Watch this year’s Loading Docs shorts and hear from their filmmakers


Loading Docs launch another great collection of short homegrown docos.

Another diverse batch of shorts has been unveiled by the Loading Docs initiative, representing a unique professional development opportunity for filmmakers—and equally important, if not more so, some fantastic short-form viewing.

Grouping this year’s shorts under the theme of Power, Loading Docs has this to say about 2019’s films:

“From reflections of a master waka carver to a female leader’s fight to save ancestral land, eight uplifting documentaries make up Loading Docs 2019. Attracting an audience of over 5.6 million viewers so far, Loading Docs offers audiences a place to celebrate real New Zealand stories, unified by the theme of power. With unique access to iconic New Zealanders – such as world champion freediver William Trubridge and the man behind the ‘Nek Minnit’ meme – this year promises to be the most empowering yet. Awaken your imagination and see our world in a new light.”

Read on to find out more about the films from the folks that made them, and get stuck into watching these intriguing gems.


Bird’s Eye!

Petra Leary takes her hidden superpower to the sky, focusing her lens on becoming the world’s top aerial photographer.

“Life’s about how you see it. Aerial photography star Petra Leary sees the world from above, seeking startling heights to create stunning art, while trying to make sense of the complex and challenging world around her. Having pushed back against traditional education and now an ADHD ambassador, Petra sets out with her skateboard, drone and dog Kodak to create her own artistic legacy.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

MORGAN ALBRECHT, DIRECTOR: My producer Morgan Leigh Stewart was actually the first to jump at the ‘power’ theme for a Petra doc idea I’d been noodling on already. That’s what is cool about the nature of collaboration, sometimes someone else seeing the potential before you do, even when it’s blindly obvious—sometimes you can be too close to an idea.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

Not really, I had a really strong idea of Petra’s outlook on life being vibrant and powerful which has carried through. If I had my way, I’d just follow her around with a camera and watch her do crazy acrobatic photography, but being part of Loading Docs means you have a great deal of support to develop narrative, so we did end up developing more of a traditional plot line due to that which has totally served the story.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

The creators of Loading Docs are directors themselves thus they always have tangible feedback for every stage of production. It’s like a limitless well—they really care about what they’re doing and leave no stone unturned, it’s really valuable especially in short format to know every single frame has been scrutinised, everything means something. You don’t generally get to sit around a table with industry professionals feeding back on your decisions in an exploratory way, it’s a veritable luxury.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

Petra’s attitude has been gung-ho from the get-go, just so willing and energetic. I reckon we owe her as an associate producer in terms of what her and her family put into this doc, their energy and contribution is just huge. They’re just like “yeah keen as” all the way through the shoot, Petra on top of a building in the middle of winter whilst her brother drove us around carrying lighting gear, big time Kiwi ingenuity.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

I’m most proud that this is Petra on the world stage, just as she is, no make-up, no embellishing, just who she is day to day, no smoke and mirrors and I think you really feel that—this eccentric, wild, super-cool Kiwi girl making everyday life extraordinary. My crew were all on the same page about the fact we’re talking about someone’s life here, let’s sidestep any schmaltzy heartstring-pulling 90s documentary techniques here and just let her guide us with who she really is and I think we totally did her justice.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

Weird is wonderful. Roll with it!

Click here to watch Bird’s Eye!


He Hekenga Tūhura

Just weeks before his passing, Sir Hector Busby discusses a legacy of celestial navigation and waka carving, considering who will carry the knowledge after he’s gone.

“We journey with 86-year-old Polynesian celestial navigator Sir Hekenukumai Pūhipi through the past, the present and into the future as he reflects on his life’s achievements and how his knowledge will be passed on. ‘Sir Hec’ has given his life to the restoration of Māori seafaring traditions. He built his first waka in the early 1970s, seeking out knowledge that in those days was in danger of being forgotten.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

JUSTIN SCOTT, PRODUCER: He Hekenga Tūhura is a mixture of both. The idea of the documentary was a promise made by director Allan George to his Uncle Monte, who was Sir Hector Busby’s brother. Before Monte passed away, Allan spoke to him about filming Hector. That is where the idea began. The main question was “who will carry that knowledge on when he is gone”. All in all, does ancient traditional knowledge have a place in a technology-ridden world? An interesting question to answer as a filmmaker.

