Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chicago 10

I went to see this film directed by Brett Morgan (The Kids Stays in the Picture)
in the DOCNZ festival the other night - it was pretty full on - with real footage of riots in Chicago at the time - police vs the people yet again...

At the 1968 Democratic Convention, protestors, denied permits for demonstrations, repeatedly clashed with the Chicago Police Department, who waged a week-long terror campaign that resulted in riots witnessed live by a television audience of over 50 million. The events had a polarizing effect on the country and 8 of the main activists were arrested which created a huge public trial. [Mmm ...sound familiar?]

The unique feature of this doco was its use of animation of the main characters of the story arrested ...Its definitely worth a look - but sometimes the flipping back and forth between real news footage, conversations between the activists at the time, then the recreation of the story in animated form was distracting from the flow of the story - but an interesting style aka The Simmonds Brothers or like Henry Rollins Show style...

Interestingly, it was also another political doco supported by the Al Gore team at Participant Productions.

and i can't believe we missed it, we had tickets to Lovely Rita and saturday was such a beautiful day we completely forgot about it...Well, at least we supported the festival i guess...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DOCNZ Festival and Symposium

The DOCNZ festival is coming up in Wellington - already been going in Auckland for some time...Lots to choose from so get out of that winter comfort zone and watch some interesting international and local docos...
Saw a great doco last night on Maori TV made by local Wellington filmmakers, Tim Rose and Jim Scott and Huia Lambie about J.C.Sturm, poet extraordinaire and by the by, ex-wfe to James K. Baxter. It was a moving portrait of a woman writer struggling to have her voice heard amongst the patriarchal literati of the 50s and 60s....
Still working on the DVD of my Michael King doco, so hope to get that out and about the meantime looking forward to seeing the Rita Angus doco by Gaylene Preston in the festival...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I'm going up to auckland soon to speak from an NZ On Air position about new models and the changing digital environment at the DOCNZ conference. I met up with Barry Barclay last week too and he is creating his own network of documentary filmmakers promoting local stories in local communities. There's a lot of action out there at the moment, not only with all the new digital formats and IPTV platforms, but small groups getting together with digital resources and filmmaking and storytelling skills to just make things happen...

I'm looking forward to creating and seeing new narratives and genre emerge from digital media like what the Channel Four have done with their 4DOCS initiative. the ABC have done some very innovative commisssions with short format documentary, while still attending to the business as usual of long form documentaries about local people and stories.
Trevor Graham, who made the Homeless documentary for ABC will be it looks like a very interesting programme...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Journalistm Matters

Hi, so i went to show my film, Michael King, A Moment in Time to the journlists conference organised by the EPMU. The whole focus of the conference was, essentially, the effect of new media and digital worlds on journalism as a craft and profession. There was quite a lot of debate about the authenticity of 'news' by bloggers and discussion about the blogger wars in Aussie within the blogosphere.

I hope that, in retrospect, journalists can see bloggers as allies rather than competitiors, because the main focus of the blogosphere is not only to promote individual work but also debate about whats going on 'out there'. Bloggin is also different to authentic journalism, its personal and very subjective - but openly so.

I blog when i want to about things i'm involved with. Its not just a skite machine, its a dialogue with people who i want to connect with about what i'm doing. Journalists generally see it as a threat - rather than an allied community interested in discussing stuff in general.

As Audrey says - about her blog on John Key; the more we do it, the more we can see it as a medium that means something. If we dont embrrace it, we'll leave behind a whole genration of an audience who works totally in a digital environment.

Also, its a new opportunity for journalists, if only they would embrace it rather than see it as a competitive threat.

My film was screened at the conference and I've been inivited to show it and sell it across the country in journalist schools and institions. Thats cool.

You can get a copy from
Michael King, A Moment in Time.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Michael King: A Moment in Time

Yesterday my doco, Michael King, A Moment in Time screened in the International Film Festival at the Film Archive in Wellington. Two amazing screenigs brought many people out of the woodwork....Maui Solomon introduced himself to the audience as 'the' Maui Solomon who wrote to King in 1985 asking him to write the history of the Moriori people...and Michael's daughter Rachael also spoke...

