Jess Charlton was behind the camera on three web series from creative collective The Candle Wasters — award-winning party tale Bright Summer Night, musical romance Happy Playland, and 2018's Tragicomic. Born in London but raised in Invercargill and Queenstown, Charlton has shot over a dozen short films, including Jessica Grace Smith's award-winning Everybody Else is Taken and coming of age tale Tama. She was one of the key creatives behind 2012 dystopian feature Existence, and shared two NZ Writers Guild awards for co-writing the script. Charlton has shot ScreenTalk interviews for NZ On Screen.
She is driven by an adventurous spirit and loves to collaborate with directors who are bold. Jess Charlton's website
The Candle Wasters won a global audience with three Shakespeare-inspired web series featuring modern-day Wellington youth. Then they created this original queer rom-com musical about the workers at a children's playground. The creative team (Sally and Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Claris Jacobs) continued the collaboration with Robbie Nicol that had begun on previous web series Bright Summer Night. Funded by NZ On Air’s Skip Ahead initiative, 10 episodes were shot in mid 2017, and then uploaded to YouTube. The team won SPADA’s New Filmmakers Award later that year.
For their fourth web series, the Candle Wasters collective shifted from using the plays of Shakespeare as inspiration, to an original story. Happy Playland is a "queer rom-com musical" set in a children's indoor adventure playground, where employees cope with crushes, anxiety and life as digital natives. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Dani Yourukova (who both acted in Candle Wasters web series Bright Summer Night) play young lovers Billie and Zara. In this third episode, romance and/or lust is ignited once the lights get switched off above the bouncy ball pit.
Every year pride parades celebrate LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) culture and pride. But Wellington takatāpui (Māori LGBTI) activist, Kassie Hartendorp, feels alienated from the flamboyant festivity. "It’s glittery, it’s fun, it’s fabulous. It feels empty. I don’t really know what the point is sometimes, you know.” In this Loading Doc short documentary, Hartendorp talks about wanting pride celebrations to be more inclusive of takatāpui. She faces a dilemma when her takatāpui kapa haka group are invited to perform at the Wellington Pride Parade.
Over two years, The Candle Wasters – a troupe of young Wellingtonians – attracted 4.5 million YouTube views to their modernised vlog reimaginings of Shakespeare’s plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Love's Labour Lost). In 2015 they won NZ On Air and Kickstarter funding to create a web drama series loosely inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set at a teen house party. Each of the 10 episodes focussed on a different character. Produced with Bevin Linkhorn, Bright Summer Night was uploaded in August 2016. It won Best Drama at the 2017 Hollyweb Festival in the United States.
This award-winning Candle Wasters web series mixes A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a teen house party. In the first two episodes, Puck (Meesha Rikk) hits the party in time to witness a showdown, while Lena (Kalisha Wasasala) worries about when to make a romantic move. Then Puck crashes a young activists’ meeting — inspired by the original play's comical Mechanicals — in the bedroom of Petra (Thomasin McKenzie from Leave No Trace). The third Shakespeare adaptation by The Candle Wasters added NZ On Air funding and "token dude" Robbie Nicol to the creative team.
This ‘salvagepunk’ film is set in a desolate future where wind turbines power a vast electric fence that seemingly protects the survivors of environmental collapse, and keeps refugees out. A rare entry in the Kiwi sci-fi feature catalogue, Existence stars Loren Taylor (Eagle vs Shark) as Freya, a mother who dreams of the world beyond, and Matthew Sunderland (Out of the Blue) as a mysterious boundary rider. From a SWANZ award-winning script, the low budget film was shot on Wellington’s rugged south coast hills. It marked the feature debut of director Juliet Bergh.