There can also be similarities drawn from the idea of power and our documentary. Wakas and the ocean are often seen as powerful in Maoridom but key to our story is knowledge and the power of sharing it. Knowledge is power and that is what Sir Hec held.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

We initially set out to make a 4-minute film. A shorter, poetic take on the story of Sir Hector. But our story grew, and become longer as we discovered more about his life and how he gained his knowledge. Sadly Sir Hector passed away right before our second round of filming was planned. We were very privileged to be able to attend his Tangi and capture the power of community. His passing made our story even more important and pressing to share.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

Only one person in our team speaks fluent te reo Māori, and Allan (writer/director) is currently learning Te Reo at the Wānanga. The language factor was a tricky one, but the support we received from Loading Docs for this was fantastic. We were provided with a Maori consultant, Mana Epiha, who was a phenomenal support. As the only Loading Docs documentary that was entirely in te reo Māori, he was able to guide us through the language and was also able to share some of his experiences in working with Māori content and he also knew Sir Hec which was a plus.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

Allan is incredibly proud that he fulfilled a promise to his Uncle, that he would film Sir Hector. It is literally a promise fulfilled. This isn’t something we have done for ourselves as filmmakers, it is something we have done for the Busby whānau, the waka community and for indigenous peoples everywhere.

Being able to share Sir Hector’s legacy with Aoeteroa in full te reo Māori. This was Sir Hec’s first and sadly last interview entirely in te reo Māori. What started as an interview that was only supposed to be twenty minutes long evolved into an hour and a half interview with this fantastic and knowledgeable Kaumātua. Everyone in the crew was able to take away something from that day.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

Ancient traditional practices are important. They need to be recognised and practiced. Let’s share the knowledge and teach our children where they came from.

Click here to watch He Hekenga Tūhura


Mana Wahine

As the indigenous land occupation of Ihumātao hits global headlines, Pania Newton must decide: face down the bulldozers or give up the fight.

“Set deep behind the front lines at Ihumātao, Mana Wahine captures intimate access to SOUL co-leader—Pania Newton—in the weeks leading up to what is becoming New Zealand’s most disputed indigenous land occupation. As the magnitude of the fight ahead and pressures placed on her become all too real, Pania lays bare her personal struggles to find the strength to lead. As the cultural and political unrest reaches breaking point, Mana Wahine provides unique insight into an indigenous issue resonating around the world.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

CORINNA HUNZIKER, DIRECTOR: Loading Docs offered a unique platform for me as an emerging filmmaker to represent my indigenous community and address some of the power dynamics of what is sacrificed in leadership both positive and negative.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

While filming Mana Wahine I felt at times uncertain as to how it might progress beyond our documentary, it started off with a singular person’s internal journey but was a representation of what many young and old Māori face as a nation in response to the Treaty of Waitangi and corporate development while commenting on the loss of land. Land is a direct link to whakapapa and turangawaewae which Māori people consider themselves the guardians of.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

The boundaries of Loading Docs helped me navigate the story, working within a format allows the vision of the story to play with the edges of the story.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

My featured participant was experienced with film and was one of the most open subjects that I have ever worked with. It was refreshing to have someone so unguarded and so helped us to capture a moving and authentic experience and in sharing their personal and vulnerable journey for them it was about giving power to the big picture they are ultimately fighting for.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

Because of the openness of the main participant we were able to tell a captivating story, the team that worked on this short all worked hard for essentially very little money, a donation for what they are really worth and without the crews dedication to support the story we would not have made the powerful story we did together.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

The power of one voice can inspire many to stand and be heard collectively. Greenspaces are important and worth fighting for.

Click here to watch Mana Wahine


MEME Me

The ‘Nek Minnit’ guy confronts the meme that defined him. Get ready to challenge your own perceptions of virality.

