Looking back, I would say that my life’s theme is, “There are no wasted moments.”

It’s a lesson I have clung to working in the film industry, where there are all sorts of twisty roads lined with the bloated corpses of dead passion projects and empty promises of paid work. In film and in life, I’ve learned that the people you meet in year one might just be the same people who come back and change your life in year twelve.

Born and raised in the Philippines, my favourite childhood memories were of days spent at the cinema watching back-to-back screenings of the most random movies available. It was a lawless time, back when a 10-year-old girl could watch The Sixth Sense at the theaters, and it was glorious and revelatory.

I originally thought I was going to be a comic book artist and author, some kind of 5ft tall Filipino Alan Moore. I loved film but the thought of becoming a filmmaker felt sacred and untouchable. Unable to shake the urge to try, I wrangled a job at an advertising company earning what would now amount to NZD450 a month. I had a short stint working on Filipino independent films doing random odd jobs before moving to New Zealand, where I did a year at film school.

Being an immigrant in the film industry is harrowing, especially when you have a less desirable passport, as I did. I’m the only international student from my year who managed to find work and, subsequently, a visa that allowed me to stay. I traded four years of my life for a chance at a resident visa, meanwhile, unable to apply to any local film programs or get paid for any creative work.

But – there are no wasted moments.

While I was treading water, I networked and volunteered to get on set whenever I could. I worked on music videos and passion projects, hopping into any role that would have me, trying and testing and learning my own strengths and weaknesses. I learned that I loved being on set and that I could thrive in the vicious ups and downs of late nights and cheap pizza.

Director Mia Maramara and longtime collaborator Hweiling Ow at 48 Hours / Photo: Provided

Most importantly, I made contacts — and friends. I saved up enough money to cobble together my first short film, a zombie movie called Bites, which got into Tropfest that year. There’s something to be said about the blind confidence of your early years, where a good attitude and some stamina can net you a zombie movie for NZD2,000.

I did Foodie as part of the Someday Stories program and participated in 48 Hours for a few years, where one film became a Grand Finalist and won me Best Female Director.

Along the way, I met my longtime collaborator, Hweiling Ow, who won me over with a bucket of vomit. We won awards and money, which gave us the opportunity to keep on trying to win more awards and money. We co-wrote a feature film, Grafted, which finished filming this year and is being distributed through international channels.

Hweiling and I co-founded MHM Productions, a genre-oriented production company, with fellow horror fiend Morgan Leigh Stewart. Through MHM, I wrote and directed a TV episode called Albularyo that, as far as I’m aware, made me the first Filipino director to helm a slot on New Zealand TV.

Mia and Hweiling on set of ‘Albularyo’ / Photo: Provided

Other key career highs include writing Candy for anthology feature film Kāinga, the third in the portmanteau trilogy that includes critically acclaimed films Waru and Vai. Another personal highlight was working with the writing team of Power Rangers, where I fulfilled my childhood dream of pretending to be the Pink Ranger.

My career careens wildly about due to the fact that most of my work is self-generated. It involves a lot of quiet, tortured nights hunched over a keyboard, trying to write something good before my bank account hits zero. But it’s a fulfilling way to make use of my personal talents, and I’ve never lost sight of what a privilege it is to be in my position.

I haven’t yet cracked into my dream of being a full-time features director, but I’m taking my time and enjoying the journey. After all, there are no wasted moments.


About Mia Maramara

Mia Maramara is a Filipino-born filmmaker with work that has been screened both locally and internationally. Her passion for authentic, trailblazing stories has led her to wear different hats in the industry, most notably as a writer and director. In the Philippines, she participated in Philippine National Artist Ricky Lee’s Cinemalaya Masterclass. In New Zealand, she won the SPADA New Filmmaker of the Year award in 2021 and participated in DEGANZ’s Emmerging Women Filmmaker Incubator in 2022. She is currently one-third of MHM, a collaborative production company between her and fellow creatives Hweiling Ow and Morgan Leigh Stewart.

How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with admin@deganz.co.nz if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Last updated on 9 October 2023

DEGANZ member and advocate for comprehensive consent education, Liv McClymont‘s short documentary I Stand For Consent premieres on World Sexual Health Day. Perfectly enough, this year’s theme is consent.

Motivated by a survey exposing the extent of sexual harassment and harm at her former high school, Liv returns to amplify the students’ call for change. Through interviews with students, principals, experts, and even Liv’s own mother, the doc exemplifies the urgent need for compulsory consent education in schools.

Despite the heavy topic, Olivia aims to discuss sexual harm with a sense of hope and empowerment. In her director’s statement, she says,

As someone who lives with the trauma of sexual harm, it was important to me that this flm focussed on the way forward, rather than dwelling on the disheartening reality of the issue. I wanted to create a film that survivors could watch with pride and that would inspire change in our communities. And, rather than just spreading awareness – I wanted to take action.

