she won a Cannes Young Director Awards for her work for Colenso BBDO for DDB on ‘Demand Equal Pay’. Now developing a feature.
This is the final in a 4-part NZ Update series. The other parts address some of the contexts within which these women work, with an emphasis on taxpayer investment in film-making. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 3: WIFTNZ.
Originally published at wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com on February 26, 2017.