“The man who became a meme, Levi Hawken, recalls his joke that birthed a viral catchphrase. Living with a rare genetic condition which affects his appearance and turned him into an internet caricature, Levi defines the price of our fame based society. Blurring the line between internet icon, skateboarding legend and talented artist, he discovers all is connected and fate is often as simple as being careful what you wish for.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

STJOHN MILGREW, DIRECTOR: Yes! It is a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

Yes, with many hours of material recorded there were quite a few directions discussed until its final concentration.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

Working with a lot of great material there are always areas which are hard to lose. This being my second time working within the Loading Docs format, losing material has become second nature.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

Levi is one of my oldest friends and has spent most of his life in front of cameras so he didn’t shy away from the idea. He was always more than willing to offer any unrequested ideas of his own.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

Seeing everyone involved grow in excitement about the completed doco is always something to be happy about. I’m especially proud to have the subject of the doco happy and fully behind the film.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

The doco is an unmasking of Levi and humanises the man behind the meme. The viewer will hopefully take away a greater understanding of who is, as a charismatic person, with a deeper understanding of the way he sees his surroundings, his rough exterior and turning this perspective into sensitive and thoughtful creativity.

Click here to watch MEME Me


Meet Munch Jr.

A father’s love inspires an autistic teen to express himself by bringing his cartoon character to life.

“Sixteen-year-old Nikau wants to create his own real-life hand puppet. He’s a keen artist and animator. He’s also on the Autism spectrum. His dad, Ali Cowley, is helping him bring the puppet alive from a drawing on a page to a real-life hand puppet. He’s his son’s number one supporter when it comes to his art. Meet Munch Jr. is an observational look at the journey both father and son take to realise Nikau’s dreams.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

ALI COWLEY, DIRECTOR: I was already thinking about a Pasifika Autism film—there ain’t many.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

I knew what I wanted but my project started evolving organically in a great way.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

Well the length (8 minutes) was a challenge. That dictated the themes I could and couldn’t highlight in the allocated time.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

It was more like, would my subject—my son—feel comfortable and not be put under pressure, was how I worked through it.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

Proud that all our collaborations with everyone involved produced a touching story about unconditional love.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

Awareness for other people’s special talents.

Click here to watch Meet Munch Jr.

My Breakup with God

A devoted Christian slams the door on the Church – against her parents’ hopes – and pursues a path of sexual freedom and love.

“Caitlyn Cook was raised in a conservative Christian household. As a teenager, she began to question everything she knew about herself and her religion. She had desires that felt both exhilarating and dangerous. She wanted to break free from the rules. But freedom came at a cost. Then Caitlyn discovered Tantra, and so began her pursuit of sexual enlightenment and healing. In My Breakup with God, Caitlyn opens up to her parents and seeks their understanding and approval of her beliefs.”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

ZOE MCINTOSH, DIRECTOR: I had been researching this idea already independently. When I discovered the Loading Docs theme it seemed like the perfect fit. Caitlyn’s journey has been all about finding her ‘inner power’.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

Yes. I initially thought it was going to be much more focused on Tantra and Caitlyn’s clients. But the more I hung out with Caitlyn the more her internal conflict and struggle became interesting to me.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

It’s always a good challenge to keep stories short. That was the biggest challenge.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

Caitlyn was up for it right from the get-go. When the story shifted its focus this was initially tricky for Caitlyn to understand. However, we worked through it together during the making of the film.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

I’m proud of how far Tammy Williams (cinematographer) and I pushed it visually given the budget. I didn’t just want to produce a dull raw doco. My subject matter was sensual and feminine so it was important for me to reflect that.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

I don’t like to cloud people’s ideas of what they should take out. But I guess what I took away from making the film was to stay true to you and your freaky self. It takes courage to step away from convention but that’s where we find peace and happiness.

Click here to watch My Breakup with God


Operation: Rambu!

After a party-fuelled decade of B-list action movies, the ‘Indonesian Rambo’ abruptly disappeared from the silver screen. Can destiny provide the stage for this Kiwi’s triumphant return?

“In 1986, a teacher from New Zealand is traveling through Indonesia when he is mistaken in the street for Stallone by a film producer. When offered the role of Alex Rambu in The Intruder—the Indonesian rip-off of Rambo —Peter is catapulted to fame. Over the next decade, he goes on to become one of the most celebrated action movie stars in Indonesia. And then, in 1998, he disappears. But now he’s back!”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

STEVE AUSTIN, DIRECTOR: We only found Peter O’Brian three days before the Loading Docs submission deadline! The characters that he played in his action film career were all powerful versions of Hollywood archetypes, so it seemed a really good fit to put forward a pitch for this year’s slate.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

It went through many permutations, but we set out to just let New Zealand know that this guy exists and his past and his movies are absolutely incredible and really you can’t squeeze much more than that into 8 minutes.

