Winning screenwriters to showcase district to world

by Kim Bowden - Jan 27, 2022

Five up-and-coming screenwriters are a step closer to bringing their homegrown stories to TV screens around the world thanks to a collaboration between a production company and local council. 

Great Southern Television and Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) have today announced the five recipients of the first ever Tāhuna Writers Residency.

The screenwriters’ residency was created last year as a partnership between Great Southern Television and QLDC’s film office, Film Queenstown Lakes, and is supported by the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air. 

Danny Aumua, Malinna Liang, Tom Augustine, Isla Macleod and Todd Karehana (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāi Tamaoki, Ngāti Tarawhai, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana) were selected from more than 150 applicants from across the country for a hosted programme of workshops, mentoring, writing and pitching to be based in Queenstown in March and April.

Great Southern Television chief executive Philip Smith: 'They make us excited about the future of Aotearoa's screen industry and we can't wait to start working with them.'

Great Southern Television chief executive Philip Smith says the calibre and range of applicants was impressive, making the selection process competitive.

“Our exceptional ‘Top Five’ represent a broad range of genres and writing styles, and each has compelling, brave and exciting stories to share with the world.”

Tāhuna is focused on creating gripping television series that could sit on major networks and streamers globally but are shot in hometown New Zealand, he says.

“In this day and age, it's about being brave and thinking big. We want to take these writers on the journey by providing the resources and insights to make their creative visions a reality."

Film Queenstown Lakes Coordinator Kahli Scott says the winners are all talented and show an enthusiasm for creating stories in and about the Queenstown Lakes District.

The aim of the residency is to generate homegrown stories leading to more productions filming in this neck of the woods, she says.

“Film and TV production has a key role to play in diversifying our economy, generating jobs and business, developing local skills, and enriching our communities.

“The projects that our Tāhuna writers will create during their residency are the type of work that will help us to grow and strengthen the industry further.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how the writers are inspired by being here and rise to the challenge.”

Over the course of the residency, the screenwriters will each develop a concept for a scripted drama series to be based and produced in the Queenstown Lakes District.

Who are they?

Danny Aumua
Danny Aumua is a 34-year-old Samoan Kiwi filmmaker from Tāmaki Makarau/Auckland. He has worked as a creative producer at networks such as TVNZ, Discovery Channel, Disney and Fox Sports Australia. He recently directed and wrote 26:29, an episode of TVNZ’s new horror anthology, and directed the documentary series Lions Roar for Asahi TV.NIPW World in Japan. He is currently a video producer for digital entertainment company BuzzFeed. 

Todd Karehana
Todd Karehana (Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāi Tamaoki, Ngāti Tarawhai, Ngāti Ruapani ki Waikaremoana) is a 34-year-old emerging Māori writer, director and producer based in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. Previous credits include: storyliner, writer and script editor on Ahikāroa; storyliner and co-writer on The Exceptional Squad; storyliner on Inked; storyliner on SE2 of The Panthers; and writing support on feature film We Are Still Here. His director credits include The Kweenz of KelstonMy Brother MitchellNight Ride for Loading Docs, and Young and on the Paepae for TVNZ.

Malinna Liang
Malinna Liang is a 26-year-old first generation Chinese-New Zealand writer based in Tāmaki Makarau/Auckland. She is a writer on TVNZ/Greenstone’s My Life is Murder and was a storyliner on Vegas. She has placed in several international screenwriting competitions, including most recently as a semifinalist in the 2021 Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Her prose has been published in Landfall and Auckland University Press’ A Clear Dawn.

Isla Macleod
Isla Macleod is a 27-year-old writer/director residing in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland. She graduated from the NZBS (Julian Walker Scholarship for top graduate) and Victoria’s IIML (Project Scholarship for her thesis feature script). She co-created the web series Oddly Even that won TVNZ’s inaugural New Blood competition. She has written/directed several shorts and been employed across Netflix series, domestic features, AMAs, international reality formats, a Globe Theatre (London) summer internship and TV3’s commissioning department.

Tom Augustine
Tom Augustine is a 30-year-old filmmaker and writer based in Tāmaki Makarau/Auckland. In 2019 Tom was awarded the New Zealand Writers Guild Seed Advanced Grant to develop his debut feature film screenplay, Arsonist, which he then developed further when he was selected to attend Script to Screen’s Story Camp 2020. He wrote, directed and produced The Story of Te Awe, a four part docu-series for Auckland Museum, premiering on Radio New Zealand. He graduated from the University of Auckland Screen Production Masters programme with his short film Long Time Coming, which won the Geoff Evans Memorial Prize. His writing includes articles published in Little White Lies, North + South, Metro, The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Canvas, The New Zealand Herald, and Birth Movies Death, as well as numerous episodes of Shortland Street.

Main photo: Philip Smith's Great Southern Television produces successful televison drama One Lane Bridge, which is filmed in and around Queenstown.

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