In celebration of Matariki, Doc Edge has organised a special screening of Whetū Mārama – Bright Star at the Civic in Auckland on Friday 24 June, followed by a Q&A with Toby Mills.

Co-directed by Aileen O’Sullivan (DEGANZ) and Toby Mills, this film is the story of Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi, aka Hek Busby, and his significance for Māori in rekindling their wayfinding DNA and for all New Zealanders in reclaiming our place as traditional star voyagers on the world map.

According to the directors, “For us the ultimate underlying focus of Whetū Mārama – Bright Star is the story of a culture that understands an inner compass… Hek talks of always knowing where he is – a sense of connection to his ancestors ‘lying just below the surface’. His voyaging has reconnected his crews with their inbuilt GPS systems and they in turn are teaching and inspiring the next generation, building a bridge back into our past to take us forward into the future.”

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star will be distributed throughout the country from July 7.


The Accidental Editor

It was 2009 and I’m working at Unity Books in Auckland, my specialty – children’s picture books and classics of literature. It’s been 2 years since I quit my career as an art director in advertising with no intention to ever step back into that world. I loved selling books and I still work at Unity from time to time, but in 2009 I was hoping to find a new path.

A friend mentioned a job going at TVNZ. They were looking for creative producers with an advertising background. A ‘creative producer’ makes 30-60 second promo videos for movies and shows; you write a script, edit the footage, direct the voice over talent, select music, SFX etc.

My only film editing experience was that once, I made a joke video on iMovie to amuse a friend, but I brazenly applied all the same.

To this day I’m still not quite sure how I was hired, it was a total accident, didn’t ask for it, fell on my lap. Perhaps a mix of luck and fate. TVNZ sent me on a two-day crash course to learn Avid Media Composer. The next day I started working. It was incredibly hard, I felt like a senior citizen learning computer skills, and back then there were no YouTube tutorials. The first few months I’d work late nights, I’d work weekends and study other people’s work, frame by frame. Why does one cut on a particular frame? What makes an elegant edit?

One day, my Creative Director pulled me aside and told me that he thought I had the right sense of timing to be a good editor. This encouragement drove me to want to be the best at TVNZ and I continued working late nights and weekends. The work projects became more complex and I was trusted to cut important campaigns, brand montages. I won international awards. In 2015 I became a freelancer. I worked for Sky TV and edited commercials with the ultimate goal in mind – to edit movies!

Sometime in 2016, I bumped into an old friend – director Florian Habicht. He’d recently returned from living overseas and told me he’d noticed my work. “One day we’ll work together,” he said. That comment encouraged me enormously. I was determined to make that happen, I just didn’t know how to make the switch from TV to film.

Editor Anastasia Doniants photographed by director Lula Cucchiara / Photo: Supplied

A personal connection helped. A friend of mine, director Jessica Sanderson, asked me to edit her NZFC funded short film, Ways to See. Again, luck was on my side, Annie Collins – the greatest editor in New Zealand – agreed to mentor me through this project. My fate was set there and then. Annie taught me everything about long-form: the workflow, the protocols, how to log, the assembly process. Annie also suggested that I trust my instinct, and this is something that can’t be taught, it must be in you as a person. Ways to See and my second short film, Ani by Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu, travelled the world with much success. This gave me confidence to continue to edit.

Educational institutes are not the only paths to knowledge, nowadays. I’m sure going to film school would have been of great help and, personally, I wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow my path. What helped me is that I was a movie mad kid. Movies and books took up most of my imagination growing up. My advice to young people – your hours of watching films are not wasted. Be curious. Be generous with your time as you’re investing in your future, if it means working for free – do it.

Most importantly, you have to love the magic and spectacle of film or else you’re in the wrong industry.

“Astonish me,” Sergei Diaghilev used to say to his dancers. “Astonish me,” I say to every person involved in the process of movie making.


About Anastasia Doniants

Anastasia is an award-winning editor based in Auckland. In the last few years, she has edited feature film documentary Fiona Clark: Unafraid, co-edited documentary James & Isey; as well as short films, documentaries and music videos.

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 if you’re a member and would like to share your story.

Congratulations are in order for DEGANZ member Lula Cucchiara whose feature documentary film, Fiona Clark: Unafraid, is about to have its international premiere at Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival (May 26 – June 5).

Directed by Lula and edited by Anastasia Doniants, Fiona Clark: Unafraid brings attention to notable queer photographer Fiona Clark and her work, which captured the burgeoning gay liberation movement and vibrant queer scene in 1970’s New Zealand. Giving visibility to the LGBTQI+ community, dismantling prejudice and fighting for equality through the lens of her camera would cement her as one of New Zealand’s historically groundbreaking photographers.

Member Shailesh Prajapati was the film’s assistant editor. Well done to everyone involved in the making of Fiona Clark: Unafraid!

Among the films at this year’s Doc Edge Festival is Whetū Mārama – Bright Star. Aileen O’Sullivan (DEGANZ) co-directed this film alongside Toby Mills.

Whetū Mārama – Bright Star is the story of Sir Hekenukumai Ngaiwi Puhipi, aka Hek Busby, and his significance for Māori in rekindling their wayfinding DNA and for all New Zealanders in reclaiming our place as traditional star voyages on the world map.

After playing at the 2021 New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF), Whetū Mārama – Bright Star is screening at this year’s Doc Edge Festival.

The 2022 Doc Edge Festival is running from June 1 – July 10 in Aotearoa, and you can view the full programme now.

Loading Docs 2022 has announced the eight projects selected to take part in their ninth season titled Powers of Emotion. Our members are among the different teams selected, and are now looking to secure funding.

Director Sophie Black will explore the mysterious phenomenon of psychogenic illness in Believing is Seeing. With the help of Dr. Robert Bartholomew, this short discovers the effect of technological advancement on our brains – is social media making us sick?

Shred, set to be directed by Harry Wynn, follows male bodybuilders as they prepare for a local competition. Pushing the pursuit of looking good to the extreme, these young men deal with the pressure of social media as they try to achieve an unattainable physique.

The E Blacks follows kiwi video gamers as they fight for the chance to represent their country at the Commonwealth Games. For the first time ever Esports will be included in a major international sporting event and the pressure is on to level up for the event. The E Blacks will be directed by DEGANZ member Ashley Pitman and produced by Rajneel Singh.

Produced by Vea Mafile’o, Beneath the Surface follows a world champion swimmer as she prepares for the Commonwealth Games. Revealing hidden truths about her experiences and motivations, the short is as much about equality as it is about the pool.

The teams behind each project must now raise $3,500 through their Boosted crowdfunding campaigns. Once achieved, the teams will unlock funding from Loading Docs and go on to produce their films.

See here for more information about the projects and to support your fellow filmmakers. Loading Docs is funded by NZ on Air, with support from NZ Film Commission and Te Māngai Pāho.

Congratulations and good luck to our members!