Every year, Toi Whakaari students collaborate with screen industry professionals to produce a suite of new short films: showcasing the talent of the student body and giving those students professional-equivalent experience on high quality productions.
In recent years Toi Film has worked alongside directors Louis Sutherland (2014) and James Ashcroft (2015 & 2016) to make a series of shorts that have gone on to screen on Rialto Channel as well as online outlets. Traditionally, the films also première at Wellington’s Embassy Theatre during graduation week in November.
Third year actors take on most of the roles in the films and production design is handled by students or recent graduates from the Bachelor of Design (Stage & Screen). Costume construction students wrangle wardrobe and performing arts management students become production managers, assistant directors and other vital behind-the-scenes roles.
Toi Film producer, senior acting tutor Vaughan Slinn, says the experience is not only important learning for students: “The directors we work with on Toi Film love having the opportunity to create something quickly, without having to jump through the hoops of a traditional funding application process. In many cases, that freedom opens up creative possibilities that wouldn’t always be available. And they love working with the energy of talented young students.”
Toi Film in 2017 will produce six films. Florian Habicht is writing and directing a long short with the working title High Tide to be shot in Auckland. Jonathan King is directing two films, An Arm and a Leg (written by Jonathan) and Saturn Sheets (written by Rosie Howell). Michelle Savill is making three vignettes that will play together under the (working) title Bats. All the productions are well-advanced and shooting is scheduled to commence on 27 March.
Florian Habicht is an award-winning (and prolific) filmmaker who is best-known for the alternative documentaries, Kaikohe Demolition and Rubbings From a Live Man as well as the New York-based ‘participatory’ feature Love Story and the 2014 collaboration with Jarvis Cocker on the history of his band, Pulp: a Story of Life, Death & Supermarkets.
Jonathan King has been an active New Zealand filmmaker for more than 20 years. He directed music videos, TV commercials and short films, before writing and directing his debut feature Black Sheep – which remains one of New Zealand’s biggest-selling feature films. He co-wrote supernatural thriller The Tattooist before co-writing, producing and directing a film adaptation of New Zealand classic Under the Mountain, starring Sam Neill. He followed that with Realiti, an independent arthouse sci-fi which he produced and directed.
Michelle Savill’s short film Ellen is Leaving won the Best Narrative Short Film award at both the 2013 SXSW festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival as well as receiving nominations at Clermont-Ferrand, Chicago and Aspen. In 2011, Savill received the Script-to-Screen scholarship to work in the script development department of renowned New York production company Killer Films (led by producers Christine Vachon and Pam Koffler).