Young Kiwi directors shoot for the stars as finalists in NASA film competition

Young Kiwi directors shoot for the stars as finalists in NASA film competition

A Kiwi-produced short film is the only finalist from Aotearoa in a NASA-inspired film competition.

Auckland 21-year-olds Harriett Maire and Ferris Bradley’s stars are on the rise. Their short film has been chosen as a finalist for a NASA film competition, where the winning film will be enjoyed by astronauts hovering in the International Space Station.

The fifteen finalists in the CineSpace competition were plucked from over 900 applicants from all over the world and use real NASA imagery. The only finalist from New Zealand, Lani’s Space, is an emotive film that follows a solo kiwi father as he struggles to understand his daughter’s obsession with space.

“Why I’m so passionate about the story is it contrasts the vastness of space with an intimate family,” says Maire.

It’s a sentiment that reflects the production of the film itself – Maire’s father was the cinematographer and Bradley’s mother stepped in as the art director. Bradley was the producer and music composer, while Maire was scriptwriter and director. And the small, passionate team are especially proud of their efforts considering they only had 34 days to make the film.

However, Maire says she is most pleased with how the actors brought the story down to earth. “I’m really proud that the actors ability to communicate the mood and tone just through expression and inferring things,” she says. “They’re performance is very beautiful and it made my wafty descriptions in the script come to life.”

Maire and Bradley are a junior director and junior producer, respectively, at Auckland and Sydney production company Film Construction.

“We’re so proud of these guys – it’s really exciting to be working with and mentoring them at the start of their careers,” says CEO Patrick McAteer. “To win something like this will really set them up for big things.”

Both Marie and Bradley have worked on TVCs together, but this is their first time working together on a short story project. Maire says there is “absolutely” a crossover between short stories and TVCs, and the two can be complimentary.

“More often than not, TVCs are small narratives in themselves and you a create a world for the viewer,” she says. “It’s an area that can be explored more.”

Their closest film competition in CineSpace is from India and Maire says being the only New Zealanders in the competition has given the team a competitive edge. Last year’s wining film Higher Ground had a very American sentiment around space exploration and success and with most of the films entered from the Northern Hemisphere this year, Lani’s Space offers a new, more melancholic angle.

“A tired dad falls asleep watching NASA stock footage, so it’s very different,” she says.

The film will be judged on the hallmarks of spaceflight - creativity, innovation and attention to detail. And the team hope to impress judge Richard Linklater, who is a writer and director of coming of age stories including Dazed and Confused, School of Rock and Boyhood.

“I just have so much respect for him as a director,” says Maire. “Just the concept that he will watch our film and know we exist…”

It’s another surreal element in working with the NASA footage, which was collected from 50 years of exploring the universe.

Maire says she is still a young director trying to find her feet and although they could use the prize money to further their short film projects, the exposure from being a finalist alone is an achievement. The film will play in the Houston Cinema Arts Festival film festival in mid-November and the team hope to orbit the short film circuit afterwards, with hopes of being part of the New York International Children's Film Festival.

Marie is no stranger to the short film circuit – her previous film Anna, which follows a young autistic character, took out the diversity in Cannes award at the Short Film Showcase. She hopes to keep practicing her screenwriting and directing, and become a feature film director one day.

This story first appeared on StopPress.