Grant Lahood's began his directing career in distinctive style: with a series of short films combining animals, frenetic activity and quirky angles. He continued the animal connection with his feature debut in 1996, with comedy Chicken, followed by road movie Kombi Nation and in 2013, documentary Intersexion.
Lahood developed an interest in stills photography in his late teens. He entered the film industry in 1983 as a production assistant for Marmalade Video in Wellington. Gravitating immediately toward camera work, he spent the rest of the 80s as a lighting cameraman, shooting commercials and corporate videos.
In 1989 he wrote and directed his debut short Snail’s Pace, a frenetic four minute film about a snail’s mission to cross the road for a feast of lettuce. The time-lapse film was an instant hit, with festival screenings and television sales around the world. Encouraged by the film’s success, Lahood moved into directing, balancing a career in TV commercials with making short films.
In 1992, after making his second short, black comic graveyard tale The End, Lahood wrote and directed The Singing Trophy. Near wordless, the film follows a hunter (Peter Tait) whose bizarre collection of mounted animal trophies sing ‘The Blue Danube’ to him. Evening Post reviewer Philip Wakefield called it one of the funniest local shorts in years, "a must see cracker of a Kiwi comedy". Nominated for Best Short Film at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, The Singing Trophy got a special mention for technical excellence, and was named Best Short Film at the NZ Film and TV awards.
Lahood’s next short showed that he could handle a large human cast, as well as furry animals. Lemming Aid was a character comedy set on a Norwegian clifftop: the quality cast included Fiona Samuel, Katie Wolfe, future author Emily Perkins and Stephen Papps. Lahood shot the film on a clifftop during three days of wind; he was amazed to find himself invited back to Cannes, where Lemming Aid joined fellow Kiwi film Sure to Rise as one of eight shorts worldwide to make it into official competition at Cannes (nearly 300 had been submitted). Lahood's film took out a runner-up prize.
At Cannes he was trying to find funding for his first feature, then called The Chickenman. Released as Chicken, the oddball black comedy involved an aging pop star’s attempts to revive his career by faking his own death. British pop singer turned actor Bryan Marshall starred, alongside Cliff Curtis, Ellie Smith and 250 chickens. Although far from a box office success, Chicken won some praise. Metro reviewer Rick Bryant found it “very funny ... very enjoyable”; More’s Jane Skinner praised Lahood’s “unique sense of fun”, calling Chicken “an eccentric, grimy little film that will make you think twice about your next chicken burger”.
In 2000, Lahood collaborated with Kiwi dance legend Douglas Wright on the film Arc, which captured a trilogy of Wright’s solo performances.
Then it was back to feature films with Kombi Nation. Semi-improvised on the move by Lahood and a cast of emerging Kiwi actors (including Loren Taylor — who later devised Eagle vs Shark), Kombi Nation follows a van load of Kiwis on their big OE around Europe. The film’s release was delayed by financial tussles, after the collapse of production company Kahukura Films. The Dominion Post’s Tom Cardy was far from alone in praising the result, calling the film “an upbeat and hilarious celebration of a Kiwi tradition”.
On the short film front, Lahood reunited with Singing Trophy’s Peter Tait in 2003 for the light-hearted bogans head to Wellywood tale Bogans. Woodchopping short Chop Off (2006) played in festivals from Brazil to Tehran, while comical no dialogue film Sprung (2013) was a finalist in the Kiwi round of Tropfest.
Grant Lahood continues to balance filmmaking with commercial work and the occasional music video (including clips for Zed and Tina Cross). He has also moved into television documentaries, often with a musical theme — including pieces on WWll music (Anzac Songs), and jazzman Nathan Haines.
Lahood's feature-length documentary Intersexion (2012) travelled the globe both during filming, and after completion, playing at a long run of festivals. The film features interviews with people born with various conditions which meant it was unclear whether they were a boy or a girl.
Profile published on 20 October 2009; updated on 13 February 2019
Grant Lahood website. Accessed 13 February 2019
Intersexion website. Accessed 13 February 2019
Tom Cardy, 'Kombi Nation' (Review) - The Dominion Post, 28 August 2003, page D6
Ian Pryor, 'To Cannes with shorts' - The Listener, 11 June 1994, page 44