The titles made under the Loading Docs banner combine two things Kiwi filmmakers have a proven record in — short films and documentaries. Designed to give directors an online platform for “work that inspires, pushes boundaries and moves audiences”, the result has been an annual series of roughly 10 shorts, each less than four minutes long. Loading Docs launched in 2014 and its films — ranging from bungy jumpers to queer identity — have screened internationally on high profile websites. Loading Docs is produced by Notable Pictures' Julia Parnell and Anna Jackson.
Subtitled ‘a conversation with my grandfather’, this animated short sees Joel Kefali (director of the music video for Lorde’s ‘Royal’) documenting memories of his Turkish 'Baba' arriving in 1951 Auckland. Sausage rolls, dances and the death penalty are animated via cut-out shapes, and scored to Baba’s colourful pidgin phrasing — “go to the hell!”. Noel Murray of US website The Dissolve praised the “ample artistry” of Kefali’s familial tribute. Baba was a part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute long films made for online release.
“How could I capture a New Zealand home in three minutes? Could I make a film without relying on standard documentary conventions of interview, cutaways and narration?” Inspired by the idea of making a more reflective, meditative piece for viewers watching on computers or phones, filmmaker Andrew Scott uses a single shot to move through a Kiwi summer home. There’s no one home but the minutiae of sound — from cicadas to the Mr Whippy tune — evoke the life of the place. Homing was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of short films designed for viewing online.
"After living on the street for 20 years, we're now tasting what it's like to live like kings. We're sleeping in fancy sheets, drinking champagne and living in mansions ... and we're f***ing loving it." This Loading Docs short film turns its lens on Cowboy and a group of homeless people for whom the 2010 Christchurch earthquake presented a luxury squatting opportunity. Director Zoe (Day Trip, The Deadly Ponies Gang) McIntosh's thought-provoking look at an aspect of the city where she studied screened on TV’s 20/20 and was shared by the UK’s Daily Mail.
The concept of this short doco was to give its subjects the opportunity to tell their own stories straight to camera. Filmmakers Robyn Paterson and Paula Boock gave attendees of Auckland's annual Big Gay Out an invitation to go into a self-operated video booth, and answer the question ‘What does home mean to you?’. The candid results are snapshots of LGBT experiences and searches for identity and belonging. Queer Selfies featured on TV’s 20/20 and was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of three-minute long Kiwi films created for online distribution.
The widescreen vistas of the Mackenzie Country provide the backdrop for this short documentary looking at the challenges and joys of being a traffic management worker. In the tradition of Heartland, the film delivers a warm-hearted combo of character and scenery, as veteran stop/go man Bernie muses on perks: “It’d be nice if someone gave me a winning Lotto ticket, but a Chupa Chup’s not too bad.” Directed by Greg Jennings, Stop/Go was part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute films made for online release.
“Balls, bungy and videotape” is the tagline for this Loading Docs short film. The Jump celebrates the DIY spirit of unsung Kiwi hero Chris Sigglekow — who leapt off a bridge in jeans in 1980 for arguably the first modern bungy jump. Sigglekow recalls, and VHS footage shows, the pioneering jumps: from a boxing bag, to his and AJ Hackett’s famous Auckland Harbour Bridge leap. The first doco by ad director Alex Sutherland, Jump won 140,000+ views when it was made a Vimeo Staff Pick, and it was shared by surfing legend Laird Hamilton. Caution: contains Stubbies and Speedos.
Short film The Road to Whakarae is built around a special place, and a special song. Keen to celebrate home and the joyful aspects of the Tūhoe people, local filmmaker/artist Tim Worrall and cousin Aaron Smart (whose wife is from the area) crafted a love letter to the Waimana Valley, by expanding an old Tūhoe party song about “a windy, dusty road” and inviting various locals to sing a section each. Made for online viewing as part of the Loading Docs series, the film starts with local musician and kaumātua Beam Titoko on guitar — and ends with a kiss at the marae.
This short documentary observes a day in the life of Auckland’s David Lange Care Home. Near wordless, the impressionistic film tracks the residents, workers, sounds and rhythms of a world many New Zealanders inhabit: aged care accommodation. Directors Nick Mayow and French-born Prisca Bouchet met while working as editors; both have grandparents in rest homes. Today follows on from their award-winning doco Le Taxidermiste. Chosen for the London Short Film Festival, Today was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of shorts created for online screening.
The language of emotion speaks louder than words in this real-life tale of devotion. Made as part of the Loading Docs series, the short film introduces us to Wayne, a man with communication difficulties who is aided by his minder and friend Nigel. Directors Kirsty Griffin and Viv Kernick follow Wayne as he negotiates and laments his relationship with close friend Rachel. Griffin's photography and composer Karl Steven's score lend the cinéma vérité style documentary a timeless nuance, which belies its short running time.