It was amazing to feel two very different audiences show their response and there were many filmmakers in the audience too...

The score designed by Michelle Scullion gave the film many layers of emotion and I felt extremely proud to finally bring this interview into the light of day.

Thank you all the people who helped me to do this - producer Glenis Giles, my partner Cathy and my son Sam who designed the titles. My brother Michael wrote the lyrics to the final song over the credits 'Like a Bird' sung by Dunedin composer/singer Patsy Ryan with her band Blackthorn. The Dub Shop,especially Simon Reece, editor, managed the final post stages with great creative direction and influence and the sound mix by John Boswell at Park Rd Post ensured the final piece was perfectly balanced. And to the Film Festival who agreed to screen the film which meant we could get post-production funding from the NZ Film Commission. Thank you so much...

It's been quite an amazing journey from 1991 to 2007 to complete this work - now it has its own life out in the world.

If you are interested to view the film again or purchase it contact me through or producer Glenis Giles at


Friday, July 20, 2007

Edith Collier - artist

I just saw a beautiful moving doco by Michael Heath about Wanganui artist, Edith Collier. She was born in Wanganui and spent time as a young woman travelling and painting in London and Ireland - being a part of the women artist movement, the modernists, influenced and attending classes by expat Kiwi Frances Hodgkins. She returned home to parochial Wanganui in the twenties - her art was seen as too modern and risque to the point that her father burned several of her nudes. She continued to paint sporadically but was thwarted by the small mindedness of the time - and of the relatively conservative art scene including the critics her saw her work as 'modern' and 'abstract' and therefore, not serious art. Over 300 works are held at the Seargent gallery in Wanganui. Also, someone in the audienc mentioned that over 30 of her works will be for sale soon in the Dunbar Sloane auction - an infomercial at question time! Michael Heath has given us an eloquent and emotional portrait of an artist ahead of her time in New Zealand who has left a legacy of beautiful works of light, shape and form. Dr Joanne Drayton has written a biography of her life. and the film will be out on DVD soon also. The Edith Collier Trust

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fringe Film Festival 20 years on...

Last week i went to the 20th anniversary of the Wellingotn Film Fringe Festival. Organised once again by fabulous gals, Glenis Giles & Fiona Bartlett with lots of help from Iris and Robert Sarkies and others too numerous to name. Over the years the Fringe has been the gateway for emerging filmmakers and a stepping stone towards greatness...! or the delusion of greatness.

The show started with an intro by director Robert Sarkies who thanked the Fringe for paying for a young eager filmmaker to fly up from Dunedin with his first short film to hear the critical analysis by filmmakers from throughout the country - it was noted that the Fringe just can't afford to do that anymore because there are SO many filmmakers...but that is a good thing!

Speeches were given by Gaylene Preston and Neville and finally the Fringe Film Festival Accolades were revamped and given out to those people in the industry who give so much behind the scenes. Some were there - others werent but the recognition and acknowledgement of their contribution was warmly applauded...

The Fringe is on right now so check it out at

Sunday, July 15, 2007

International Film Festival Launch

The festival kicks off this week with the opening night party on Thursday.
See you there....enjoy

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Michael King: A Moment in Time

I interviewed Michael King with Vanya Shaw in 1991 at the Writers Week in Dunedin. The interview was part of a series of interviews and documentation of this writers festival in Dunedin. It was shot by cameraman Rewa Harre and produced by Ana Foreman and Clare O'Leary. The film has been through a number of funding applications over the years and finally in 2007 sees the light of day through support from the International Film Festival and the NZ Film Commission with support from Executive Producer Glenis Giles. The film will be screened at the Mediaplex in Wellington on 26 July at 12.15 and 1.30. The film was edited by Simon Reece, The Dub Shop and a soundscape designed by Michelle Scullion with additional music by Michael O'Leary & Patsy Ryan and Blackthorn, Dunedin.
Other writers interviewed at the time include Hone Tuwhare, Elsie Locke, Gaylene Gordon, Patricia Grace, Bub Bridger, David Eggleton, Sandra Bell, Bronwen Bannister, Michael O'Leary and many others....this is part of an ongoing collection of NZ writers and artists...

