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Films by five female film-makers premiering this weekend

Tuesday 23 July 2019 10:27pm

filmmakers-image
Film-makers Berenice Matthieu (left) and Lana Young (right) with the acting head of filmmaking at the Centre for Science Communication Professional Practice Fellow Neil Harraway.

The next generation of wildlife and science film-makers are making their debut in Dunedin this weekend.

Five students from the University’s Centre for Science Communication's Master of Science Communication (Science and Natural History) Filmmaking programme will premiere their films at the Regent Theatre on Saturday night.

The 25-minute films are the culmination of an intensive two years of learning and applying the skills of film-making, which for these five graduates began with little or no camera experience at all.

"It’s been a dream of mine to be a wildlife film-maker since I was seven years old, so it’s hard to put into words how fulfilling it was for me to make this film."

“It’s been a dream of mine to be a wildlife film-maker since I was seven years old, so it’s hard to put into words how fulfilling it was for me to make this film,” says Summer Gleeson whose film explores ways in which species carve their own evolutionary path.

From having a pet ghost shrimp at home for several months, to travelling the South Island to film some of New Zealand’s rarest birds, Ms Gleeson says exploring these theories through the observation of different species makes the world more fascinating to look at.

The Science Communication programme at Otago was developed and continues to be taught in association with Dunedin-based NHNZ, and even though most films produced at the Centre still have their roots in natural history, the subject matter and approaches of films have diversified.

This year’s films, for example, include a collaboration between a scientist and artist for communicating seabird conservation, diving into the growing issue of cats and wildlife, and an intimate human story based on four-year-old Auckland toddler Ella Yearbury. Ella has cerebral palsy and has been denied what could be considered a fundamental human rite of passage – taking those precious first steps.

Fairy Steps film-maker Samantha Smyrke says she was compelled to tell this story after stumbling across Ella’s plight on a Give a Little page, and ended up living with the Auckland-based family for four months to make the film.

“Now having completed the documentary I feel so privileged to be part of such a big stage in Ella’s life and be there to capture moments that may have been lost in her journey,” she says.

"To be able to produce such high quality films to premiere for the public is something these graduates of the programme can all be proud of."

“I will never forget the beautiful moment Ella took hold of my feet and proceeded to teach me how to walk by gently picking them up and down, reciting the instructions she had learnt from years of therapy.”

For all students their film represents their debut into the film industry, with many going on to show at overseas film festivals such as Wildscreen and Jackson Wild.

The five films have all been created under the guidance of Professional Practice Fellow Neil Harraway, the acting head of filmmaking at the Centre for Science Communication.

As a founding member of TVNZ’s Natural History Unit in 1977 (which subsequently became NHNZ), Mr Harraway is one of this country’s wildlife documentary pioneers and says these five films collectively represent a talented and diverse collection.

“Making a film is a very complex mix of visuals, sound, music and story-telling, and these are all interesting and important stories, told well.

“To be able to produce such high quality films to premiere for the public is something these graduates of the programme can all be proud of. They’re also fortunate because most new film-makers around the world do not get the chance to debut in such a wonderful showcase event.”

Check out the Trailer.

Come along:

2019 Centre for Science Communication Student Film Premiere
Sat 27 Jul, 7:30pm
Regent Theatre, Dunedin.
Tickets are $10 (plus booking fee) and available from TicketDirect or the Regent Theatre.

The Films

Fairy Steps
Helping Ella to walk

Four-year-old Ella has not been able to accomplish one of the biggest milestones in a child’s life, her first steps. Ella was born with cerebral palsy affecting both her legs and her left arm. Can the Yearbury family get to the USA for an invasive spinal surgery and is it worth the risk?
Film-maker: Samantha Smyrke

Evolving Evolution
How species carve their own paths

The story of how species can change the course of their own evolutionary paths – according to a contested theory in evolutionary biology.
Film-maker: Summer Gleeson

The Silent Invader
Can it be stopped?

The seaweed Undaria is spreading around the New Zealand coast, including the pristine shore of Fiordland. Despite a team of dedicated divers desperately trying to stop this relentless invasive species, Undaria just keeps coming and now the Government isn't sure if this battle is worth the fight. Can they find a way to win the war or will New Zealand's oceans be taken over by this silent invader?
Film-maker: Berenice Matthieu

Paw and Claw
Finding the balance between pets and wildlife

What does Charlie the cat get up to when his owner is away? Paw and Claw explores how cats have impacted New Zealand’s native wildlife and looks for a future where the two can live in harmony.
Film-maker: Tegan Good

Hooked
Science, sculpture and the sea

Dunedin-born artist Tori Clearwater finds inspiration in Southern Ocean science. Delving into the interconnected threats seabirds face, she develops a thought-provoking sculpture that reflects the impacts of long-lining on White Chinned Petrels.
Film-maker: Lana Young