We’re now midway through the second annual South Shorts Mentorship Programme, and already the outcomes are exciting. The mentoring programme aims to give promising Māori and Pasifika writers the tools to progress their work significantly. In many cases this means getting to a final draft of a short film script that the writer is happy with, ready to apply for funding, or to make the film on a low budget. But the programme is also tailored to the talent that we come across. This year Vea Mafileo is developing her feature documentary PAPER RUN as part of the programme.
After running this programme for the first time in 2014, we found that writers who came to the end of the programme with a finished script didn’t always know what to do next. Finding a producer you connect with and who is keen to collaborate can be a tough task. And for those without a tight crew of filmmaking friends, the idea making your first short film with strangers can be like feeling your way in the dark. It’s a shame to think that some great scripts – even shorts – would sit in drawers, because they haven’t connected with the right producer.
Filmmakers make a couple of short films at the most before moving on to other things, so finding a producer that wants to work with a first time writer or director doesn’t necessarily mean looking through a list of people who have already produced something. The ideal short film producer would be someone with passion and nouse, but perhaps only a little experience – and sometimes none at all. To add to the situation, film schools tend to focus on writing and directing – leaving the emerging industry with a shortage of aspiring producers to consider collaborating with.
I’m reminded of the anecdote told by Helen Bowden at an In Conversation we held with her in 2014. She remembered that finding out she loved producing was just a case of being in the right place at the right time. “Like many New Zealanders I went to London after university. I shared a flat with a young Israeli director. She asked me to produce her film … and that was the beginning, a trial by fire really, but I loved it.”
In order to combat this for the writers on our 2016 South Shorts mentorship programme, we opened up three spaces for new producers. They shadow the writers through some of their development process, and also have a mentor of their own, giving them a year to find some projects to produce, and begin working on while going through the programme.
While writers were largely chosen based on the quality of their pitch of a short film idea at the workshop, those applying to be new producers just had to show passion and leadership qualities.
Participants in the 2016 programme are:
Henry Cheng and Hans Masoe with mentor Orlando Stewart
Louisa Opetaia with mentor Tainui Stephens
Chris Molloy with mentor Briar Grace-Smith
Hanelle Harris with mentor Michael Bennett
Jaemen Busby with mentor Mina Mathieson
Jeremiah Tauamiti with mentor Shuchi Kothari
Vea Mafileo with mentor Miriam Smith (documentary)
So far many of the writers are a number of drafts into the development of their idea, the documentary is in production, has secured development funding and an EP, and the producers have all found projects to collaborate on. Louisa Opetaia is producing Chris Molloy’s White Sunday and the Maori Boy, also in this year’s programme, and co-producing team Henry Cheng and Hans Masoe are collaborating with Lene Aiono (a 2015 alumni of the programme) on his scripts Junior Boxing and Yeah Buddy, as well as developing their own projects.
Producers are all around us. They’re the people in our communities that get things done, that can get people around them bright-eyed about anything they’re working on. That and all the organisational, financial, and negotiation skills that make a producer essential. We know the qualities they need to have. But can we attract them to film?