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Friday, 15 March 2019


Production Funding Decisions

The Board approved three applications for production financing at the February  meeting and conditional offers have been made to:

The moving true story of the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and how it changed the modern world and protest today. Directed by Briar March and produced by Matthew Metcalfe and Leela Menon.

When a boy’s dog is lost overboard, everyone gives him up for dead but his young owner defies them all in staging the rescue of his life. Directed by Cliff Curtis, produced by William McKegg and Belle Avery, written by Amanda Beatson and William McKegg.

Connected by blood but separated by circumstances, three cousins spend a lifetime in search of each other. Written by Briar Grace-Smith, directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith, and produced by Georgina Conder and Ainsley Gardiner.


New Appointments to the Film Commission Board

Aucklanders Sandra Kailahi and Anthony (Ant) Timpson have been appointed to the NZFC Board, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Carmel Sepuloni announced on 5 March.

“Both bring huge expertise and knowledge to the Commission,” Carmel Sepuloni says.

“Sandra Kailahi is an experienced television and radio reporter, director and presenter, online journalist, film producer and public relations strategist.

She is currently the strategic communications manager for Alliance Community Initiatives Trust, an organisation dedicated to supporting families in difficult circumstances.

“Ant Timpson is an experienced producer, director, marketer, fund manager and mentor to others. His Incredibly Strange Film Festival has been running continuously since 1994.

In 2003 he founded the 48 Hour Film Festival, he’s the winner of numerous film awards and in 2017 he re-established the Moas Film Awards,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Paula Jalfon, Brett O’Riley, and John McCay are also reappointed and join current members Kerry Prendergast (chair), Pania Tyson Nathan and Tom Greally.

“The significant working experience and diversity of Commission members ensures we are well placed to support the film industry and bring Aotearoa’s stories to the fore.

“My sincere thanks go to retiring members Jane Hastings and Ian Taylor. Both, with their exceptional sector knowledge and as practitioners in the modern media environment, have made invaluable contributions to the Commission,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Ant Timpson's and Sandra Kailahi’s appointments are until 30 March 2021.

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Berlinale 2019

Ten New Zealand films screened to sold-out houses at the 2019 Berlin Film Festival with a delegation of 28 New Zealand filmmakers attending.  

Two New Zealand short films, Hush, written by Armagan Ballantyne and Maria Ines Manchego, directed by Ballantyne and produced by Larissa Tiffin, and Ani, written and directed by Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu and produced by Sarah Cook screened In Competition in the festival’s Generation section.

Chef’s Table – Asma Khan an episode of the Netflix Original documentary series directed by Zia Mandviwalla screened in the Culinary Cinema programme.

Vai had its world premiere opening the Berlinale’s NATIVe section which this year focused on the South Pacific region. Produced by Waru’s Kerry Warkia and Kiel McNaughton, Vai was written and directed by nine Pacific women, ‘Ofa-Ki-Levuka Guttenbeil-Likiliki, Matasila Freshwater, Amberley Jo Aumua, Mīria George, Marina Alofagia McCartney, Dianna Fuemana, Becs Arahanga and Sharon Whippy (writer) and Nicole Whippy (writer/director).  Filmed in seven different Pacific countries, the film follows the lifetime of Vai, played by a different indigenous actress in each of the Pacific countries. In each of these Pacific nations ‘vai’ means water which serves as the link between each vignette.  

For My Father’s Kingdom, produced by Sandra Kailahi and Vea Mafile'o and directed by Mafile’o and Jeremiah Tauamiti is a feature documentary about Vea’s father, Tongan migrant pensioner Saia Mafile'o. Driven by his deep faith in God and Tongan culture, pensioner Saia Mafile’o carefully navigates not only the rough streets of South Auckland, but also his sometimes-fraught relationship with his New Zealand-born son Robert.

Short films Liliu and Toa’ipuapugā Strength in Suffering from the directors of For My Father's Kingdom also had world premieres at the Festival. Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen followed its international premiere at Sundance with a European premiere in Berlin.  One Thousand Ropes, which had its world premiere at the Berlinale in 2017, screened as a retrospective along with short films Snow in Paradise and Va Tapuia.

You can read more about the films and the Berlinale here.

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Sundance Institute's Merata Mita Fellowship Awarded to New Zealand Filmmakers

Ainsley Gardiner and Briar Grace-Smith received the 2019 Sundance Institute Merata Mita Fellowship announced at the Sundance Film Festival in January. 

Selected from a global call for applicants, Gardiner and Grace-Smith will receive cash grants and a year-long programme of support from the Sundance Institute including mentorships and attending the Sundance Film Festival.

