Miriam Smith’s first film How Far is Heaven was born from a year living in the Whanganui River town of Jerusalem. Co-directed with Christopher Pryor, the documentary gained many plaudits. Smith had studied Film and English at Auckland University, gaining a masters in screenwriting. She has written plays for BBC Radio, and studied at Holland's Binger Writer's Lab. Pryor and Smith followed up thier previous collaborative success in 2016 with The Ground We Won, which took the 2017 New Zealand Film Award for Best Documentary. The black and white feature focused on rugby culture in rural New Zealand.
How Far is Heaven's grace and subtlety lends weight to how we can justify calling our country Godzone … a magical picture of a mystical world. Reviewer Sarah Watt in the Sunday Star Times, 27 July 2012
Described as "visually ravishing" (The Herald's Peter Calder), "strikingly beautiful"(Metro) and "pure social-commentary gold"(The Listener), The Ground We Won is a movie about men, rugby and the heartland. After discovering small town Reporoa en route to their earlier documentary How Far is Heaven, Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smith felt it the perfect place to chronicle the changing face of small town rugby. The film premiered in April 2015 during an autumn offshoot of the NZ International Film Festival; it was judged Best Documentary at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards.
The Whanganui River settlement of Jerusalem had a moment in the national spotlight when poet James K Baxter lived there in the early 70s — but it is home to a long established Māori community and the Catholic order of the Sisters of Compassion (since 1892). To make this documentary, Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor spent a year in Jerusalem, following the lives and interactions of the nuns and the Ngāti Hau. North & South called their observations of a world of co-existing contrasts — Māori and Pākehā, young and old, secular and religious — “a cinematic treat”.