Born to a Kiwi mother and an Australian father, Dane Giraud’s family crossed the Tasman to New Zealand before he had begun walking.
A keen reader and writer — by age seven, he had already managed to finish reading Jaws, and at intermediate school, was reading his own serialised stories to his class — Giraud was also falling for movies. Especially those which avoided a conventional end. “I liked those films because you felt the filmmaker was making a direct challenge to the viewer,” says Giraud. “I loved Hitchcock.”
Time in a punk rock band fuelled a belief that good art is more about chaos than a three act structure. Giraud began writing scripts (all of them features) in the late 90s, while training as an actor at Unitec Performing Arts School under the “late, great” Murray Hutchinson.
One of the scripts, co-written with director Cristobal Araus Lobos, emerged as moody psychological drama The Waiting Place (2001). Giraud also took an acting role, starring as one of two escaped prisoners heading to an abandoned mental hospital to hide out. The Waiting Place won a place in the main NZ Film Festival, and also a NZ Film Award, in the days when ‘Digitally Mastered Features’ had just been given their own category.
In 2005 Giraud wrote and directed Luella Miller. Born from a desire to make an intimate melodrama, the film began as a short story he discovered in an anthology of horror tales. Sia Trokenheim (Step Dave) plays a femme fatale who causes emotional havoc for Lydia (Sara Wiseman) and others, after arriving in a rural town. Shot in 28 days, the film got an American deal via the shelves of then leading video chain Blockbuster Video.
Giraud’s CV took an unexpected turn after he joined Auckland company ButoBase (now Buto Productions). Within weeks he was in America, interviewing members of the Bush administration for 2009’s Riki Ellison - The Defender. The one-off documentary chronicles the life of an American footballer from Christchurch who later became a campaigner for missile defence systems.
Since then Giraud has written and directed on a variety of documentaries and reality programmes. These include travelling talk show Ō Whakaaro, long-running league show Ngāti NRL, and helping create sports-themed series Bring Your Boots, Oz, in which ex All Black turned Code presenter Glen Osborne helps out at various Māori rugby clubs.
Uncomfortable with the idea that documentaries should set out to push agendas, Giraud finds the subject’s personal philosophy on life is what interests him most as a filmmaker. “Lots of people expect facts in documentary,” says Giraud. “I am more interested in a character’s personal truths.”
Such thoughts were to the fore when Giraud directed (and wrote) for 2012 series Both Worlds. Each episode concentrates on a young migrant talking about their lives.
In 2014 he created and wrote most of the scripts for hit series Find Me a Māori Bride. Part documentary satire, part cultural primer, the series follows two culturally-ignorant cousins whose only chance of getting a multi-million dollar inheritance is to marry a Māori. Leading the large cast as the cousins are Cohen Holloway (Good for Nothing) and Matariki Whatarau (The Pā Boys). The show is made by filmmaking team Kiel McNaughton and Kerry Warkia; a second season followed in 2017.
Among other projects, Giraud has written for TV's This is Piki. He is developing a rock'n'roll documentary about “a modern day Don Quixote”, and a film noir set on a farm after WWI.
Dane Giraud website (broken link). Accessed 16 October 2017
‘Dane Giraud’ Tumblr blog (broken link)
Renee Liang, ‘Fusing Both Worlds’ (Interview). The Big Idea website. Loaded 3 July 2012. Accessed 16 October 2017
Diane McAllen, ‘Desktop Cinema: an interview with director Dane Giraud’ The Big Idea website. Loaded 12 September 2007. Accessed 16 October 2017