Thomas Coppell started out in television at Wellington company ProductionShed.TV, while studying for his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies at Victoria University. After assisting on several of the company’s productions, he moved up to writing, production managing and later producing on te reo kids' series Huhu. Coppell is now at the helm of his own production company: Tomorrow, Rain. In 2016 he produced Matasila Freshwater’s animated short Shmeat. Since then Coppell has worked with creative collective The Candle Wasters on Happy Playland, and webseries/ webcomic hybrid Tragicomic.
I believe deeply this world we live in was made imperfect so we could fix it, and as content creators and storytellers we have a responsibility to that mahi — that's why I've committed my career to enabling our most diverse storytellers, and representing and inspiring weirdos just like us! Thomas Coppell
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.
This animated short is set in "not so distant future" Aotearoa, where a plague has devastated livestock farming. The morbid nursery rhyme, narrated by Geraldine Brophy, tells of a scientist who creates a "different kind of meat from the resources still here". Matasila Freshwater's short was picked for the 'New Zealand’s Best' section of the 2016 NZ International Film Festival, by a team that included director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors). It also screened at Spain's Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, and won Best Animated Short at Sydney festival A Night of Horror.