Congratulations are in order for member Michelle Ang, an alumni of DEGNZ’s Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator, as NZ On Air has confirmed funding for Riddle Me This, an animated journey of eight four-minute episodes that chronicle tamariki using their powers of critical thinking and imagination to solve intriguing riddles.

Michelle’s A Grain of Rice Productions received $265,950 in funding. The series will be released on NZ On Air and TVNZ’s HEIHEI channel.

DEGNZ is pleased to announce the participants for the 2021 Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator. The Incubator is a year-long programme of five workshops intended to advance the projects and careers of female directors.

Established screen industry practitioners from New Zealand and Australia come into the Incubator to provide insight into forging sustainable careers as a director through interactive discussions, practical exercises and in-depth information, at the same time expanding the networks of our directors throughout the film, TV and online sectors.

After considerable discussion, a panel of four external selectors and DEGNZ’s Executive Director settled on seven participants for the 2021 Incubator. They are:

Matasila Freshwater, Ghazaleh Golbakhsh, Niva Kay, Nahyeon Lee, Hweiling Ow, Cian Elyse White and Zoey Zhao.

The DEGNZ Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator is made possible through the financial support of the New Zealand Film Commission.


MATASILA FRESHWATER (Solomon Islands/Pākehā) is a writer/director passionate about exploring cultural complexities through storytelling. Matasila was responsible for the Solomon Islands section of award-winning feature, Vai (2019), which premiered at Berlinale, featured at SXSW and won a Special Jury Award at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Best Feature Narrative at DisOrient Asian American Film Festival. Her first film Shmeat (2016), was a finalist in NZIFF’s Best Shorts programme, competed at the Sitges International Fantasy Film Festival, and won Best Animation at A Night of Horror Film Festival in Sydney. Recent projects have included writing/directing on The Feijoa Club Season 2, and Prime horror anthology series, Teine Sā: The Ancient ones with her short piece Hiama. Mata is show-running her first animated series ENDLING, currently in preproduction for TVNZ HeiHei.

Mata holds an MA in Scriptwriting from Victoria University IIML with a feature film selected for Script to Screens’ 2020 Film Up programme. In 2019 she was awarded a special grant through the NZFC Annual Gender Scholarship, won SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year, and in April 2020 became one of the inaugural Arts Foundation Springboard recipients, under the mentorship of Tusi Tamasese.

GHAZALEH GOLBAKHSH is an Iranian-New Zealand writer, filmmaker and Fulbright scholar.

Ghazaleh has made various short films including the recent documentary This is Us which centred on Muslim New Zealanders for RNZ and NZ On Air. She is currently developing her first comedy feature with Ainsley Gardiner and Georgina Conder. Other upcoming projects include directing the first ever PASC funded short film Night Visions and co-producing the NZ On Air documentary series Hair Now for the Spinoff. Ghazaleh recently finished her PhD in Media and Communication.

NIVA KAY is a filmmaker passionate about storytelling, environmental and social justice. She is the co-founder of The Rebel Film Collective, which is behind the co-creation of the feature documentary High Tide Don’t Hide. Niva has built a successful career as a digital producer, creating content in various media forms, including writing, photography, videography and graphics.

She is co-author of the number one best selling book ‘The Abundant Garden’. Niva and her partner established Pakaraka Permaculture, a regenerative market garden and education centre on the Coromandel Peninsula.

NAHYEON LEE is a writer and director raised in Aotearoa with Korean heritage. Since graduating with a Master of Arts in drama directing, Nahyeon has been attached to screen and stage productions that champion underrepresented voices; engaging with the breadth of experiences in the Asian diaspora.

She created and directed the anthology short film for TVNZ OnDemand, Myth of the Model Minority, and her MA thesis short film Sixteen was selected for the San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival’s 2020 programme. She was one of the the directors for the CNZ funded Portraits; a series of short documentaries centred on Asian creatives in Aotearoa. Current projects include writing her debut play for Proudly Asian Theatre (PAT) called The First Prime-Time Asian Sitcom that has undergone development with PAT and Auckland Theatre Company’s Here and Now Young Writer’s Table. Nahyeon has attended various directing and writing workshops with Script to Screen, DEGNZ and PASC including Story Camp, Before Fade In and Short Cuts.

HWEILING OW, upon arriving to New Zealand, was bitten by a radioactive Weta that made her fall stupendous in love with film-making. She has since developed muti-hyphenated skills in the areas of producing, writing, directing and acting, and has been taking the world by storm with her online digital series and short horror films that have garnet millions of views. She has also successfully received New Zealand funding for numerous local productions. Like a moth drawn to a flame thrower, she is attracted to telling genre stories with a migrant twist. Her quirky cheery view of the world influences the type of projects she is captivated by.

CIAN ELYSE WHITE has had an extensive career in professional theatre, TV and film as an actress. In 2017, Cian wrote her Te Reo Māori short film Daddy’s Girl (Kōtiro) which received the Fresh 30K grant in 2018 and won the 2020 NZIFF Best Shorts audience award. Daddy’s girl (Kōtiro) has also been selected for Show Me Shorts, ImagiNATIVE, Asinabka, Hawaiian International Film Festival and was the first NZ film to be selected for Geena Davis Bentonville Film Festival in August this year.

