CREATING

karen+o+leary+abby+damen

EVERYTHING IS MINIMAL: LAwrence Arabia

Music video directed by the I-Have-No-Words-For-How-Amazing-She-Is Loren Taylor for Lawrence Arabia where Karen O’Leary and I get real intimate. It’s a very weird/cool music video commenting on consumerist culture (my interpretation was that no matter how much money you have you still have to push shit out your ass) and thus there were some weird photographs taken on the day too. Karen and I are still keen for Garage Project to use us as models, we’re available anytime you need.

WELLINGTON WATER: LOVE EVERY DROP

This is a super detailed and informative video about where drinking water comes from in Wellington that I voiced. It’s genuinely really interesting and easy to understand. It was pretty full on to record as it was so long - most of it was done in one take - which I get such a thrill from.

This was produced by the lovely people at Storybox - I LOVE working with and for them as they’re always doing work they’re passionate about and this one was no exception - you can also check out the full campaign identity here.

Fresh Tings The Maori Side Steps

FRESH TINGZ SKITS

A series of skits that the Māori Side Steps and Potent Youth created together for Fresh Tingz. There’s four - this one’s about pronouncing Māori place names wrongs. It’s faaaakin funny.

MURDER IS FOREVER

I was a day player on this American production. Loved the intensity of the story - a real challenge as drama isn't my strength - as well as my mince pie hair, complete with nose ring.

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MOUNTAIN SAFETY COUNCIL

New Zealand loves being safe. I had an awesome time being a presenter alongside the talented Jordan Rivers on these instructional videos for the Mountain Safety Council. Directed by Jared Gray from Quite Nice Films and produced by an awesome crew - Nicola, Ezra, Natalee Fisher, Bevin... these videos were really fun to work on as we got to be out in the New Zealand bush all day! They were super challenging because we had 30 videos and had to learn our 1 - 2 minute monologues off by heart; meaning we had up to 6 scripts in our heads on any given shoot day. I loved being a part of this (even though I'm super cringe) because I learnt heaps myself and the videos are being well used among girl guides and boy scouts (which the series was made for originally).

The Watercooler - The Nurse

The Watercooler is funny, true and short.  I'll leave it to director and producer Mike Minogue to explain:

"All our episodes are true stories supplied first hand to us by morons like you, our audience. And because we know your attention span's shorter than a Wellington summer, no episode is longer than 5 minutes and 59 seconds."

The character I play in this is my favourite character to date.  I know this is just a short film, but if I wanted to look into her, she's totally flawed; annoying, rude and thoughtless, despite being a nurse - someone whose job it is to be kind, compassionate and caring.  The majority of roles I've had the pleasure of receiving have revolved around much less complex characters.  But I loved telling Johnny Brugh I'd make him sniff my fingers after implied sexual innuendo.  The shame of it was that I got that line in one take and didn't get to do it again.

There are heaps of other amazing episodes, like this one called The Jogger that involves me, a bag of poo and Tom Sainsbury (can’t believe I met him, there are so many times I can see myself holding in laughter because he was so funny). Anyway. This one has a less complex character than The Nurse, but I think it’s almost funnier. You tell me?

NORI THE ROLLERCOASTER BOY

One of the most bizarre and coolest jobs I've done: voicing on a cartoon show about rollercoasters.  My character, Jinny, is 115cm and made out of PVC plastic.  I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with Chris Ward, Peter Hambleton, Jane Waddell, Jason Whyte, Thomasin McKenzie, Erin Banks, Harriet Prebble and Gavin Rutherford.

Until working on Nori, my voice experience was limited to commercials, audio books and other straight reads.  It's been an awesome experience learning how to voice a character - I didn't realise how different it would be (which seems silly to think now).  I'm lucky to have been in such a supportive environment while learning a new skill.  I found staying in character or 'on voice' a little hard to do but am significantly better at now - and I know when I've gone "off-voice".  I also got to sing the theme song which was and still is incredibly terrifying.

I'll create a link to the show when it's available in the southern hemisphere.

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid”
— Epictetus
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Wonderland

This was so much fun!  I played Alice - an aspiring comedienne who becomes a high-class escort to fund her dream.  This was a teaser-trailer for a pilot made by the dream team Steve Barr (producer) and Casey Wheelan (writer).

I felt like I was playing myself.  I met some very special people and I can't say I didn't love rapping in my underwear - that's for sure.

I think New Zealand could do with a racy comedy show, but whether it gets funded or not is up to fate. 

Flabberghasting Finds

Andy and I went through a period last year where, amongst the Michael Jackson tribute videos, we also watched infomercials on YouTube.  We were mesmerised.  They are so wonderful and terrible and ridiculous and amazing.  We decided to write our own, literally the only purpose being that we wanted to make something our friends might enjoy watching.  We had an actual premiere (there was a Facebook event) because we thought it was so funny.

We wrote 'Flabberghasting Finds' on a weeknight and shot it in a couple of hours on the Saturday morning of the same week.  Very grateful to Andy's 6th sense of 'knowing what audiences want' as well as my insistence of the pronunciation of Maramanatouso.

If I was making this again, I'd make it 1 minute shorter, but we love the cameo's of our friends so much (Meredith Floundersharp and the Nuclear Family are my personal favourites), so it's a bit over 7 minutes.