The creators behind I Stand For Consent present the film as a rallying cry for change. They provoke viewers to think about how sexual harm is normalised in society and show the steps forward. It calls upon us all to support the quest for better sexual violence prevention, inspiring a safer future for generations to come.

The doc was commissioned through Series 7 of Someday Stories, an annual collection of social and sustainability-focused short films made by emerging creatives in Aotearoa.

Watch the doc on socials and RNZ from 4 September.

Last updated on 31 August 2023

Congratulations to DEGANZ members Vanessa Wells and Emma Smart for their short film making the Wild Earth Oceania Film Festival (WEOFF) selection! Te Whakairo – Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao (The Carvings Carry the Stories of the World), directed and produced by Vanessa and edited by Emma, follows two skilled carvers from opposite ends of Aotearoa on their journey to and mahi in Antarctica.

James York (Ngāi Tahu, Ngā Puhi) and Poutama Hetaraka (Ngāti Wai, Ngāi Tahu) bring their toi whakairo (carving) to Antarctica as part of Aotearoa’s kaitiakitanga (guardianship) of The Ross Sea, the world’s largest protected marine area. They travelled as part of the mātauranga Māori perspective of the five-year Ross Sea Marine Protected Area monitoring programme and the Community Engagement Programme with Antarctica NZ. For the film, Vanessa accompanied them to Antarctica.

The 14-minute short will screen in the festival’s Wildlife Through an Art Lens programme on 10-11 September in Sydney. WEOFF is Australia’s first film festival to focus purely on wildlife. It aims to create a thriving and sustainable future for wildlife and people in Oceania by showcasing wildlife, Indigenous, environmental, and natural history films.

Te Whakairo – Ngā Kī o Te Tai Ao premiered in 2019 at Show Me Shorts. Since then, it has played at the Polar Film Festival in New York, FIFO in Tahiti, CSFF in China, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, and the Earth Futures Festival.

Best of luck to Vanessa, Emma, and the team at the festival!

Last updated on 31 August 2023

Feature documentary River of Freedom, directed by Gaylene Barnes (DEGANZ), premieres on 5 September before its general cinema release from the 7th.

The film gets to the heart of the 2022 COVID mandate protests, told from the inside of the movement. Gaylene and the team documented Aotearoa’s largest protest in recent history, from the nationwide convoy to the 23-day Parliament occupation. They share the stories of the protesters – who they were, why they were there, and what happened on the front lines.

To cover such an expansive protest, the team divided and conquered, documenting the movement from different parts of the country. While Gaylene went to Bluff to film the key organisers and the convoy’s inception, cinematographer Mark Lapwood captured Cape Reinga’s convoy. The film also thanks all the independent media and filmmakers who contributed.

The film is entirely crowdfunded, having raised over $100k through their Buymeacoffee campaign. The team received support from over 1,600 people with most donations spanning between $25 and $200.

Check here to see when you can catch River of Freedom in your local cinema.

Last updated on 31 August 2023

K’ Road Chronicles is back for a third groundbreaking season with DEGANZ member Benjamin Murray on board as assistant editor.

The web series amplifies the voices of the homeless and impoverished in Aotearoa. It all started with transgender journalist Six, who publishes a street newspaper of the same name that shares the authentic stories of people living on Auckland’s Karangahape Road. She has since taken these stories to the screen with the docu-series. She interviews ‘streeties’ and tells their stories through a uniquely empathic lens, as she was homeless herself and called K’ Road home for many years.

Since the series’ inception in 2019, when Six wanted to explore how COVID-19 impacted people living on the streets, the show has amassed great success. While season one was produced using the NZOA minority interest fund, later seasons (still made with the support of NZOA) are presented with Stuff, bringing these stories to a more mainstream and wider audience. Yet, the show does not shy away from the taboo when discussing the realities of homelessness. Six unabashedly dives into topics of drug use and abuse, poverty, sex work, inequality, and social justice.

This season, audiences meet Raymond, a former gang enforcer who turned his life around by helping others, and Danielle, who started feeding the hungry while she was homeless. The show catches up with Mickey the Rat, a former drug dealer and addict living in a cemetery. The show also highlights efforts to ease the lives of the homeless. Episode one looks at how Orange Sky, an Australian charity, provides mobile shower and laundry services to rough sleepers.

Six writes in a Stuff article,

In this third season, K’ Road Chornicles goes even deeper, bringing forth informative, suprising, touching, and captivating stories.

Watch as season three premieres on Stuff now!

Last updated on 31 August 2023