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Kate McDermott


At Auckland University Kate McDermott dreamt of being a playwright. Often though, she found herself reading course texts and imagining how they might work on screen.

McDermott studied English literature and history. But after graduation she found herself studying the romantic lives of a group of doctors and nurses on Shortland Street. McDermott joined the show in 1997, and would work on it in a number of capacities, from storyliner to script editor. Fast turnaround television proved “crazy and fun”, partly thanks to the sheer quantity of writing needed to fill a five night a week show.

Alongside that decade plus, on-off involvement with Shortland Street, McDermott contributed scripts to Jacksons Wharf, hit show Mercy Peak and the quirky teen series Being Eve. She also served time on the latter show as a script editor, and wrote episodes across four of Outrageous Fortune’s six seasons.

McDermott’s involvement with hit series Go Girls was even more extensive. She describes this show about a group of friends trying to achieve their dreams as “one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had”. The scriptwriting process began — as she told blog Wellywood Woman — with “three writers sitting in a room laughing and sweating and crying and stressing”.

When creators Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan got busy on other shows, McDermott was appointed show-runner for Go Girls’ second season. She describes the role as “the most hands-on position” a writer can have: “It covers everything from editing scripts, last minute changes, talking with heads of departments, actors, directors, watching rushes (with the producer) every day to make sure everything is as it should be.” McDermott was nominated for both comedy and drama awards for two of her Go Girls scripts, in the NZ Writers Guild’s annual 'SWANZ' script awards.

McDermott first ventured into film in 2008, with her script for black comedy This is Her. The short won awards at festivals in France, the Czech Republic, Spain, NZ and the US, including Sundance and Telluride. This is Her utilises a distinctive 'then and now' structure to reveal how a good marriage can go bad; it was the story’s unusual telling and dark humour that helped win over director Katie Wolfe.

McDermott had first got to know the “feisty, passionate” Wolfe when they worked together on Shortland Street; after This is Her and season one of Go Girls, they reconvened once more for their first feature-length project as writer and director: the adaptation for TV of Witi Ihimaera's semi-autobiographical novel Nights in the Garden of Spain.

McDermott enjoyed the challenge of reconstructing this coming out story in the form of a longer drama. She also described herself as an amiable hired gun on the project, partly because it was director led, and partly because her script was handed to a Māori advisor/script editor “to check for protocol and te reo”.

McDermott also worked as a scriptwriter on South Pacific Pictures shows The Blue Rose and Nothing Trivial. , and was nominated for her work on trans-tasman hit 800 Words. She created comedy drama series Step Dave, whose first season premiered in a primetime TV2 slot in 2014. The series stars Go Girls discovery Jono Kenyon as a 20-something slacker who falls for a woman with three children (Everything We Loved’s Sia Trokenheim), and another decade on him. 

McDermott moved into the director’s chair — well half of the director’s chair — with another black comedy short. Linda’s List revolves around a school bully trying to make up for past crimes. McDermott directed the film with Shortland Street veteran Angela Bloomfield.

Profile updated on 26 February 2020

Sources include
Kate McDermott
In Conversation: Nights’ shift’ (Interview) - Onfilm, April 2010
Marian Evans, More Questions about Media Convergence’ (Interview) Wellywoodwoman blog. Loaded 28 January 2011. Accessed 15 January 2014
Step Dave - New Comedy-Drama Coming to TV2’ (Press Release) Scoop website. Loaded 21 October 2013. Accessed 15 January 2014
This is Her press kit