Thomas Coppell started out in television at Wellington company ProductionShed.TV, while studying for his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media Studies at Victoria University. After assisting on several of the company’s productions, he moved up to writing, production managing and later producing on te reo kids' series Huhu. Coppell is now at the helm of his own production company: Tomorrow, Rain. In 2016 he produced Matasila Freshwater’s animated short Shmeat. Since then Coppell has worked with creative collective The Candle Wasters on Happy Playland, and webseries/ webcomic hybrid Tragicomic.
I believe deeply this world we live in was made imperfect so we could fix it, and as content creators and storytellers we have a responsibility to that mahi — that's why I've committed my career to enabling our most diverse storytellers, and representing and inspiring weirdos just like us! Thomas Coppell
Multimedia web series Tragicomic follows teenager Hannah Moore (Nova Moala-Knox) as she deals with her Dad’s mysterious disappearance, and the budding relationship between her Mum and her art teacher. Along the way Hannah finds solace in the comic she is making. The comics are part of the storytelling — some of them were released as part of the series, alongside the 10 web episodes. Based loosely on Shakespeare's Hamlet, Tragicomic was made by creative collective The Candle Wasters (Bright Summer Night). It was launched via Radio New Zealand's website and YouTube.
In the first episode of The Candles Wasters’ multimedia web series, Hannah Moore (Nova Moala-Knox) struggles to deal with the sudden departure of her dad, and her art teacher romancing her mum — who happens to be the school principal. It’s downhill from there. Helped by best friend Isla, Hannah finds solace in the comic book she is creating, which in real life can be read online at Radio New Zealand. The comic involves a brave knight who must overthrow a usurper, after the King vanishes. Featuring a dark sense of humour, the series deals with mental illness and loss.
The Candle Wasters won a global audience with three Shakespeare-inspired web series featuring modern-day Wellington youth. Then they created this original queer rom-com musical about the workers at a children's playground. The creative team (Sally and Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Claris Jacobs) continued the collaboration with Robbie Nicol that had begun on previous web series Bright Summer Night. Funded by NZ On Air’s Skip Ahead initiative, 10 episodes were shot in mid 2017, and then uploaded to YouTube. The team won SPADA’s New Filmmakers Award later that year.
For their fourth web series, creative collective The Candle Wasters shifted from using the plays of Shakespeare as inspiration, to an original story. Set in a children's indoor adventure playground, Happy Playland is a "queer rom-com musical" where employees cope with crushes, anxiety and life as digital natives. Neenah Dekkers-Reihana and Dani Yourukova (who both acted in Candle Wasters web series Bright Summer Night) play young lovers Billie and Zara. Billie is an agitated actress, while Cris is a social justice warrior. When the playground faces closure, the pair face upheaval.
This animated short is set in "not so distant future" Aotearoa, where a plague has devastated livestock farming. The morbid nursery rhyme, narrated by Geraldine Brophy, tells of a scientist who creates a "different kind of meat from the resources still here". Matasila Freshwater's short was picked for the 'New Zealand’s Best' section of the 2016 NZ International Film Festival, by a team that included director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors). It also screened at Spain's Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, and won Best Animated Short at Sydney festival A Night of Horror.