A Class Act: Mervyn Thompson, his life & work

Mervyn Thompson grew up on the West Coast of the South Island. He spent his youth in a coal mine, like his father and grandfaterh before him. But he was a different lad to most of his peers - he joined the amateur theatre group in Reefton which introduced him to a whole new world and after working down the mines with his father for several years from the age of 16, he left the West Coast and headed for Christchurch and University. Thompson was a gregarious and sometimes difficult character. People seemed to either love him or hate him. Despite accusations in the eighties of 'rape' and lecherous behaviour to his English drama students, he was instrumental in bringing NZ stories to the stage, in particular working class stories. He was also the first playwright to acknowledge the story of the Suffrage Movement in NZ with his play, O Temperance. He died of cancer in the early nineties. This film includes an indepth interview with him the year before he died, with excerpts from his final autobiographical play, 'Passing Through'. Thompson remains a controversial figure in NZ's theatrical and artistic history, but also an important figure in creating a voice for working class stories and authentic NZ stories to reach local theatres across New Zealand.

Out the Black Window

In the late nineties Greg O'Brien curated a show at the City Gallery called 'Out the Black Window'. It was a collection of works by Ralph Hotere specifically about his collaboration with poets. Each painting illustrated work inspired by NZ poets, primarily Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire, Cilla McQueen and Ian Wedde. I filmed a reading by each of these poets and made a short film from a selection of works entitled 'The Sound of a Painting'. The title was inspired by Cilla McQueens poem, 'Synethesia'.
The full works filmed have still not been completed...another work in progress.

A Double Standard

In the mid-nineties I met up with Claire Turner, an amazing political activist, primarily in the area of HIV/AIDS community activism and she introduced me to Catherine Healy, the Director of the NZ Prostitutes Collective. We ended up working together on a documentary for TV3's Inside NZ Series about decriminalistion of prostitution - it was during a time when police woudl raid massage parlours, cops would act as clients and 'entrap women, (and male prostitutes), rent boys would be convicted of crimes set up by cops and there was a lot of harrassment taking place. The documentary exposed a lot of that through dramatic reconstruction but it also outlined the point of view, not only of sex workers in the industry, but also the perspectives of their clients - from street workers to escort girls to massage parlours...the variety of workers and their clients spanned race, class and gender..
TV3 after agreeing to screen the final cut - ended up cutting one and a half minutes as it went to air and I had a public argument with the then programme manager, Geoff Stevens who reacted to my complaintes of their 'online editing' by saying i would 'never work again in this industry'.
Well, it might have worked then - but I'm still here, making my films, researching and contributing to a sector that is ever changing.
At the same time, I worked with the NZ Prostitutes Collective to make a safe sex film for new workers. Entitled 'Sold on Safe Sex' it was rated R18 by the Video Censors of the time, but it has been a major training video for new sex workers in the NZ community ever since.
The local sex worker industry wrote the script, acted in it and presented the information. It was devised by a community of bisexual, transgendered, straight and gay sex workers and is still being used today.


In the late eighties I was still living in Western Australia and I got approached from some women who were working up in the Argyle Diamond Mines. This was run by BP a major mining company, and some of the local independent filmmakers in W.A. had knowledge of Aboriginal communities being moved off thier lands - or else the men of the community agreeing to sales and use of 'dreaming' sites that were actually sacred to women of the area. BP were adament they were working collaboratively with the local Aboriginal community and even employing many of them in the mine. Others were convinced that the mining companies were just exploiting the locals for the resource and that the local people had no idea how many millions of dollars they were giving away in their engagement with them. I went up there with a crew to document a kind of social experiment. BP had a new strategy led by an innovative thinker and strategist from Melbourne, Michael O'Leary (no relation) but he was convinced that by putting together a group of people from traditional mining knowledge and experience (25 % essentially hard core, usually macho miners who were not used to women workers) ,50 % of men who had had a variety of jobs (from cooks to bar managers to singers and farm hands etc.) and 25% of women - that a kind of social experiment could take place.
This film was the culmination of that hot pot - hard core miners and itinerant Australians looking for a quick buck meet hard core dykes in a remote countryside who wont take any crap from men... an interesting social experiment.
The film is a mixture of a training video meets EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) in the outback of Northern Australian in 40 degrees in a high tech enviornment. The deal was , 14 days on, 14 days off. Nothing inbetween. A satellite city.
Interesting dynamics.
Groundwork dealt with sexual stereotypes in the workplace, new technology with women geologists leading the way, enviornment reconstruction led by Aboriginal managers and a community in conflict with the presence of the mine. Women not necessarily consulted...along the way. 1989. The Kimberleys. Australia.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Overlocked & Underpaid

