Chris Graham — who runs company goodLife — was born in Wellington, and raised in Wellington, Bangkok, and Canada's capital city of Ottawa. He developed his graffiti art and photography skills at Wellington's Onslow College, before being accepted into New York's School of Visual Arts.
After four years he graduated with honours in film directing in 1993; his thesis film Life Before Me was judged best film (and Graham best director) from more than 100 works submitted by the school's thesis students. It also won a Best Film Student Jury Prize at the 1994 Tel Aviv Student Festival.
After moving back home to New Zealand, Graham joined production company Flying Fish, where he built up his commercial career over a ten year period.
Graham is also one of the country's most awarded music video directors, with 11 awards over a six year span, including a trio of Tui awards for Smashproof's 'Brother', Dei Hamo's 'We Gon' Ride' & Scribe's 'Stand Up'. In 2018 he was nominated again, for Louis Baker video Black Crow. Graham made his music video debut in the United States with "Wild Out' for hip hop artists Savage & Baby Bash, before shooting 'Love the Islands' for Savage across the Samoan Islands.
Graham's short films include Bus Stop (2002 Melbourne Film Festival) and Water, in which a family find their home overcome by rising waters. Bus Stop, which Graham wrote and directed, follows a group of bus passengers thinking upon their lives. Black comedy Water competed at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Graham argued that it was about how people can procrastinate "with our lives, relationships and problems". He has also completed a 42 second film commissioned by Vodka brand 42 Below, for short film festival 'One Dream Rush'.
Graham has an affinity for Māori and Pacific Island artists, and has directed award-winning music videos for Tha Feelstyle (Su'Amalie) and Trinity Roots (Little Things). He admits part of his motivation to direct Sione's Wedding, his first feature film, was because it starred The Naked Samoans, a group of Pacific Island comedians. "As a cinemagoer, I was dying to see a New Zealand comedy and leave the theatre with a bounce in my step, in a good mood, feeling optimistic about life."
After an impressive opening weekend, Sione's Wedding went on to become the fourth highest grossing New Zealand film on its home territory. It was nominated for 10 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Film and Best Director.
Graham followed it with horror feature The Ferryman, in which a group of tourists on a South Pacific cruise encounter a mysterious man with a secret (played by English actor John Rhys-Davies, from The Lord of the Rings). The cast also includes An Angel at My Table discovery Kerry Fox and Julian Arahanga.
Graham has also done stints directing for award-winning arts series The Living Room.
Graham lives in Auckland and runs independent production company, goodLife. He has feature projects in development in both New Zealand and the United States.
Profile updated on 6 November 2018
GoodLife Films website. Accessed 6 November 2018
Water press kit