Cian has a burning desire to tell stories that uplift the Māori voice and explore themes that are topical and relevant to our current social climate. In March 2020, Cian was one of 8 selected to partake in FilmUp run by Script to Screen. Cian has been working on her next short film, PUHI, and has completed a DEGNZ TV Drama Director Attachment on Vegas, shot in her home town of Rotorua.

ZOEY ZHAO is an Auckland-based filmmaker of Chinese descent. She gained a Masters in Screen Production at the University of Auckland in 2020. Fuelled by a never-ending urge to challenge herself, Zoey not only directed but also produced her graduation film, Foods For Coping. This film was selected to screen at the Show Me Short Film Festival around the country and it also screened internationally in the Miami Film Festival, WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival and awarded a Certificate of Merit for Solo Filmmaking by the Rochester International Film Festival.

From her background of working on-set and behind the camera, Zoey is capable of giving the audience a comprehensive and fulfilling experience by focusing on a modern social issue and the relationship upheaval surrounding it. She greatly admires working with female leaders in the field and she has a passion for developing fellow women. Zoey’s imagination and dedication are her greatest strengths. She always aims to give her best – expect nothing less.

For the first time in its five-year history and as part of its Diversity focus, the DEGNZ Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator for 2021 will focus solely on a Diversity call for applications.

The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ welcomes applications from Māori, Pacific Island, Pan-Asian and other POC female directors to take part in this talent development programme.


The overall vision of the DEGNZ Women Filmmakers Incubator is to empower the participating directors with the confidence, knowledge and connections that they can use to go on and direct a feature film, drama or scripted series.

The Incubator is intended primarily for emerging debut directors of feature film (drama or documentary), but will also consider those wishing to establish careers in TV drama and scripted content.

Applicants must apply with a project, but the Incubator is primarily focused on filmmaker development, not project development.

The objectives of the Incubator are:

  • Increase the number of women directing features and TV drama.
  • Connect producers, broadcasters and funders with female directors with a view to getting more female-centric stories into and through development.
  • Create networking opportunities for women directors to further their projects and careers.
  • Inspire and encourage women directors to passionately pursue feature film and drama directing careers through interaction with successful women who serve as role models.
  • Improve directors’ understanding of the business of film and television drama.

Participants will attend five one-day workshops across 2021 with the first scheduled to take place in late April. All workshops are intended to be held in Auckland, and a travel allowance will be available for participants based in other regions.

Participants need access to a computer (recommended) or another device to participate online via Zoom, if the workshops are affected by COVID-19 Alert Levels.

The workshops are individually themed to provide specific knowledge, networks, skills, and inspiration that enable participants to advance themselves and their careers. As the global screen industry undergoes constant change at this time, DEGNZ will remain flexible as to the actual content of the programme, seeking to incorporate information and opportunities that are relevant.



All applicants will be expected to have a good level of directing experience with scripted content, such as acclaimed web series, shorts with festival success, TV commercials, or broadcast content.

Applicants must:
  1. Have an active project (feature film, documentary feature, telefeature, TV/online drama or scripted series) in development that has never been presented to a broadcaster or funder. It is preferable that the project is at least at first draft script but if not available, there must be a detailed Writer’s Treatment for the project. A Director’s Treatment that includes Style, Tone, Imagery, Look & Feel, etc. is NOT requested. The applicant does not have to be the writer on the project.
  2. Have experience as a director of scripted content (drama, comedy) or documentary in the form of the project they are submitting, i.e. if you are applying with a narrative drama project, you must have experience directing narrative drama or if it’s comedy, experience directing comedy, etc.
  3. Have a directing credit on one of the following:
    • a short film selected for one of the NZFC’s Recommended Short Film Festivals, the New Zealand International Film Festival, Show Me Shorts Film Festival or any regional film festival in New Zealand. You need to supply in your filmography and links section the Festival Name, Year of Selection, and a link to the full film or content selected, for viewing purposes.
    • a commissioned scripted one-off or series by a broadcaster or digital platform. You need to supply in your filmography and links section the Broadcaster or Platform Name, Year of First Broadcast/Play, and a link to content commissioned, for viewing purposes.
  4. For feature film, be a debut director.
  5. Be available to participate in all workshops.
  6. Identify as female and be of Māori, Pacific Island, Pan-Asian or other POC heritage.
  7. Be a NZ Citizen or permanent resident.

Selected participants must be DEGNZ Full members for the duration of the Incubator programme.


How to Apply

Application Deadline: 9AM, Monday 12 April 2021

Application Requirements:

  1. A completed DEGNZ Women Filmmakers Incubator Application Cover Sheet (PDF 291KB).
  2. A one-page synopsis of the project with the ending revealed.
  3. A maximum two-page letter stating what your career goals are and why you want to participate in this Incubator.
  4. A one-page bio (not a CV).
  5. A filmography and links to completed work that supports the project you are including with this application. Include details as per eligibility requirement 3.

