“Sometimes with writers, which is a natural thing, they’ll write something because they feel it has to be ‘said’ – then you’ll see that when you do it, the less said the better and the audience will read into it like a novel, they’ll read into what should be felt… That is more important to me, than anything.” Robert De Niro – Actor/Director


I went to the opening panel event for the Tribeca Film Festival. 100 Years of Universal Studios, a conversation with Robert De Niro and Judd Apotow. The Killer ‘A’ badge giving me access to all events, this one in particular had a red carpet walk with designer cupcakes behind a velvet roped off area. The opening of the show had the head of Universal Studios introduce a 6-minute film reviewing the last 100 years of their best films. It was jaw droppingly inspirational – a film eye candy feed for the emerging filmmaker appetite. This is the first of many festival events, parties and films that I would attend. But the most influential was a non-event in a shoe store on 14th Street with no ‘A’ badge attached to my person. There I meet Israeli filmmaker Sharon Bar-Ziv – in town for the festival with his debut feature film Room 514, entered in the Viewpoints section. Viewpoints, established last year, highlights personal stories in international and independent cinema. The film is a gritty minimalist drama that provides a raw, direct look at the psyche of contemporary Israeli culture as shaped by the effects of the ongoing conflict. It’s this ‘chance’ shoe store meeting we both acknowledge that give us grounds to speak on art, story, life and journey to film. I get an evening being schooled on European filmmakers, film courage, Oedipus and how sometimes it takes 20 years for something to happen over night. We continue our Jedi fono (hui) on our way to a filmmakers industry party going down at the ‘House of Imagination’ on 26th Street arriving to free cocktails, dinner seating, silent disco, DJ disco, filmmakers hustling hard and I’m relieved it’s not my time to shine. It’s very shiny here. After years of crafting your films universe, you’re in a spotlight where your film has to be seen, reviewed, critiqued, voted on and from what I can tell – BOUGHT – a major reality! I meet a distributor who’s main interest is female directors, that’s encouraging in what seems to be a male dominated room. I attend Sharon’s feature debut and am struck by its themes and style. By the films end, Sharon is met with a mix of panegyric and antipathy by a sprinkling of ex Israeli military in the audience who stand up on both sides of the controversy. It’s the strongest audience response I’ve seen from any of the director talks I’ve been to. I’m feeling blessed to have made a new friend who is ‘hard out’ cutting edge and passionate about film who is not from your average town. The climate of world politics ROAR from this festival, you need look no further than who and what is winning here; Best New Narrative Director – Lucy Mulloy, director of Una Noche (UK, Cuba, USA). “Una Noche reveals a Havana we could never otherwise see, in its jumble of vibrant life, decay, and making do.” Best Screenplay for a Narrative Feature Film – All In (La Suerte en Tus Manos) written by Daniel Burman and Sergio Dubcovsky directed by Daniel Burman (Argentina). “Its ability to locate universal issues regarding families, lovers, kids, and running a business within the tangy specificity of an Argentinean Jewish poker-playing milieu.” Best Narrative World Feature – War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen (Canada). “This indelible character study of a girl who becomes a woman before our eyes in the midst of harrowing war gives words to the unspeakable. Riveting, heartbreaking, vivid, and eloquent, the movie balances scenes of crazy enemy hatred with moments of luminous private love.” Room 514 gets the ‘Jury Special Mention’ when the winning cards are laid out on the table. It’s worth mentioning all of these films are ‘English’ subtitled. It’s a good wake up call. Tribeca is one of many ‘great’ festivals, but a producer and filmmaker must pitch their ‘baby’ in the competition that’s best matched to the themes, stories and buyers who attend, especially for it’s first American release. That’s my ‘life observer’ take on my Tribeca film festival journey. A KILLER bite of the Big Apple. Boom!

