‘IT’S MY TIME’

Film-maker Chelsea Win­stan­ley will take the spot­light at the NZ In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. She tells Sarah Cather­all about the power of strong women, hang­ing with Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters and why she’s so much more than just Taika Waititi’s wife.

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - PHO­TOS BY MICHAEL CRAIG

Film-maker Chelsea Win­stan­ley will take the spot­light at the NZ In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val. She tells Sarah Cather­all about the power of strong women, hang­ing with Hol­ly­wood A-lis­ters and why she’s so much more than just Taika Waititi’s wife.

C helsea Win­stan­ley could be in Prague with her hot­shot di­rec­tor hus­band, Taika Waititi. She could be co-pro­duc­ing his lat­est film,

Jojo Rab­bit. In­stead, she is sit­ting in a sun-drenched court­yard in Welling­ton.

Win­stan­ley left their daugh­ters in Los Angeles and re­turned to New Zealand to fin­ish a doc­u­men­tary she’s pro­duc­ing about her idol, the pi­o­neer­ing Maori film-maker, Mer­ata Mita.

“I had to make that choice. If I had gone over, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be writ­ing any short films, I lit­er­ally wouldn’t be fol­low­ing my heart’s path. I would be — again — fol­low­ing Taika’s jour­ney.

“He said that to me the other day, ‘It was so ar­ro­gant of me to think that you would even want to fol­low my life.’ It was a re­ally big thing for him to ad­mit and it was so re­fresh­ing.”

Throw­ing her head back, the 42-year-old laughs, full lips fram­ing glis­ten­ing white teeth. Win­stan­ley laughs a lot in the two hours we spend to­gether at Park Road Post while she takes a break from grad­ing — colour en­hance­ment — work — on Mer­ata.

She also re­veals a lot about the dilem­mas that women like her face: be­ing mar­ried to a suc­cess­ful man can be tough for the wife and mother of his chil­dren, es­pe­cially when she has her own goals and projects on the go. Mer­ata is her “last hoorah” as a pro­ducer, be­fore mov­ing into di­rect­ing and writ­ing films.

Win­stan­ley’s hot right now, part of a move­ment of wahine toa mak­ing great films and get­ting ku­dos on the local and global stage.

She first worked with Waititi on the award- heavy hor­ror mock­u­men­tary What We Do in the

Shad­ows. But she doesn’t want to hover back­stage while he’s in the spot­light. She wants to be known for her own projects rather than as “Taika’s wife”.

SHE MET Waititi in her 20s when she in­ter­viewed him for a doc­u­men­tary about Maori artists. They re­con­nected dur­ing the film­ing of Boy in 2010 and mar­ried two years later.

In an email be­fore we meet, she tells me: “I’m just sick of women por­trayed as liv­ing in the shadow of their part­ners, that’s all. I made one film with him, I was a film-maker be­fore I met him and I con­tinue to do my own stuff.”

De­spite mov­ing to star-stud­ded Stu­dio City in Los Angeles last May for Waititi’s ca­reer, she’s not in­ter­ested in Hol­ly­wood glam­our. Stag­ger­ingly down to earth, she is dressed in black jeans, a black T-shirt and a crim­son jumper be­neath a black leather jacket. Her small feet are en­cased in Blund­stone boots with fluffy crim­son socks pok­ing out the top. Red fluff cov­ers her jeans. Win­stan­ley laughs and wipes it off.

On her right hand she wears two turquoise rings she bought from a pawn shop in Santa Fe when she was there as an ad­viser for the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val.

I’m just sick of women por­trayed as liv­ing in the shadow of their part­ners, that’s all. I made one film with him, I was a film-maker be­fore I met him and I con­tinue to do my own stuff. Chelsea Win­stan­ley

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