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

Having the budget and the freedom to get creative with his story has been really exciting. They took care of so much of the admin and marketing and left us alone to just be filmmakers, which is exceptional and just doesn’t happen if you try to make your film some other way.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

Pete is happy to talk about his experiences almost endlessly and it seems he’s just been waiting for someone – anyone – to come along and show an interest in what he has to tell. Selling him on the idea of doing something more than an enthusiastic fan piece was pretty easy too.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

That we’ve simply managed to select the best of Pete’s crazy stories down to under eight minutes is quite a feat in itself! We’re also really pleased that we’ve been able to add a bit of artistic production value – we certainly wouldn’t have been able to do that without Loading Docs generous support.

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

It would be great if the film could widen Pete’s fanbase and open up a brand new appreciation of his films. But if we just leave people wanting to see what step he makes next in his career comeback, that’s our job really done here!

Still curious about Operation: Rambu? Click to watch the short and read our extended interview.


Water Baby

Freediving royalty William Trubridge and actress Sachiko Fukumoto will do anything to bring their baby into their world, the ocean.

“William Trubridge and Sachiko Fukumoto are freediving royalty. William is an 18-time world record holder and current world freediving champion and his partner Sachiko is an actress and freediver. Unable to give birth in their favourite place, the ocean, the couple travel to William’s family home in New Zealand to prepare for a water birth. Will their baby carry on their legacy of caring for our marine environment?”

FLICKS: Is your film a direct response to the Loading Docs theme of Power, or an idea you were already thinking about?

KATHERINE MCRAE, DIRECTOR: The film Water Baby responds to Loading Docs’ theme of Power in two ways. Firstly we are interested in the Power of Choice. Most women in New Zealand can choose how they give birth—at home or in a hospital. Not all women in the world have that choice. Our film is the story of Sachiko Fukumoto, an actress and a freediver, seeking the birth that suits her and their baby, with the support of her partner New Zealand free diving champion William Trubridge. Our film also talks about the Power of our Oceans. The couple spend much of their time in the water – it is their second home. Over their lifetimes they have witnessed the degradation of our oceans. While humans once regarded oceans as all-powerful and infinite, we are learning that they are vulnerable and need our protection.

Did your project evolve significantly through the production process?

We were lucky not only to have the footage we shot of Sachiko Fukumoto and William Trubridge in New Zealand but the couple gave us access to footage of them swimming in the oceans with sea creatures and the footage of William crossing the Cook Strait. While he waited for their baby to be born William swam the Cook Strait underwater—just coming up every few metres for breath—much like a dolphin. We believe that this is the first time someone has completed a crossing like this and he did it to raise awareness of the plight of our indigenous Hector and Maui dolphins. My challenge as a filmmaker was to compress this vast amount of footage into a compelling 8 minute documentary!

How did the Loading Docs format help or challenge your storytelling?

Loading Docs guides your filmmaking process by holding workshops on storytelling, editing and distribution. They also give notes on your script and your edits but all the while they respect that it is your film. Loading Docs encourages filmmakers to find their voice in order to create the best film they can with the time and resources at hand.

Did your principal subject take much convincing to participate in your short, and what were they like to work with compared to your expectations?

Sachiko and producer Migiwa Ozawa have been friends since they met at a freediving competition in the Bahamas. They both decided to make the documentary about Sachiko’s pregnancy to bring awareness to the rights of women to choose the birthing process that suits them and their baby. Migiwa, an old friend of mine also, approached me to direct. This meant that Sachiko and William were very happy to be involved in the film and they were supportive of the process. It was especially generous of them to share the birth of their child with us the filmmakers and now, the audience.

Is there something specific you’re most proud of about the finished product?

We were very pleased that we didn’t miss the birth! The couple was living in Hawke’s Bay so I drove up there with camerawoman Elise Lanigan at 3am once Sachiko’s waters had broken and contractions had started. We joined producer Migiwa Ozawa and two female camerawomen in Hawke’s Bay. This had taken quite a bit of organising with a lot of people on stand-by for several weeks. The highlight for me was that I captured the moment the baby was born underwater (with a go-pro camera clamped to the side of the birthing pool).

What’s something – big or small – you’d like the viewer to take away from your film?

Giving birth is an amazing yet challenging experience. I would like us all to celebrate women and their ability to do this incredible feat.

Click here to watch Water Baby