Lala Rolls' work as an editor, director and producer encompasses drama, documentary and music. Rolls has been a multiple finalist at the New Zealand Screen Awards for her editing work, including acclaimed ensemble drama The Insiders Guide to Happiness.
Born in Fiji, Rolls immigrated to New Zealand in 1981 as a 17-year-old, and found it "a huge cultural shift". She studied psychology at Otago University, before her interest in film was sparked by film studies at Victoria University. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and Education, Rolls worked in early childhood education and travelled overseas, where she studied scriptwriting at London's Royal College of Art.
In 1992 she returned to NZ and made her first short film, Olives (1994), during which time she met Jamie Selkirk (future editor on the Lord of the Rings trilogy). She became a trainee assistant editor on Selkirk's next film as editor, Jack Brown Genius.
These days, Rolls' experience as an editor ranges across drama (including The Strip, The Insiders Guide to Love, The Hothouse), documentaries (Flight of the Conchords - A Texan Odyssey, Black on Red, Land of My Ancestors) magazine shows (Backch@t, Wired), short films, comedies, corporate videos, plus mixed-media theatre projects.
In 1997 she made a self-funded series of six shorts in one, Tall Stories (1997), which has screened worldwide and on the web. In 2005 Rolls directed Fish Out of Water, about a man attempting to escape from the stresses of rush hour via the ocean. The film was selected to travel worldwide with the WIFT (Women in Film and Television) International Showcase.
On the documentary front, Rolls directed and co-edited Children of the Migration. The film follows the stories of children whose parents migrated from the Pacific to New Zealand from the 1950s to the 80s. Rolls worked with editor Owen Ferrier-Kerr on honing 52 hours of interview footage. After premiering at the 2004 NZ International Film Festival, Children screened at festivals in Tahiti and Melbourne, and won a Special Mention at DocNZ 2005.
In 2007 Rolls directed, co-produced and edited Land of My Ancestors, which examines Māori artist Darcy Nicholas and his relationship to the land and indigenous peoples. After premiering at the 2007 NZ International Film Festival, Land played at the London Independent Film Festival. The same year she was nominated for her editing work on an episode of ensemble drama The Hothouse, and for one-off doco Flight of the Conchords: A Texan Odyssey. Rolls has also directed music videos for Pacific Island bands on location in New Caledonia, Fiji, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
She also worked on the Charlotte Yates musical project Tuwhare, both directing this companion documentary on the famed Māori poet, and co-creating the multi-media material used in the original concert show. She rejoined Yates in 2011 for another 'music and writer' project, this time as director and editor of documentary Ihimaera. Made for Māori Television, the doco mixes interviews with performances by a range of musicians, inspired by lyrics from the titular author Witi Ihimaera.
Rolls also played a big part in directing and bringing children's science show QTV to the screen. Made with Clare O'Leary and producer Glenis Giles, QTV was a finalist in the 2006 NZ Screen Awards for best children's programme, and continues to be used as a resource by the Ministry of Education.
Her work as an editor has since included Jess Feast's bar-in-Berlin documentary Cowboys and Communists, Gaylene Preston's Lovely Rita, about artist Rita Angus, and Roz Mason's Alone Against the Tasman, an account of an attempt to row solo between Australia and New Zealand.
These days Rolls is adapting Roger McDonald memoir Shearers' Motel into a feature-length script with actor/playwright Kirk Torrance, and Aussie producer Maggie Miles (Van Diemen's Land). She is also close to completing her documentary Tupaia's Endeavour, in both TV and feature film versions. About first contact in the Pacific, the film has shot in Tahiti, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Rolls is the founding director of Island Productions Aotearoa, and has joined with fellow filmmakers, artists and philanthropists to create a media trust, Major Arc, in order to "tell real good stories".
Major Arc website. Accessed 1 September 2016
'Children of the Migration' - SPADA News, October 2004, page 10