Home > Regular Columns > Talking Heads: Script to Screen, 4 April 2016

Talking Heads: Script to Screen, 4 April 2016

Sharing the love in the NZ film industry

“What is art if it’s not love?”
      – Brené Brown

Script to Screen is proud to announce eight places have been awarded for FilmUp 2016 – our high-end development programme for filmmakers that have shown talent and tenacity. 

The participants of the 2016 FilmUp Mentorship Programme are director Gaysorn Thavat, producer Georgina Condor, writer/director Joe Lonie, writer Josephine Stewart-Tewhiu, writer/director Max Currie, producer Nadia Maxwell, writer/director Tim Van Dammen, and writer/director Yamin Tun. Each participant will be matched with a filmmaker mentor from NZ or Australia over the coming weeks, and will attend a series of group sessions that continue over the next 8 months, where they will discuss their work.

This year, for the first time, we are awarding a special senior mentorship to writer/director Jake Mahaffy. whose latest feature Free In Deed took the Orizzonti Award for Best Film at the 72nd Venice Film Festival last year, will receive support developing his new projects from a US-based mentor.

The programme is designed and tailored specifically for NZ filmmakers, to ensure our most talented writers, directors and producers have the support they needed while developing feature films. With FilmUp now going into its fourth year, this is an opportune time to reflect on what happens when a small group of NZ filmmakers come together to work things through.

On its face FilmUp is a mentorship programme, designed to give our filmmakers access to the advice of someone senior. This is invaluable – as expected, but what we’ve discovered as we go is that the camaraderie felt in the group work gifts the filmmakers a much needed boost of energy, large enough to fuel their ambition. This made us look into the group dynamic, and analyse why for so many these sessions have become a transformative experience.

As Brené Brown has told us, creatives need to be vulnerable to get to a place of truth in their work, and to a place of courage to push their work out into the world. Our filmmakers find themselves in a room full of peers willing to be vulnerable, willing to admit that the journey will be difficult but determined to do the hard work to create truthfully. To be alongside others for the ride is incredibly empowering.

As humans, and as New Zealanders, it’s unusual to be given a platform where vulnerability is OK within a professional context. In the FilmUp group sessions, there is a beautiful spirit of generosity between the participants, and between the guest speakers and the participants. It’s open and caring – there really is a lot of love in the room.

The sense of unconditional support within the group feels very natural. As New Zealanders we are known as at once warmly hospitable and emotionally dry – which is confusing. Are we nice? Are we just nice to others but never to ourselves? Regardless, it’s definitely easier for us to open up to support in a group. And we wonder if in these group sessions, where international speakers fit so seamlessly into the vibe, we are seeing a culture of filmmakers rather than a culture of New Zealanders… after all filmmaking is heartbreakingly difficult, and that’s something to bond over.

But we don’t just experience this generosity in the FilmUp group sessions. Altruism is at the core of everything we do. At our Writers’ Lab, workshops, discussion events, and the Big Screen Symposium, our mentors and speakers are incredibly open and generous, and the audience exudes goodwill. Our international guests read this vibe that is so palpable, and the overwhelming sense of collegiality is always surprising to them.

We get a hunch that these speakers have not often come across these vibes in their own lands. Working in large countries with big populations, they are raised in an environment of incessant competitiveness, that forces a courageous yet cunning approach to filmmaking. We admire the tenacity when we hear it described, but it’s hard to imagine growing skin this thick.

So it’s not solely a NZ trait, and not solely a filmmaker trait, but there is something specific about being a NZ filmmaker in our small community that does conjure being in-it-together. From the key roles, to production, post, and actors, we’re all in it for the love, and we will do anything for the craft if the project is strong enough. Perhaps we really do have something pretty unique, and the more we tap into it, the better our industry will become.

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