Compile your documents into one single PDF in the order matching requirements 1 – 5.

Give the single PDF the following naming convention: (YourName)_DEGNZWomenFilmmakersIncubator_2021

Send your application to with DEGNZWFI2021 in the subject line.

Selection Process

A selection panel will shortlist candidates. Shortlisted candidates must be available for a one-on-one interview via Zoom to be held in the week of April 12. Getting an interview does not imply that you have been selected for the Incubator.

If shortlisted, you will be expected to immediately supply prior to the interview a detailed Writer’s Treatment of your active project (different to your 1-page synopsis). The treatment needs to be within a minimum of 5 pages to a maximum of 10 pages.

The Incubator participants will be selected from the shortlist following the interview.

Decisions will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.


The Incubator is made possible thanks to the generous support of the New Zealand Film Commission.


Questions about the Incubator?

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director
+64 9 360 2102


We have had the great pleasure of running our Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator programme over this past year in spite of a few COVID challenges along the way. Congratulations to our 2020 Incubator alumni Michelle Ang, Charlotte Evans, Pennie Hunt, Stella Reid, Rachel Ross, Jessica Grace Smith and Kathleen Winter!

Many thanks goes to our facilitator Philippa Campbell, all our special guests and speakers and our funder, the New Zealand Film Commission.

Speed dating with producers at the Incubator

View from the Top banner

With the Big Screen Symposium about to kick off tomorrow, it’s yet another recent event at which to be thankful for, for our Government’s response to COVID. We can gather in big numbers will little concern for the spread of the virus, while in many other places around the world the statistics of COVID sickness and death are horrific. I was extremely pleased to hear yesterday that our Trans-Tasman cousins can now travel interstate, relatively freely.


And talking of our Aussie cousins, we have a new head at the Australian Directors’ Guild in Alaric McCausland. Alaric has a screen executive background in Australia and internationally, bringing a slightly different focus over his last two predecessors. As always, DEGNZ seeks a strong relationship with the ADG, with my first call with Alaric cordial, informative and supportive.


NZFC, NZ On Air and TMP obviously got more feedback than they bargained for in regard to the Premium Productions for International Audiences Fund. They are now late in getting the final criteria out—perhaps they will show at BSS. I have to imagine the number of applications to the fund is going to be as voluminous as the feedback was.


I heard yesterday that TV3 is now officially in the hands of Discovery. A Stuff article here. Being run as an Australasian service, it will be interesting to see what opportunities come for local content makers in the trans-Tasman tie, with Discovery’s global network and the planned launch of a streaming service here making for exciting possibilities.


Over at Sky they’ve got a new CEO in Sophie Moloney. Martin Stewart wears the blood splashes of his restructuring as he heads back to the UK, and Moloney offers an experienced, friendly, female and kotahitanga approach as she takes Sky forward. Unity is certainly needed in an organisation reeling from job losses.


TVNZ’s GM Local Content Nevak Rogers came with Drama and Scripted Comedy Commissioner Steve Barr to talk to our Emerging Women Filmmakers participants at their fifth and final workshop. Nevak was pleased to tell me that TVNZ is now spending around $100 million on local content, which is besting the highest spend during the Charter years at TVNZ. For those not old enough to know what the charter was, this from Wikipedia:


The Labour Government introduced a “TVNZ Charter” in 2002. This was a list of objectives for TVNZ which specified it must broadcast a wide variety of New Zealand-made content; the broadcaster was given public responsibility to provide news, drama, documentaries and “promote understanding of the diversity of cultures”. In 2008 the Government announced that the broadcaster was to become “more public-service” like. TVNZ responded by launching two commercial free channels; TVNZ 6 and TVNZ 7. By 2011 Prime Minister John Key announced the closure of these channels. 6 in 2011, and 7 in mid-2012, with much of their content put into TVNZ Heartland and TVNZ Kidzone24 which are only available behind a Sky TV paywall. The National Government abolished the Charter in 2011. Political opponents accused the Government of reducing TVNZ’s commitments as a public broadcaster.


Just this week at the NZ On Air end-of-year function, Broadcasting Minister Chris Faafoi reaffirmed his commitment to public broadcasting via a video address. Back in October, Faafoi announced that the TVNZ – RNZ merger discussion was back on the table. The partially completed and partially redacted PWC consultant’s report released in September, however, didn’t outline the benefits of combining the broadcasters into a single entity or state how TVNZ or RNZ’s services would change if the proposal was approved. Just what is going to happen and when seems entirely open to discussion. Dealing with COVID and its impacts provides wonderful cover for doing nothing for quite a while yet. Let’s hope something good comes of it sooner.


Finally, the DEGNZ Workflow Best Practice Guide, driven by board member and  long-time, drama and documentary editor Annie Collins, continues to win rave reviews. If you want to save your production time and money and yourself stress, become very familiar with the content, available on our website here.


Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director