Ainsley Gardiner (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Pikiao and Te-Whānau-ā-Apanui) is the producer of short films Tama Tū and Two Cars, One Night, features Boy, Eagle vs Shark, The Breaker Upperers and She Shears, among others. As a writer/director, her work includes short films Mokopuna and Mihi, one of the eight short films that make up feature film, Waru.

Briar Grace-Smith (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Hau) is a filmmaker and writer with credits including stage plays, fiction, television scripts and screenplays including The Strength of Water which was developed in the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters’ lab.  She wrote and directed Charm, the opening vignette in Waru.

Ainsley and Briar are currently collaborating on a new feature film.

You can read more about Ainsley and Briar, and the Merata Mita Fellowship here.

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In Cinemas


Daffodils is a bittersweet love story told with beautiful re-imaginings of iconic New Zealand songs.

Leaving her dying father’s bedside, singer Maisie rushes to perform at an indie music gig in town. But as she sings the opening song, it’s hard for her to ignore the heartfelt story she’s just been told – the story of how her dad met and fell in love with her mother, and how it all devastatingly fell apart.

As the night goes on, we see the love story of Eric and Rose through Maisie’s eyes. From the time they meet in Hamilton in 1966 to their separation in the 1980s, we follow the bittersweet nuances of a couple’s life, expressed with contemporary re-imaginings of iconic hit songs of New Zealand artists including Crowded House, Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn.

Written by Rochelle Bright, directed by David Stubbs and produced by Richard Fletcher and Stubbs, Daffodils will be released in New Zealand cinemas by Transmission Films on 21 March. You can view the trailer here.

The Heart Dances - The Journey of The Piano: the ballet

In The Heart Dances, iconic film The Piano is re-imagined by celebrated Czech dancers Jiří and Otto Bubeníček for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, setting the stage for a voyage into uncharted territory for everyone involved.

Directed by Rebecca Tansley and produced by Robin Laing and Tansley, The Heart Dances will be released in New Zealand by Rialto Distribution on 4 April.  You can view the trailer here.


Vai is a portmanteau feature film made by nine female Pacific filmmakers, filmed in seven different Pacific countries: Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (New Zealand). It is about the journey of Vai, played by a different indigenous actress in each of the Pacific countries. In each of these Pacific nations ‘vai’ means water.

Vai will be released in New Zealand cinemas by Vendetta Films on 4 April following a New Zealand premiere screening at the Māoriland Film Festival on 20 March. You can view the trailer here.

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Rose Matafeo and Matthew Lewis to Star in New Piki Films Comedy Baby,Done

Production is underway in Auckland for Piki Films’ new feature film, Baby, Done staring Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Rose Matafeo (The Breaker Upperers, Funny Girls) and English actor Matthew Lewis (Harry Potter, Me Before You).

From the production house behind Kiwi box office hits Hunt for the Wilderpeople and The Breaker Upperers, Baby, Done follows the story of Zoe (Rose Matafeo), a tree surgeon who becomes pregnant to her long-term boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis) and subsequently freaks out – comically trying to rush through her dreams before she turns into a mum.

Written by actress Sophie Henderson (Human Traces, Fantail) and directed by Curtis Vowell (Fantail), Baby, Done is the married duo’s semi-autobiographical story inspired by their own reaction to starting a family.

Baby, Done will be produced by Morgan Waru. Taika Waititi (Thor Ragnarok, What We Do in The Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) and Carthew Neal (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, The Breaker Upperers, Tickled) are executive producers.

Baby, Done will be made with investment by the NZFC, Wallace Productions Limited and Department of Post. The film will be distributed in New Zealand by Madman and Piki and in Australia by Madman in 2020

You can read more about Baby, Done here.


Closed Captions for Daffodils

Daffodils, a bittersweet love story told with beautiful re-imaginings of iconic New Zealand songs will be able to be enjoyed in cinemas by the hearing impaired alongside their hearing friends.

In a first for a New Zealand film, Daffodils distributor, Transmission Films, has included closed captions on all digital prints.

Closed captions are a text version of the spoken words in a movie, and description of any auditory cues such as ringing doorbells or explosive sound effects.  In some cinemas, captions are projected onto the main cinema screen in special screenings for the hearing impaired, while in others the captions can be viewed via a personal device that attaches to the seat’s cupholder.

While primarily for those who have impaired hearing, closed captions are also used by patrons whose first language is not English.

You can read more about Daffodils and closed captions here.


Festival and Release News

Two New Zealand films have premieres at the prestigious SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas this month.

The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps had its world premiere at the festival in a sold-out session earlier this week, with Vai following its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival with a North American premiere.

