Kiwi film wins US award

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By BEN ROGERS

THE story of a home­less, hun­gry drifter try­ing to feed his dog has won the hearts of the judg­ing panel at the Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional ShortFest.

Grey Lynn di­rec­tor Steve Saussey was awarded the Jury Fu­ture Film­maker Award at the short film fes­ti­val for his work on the film Whisker.

Set in small-town New Zealand the film tells the story of a man who en­ters a beard-grow­ing com­pe­ti­tion at a quin­tes­sen­tial pub. The prize is a meat pack which he des­per­ately wants to win to feed his dog.

‘‘What at­tracted me to the script is that it is a re­ally great ex­er­cise in telling a com­plete story in 10 min­utes and mak­ing people laugh and cry in that time,’’ Saussey says. ‘‘I’ve al­ways wanted to make an iconic New Zealand fa­ble.’’

Saussey de­scribes the film as a Barry Crump-like tale with a twist.

‘‘For a New Zealand short film to be recog­nised by a ma­jor United States fes­ti­val jury is fan­tas­tic, given the amaz­ingly high stan­dards of the films in com­pe­ti­tion.’’

The Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional ShortFest is one of only a hand­ful of fes­ti­vals specif­i­cally for short films.

Ac­cord­ing to Saussey it is among the big­gest and most pres­ti­gious.

The film, writ­ten by Corey Chalmers and pro­duced by Yolande Dewey, is a real Kiwi af­fair.

‘‘It was in­ter­est­ing to see what the Amer­i­cans laughed at ver­sus the New Zealan­ders,’’ Saussey says.

‘‘Amer­i­cans re­act to it as a story. When there’s a sad bit they go ‘ awww’ and when there’s an ex­cit­ing bit they screech, but Ki­wis are a qui­eter au­di­ence.’’

It was his first time di­rect­ing a short film and it’s be­hind the cam­era that the fa­ther of three feels most com­fort­able.

‘‘I think the sep­a­ra­tion of the writer and di­rec­tor is quite an im­por­tant thing.’’

‘‘There are a lot of wri­ter­di­rec­tors but I think it’s rare to be ex­cep­tional at both things.’’

Saussey has di­rected hun­dreds of TV com­mer­cials in Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and last year set up the pro­duc­tion com­pany Stuff and Non­sense.

He at­tributes much of his film-mak­ing suc­cess to his ex­pe­ri­ence craft­ing com­mer­i­cals for the past 15 years.

Whisker has just been ac­cepted into the Port­land Film Fes­ti­val and Saussey hopes the fes­ti­val run will con­tinue.

The New Zealand Film Com­mis­sion helped fund some of the film and plays a role in sub­mit­ting Whisker to in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­vals.

Saussey is now putting to­gether his first fea­ture film.

Photo: BEN ROGERS

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz to watch the trailer of

Spe­cial award: Grey Lynn di­rec­tor Steve Saussey with his Jury Fu­ture Film­maker Award from the Palm Springs In­ter­na­tional ShortFest.

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