Killer office is a ‘cool’ air-conditioned room with hot deals being made, polished and vigorously negotiated. When Pam and Christine are in the office, one could spend hours lying on the couch listening to their wheeling and dealing with actors’ agents, writers, directors, finance, production, advice on kids, education and hot new books to be read. The transparency in the ‘cool’ room is the biggest teacher once you get use to the pace of the language. You can’t get to where these ladies are without a certain intuitive sagacity. They come up SPADES! After 25 years of being Killer, Pam has a knack for being able to make a script work with a magic recipe, “change a line here and here to reflect the storyline here, where it needs it. There’s no need to re-write or make a major change. I can see it…” In my mind this script wizardry obviously comes from ‘doing’ it in a practical sense. From first read, to seeing the script from a finance point of view, to being involved with the shooting, post-production process, marketing and opening night. Not just a few times, but heaps of times – Pam is gold. I like listening to her when she’s on the phone in the hustle mode while I do my bit, seated next to her reading scripts and writing up notes for David. I’ve been told twice by two different people to be more direct with what I like and don’t like. Here’s me thinking, I am, I am, I’m being very persuasive with what I ‘really’ think in my comments, but nope. I need to be more direct because “this is New York, you tell it like it is.” I’ve come from a different school of thought obviously. Here’s me trying to understand where the writer has come from, pose those questions that might strengthen the script, waffle on with more thoughts etc etc, but in NY being ‘upfront’ will get you further. I find that difficult on a cultural level but hey! I’m going to do it! 

Upfront POV – If you haven’t read Christine’s book ‘Killer Life,’ then I recommend it. It places talent, directors, productions, finance and pressure in an order that helps you to understand what it is you’re getting yourself into as a filmmaker. It’s hard work but finding a producer that practically ‘worships your talent’ and is willing to fight tooth and nail to get the finance, look, talent, feel of your film, I believe is a good starting point as an emerging filmmaker. Your main producer has to be ‘that into you’, otherwise your project stays in no man’s land. Christine says over a salad, ‘it’s a great time to be a young producer right now.’ The way films get made and can be distributed has become much more accessible then when she first started. An obvious example, everyone was working on film, not HD and there wasn’t internet. You can tell Christine is a producer who REALLY backs her filmmakers. In NZ I see a slight reverse, whereby the filmmaker is chasing the producer. I think this is a problem. With the limited funds in NZ that make a handful of films each year and the time it takes to get your film project up, I’m finding useful advice and encouragement from the Big Apple. It nourishes the thick skin required to come back home and try and get a film made, ya know.  As New Zealand continues to stake its place in the world market, I believe our talent is continuing to meet that. In an intern question/answer pizza with beer night, I ask Christine about international co-productions, she says there’s no trade agreements between NZ and the US. But if she believes in a filmmaker, she’d get on board and perhaps secure casting in the US because at the end of the day, it’s about crossing boarders and ‘talent’ is a way. BINGO! Just so happens, I’m working on a film and we’re looking at international casting for one of the characters. The actor I ask about, is a “NO not him!” answer. Okaaay… Good to have the inside on who’s difficult to work with here. She offers up a meeting with her about my project before I leave NYC, BINGO. I also use the opportunity to be ‘upfront’ and ask David to read our script and give me some feedback. He’s reading it over the weekend – BINGO. If he likes it, maybe there’ll be an opportunity to work with KILLER. Imagine that! I am LOL! Upfront BINGO??? Like life, work is up in the air. I believe it’s the ‘given’ when working in such a dynamic creative sector. Fortunately my ‘underground’ theatre background has me primed for such a life of pure uncertainty. BINGO!

Dianna Fuemana

This internship is made possible with the support of the Film Investment Corporation Foundation and the New Zealand Film Commission.



March 28, 2018

EPISODIC LAB AOTEAROA is our brand new pilot programme and is an initiative designed to develop distinctive NZ writing talent in television drama. Up to 8 writers and/or teams will be awarded a place in the immersive lab where they will workshop their concepts with experienced television writers from NZ, Australia and beyond.... Read more