The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps, directed by Julia Parnell,  co-directed by Rob Curry and produced by Nicola Peeperkoorn, Tim Riley and Parnell,  is the story of lyrical genius, Martin Phillipps and his band, The Chills. This intimate portrait bears witness as the eccentric Phillipps battles the jarring reality of his own mortality.  He is forced to reconcile a lifetime’s worth of curious collections, look back on a catalogue of heavenly pop hits and relive his place in the iconic Flying Nun and Dunedin sound.

The Chills: The Triumph & Tragedy of Martin Phillipps will be released in New Zealand cinemas on 2 May to kick off New Zealand Music Month.  The trailer will be launched next week.

You can read more about these films and SXSW here.

Vai will follow its North American premiere at SXSW with a screening in the Smithsonian Native Cinema Showcase in late March.

Come to Daddy will have its world premiere at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival in April.

The film, which is the feature debut for New Zealand director Ant Timpson, will screen in the Midnight section of the festival which spotlights new voices in genre filmmaking.

Written by Toby Harvard, produced by Mette-Marie Kongsved, Laura Tunstall, Daniel Bekerman, Katie Holly and New Zealand’s Emma Slade and directed by Timpson, Come to Daddy is a four-way co-production between New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and the USA.

After receiving a cryptic letter from his estranged father, Norval travels to his dad’s oceanfront home for what he hopes will be a positive experience. If only he’d known the dark truth about his old man beforehand.

Waru continues to be a popular festival selection with screenings at Berlin Feminist Film Week and the Utah Pacific Islander Film Series in March, and at the  International Institute of Indigenous Resource Management, Denver in April.

The Changeover is currently enjoying a theatrical release in the US, earning some good reviews like this one from The New York Times and this one from Roger Ebert.com

Upcoming festival submission deadlines:

LA Shorts International Film Festival – 18 March  *Earlybird Deadline
Melbourne Documentary Film Festival – 19 March 
Locarno International Film Festival – 25 March  *Earlybird Deadline
Encounters Short Film Festival, Bristol – 28 March *Earlybird Deadline
Shanghai International Film Festival – 31 March 
Asinabka Film & Media Arts Festival, Ottawa – 1 April 
Revelation Perth International Film Festival –  1 April 
New Zealand International Film Festival - 18 April 
Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival – 19 April
Toronto International Film Festival – 26 April *Earlybird Deadline
Raindance Film Festival, London – 26 April 
Curtas Vila do Conde International Short Film Festival – 30 April 
Giffoni Film Festival – 31 May 

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Congratulations Go To...

NZFC Chair Kerry Prendergast for being made Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2019 New Year Honours.

Filmmaker Gaylene Preston, who was also made Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. 

Filmmakers Shirley Horrocks (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit), and Rob Tapert (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit), actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit), and Show Me Shorts festival director Gina Dellabarca (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit).  You can see the full list of New Year honourees here.

Thomasin McKenzie on receiving the Breakthrough Performance Award at the National Board of Review Awards in New York City, Best Breakthrough Performance from the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and Best Breakout Star of 2018 from The Atlantic and The Wrap.

The Breaker-Upperers team on a successful Netflix release outside New Zealand and Australia.  The great reviews keep rolling in.  Like this one from Roger Ebert.com.

Pete Circuitt, Rob Linkhorn, Steve Best and the whole team behind short film Twenty One Points on winning the prize for Best VFX at the Clermont Ferrand Short Film Festival.

Hepi Mita, Chelsea Winstanley and Cliff Curtis for landing US distribution for Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen via leading US filmaker Ava DuVernay's company, Array.

Kiwi writer Shoshana Sachi for her role as staff writer on DC Universe's new series Doom Patrol, starring Brendan Fraser.

Park Road Post Production and Weta Workshop for their work on Wolf Warrior II and The Wandering Earth – China's #1 and #2 highest grossing films of all time. The films—both produced by the powerhouse production company, Beijing Culture—have grossed US$854m and US$604m respectively.  The Wandering Earth is still in cinemas (in New Zealand as well) and climbing, plus Netflix has announced it has acquired the streaming rights for the film.

US-based expat producer/editor, Zoe Sua Cho on her feature, House of Hummingbird (벌새) screening in Tribeca’s International Narrative Competition.  House of Hummingbird premiered in last year’s Busan International Film Festival’s New Currents Competition section, where it won the KNN Audience Award and the NETPAC Award for Best Korean Film.

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Ngā Pouwhenua Joint Indigenous Initiative

2019 and 2020 mark the 250th anniversary of James Cook’s maiden voyage to the Pacific, New Zealand and then Australia. The NZFC, in collaboration with Screen Australia, is looking to support eight indigenous teams to develop eight short films as part of an anthology feature film initiative to commemorate the arrival of James Cook to the Pacific region in 1769.

Four teams from New Zealand and Australia respectively will be selected to come together and to wananga (workshop) and develop eight dramatic narrative short films exploring their own unique indigenous perspectives related to the arrival of Cook.

