Michelle Savill became a director more by osmosis than design. After drifting into film studies at Wintec in Hamilton, she began making a film “I could be really proud of”. The result, Betty Banned Sweets, was invited to 20 festivals, including prestigious short film showcase Clermont-Ferrand. Next came mother/ daughter tale Elaine Rides Again. In 2013 her third film Ellen is Leaving was judged best narrative short at South by Southwest in Texas, and won her a third invite to Clermont-Ferrand. Savill has also directed commercials, and in 2011 won a scholarship to work at indie film company Killer Films in New York.
I'm interested in little personal stories, odd moments, seemingly inconsequential slices of life but that somehow contain universal themes. That sounds a bit corny but it's true. I'm interested in slackers, aimless wanderers, missed opportunities and disconnected characters who live in limbo. Michelle Savill, quoted on website Always Sometime Anytime
In the late 1970s a like-minded group of young people decided to live together communally on a block of land in the Coromandel, and the Mahana community was born. In this Vice documentary Arthur Van Resseghem, the last member of that original group, guides the camera around the dilapidated sites of "vandalised" commune houses. Van Resseghem believes the other residents have abandoned Mahana's original vision — but it seems he has become an outlier in the community, with other residents claiming 'undesirable' people were being promised free homes.
The Fantasy Cave is a DIY Disneyland built in the town of Dannevirke. Created by a group of older locals known as ‘Cave Dwellers’ as a Christmas-themed grotto in 1989, the cave has evolved to become a quirky tourist attraction, encompassing animatronics and astral light displays. Directed by Michelle Savill (Ellen is Leaving) and cinematographer Matt Henley, this 2015 Loading Docs short introduces us to the horse-headed retirees and their homespun wonderlands, and the happiness they find in “making stuff”.
In Gaylene Preston's War Stories, her mother Tui revealed that she had fallen for another man while her husband was off at war. In Home by Christmas, inspired by an audio interview with her father Ed, Preston looks again at her parents' life during wartime. In this behind-the-scenes doco, veteran actor Tony Barry talks about the acting techniques which allowed him to "be, rather than play, Ed"; Preston reveals that Barry's distinctive voice is almost a carbon copy of her father's; and Chelsie Preston Crayford talks about portraying her own grandmother.
Benjamin (Matt Scheurich) lives at home with his Mum, but the 23-year-old dreams of escaping the nest for some overseas experience. Pondering the question ‘should I stay or should I go?’, he retreats to his studio to create intricate shoebox dioramas of his destinations. Meanwhile Mum plans an (unwanted) birthday party for him. Director Michelle Savill made the film as part of a Film Studies course at Wintec in Hamilton. The quirky take on the yearning to leave — and the fear of being left behind — was selected for 20 film festivals, including Rotterdam and Clermont-Ferrand.