Mhairead Connor fell in love with movies during childhood screenings of Casablanca and Star Wars. Later she was busted by her French teacher, after wagging school to catch a film festival screening of Catherine Deneuve epic Indochine.
Connor began working in film through jobs at industry organisations SPADA (the Screen Production and Development Association) and the NZ Screen Council. Then she horrified parents and more sensible friends by leaving the relative safety of a regular job, to concentrate on producing.
In 2003 Connor put together a film festival in Wellington and Auckland. Not Coming to a Multiplex Near You showcased local low budget digital films, in the age before digital took over as the dominant way to make movies. She would go on to work with Kiwi digital pioneer Campbell Walker — one of those featured in the festival — when she produced his film Little Bits of Light (2005). Picked for New Zealand's yearly international film festival, the feature provides an intimate chronicle of a man, a woman, and the woman's depression.
Since then Connor has produced documentaries, web series and short films. From 2006 to 2010 she was general manager and producer at production company Sticky Pictures. She worked on a range of projects, most notably arts show The Gravy, which was commissioned by digital channel TVNZ 6 . The job saw her balancing the budgets and ambitions of a talented team of freelance directors.
The Gravy was pitched as being both about and by creative people — which meant "looking for working artists who were compelling as television presenters, and could engage meaningfully with other artists". After sharing a Qantas Award after producing the first season with Mark Albiston, Connor executive produced the three that followed. In this period she also spent a year as an elected member of SPADA'S board.
In mid 2010 Connor launched her own production company, Little Wolf Limited. The following April, filming began on movie Existence, which she produced alongside Melissa Dodds (Unnatural History). When the pair first heard about the project, they had reservations about "how achievable a post-apocalyptic parable about consequences was on a quarter of a million dollars". But as Connor wrote in OnFilm, the duo found it "such an original and evocative premise", they signed on to produce.
Directed by Juliet Bergh and shot on a Red digital camera in "rain and mud and Wellington's irascible winds", the post-apocalyptic tale revolves around an isolated woman (Loren Taylor) who sets out to find out what's beyond the fence which divides her from the rest of the world. Made under the NZ Film Commission's low-budget Escalator scheme, Existence was one of two dramatic features to win selection for the Wellington arm of the 2012 NZ International Film Festival. The cast also includes Matthew Sunderland (Out of the Blue) and screen veteran Peter McCauley.
Connor has also produced a number of short films. Gregory King's alien on earth tale UFO (2014) won prizes at both Kiwi festival Show Me Shorts and Canada's imagineNATIVE, the world's largest indigenous film fest. Connor went on to produce Moa-nominated horror short Feeder, directed by Christian Rivers (Mortal Engines) and supernatural drama Breathe, from Stephen Kang (Blue).
Connor was also part of the team behind pioneering shoot 'em up game Dr. Grordbort's Invaders, which uses augmented reality technology to combine animation with real world environments.
Profile updated on 28 May 2021
Mhairead Connor, 'Making Gravy'- Onfilm, June 2008, page 14 (volume 25, number 6)
Mhairead Connor, 'The struggle for Existence'- Onfilm, February 2012, page 10 (volume 29, number 1)