On completion of the development process the short films will be selected and supported with production funding of up to $125,000 NZD / $120,000 AUD per short film.

The application deadline is 29 March 2019.  You can find more information about the fund and how to apply here.

The NZFC is looking for an experienced Māori producer to collaborate with the Australian Indigenous Producer (appointed by Screen Australia) on this one-off joint indigenous initiative.  You will find details on how to apply here.


Raupapa Whakaari Funding: Drama to the World - Series Drama Development

Raupapa Whakaari Funding is a joint initiative between the NZFC and NZ On Air and has been designed to develop high-end adult drama series that will appeal to the international market as well as New Zealand audiences.

We are seeking proposals with a well-realised concept outline for a compelling series drama. Development funding of up to $10,000 is available to up to 10 concepts.  Funding is conditional on participation in a Series Drama Lab developed and run by Script to Screen.

Following the Series Drama Lab, up to four projects will be selected to receive up to $80,000 in Advanced Development funding.

The application deadline has been extended until 9am, Monday 1 April.  You can find more information about the fund and how to apply here.


International Festivals and Markets

Cannes Film Market and Festival 2018
New Zealand Film Commission CEO, Annabelle Sheehan and NZFC staff will attend the Cannes Film Market this year.
The NZFC Office and Producers Office are once again at Residence L’Imperatrice, 42 la Croisette (next door to the Grand Hotel) and will be open from Tuesday 14 May through to Wednesday 22 May.

If you are attending and haven’t let us know yet, please email hayleyw@nzfilm.co.nz so we can include you in our communications and any planned events. We can also connect you with other Kiwi filmmakers attending and refer you to reputable accommodation providers.

Other Festivals and Markets
If you are planning to attend Hong Kong FILMART, Beijing Film Market or any other international festivals or markets in the first half of 2016, please email international@nzfilm.co.nz so we can include you in our communications and any planned events.


Website Review - We Need You!

We are planning improvements to our website and need your feedback.

We are reviewing our website and as part of this process we are planning online surveys, online user testing, and focus groups. The surveys and user testing are planned for March and April 2019.

Please click here if you would like to get involved.


Vale Peter Wells

With great sadness the NZFC and the New Zealand screen industry bids farewell to writer and director Peter Wells.

After beginning his career writing and directing short films and pieces for television, Wells and then partner Stewart Main wrote and directed feature film, Desperate Remedies (1993), a lavish and flamboyant melodrama set in a fictional New Zealand colonial town.  The film screened at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival and sold well internationally. With its over-the-top costumes and production design, the film has gathered a cult following in the years since its initial release.

After Desperate Remedies, Wells focused primarily on writing.  His debut collection of short stories, Dangerous Desires, was published to great acclaim and one of the stories, Of Memory and Desire, was adapted by Niki Caro for her first feature, 1997’s Memory and Desire.

In 2006 Wells was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and film. Our thoughts are with his husband, Douglas, and his many friends and family.

You can read more about Peter and his films here.


New to NZ Film On Demand

New films added to NZ Film On Demand include Flying Fox in A Freedom Tree, The Irrefutable Truth About Demons and Leave All Fair.

A new feature has been added to the site which allows users to create a wishlist of films they would like to view. Just click on the small circle in the corner of a film's poster to add a film to your wishlist.

There are over 150 feature and short films available to stream at NZ Film On Demand.



The New Zealand International Film Festival has several contract positions available for 2019.  If you are interested, you will find them listed here.


Doc Pitch

If you've got a great idea for a documentary, submissions are now open for Doc Edge Pitch. Held during the Doc Edge Forum in June, this is New Zealand's only documentary-specific pitching forum and gives filmmakers a unique opportunity to pitch their factual projects to a select panel of local and international funding agencies, production companies, broadcasters and distributors. Deadline for submissions is 29 March. Find more info and how to apply on the Doc Edge website.

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Staff News

In February we welcomed Rouzie Hassanova to the Development and Production team as Development Executive.

Rouzie supports the development and production of long-form screen stories through providing script and project assessment and advising filmmakers on the best pathways for the successful development of their projects.

Rouzie’s film industry experience includes roles in post-production, international film finance and distribution, production and drama development.  In London, she worked as Sales Manager for HanWay Films and as Vice President, International Licensing and Distribution for Mister Smith Entertainment.  Most recently she has been working as Drama Development producer for Great Southern TV in New Zealand. Bulgarian born, Rouzie lived in London for 20 years before moving to New Zealand. She has written and directed a number of award-winning shorts and her debut feature film Radiogram has screened at over 15 international film festivals and won three awards.



Feel free to send any questions, feedback or comments regarding this newsletter info@nzfilm.co.nz.

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