Last chance to apply for Danny Mulheron directing workshop

Posted Monday 20 Mar 2017

Get onto it, directors - you have less than 72 hours to apply for this excellent DEGNZ workshop in Wellington.

Applications close 9am, Friday 24 March for a 2-day Directing Toolkit Workshop with director Danny Mulheron. Danny will draw on his extensive experience to deliver an interactive and informative Directing Toolkit, which requires participants to get physically involved.

When: Saturday 1 April,  9.30am - 4.30pm & Sunday 2 April, 9.30am - 4.30pm
Where: TBC, Wellington
Cost: Free for DEGNZ members, $100 for non-members

A travel allowance is available for those coming from outside the Wellington region.

For a full list of what will be covered on both days, and how to apply, visit the DEGNZ website.


Next Up...

Q&A: Catherine Fitzgerald, One Thousand Ropes

Posted Monday 20 Mar 2017

catherine crop

Catherine Fitzgerald's achievements are numerous and impressive - and now she can add One Thousand Ropes to that list.

The long-time WIFT member and past WIFT president (2009-2011) produced the drama, her second feature with writer/director Tusi Tamasese (The Orator). This film follows a father who reconnects with his estranged teenage daughter, and is given a rare chance to reshape the future of his family and put to rest the ghosts that haunt them both.

Starring Uelese Petaia, Frankie Adams and Sima Urale, the film is released in New Zealand cinemas on March 23. (Watch the trailer here, and look out for our ticket giveaway further on in the newsletter.)

We've quizzed Catherine about the film and her work (below), but first, we'd be remiss if we didn't list a few of her many accomplishments...

Catherine founded Blueskin Films in 2002, and began producing a run of high profile short films. She was part of the producing team on Oscar-nominated short Two Cars, One Night, and Vincent Ward's feature Rain of the Children. In 2011 she produced Samoan-language tale The Orator, which won two awards at the Venice Film Festival. Fitzgerald's screen career also includes work as a script assessor, funding executive and policy advisor. She has also been chair of the New Zealand Film Festival Trust since 2001, and chaired the Screen Producers' Association. She still continues to work to improve the status of women in film and television, and became an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film in 2014.


What drew you to working on One Thousand Ropes? Obviously you have a previous creative relationship with Tusi, so what about this story captured your interest?

Tusi and I began talking about the core elements of this idea soon after we completed the shoot of The Orator. The way we work is he explores an idea and when he has something he wants me to read, we then discuss it. I guess my role is to interrogate the work or aspects of it, in such a way that I hope gives him fresh inspiration. So it is hard to track what drew me to this idea, as many of those core elements have evolved and transformed as the project took shape.

What were the particular challenges in getting Tusi's second feature off the ground, as opposed to the challenges of making a first feature with someone?
The challenges have been the flipside of the opportunities. The interest and expectation The Orator generated has meant many doors have been open that certainly were firmly closed for The Orator; on the other hand, we wanted this film to build on The Orator and to try new things creatively and technically. That is exciting and frightening. What we have valued beyond measure is our creative crew and our fellow producing and distribution team that has stayed with us since the very beginning, and who have had faith to go with us and stand by us even through tough times. The trust and creative fire of that wealth of mutual experience is a powerful thing. At the same time, the team has grown with great new allies.

As a producer, how much did you have input into and discussions around themes, storylines, and the like?
The creative credit is all Tusi's, but I hope I provide the challenges which foster that.

The film had a great reception at the Berlinale when it premiered last month. How much of a difference does it make to a Kiwi film's reception in New Zealand to have a good reception first at a festival like Berlin? And how much of a difference does it make in getting international distribution?
Well, I guess we are about to see! Certainly it is gratifying to know that an international audience "gets" the film, even if there are details that may be very culturally specific. The way funding works in New Zealand is that you must secure an international sales agent prior to financing. So we had the support of our sales agent from the beginning, but this kind of selection definitely assists the international marketing of the film.

catherine and tusi

Above: Catherine and Tusi on the set of One Thousand Ropes.

Tell us a little about working as a producer within the Samoan community/culture, both on this film and your previous two with Tusi - and how you first got involved in working with him.
I was introduced to Tusi by a mutual friend with the idea I work as a script consultant for him. We discovered we shared a love of the same films - from Japan, China, Russia, Europe as well as the most adventurous of American film makers. We both love the insight into the richness of the human condition that comes from a diversity of film cultures. It is precious for me to be able to discuss the art of filmmaking at that level.

We don't see this as a Samoan film, more a human film with Samoan characters. It draws on the whole world's richness of culture, but of course with the added resource of Samoan culture. Some things, like the importance of where you bury a child's placenta, has importance in most cultures around the world, but the industrialised world has rather lost touch with that. And the experience of immigrants, torn between where they were born and where their children are born, again is quite universal. The imagery of where your roots are, and where you put down roots, is not unfamiliar in Western European culture, and equally the idea of what connects you and supports you can also sometimes be what holds you back. The idea of what to hold onto and what to let go of in life is accessible to all of us.

In terms of working in Samoa, I was lucky enough to have the support of many people on the ground willing to share their knowledge with me, and be patient with my attempts to learn what I needed to. For One Thousand Ropes, I was much of the time working 10 minutes walk from my home.

You've said that being a good producer is about asking good questions of the director (and no doubt of other people too) - what questions did you ask during One Thousand Ropes?
I asked many, many, many questions of myself day and night, and I hope some useful ones of others. The point of questions is to have the chance to listen and listen carefully to the answers. They tend to be why, who, what, where, when, how and - last and least, how much?

We always ask our interviewees about women in film/TV and the gender split - what are your thoughts on the future for women in the industry, especially in producing and directing roles?
Why I produce is to bring a female perspective to the work we make, which means addressing my own unconscious bias as a modus operandi. In my whole career, I have seen the young male audience as being the best supplied, especially by Hollywood, and I see commercial opportunities in building new audiences by offering alternative fare.

I celebrate that women are more and more getting a chance to write, direct, play complex lead characters, shoot, cut, and all the creative and technical roles at all stages of making a film, but there is untapped potential. I'd like to see that realised.

Do you already have an idea of stories you want to be involved in telling, or do people come to you with stories and you come on board because they interest you?
Both. I am always watching for talent coming through and in all related fields, so I know who I might in my dreams want to work with, but I can only manage so many projects, so I have to be pretty selective. There tends to be some serendipity about it too, both for the films you connect with, and oddly, even for the things that don't work out. I'm happy to see good work get made.

What originally drew you towards being a producer?
At the beginning of my career I worked as a director for several years, but I was outside the feature film and TV drama system and did not have the confidence, or frankly the truly original ideas, to take myself seriously, let alone persuade anyone else to.

By positioning myself strategically to be able to set up my own company, I felt I could set the kaupapa and choose where to put my talents, energy and resources.

You've worked on some pretty notable NZ films over the past 15 years. What does success over the next 15 years look like for you?
Success for me will be having helped create films I am truly proud of, and having had the chance to share some of what I have learned with others. And I am not allergic to the idea of having made enough money to have an energetic and adventurous retirement ahead.

What do you have on the boil at the moment?
Quite a lot - perhaps a bit much! - both in terms of films I am producing and films I am supporting others to produce. I'm a bit wary of saying too much, too soon, as it can quickly sound like old news!