5 Minutes With… Niamh Peren

For such a young filmmaker, Niamh Peren has achieved an awful lot. While completing a conjoint degree in Fine Arts (First Class Honours) and Arts (History) at the University of Auckland, the young Kiwi finished work on her debut feature documentary, a compelling look at an annual South Island rabbit cull, which she released as The Great Bunny Hunt. Two years on, the doco is set to glow under the local spotlight once again as it opens the 2013 Wellington Underground Film Festival next month. Having recently completed another local film/music project as well as making a move across the ditch to Sydney to pursue further creative goals, we thought it was time we caught up with Niamh!

Tell us about yourself!
Long hair, don’t care.

Wish that could be an adequate answer!

When in Venice last year I went to a restaurant that was over 200 years old. Notorious amongst the locals for great seafood, it was swarming with lively people and loved-up corrosion. What made it different was that once you place your order, say risotto, the chef assigned to the table came out of the kitchen, squinted, looked you up and down and chose from a most exotic cabinet what he felt like cooking for you. It was delicious. Apparently, I’m clams, prawn and sea bass, whatever that may mean!

Let’s start with The Great Bunny Hunt. What’s that about?
The Great Bunny Hunt reflects an ethical, political, environmental and local issue, mid-conversation. As there is no given answer to the rabbit population of Central Otago, New Zealand, this film grants an insight into a cultural and natural dynamic.

For the past nineteen years the Alexandra Lions Foundation has hosted an event that encourages New Zealand’s twisted sense of humour. Easter Weekend (2010) commenced with approximately 500 people teaming up to shoot the Easter Bunny. The hunters filled Pioneer Park with a record kill of 23,064!

Introduced in the 1860’s, the rabbit population has severely impacted the region. For the farming populace the plaguing rabbit population is detrimental to land and crops, and therefore productivity. The land sits as a silent partner, hurting yet accommodating. Three discourses are presented in action, all existing, and to some degree all losers. This is both an observational and participatory documentary, which aims to educate and showcase the multifaceted complexity of this ongoing dilemma.

Though it must be acknowledged, as long as the rabbit survives, she will win.

And how did you conceive of the idea of heading to the South Island to film a bunch of hunters on a cull?
Home for me is in the mountains of Central Otago. I grew up there. The struggle between human animal relationships, especially in this realm, is familiar, and has always intrigued me.

Are you happy with the way the film has been received since its release?
Sharing it with the hunters was an ace experience, incredibly special.

I never made it for others to watch. I thought the only way I could really learn was to see if I could do it, so I tried. It was something I needed to do. By directing, producing, filming, and editing the project I began to understand the perimeters of each role better.

The Great Bunny Hunt is soon to be the opening film of the 2013 Wellington Underground Film Festival. It’s a real treat having it included!

Your latest project was with Space Creeps – a collaborative effort based on the band’s song “You Are Not Alone Tonight”. What was the idea there?
Real boy tears and fire.

Jack sent me the song and asked if I would make a video. He then wrote me about the Romeo and Juliet current. We have worked together in the past (he created the score for The Great Bunny Hunt). It all went from there. The song developed as the video developed.

This music video was a gift to Jack.

How did you come to work with the band?
Jack and I have been friends since first year university. His composition is bang on. And, Space Creeps are banging.

You’re now based in Sydney. Why the move?
I travelled through Italy, Poland and Greece after working on Jane Campion and Garth Davis’ BBC TV Series, Top Of The Lake. The trip was a whirlwind. A blast of opulent history, people and fodder. Heck, so many precious stories.

On the flight home from Athens I knew I didn’t want the adventure to end. I had a stopover in Sydney, so emailed a friend and said shall we meet for dinner? She replied with, why don’t you stay a week? I had been asked to co-produce a short in Sydney and was offered a couple of jobs, so it seemed right to stay. When I was offered a small acting role on a docu-drama about the Erebus disaster, I popped back home, had a lovely time and repacked my suitcase. I will move to wherever work takes me.

Any new projects lined up you can tell us about?
I am pre-production for a couple of short films of which I am co-producing, am supporting friends’ film projects any way that I can, researching and developing my own, and working for a production company. Keen beans for more. Know of a new project for me?

Photo by Maya Villiger

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