Faye Rogers claims to have a unique ability — to converse with animals. In this quirky short documentary Rogers shares her talent and introduces some of her favourite animals, including her donkey Thistle, who has a penchant for swearing and watching crime shows. It’s not just her own pets she can talk to either: while filming she takes a Skype call from an American client whose kitten Finn has gone missing. It's up to Faye to convince Finn to come out of hiding. The film was made as part of the 2015 series of Loading Docs, a collection of short films made for viewing online.
Celebrating the “transformative power of dance”, Dancing in the Dark centres on Peter Vosper, an inventor who has designed his own custom light suit as an outlet for his creativity. It also makes the perfect addition to No Lights No Lycra, an event where participants spend an hour dancing to upbeat music in the dark. While most dancers can’t be seen (as is the appeal of the event — dance like no one’s watching), Peter’s glowing suit takes centre stage and makes for quite the spectacle. The film is part of the Loading Docs series of shorts, made for exhibition online.
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”.
Gina lives in a dark, silent, room in a Wellington rest home, unable to leave her bed, communicate except by a complex touch system, and barely able to move. A rare unnamed genetic disorder has left her living what she calls “an existence, not a life”. This documentary by Wellington film-makers Wendall Cooke and Jeremy Macey takes a look at her condition in relation to euthanasia, for which she is a passionate advocate. As Gina did not want to appear on camera, her sister Roslyn who suffers from the same condition, albeit less severely, portrays her in the film.
This 2015 Loading Doc looks at a Japanese winemaker running a vineyard in New Zealand. Amber Easby and Henry Oliver’s short film explores the triumphs and travails of Hiro Kusuda’s search for terroir in the Marlborough soil, framed around the threat that Cyclone Pam poses to his grape harvest. “Everything is so fragile,” reflects Kusuda. Kusuda left a career as a lawyer and diplomat to study viticulture in Germany, before moving to New Zealand in 2001. Kusuda screened at the 2015 NZ International Film Festival, and was shared by the Japan Times and wine websites.
Mary O’Hagan spent five years of her early 20s confined to a psychiatric hospital. This short documentary has O’Hagan reading back the doctors' reports on her mental illness, and comparing them with her own journal entries at the time. In turn the film presents a critique of the treatment of mental illness that O’Hagan endured. The film’s title, Madness Made Me, is also that of O’Hagan’s own memoir, which chronicles her experience with mental illness. The film was made as part of Loading Docs, a series of short films made for exhibition online.
This 2015 edition in the Loading Docs series explores the past, present and future of Crystal Palace, a dilapidated but stately theatre on Auckland’s Mt Eden Road that has been drawing the curtains since the 1920s. Co-directed by Karl Sheridan and Robin Gee, who work under the Monster Valley moniker, the documentary canvasses the spilled Jaffas, dances, surf film screenings and local legends of the venue — and is also a plea to bring the ballroom and cinema back to life. In March 2016 Monster Valley answered their own call, and took over management of the theatre.
This 2015 Loading Docs short follows Tihei Harawira as he freestyle raps at Otara Markets. Diagnosed with autism and dyslexia as a child, Harawira didn’t ‘fit’ and was the victim of bullying. But an appreciative audience at the flea markets — where he busks ad hoc rhymes set to a beat box — have enabled Tihei to find his voice. ‘Tihei’ means “the breath of life”, a name he was given by an aunty after being resuscitated at birth. Tihei was directed by Hamish Bennett and produced by Orlando Stewart, the team behind 2014 NZ Film Festival award-winner Ross & Beth.
This short film, made for the second season of Loading Docs, goes beneath a manhole cover to explore a secret history of Auckland’s Queen Street. Waihorotiu is a quest down from the skyscraper canopy of New Zealand’s largest city to find traces of Waihorotiu — an ancient waterway situated under the concrete. Archive material and animation explore the awa's history, from tangiwha lair (the water of Horotiu) to fetid canal and brick sewer severed from its natural source. The film was directed by Frances Haszard and Louis Olsen; Pita Turei narrates.
Wilbur Force was once a warrior in the world of NZ pro wrestling, but he has fallen on hard times and is back in his hometown, living on the dole and mattress rather than on the mat. This edition in the second season of Loading Docs short films sees director J Ollie Lucks chronicling his ex-university classmate (real name William McDougall) battling the demons that have kept him from the ring. But McDougall soon questions his director’s motivation. Wilbur Force was selected for the 2015 NZ International Film Festival; a feature film inspired by the wrestler is now in development.
This 2016 Loading Doc introduces a heavily-tattoed Englishman living in Rarotonga. Croc Coulter is an unlikely master of the traditional art of tātatau (tattoo); the documentary follows Coulter as he teaches the art form to an apprentice, Moko Smith. Coulter also lives with cystic fibrosis. It was directed by Robert George, who has Cook Islands Māori and Māori heritage, and a background as both a painter and in post-production work for the screen. The mini documentary was shared internationally; it also featured on National Geographic's Short Film Showcase.
