MAX CURRIE, RŪRANGI
A transgender man returns to the conservative rural community he left 10 years ago, hoping to reconnect with the father he hasn’t seen since he transitioned.
What drew you to the project?
Max Currie: A drama series about LGBTQI people but set in rural New Zealand was an enticing premise. Queer stories tend to be in very urban settings. I’m gay and I grew up in Palmerston North, and you don’t really see those two worlds meet very often.
Many of the people who worked on Rūrangi are non-binary, and you had an advisory group of trans people on hand to consult with.
I don’t necessarily like the word consultation. We worked alongside cultural producers to bring an authenticity to the show that’s recognisable by the communities who are seeing themselves in the stories on screen. I hope that what the judges saw wasn’t just the authenticity of the performances and this world, but a kind of ownership of New Zealand’s gender-diverse and non-binary and queer communities as realised by the show. I’m very proud of that.
Director Max Currie and Elz Carrad as Caz David on the set of Rurangi
All the trans characters in Rūrangi are played by trans actors. Why was that important?
When cis-gender people play trans characters it perpetuates the idea that being trans is something you can put on with make-up and costume and then take it off at the end of the day, and that’s incorrect and damaging. When you look at the statistics around violence suffered by the trans community, there’s been a direct correlation to this idea that a trans woman is a man in a dress. I think in the future we’ll look back at that sort of casting and realise it was like black face.
Rūrangi addresses some weighty issues. How do you manage the balance between that and creating a compelling piece of television?
That’s all played out in the writer’s room. We have those discussions and that is a tension, but the writers trust one another. I certainly wouldn’t want Rūrangi to become educational or didactic, and I think we get it right most of the time.
DAVID STUBBS, BLACK HANDS
A fictionalised telling of the Bain murders, following each of the family members in the months leading up to their deaths.
David Stubbs: Thanks. When you’re a director, it’s just organising your collaborators to do their best, really, so I was lucky that the people involved were the best in town.
Black Hands is the only director nominee based on a true story, and you had a lot of research to sift through, particularly from journalist Martin van Beynan, who produced a 10-episode podcast about the Bain murders.
What was the trick of making it a story rather than a documentary?
We tried to get away from the areas of the story where there was no factual evidence, where even the court cases hadn’t settled on the truth. So we decided to base the story on the family, the victims. What sort of people were they? While there was dysfunction, they were still a loving family, in some regards very unusual, in some regards very normal.
This case has never been solved and it’s still very present in the New Zealand imagination. What have the responses been like?
There was a lot of debate on talkback: was it David? Was it Robin? Some critics looked at it and went, "Nah, that didn’t happen", but generally, everything you see in the show actually happened. We did a more subtle, restrained version of some things, but we didn’t assassinate anyone’s character, which we could easily have done. Some people didn’t believe parts of the show but in fact it’s all very, very true, documented and factual.
Why do you think Black Hands resonated with the judges?
Probably the production values and acting are more in line with what we see from European productions, British shows. Ninety per cent was shot in Auckland but we really created that world of 1990s Dunedin. And the fact it was fair and balanced, it wasn’t sensationalised. We didn’t pander to the mob, we tried to tell the story and we tried to honour the victims.
ROSEANNE LIANG, CREAMERIE
Eight years after a plague killed all men, three women who run a dairy farm accidentally run over the last surviving male on the planet.
How did Creamerie come about?
Roseanne Liang: It was inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale, but we were depressed by that, it left us with a heavy, helpless feeling, so we were like, what if we turn that helpless feeling into New Zealand-style gallows humour?
A show about a pandemic in the middle of a pandemic: brave, crazy, timely?
We started this a long time before the pandemic - I have the notes! I guess the pandemic has made it so that everyone has suffered a collective trauma in their own way, and I wonder if that’s made Creamerie hit a nerve more than it otherwise would have.
We’ve released on Hulu recently in the States, and there’s been a positive international reaction, perhaps because we are bound together in this way.
Creamerie is led by three Asian-New Zealand women together on screen – a rarity.
Of course we’re incredibly proud of that, and there’s a dearth of Asian professionals in our industry. But at the same time, we are literate at watching shows where we may not see ourselves but are able to find pieces of ourselves.
My favourite shows growing up were The X-Files and Freaks and Geeks. Freaks and Geeks was the first time I’d ever seen myself on screen; there were no Asian people but I still saw my people there.
In the same way that as an Asian diasporic person you learn to see yourself and become literate in reading stories and finding yourself in them, I would like people who are non-Asian to watch our show and for it not to cloud their judgement or feel excluded. That’s been the case. We have a viewership that’s 50/50 down the line women and men, and with the Hulu release, anecdotally we’ve had a lot of Black women seeing our show, and that makes me so proud and happy.
PETER SALMON, INSIDE
A modern retooling of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, starring Morgana O’Reilly as an introverted germaphobe whose job at a video chat app lets her observe people's lives.
You filmed INSiDE in your own house, with barely any crew, and with your wife, Morgana O’Reilly, in the lead role. That’s next-level minimalism.
Peter Salmon: I’m really excited about making stuff without any of the bells and whistles, the crew and all that. With all the toys and people it can be quite restrictive, weirdly, but when you’ve got no crew and you’re so flexible, you just do whatever you want. It was hard, but I think it feeds into the energy of the show.
It doesn’t sound like good work-life balance.
The kids went out at 7 o’clock in the morning and came back at wrap. We used their bedroom to store camera equipment and lights, which we’d clear out quickly before they got home. The house was bedlam for three weeks but it was actually quite fun. It wasn’t like a whole heap of crew were coming in every day.
Rolling out of bed and being able to be in my slippers and pyjamas was extraordinary, actually. We’d only just moved into the house, so it wasn’t full of a couple of years of junk, which it is now. We were lucky, the timing of everything was perfect.
Is it easier or more awkward directing your partner?
I love it, I think it’s easy; we have such a good time together. If my idea sucks, she’ll just tell me and do something better anyway. I don’t care where the ideas come from if they’re good, and Morgana definitely has better ideas than me. I’m not very auteur-y about that kind of stuff, as long as we’re telling the same story.
INSiDE won an international Emmy. What’s that like?
I was just stunned. We got an email saying we’d won and it’s sort of not like a real thing. We haven’t got the statue yet, so when that turns up, maybe it’ll sink in. We’ve just been scratching our heads thinking, How did that happen?
I’m glad they gave us an award but it’s pretty surprising. It’s surreal just to know that we shot it in our house, literally in the room I’m sitting in now. But that’s the magic of filmmaking, isn’t it? If you’re telling a good story, you can do it anywhere.