Kōkako short film looking for actors after winning NZ Film Commission funding

Aaron Falvey Film, Short Leave a Comment

Three Nelson filmmakers have won coveted New Zealand Film Commission funding for their short film about a young woman searching for the South Island kōkako while facing family issues along the way.


An audition callout for the film’s roles will be made shortly and people can email kokakofilm@gmail.com to sign up for notifications.


The filmmakers are looking for five actors of Māori descent for the following roles:

  • Ashley (aged 16-19)
  • Her sister (aged 20+)
  • Her mother (aged 45+)
  • Her grandmother (aged 70+)
  • Her father (aged 45+)


The South Island kōkako was once thought to be extinct, but is officially listed as data-deficient thanks to tantalising glimpses in the top of the South over the past few years.


Writer and director Doug Brooks based some of Kōkako on his own strong relationship with his grandmother, and some aspects of the lead character Ashley on his eight-year-old daughter Alice.


“They share the same love for the natural world, independence, and a single-minded focus and determination.”


The film is supported by $10,000 funding from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Fresh Shorts competition, aimed at up-and-coming filmmakers.


The first entry round for Fresh Shorts required a 19-page application process outlining script and a comprehensive production plan for the 10-12 minute film proposals.


From there, Kōkako was one of 24 projects that went to an intensive development process in Wellington in April, where mentors from the film industry worked with writers and producers to improve their proposals.


The films were rewritten and resubmitted, and in mid-June, six were chosen to receive funding of between $10,000 and $30,000 to help turn their idea into reality.


Producer Patsy Burke says she’s thrilled the New Zealand Film Commission are encouraging emerging filmmakers. “They really create an opportunity to make your film and bring your story to life.”

Producer Tim Hawthorne says: “The team is proud to have won the trust of the New Zealand Film Commission to produce this important short film in the Nelson Tasman region. We’re looking forward to showing off local talent and filmmaking abilities.”


Brooks says: “We are thrilled to make the final six. The Fresh Shorts funding will allow us to employ professionals to help create a quality short film.


“The workshop training alone would have been worth the application process. It covered festivals, how to pitch films, and health and safety on set.


“But the most valuable part was meeting other filmmakers and being connected with writer/director Gillian Ashurst as a mentor.”


In fact, the main character’s name, Ashley, is a nod to Ashurst’s mentorship.


“She had such a delicate and generous approach, allowing me to work through script development and use her expertise to strengthen the script.”


Brooks is a co-founder of the Top of the South Filmmakers Collective, established with his Blenheim counterpart Aaron Falvey in 2014. It has 55 registered members and aims to provide opportunities for filmmakers, actors, and crew to connect across the Marlborough and Nelson regions and make films.  


The collective runs education programmes, including coming workshops with the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand and writers Steve Barr and Kathryn Burnett.


It also holds an annual film festival to show off the region’s developing talent and advocates for Nelson and Marlborough as a filmmaking destination for features from outside the region.


“We want to develop skills in all aspects of film production, and hopefully our local talent doesn’t have to leave the region,” Brooks says.


Those who wish to find out more about TOTS are welcome at the society’s monthly meeting on the second Tuesday of every month at 7.30pm at Deville, in Nelson’s New St; or the third Wednesday of the month at 7.30pm at Riversdale Community House in Blenheim.

For more information:


Doug Brooks: 027 3838 578

Patsy Burke: 027 504 1224

Timothy Hawthorne: 03 540 3737


Email kōkakofilm@gmail.com


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