Four-year-old Dahlia Hitchcock lives by this mantra: When you die, you don’t do anything; when you’re alive you play. Behind her cheeky grin is a brave wee girl who endures several daily “bum pricks” to treat her Type 1 diabetes. Her father, director Joe Hitchcock, made this 2016 Loading Doc to bring awareness to Type 1 diabetes, which has no known cause or cure. The same year as they made this, Hitchcock and producer Morgan Leigh Stewart completed another short film — action comedy Stick To Your Gun.
"It’s more than just a sport: it’s honour, glory, victory." This 2016 Loading Doc follows knight-in-waiting Martainn Cuff as he and his Steel Thorns team prepare for battle in the "misunderstood sport" of full contact medieval combat. The Taranaki ex-soldier carries 33 kilograms of armour and the burden of a leadership role into the fray, at the national champs. The short documentary was made by Ryan Heron and Andy Deere, who were Whanganui school friends of Cuff’s. Heron and Deere direct commercials; they previously teamed up for award-winning short comedy Return.
Sixty-five years of life are condensed into three minutes in this 2016 Loading Doc, which profiles two pioneering kumara growers and Kiwi characters: Fay and Joe Gock. The Gocks were refugees from the Japanese invasion of China, who met in 1953. It was then illegal for Chinese to own land, but they went on to became the largest market gardeners in Mangere. In 2013 they won Horticulture New Zealand’s highest honour. Told as a poem, narrated by Ian Mune, the film was directed by commercials director and ex Cassandra's Ears bass player, Felicity Morgan-Rhind.
The theme for 2016’s batch of Loading Docs was 'change'. This entry stretches the boundaries of documentary, as two high school students engage in an impassioned piece of performance poetry. Mount Albert Grammar School's Jahmal Nightingale and Joseph McNamara film themselves performing their own poetic clarion call for change. The two Gen-Z teens wander Auckland and muse on body image, booze, racism, sexism, and the apocalypse. Director Brendan Withy and producer Doug Dillaman first saw the duo at high school spoken word competition WORD - The Front Line.
"My name is Mr Larry Woods and they call me Mr Sunshine." This 2016 Loading Doc offers a mini portrait of the colourful shoeshine man famous for spreading goodwill and cheer on Auckland’s streets. The documentary charts Wood’s journey from chauffeur-driven millionaire making headlines for his lush lifestyle, to street-working ambassador pushing the creed of “just being nice”. Directed by Eldon Booth in stylish monochrome, the documentary was shared by Atlantic and Aeon magazines and website Short of the Week, and screened at England's Sheffield Doc/Fest.
"How would your relationship with your best friend change if they were to change gender?" This is the intriguing proposition that led director Louise Leitch to make this 2016 Loading Doc. Best friends Neil (Leitch's husband) and Byron have been longtime climbing companions, but Byron’s shift from a male to female gender identity at 50 years old provides a challenge to their mateship that differs from any mountaineering obstacle. The mini documentary screened on SBS in Australia. The Spinoff’s Alex Casey called it a "moving, honest examination of an evolving friendship".
In this 2016 Loading Doc, Regina Tito talks about life for a homeless person, gleaned from her own experiences of living on the streets. She reflects on the circumstances that forced her to leave home, and describes the emotional experience of being homeless. The Downtown Community Ministry worker ended up on the streets to escape family violence – "at that time the streets were a lot safer". First-time director Leigh Minarapa and producer (and industry veteran) Nathaniel Lees set out to win empathy for people who are sleeping rough.
Scenic vistas of Aotearoa have become an important part of New Zealand identity. Hand-coloured photos produced by Whites Aviation from 1945 were formative in the genre, and hugely popular after WWll. This 2016 Loading Doc profiles 'colouring girl' Grace Rawson, now 83, who uses cotton wool and brushes to demonstrate the meticulous process behind colouring the images. The short was co-directed by artist and commercials director Greg Wood, and author Peter Alsop (Selling the Dream), whose book on the photos, Hand-Coloured New Zealand, was published in 2016.
In this short documentary, director Rose Archer joins academic and activist Jane Kelsey to argue against Aotearoa signing the original Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The 2016 Loading Doc uses animation to illustrate how things can turn nasty when commercial interests are allowed to sue governments. The film looks at El Salvador, which was sued for US$300 million by mining company OceanaGold, after laws were passed to halt mining (a World Bank tribunal later argued OceanaGold should be paying). Archer hopes viewers will be outraged and demand change.
