Vanessa Alexander was born to Kiwi parents, but lived overseas until arriving in Oamaru for her final year of high school. She won her place in the screen industry after writing and directing 1999 movie Magik and Rose at the age of 28. As Owen Hughes writes here, the film manages to coherently combine "drama, comedy, melodrama, buddy film and romance". Produced thanks to Larry Parr, Magik and Rose went on to screen at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival Forum for low-budget features, and win a jury prize at the Oporto Film Festival in Portugal.
For Alexander this tale of two women trying for pregnancy was partly about how people could be simultaneously very different, yet have many simliarities. For the characters in the film, "there is something inherently human about desire that connects them." The film saw her named New Filmmaker of the Year by screen organisation SPADA.
Alexander's energy, plus her outrageous promotional work on Magik and Rose (which she talks about in this video interview) won over South Pacific Pictures boss John Barnett. He invited her to produce (and later write and direct) on TV's Being Eve. The colourful, offbeat series was aimed at teenage girls. One of only two shows nominated in its category for a 2002 International Emmy, Being Eve won multiple awards, and sold to more than 40 territories, including the United States (where it aired on Nickelodeon offshoot Noggin).
Alexander was then entrusted to direct the first and second episodes of bogan classic Outrageous Fortune. She has also directed on Mercy Peak, big-budget SPP/BBC co-production Maddigan's Quest and the Power Rangers franchise.
Alexander's writing or story credits include dystopian series This is Not My Life and black comedy Burying Brian. In 2012 she worked alongside Maxine Fleming to create and write the first season of hit show Agent Anna, including directing the debut episode. The comedy/drama follows a sometimes meek woman (Robyn Malcolm) who joins the cut-throat world of an Auckland real estate office.
As a producer, Alexander has worked on a number of award-winning short films, including Taika Waititi's Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night and Cargo (whose many festival invitations include Venice, Melbourne and Tribeca).
In 2003 she spent time on the script development team at English production company Working Title (Bridget Jones's Diary), as the first international intern in their training program. The following year she was one of eight writers from around the world invited to join European screenwriting lab eQuinoxe. In England she did workshops with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Script Factory. She also interned as a director in Los Angeles on the sets of Steven Bochco shows NYPD Blue and Murder One.
Alexander currently lives and works in Australia, where she has worked in the writer's rooms of varied television shows, including hospital hit Love Child. In 2018 she was nominated for an Australian Writers' Guild award for TV series The Wrong Girl, a romantic drama about the producer of a morning TV show.
Alexander has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, and a Master of Arts in Film from Melbourne University's Victoria College of Art. She also studied at Melbourne's Swinburne Film and Television School.
The onetime playwright has taught writing workshops, and consulted on several screenplays in development. She was postgraduate advisor of the Screen Production course at Auckland University. She is a former Chair of scriptwriting organisation Script to Screen, and was a board member on the NZ Film Commission.
Alexander's extensive awards list includes the Qantas Media Peace Award, the Prix Danube at a Slovakian television festival for young people (for Being Eve), and Best Comedy Script from the NZ Writers Guild (for Agent Anna).
Profile updated on 17 October 2018
'Vanessa Alexander' (Video Interview). NZ On Screen website. Director Clare O'Leary (Uploaded 1 May 2009). Accessed 17 October 2018
Magik and Rose website. Accessed 17 October 2018
'Being Eve's international accolades' - Onfilm, August 2002, page 8 (volume 19, number 8)
Owen Hughes, 'Magik & Rose - A Perspective'. NZ On Screen website. Loaded 16 August 2008. Accessed 17 October 2018
'Vanessa Alexander' RGM website. Accessed 17 October 2018
'Vanessa Alexander'(broken link). University of Auckland website. Accessed 11 March 2013