Waititi seeking to spark film industry

Wellington director Taika Waititi has teamed with some of New Zealand’s finest comic talent to shake up the film industry and unearth the next Maori or Pacific Island screenwriting star.

Waititi, whose vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows is sitting at No 1 at the Kiwi box office, has joined with Sione’s Wedding writer Oscar Kightley, Shopping co-director Louis Sutherland, The Orator director Tusi Tamasese, and actress Madeleine Sami to set up production company Piki to fast-track feature film production, motivate screenwriters, and give the industry a shot in the arm.

They are looking to get started quickly – they want a script that is as production-ready as possible and delivered by August 1, with the winning candidate available to develop the project over the following six months.

“We’re focusing on marketable content – the more depressing, classic dark stereotypical Kiwi movie is getting harder to sell and get an audience for,” Waititi said.

“We want stuff that’s entertaining, positive, uplifting and comic – it doesn’t have to be comedy, but has to have a broad appeal. We need to make the New Zealand film industry sustainable again.”

The short timeframe should not be a barrier, he said. Both What We Do in the Shadows and Waititi’s 2010 hit Boy went from a finished screenplay to production in about three months.

Setting up Piki, which means “to energise” in Maori, as a creative hothouse was a response to the length of time it could take to get films made in New Zealand.

“In this country you often find scripts in development for eight years, and this doesn’t seem like a very immediate way to make films.”

Screenwriters needed to break out of the pattern of applying for Film Commission development funding, and start writing on spec with the expectation of getting paid once a film was made, he said.

“A lot of the time writers are willingly sitting in that development process – we want to work with motivated, pro-active people to get developed scripts before going to the Film Commission.”

The Piki crew hoped to lead by example. All members of the group were working on scripts that were not going through the Film Commission.

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– The Dominion Post