This short Loading Docs documentary from 2017 follows conservationist Corey Mosen as he heads into the forest with a special canine — his border collie cross Ajax. The pair play a vital role in the mission to ensure the survival of the kea, the world’s only mountain parrot. Despite being one of the world’s most resourceful and intelligent birds, kea are under threat (eg from predation), with as few as 2000 left in the wild. Corey and Ajax locate kea nests in the steep alpine forest and spread awareness of a bird that Mosen reckons is pretty "neat and special".
Talking to your father about his sex life is possibly the most awkward conversation anyone could have. Director Chye-Ling Huang took on this eye-opening task while interviewing eight Asian men about sex, for this Loading Doc short documentary. Huang aims to challenge negative stereotypes of Asian males. Comedian/writer James Roque explains: "All the stereotypes that I encounter as an Asian guy are things like that I’m sexually or romantically inept, or that I’m like a nerd." Actor Yosan An, future star of Niki Caro's live action version of Mulan, is among those featured.
Director Julie Zhu's love letter to a Chinese East Auckland community follows her grandmother as she carries out what may seem a mundane task — grocery shopping. But to Fang Ruzhen, her daily ritual of buying food is what connects her to several other aged Chinese grandparents, who hop on buses in large groups to head to the supermarket. Ruzhen moved to New Zealand nearly 20 years ago to help look after her grandson. Now she is 79 and can barely speak any English. "Going shopping every day…well, that’s our strength. Without this, what would we do?"
Every year pride parades celebrate LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) culture and pride. But Wellington takatāpui (Māori LGBTI) activist, Kassie Hartendorp, feels alienated from the flamboyant festivity. "It’s glittery, it’s fun, it’s fabulous. It feels empty. I don’t really know what the point is sometimes, you know.” In this Loading Doc short documentary, Hartendorp talks about wanting pride celebrations to be more inclusive of takatāpui. She faces a dilemma when her takatāpui kapa haka group are invited to perform at the Wellington Pride Parade.
Kōtuku Rerenga Rua (the second flight of the heron) explores the impact of a near-death experience on Kōtuku Tibble. The teacher and media personality (from te teo Rugby World Cup commentator, to running language lessons on TV show Pūkana) talks about being reborn as the husband, father and leader he believes he is destined to be. Co-directed by Tim Worrall and Aaron Smart (The Road to Whakarae), the short documentary was made in te reo Māori for web series Loading Docs. Sadly Kõtuku Tibble died in his sleep, a few months after Kōtuku Rerenga Rua was completed.
This 2017 Loading Doc profiles Dominic Hoey (formerly known as rapper Tourettes) as he prepares a play about his battle with debilitating bone disease. Hoey, whose career clocks everything from punk drummer to poems in Landfall, brings a trademark rebel spirit as he reflects on his condition — and the challenges it gives to an artist renowned for his high voltage performances. Hoey was determined the portrait avoid being a pity fest, and collaborated with directors Damian Golfinopoulos and Stjohn Milgrew on the script. The result mixes interview, poetry and archive.
This Loading Doc short follows cavers Dave Ellacott and Mike Allen on their mission to connect Luckie Strike and Junior Mudball, two vastly different cave systems at Waitomo. Luckie Strike features extraordinary rock formations, waterfalls, and vast caverns. Junior Mudball is as its name suggests, mostly mud. The short sees them at work, galavanting through streams, abseiling down crevasses and scraping through mud — and reflecting on what they love about it. Luckie Strike was picked by National Geographic for its Short Film Showcase. A longer version is in the works.
This short documentary from the Loading Docs series is a profile of artist John Radford, and his alter ego Ron Jadford. Both are concerned with real estate. Director Ursula Grace Williams captures Radford creating Graft, an artwork consisting of 256 miniature replicas of 1900s suburban villas. Spray-tanned Jadford, with tinted sunnies, moustache and mobile phone, is the real estate agent selling the houses, and he won’t take no for an answer. The short documentary explores art as performance, the creative process, and the line between art and business.
A unique Kiwi story about prepping for death has captured the attention of international media. The BBC, The Guardian and National Geographic have all interviewed elderly members of a build-your-own-coffin club, some of whom feature in this musical short film. Members of the Kiwi Coffin Club don sequins and top hats, while singing about what makes their club tick — death is not to be feared, but instead should be celebrated as a normal part of life. A lyric from this offbeat Loading Doc sums up things succinctly: "It's the final verse but life goes on."
When New Zealander Jared James moved to Japan, he found himself isolated by the distance, the culture and the language. A co-worker recommended he try out for the local rugby union team. After coming to terms with the difficulties he might face — the language, his fitness — he finally gave it go. James found not just a team, but an opportunity to share culture and friendship. Made as part of 2017 web series Loading Docs, the film began after director Jericho Rock-Archer met Jared on a flight to Japan; the two kept in touch as each found a home there.