I lived in Western Australia for several years - it's where i had my son Samuel and lived with his dad until i returned to NZ at the end of the 1990s. We had a home birth in White Gum Valley with friends from NZ and Australia.

I started filmmaking after studying computer programming (1986)! and realised that although I loved learning about computers and their potential, programming was not my forte, and that the creative bug was more in tune with my personality. I started working on other people's films, drama and documentary and started to learn the craft - on set. There was also an active women's community video group that I became involved in.

The Film & Television Institute was a fantastic local resource centre for independent filmmakers and documentary was a major focus. It was the hub of filmmaking in W.A. and still is. It provided courses on sound, lighting, directing and producing and would often bring filmmakers across from the East (Swinburne and AFTRS). Perth is a long way from everywhere and Fremantle where the FTI is, was really the artistic and creative centre.

Overlocked & Underpaid was my first prime time documentary. It came about through the FTI network and initially was going to be directed by feminist filmmaker, Martha Ansara. I was keen to work with her - but she decided to let it go and so I ended up directing it. It was a collaboration between the Clothing Trade Workers Union who funded local Mexican folkloric singer, Rita Menendez to travel around clothing factories doing lunch time concerts. At the same time we would interview women about their lives and film their working conditions. The guise of a concert allowed us into factories where union delegates had not been for years, so it worked perfectly. Migrant women were being exploited, some were starting their own businesses after years of working for others, and some conditions were so oppressive that women even had to ask permission to go to the toilet and the managers would hand out toilet paper. Demeaning and difficult for women whose gender roles were very differnet to western causalness. The film was part of a series for SBS-TV on different jobs and the collaboration betwen the Australian Council, the CTWU and SBS-TV was, at the time a first.

Rita was an amazing woman - she was a political exile from Mexico, having been involved in anti-fascist movements and the renaiisance of the Mexican Indian culture which her family was linked to. Another kiwi was on the film, Janis Tidmarsh (originally from Matamata) and in fact the whole crew were women - it was part of the idea that the migrant women would be more comfortable speaking to an all-women crew and it was true. Camerawomen Mandy and Jane, production manager, Claire Calzoni, sound recordist, Catherine Montigny. Janis was a poet and artist and she met Rita in the artistic community in Darwin where Rita was doing a concert and Janis travelled down to work with us on the film. We became close friends and continued to see each other over the years. She became an award winning sculptor and lived in Darwin until she was tragically killed in an accident in the Kimberleys in 2004. Rita continues to sing with her band in Western Australia and has been involved in many collaborative projects.

Raw Energy

My first film was an experimental film about my experiences in Europe after the Chernobyl nuclear accident. I was visiting a friend Gisella Schultz in Lausanne on the border of Germany and Switzerland when it happened. I was five months pregnant and became extremely ill. At first my partner and friend thought I was overreacting to the hysteria around the fall out, but in fact I ended up being admitted to hospital with a kidney infection and was there for several days. I was in a ward with a non-English speaking woman and had a doctor whose command of English was a one year sabbatical he had taken 12 years previously in America. So, you know, I had reason to freak out! Women who were pregnant were being told to have abortions and every scientist was on television giving conflicting advice to people. The markets were suddenly selling fresh produce from Chile, when the day before the signs had said 'local and organic'. People didn't know what to do and there was a rush to the supermarkets for packaged food. The organic farmers and alternative lifestylers were confronted by contaminated produce and the economy was in a state of shock. What made me most nervous was the fact that noone seemed to agree what people should do. Stay home, wipe your feet when you come in from outdoors - don't go out unless you really have to and so on. But really folks - noone really knows what to do in a nuclear disaster. Bear this in mind when you're considering the upcoming debate on nuclear energy in this country.