The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) has named Briar Grace-Smith and Rachel House as the recipients of the Ramai Hayward Directors’ Scholarship for wahine Māori. Each receive $50,000 to develop their film scripts and directing skills, with the goal of directing their first feature films.
Grace-Smith is an Arts Foundation Laureate and was last year the recipient of the Te Pou Marohi Ngā Aho Whakaari Melissa Wikaire Memorial Award, prsented for tenacity and strength in bringing Māori stories to the screen.
She’s written for TV shows Being Eve, Kaitangata Twitch, This is Piki and Aussie kids’ show Grace Beside Me. She also wrote features The Strength of Water, Fresh Meat and is one of the writer-directors of the soon-to-premiere omnibus title Waru.
House is an actor and director and has in recent years become a regular collaborator with Taika Waititi, appearing Eagle vs Shark, Boy, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Thor – as well as the recent Moana. Last year she was one of two recipients of the WIFT (Women in Film and Television) Mana Wahine award (with Nancy Brunning).
Four applicants were shortlisted from 11 applicants, who were assessed by a panel of representatives from Ngā Aho Whakaari, the NZFC and wāhine Māori screen professionals, with input from international assessors at the Sundance Institute’s Native Programme.
“A wahine Māori filmmaker has not helmed a feature fim since Merata Mita made Mauri in 1988,” says NZFC CEO Dave Gibson. “The 30 years between then and now is too long, given the talent we recognise in wahine Māori in the industry. We hope this scholarship will boost the careers of the two recipients and encourage other wahine Māori to recognise feature filmmaking as an achievable career path.”
The scholarship will help fund a bespoke programme of support for each recipient tailored to suit the individual’s circumstances and career path. The NZFC plans to support all the scholarship applicants by inviting them to a hui to share experiences, discuss career opportunities and foster a network of peers in the film industry.