Dick Off

The coolest and proudest moment of my life to date was winning Best Actress at the Rialto 48Hour Film Festival 2014 for New Zealand for a film where I axe off my character's husband's dick.  It's very funny.  Peter Jackson said some cool stuff about the film, which was shot by Simeon Duncombe, James Simpson and Hayden Weal, all of whom feature in the short too (it wouldn't be a 48 Hour Film if the writer, director and cinematographer didn't).

“A joyfully ballsy tale of bloody revenge! Great use of camera, sharp editing and bold performances – make for compelling viewing! NZ cinema needs more comedy and gratuitous violence!”
— Peter Jackson (on Dick Off)

The Roxy Cinema

This was part of a series of shorts that feature during the trailers at the Roxy Cinema.  I held a real gun which was incredibly hard to shoot with one hand.  They did a great job of making it look like I actually shot a blank.  Ha!  Note to self: Work on forearm strength.

It's a beautifully shot video by Mike Wallis and Inge Rademeyer.  It also features my friend Andy Campion and idols Cohen Holloway and Mike Minogue.

Reservoir Hill

Reservoir Hill was a dark, interactive web-series that won an Emmy in 2010, produced by Thomas Robins and David Stubbs.  You can view it on TVNZ On Demand.

This was my first proper role and I remember the phone call from my agent so well.  It was an awesome moment to feel like you've succeeded at the very thing you love doing the most.

It was a really interesting job to work on: the writers wrote the script at the beginning of the week, the actors received it on a Wednesday or Thursday, we shot it on Saturday, they edited it on Sunday and it was on TVNZ On Demand by Monday after school.  Viewers would text in their advice to the protagonist Beth (Beth Chote) and the writers would write the next episode based on their advice.

About Last Night: The Experiment

One of my first forays into writing and directing - The Experiment was also a submission for the About Last Night series but this one I wrote with Lesa. The idea for this one started with a dinner we had a Flying Burrito Brothers.  We both brushed hands as we reached for the water bottle at the same time and thought it would be funny to create an Instagram video (back in the day when they were really new and cool) about those moments you may or may not have had with your friends where you question "what it would be like."  

That video formed the basis for The Experiment which is a really, really weird short.

MANA IN MAHI: Strength in work

This was the first casting project I took on by myself. And by myself I don’t really mean by myself - I mean that this was the first casting job I was in charge of managing on my own (as opposed to being an assistant or reader on a project). There were some seriously short deadlines and challenges in making this one, but I really enjoyed seeing it come to life!

It’s a short and sweet video directed by the glorious Charlie Bleakley who is an awesome human being and was a great mentor during the process, and produced by the phenomenal Verity Mackintosh who is seriously kick ass at everything she does. Made by the team at Flying Saucer for the Ministry of Social Development.

Shortland Street

SHORTLAND ST

Never thought I’d get to see my goofy mug in the IV bar but there it is, with the effervescent and bubbly Rebekah Palmer who is a total dream boat. And so is everyone else on the show. I had a ball of nerves in my stomach basically the entire month I was in Auckland because every day was so terrifyingly fast but it really was THE BEST experience ever. I’m a car crash in every scene. It’s really good/totally ridiculous.

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KIA KAHA TE REO Māori

A clip made with Welllington.NZ for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori which can be found here.

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APPLE SMASH, 48 HOURS

Made with Andy Campion, Simeon Duncombe Ike Hamon, Jeremy Hollis with Nikita Skeeter, Mike Minogue as the BABY (thanks to Andy and I being obsessed with Minogue and always thinking about how funny it would be to match his deep and distinct voice with unexpected people) and of course Amber Varde and Nakoa.

We had a stunt crew on standby for the weekend. Then we opted in for Ultra and suddenly had to have a child or animal as our lead character. So we put the two together and voila. Applesmash.

POTLUCK

I played Toni in this six-part original webseries grounded in the friendship of a group of Wellington lesbians. Boom. Directed by Ness Simons and produced by Robin Murphy,  the idea for the show came from reflecting on the many pot luck dinners Ness had been to over the years, and the scores of characters and stories she could mine from such an occasion.

Needless to say, it was so much fun to be involved in this show, and working with a predominantly female crew was epic. You can watch Potluck Season 1 or 2 here.

The Māori Side Steps

I was listening to producer Brandon Te Moananui on set of a short film at the beginning of 2016 tell me about a Māori Musical Web Series he was working on getting funding for.  I told him I was learning Māori this year.  He said: "Girl, you are the last person I would ever think of to learn Māori.  I think I'm gunna write you in the funding application."

No-one in my Māori class this year would have ever thought I could speak fluent Te Reo but here I am doing it in this EPIC web series, directed by Tamati Kawha.  Those boys are so cool.  It was probably the most supportive set I've ever had the pleasure of working on.

Rob Mokaraka helped me with my pronunciation which I am very grateful for.  Initially, I felt a lot of pressure but that subsided as my confidence grew.  There are still quite a few moments throughout the series that make me cringe pretty bad because I can hear where I've put the wrong intonation.  Don't listen too hard for it, but do watch out for season two - coming soon!

Update: Season rua found here!

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Doubt: The Scott Watson Case

I played Amelia Hope, the real-life sister of Olivia Hope who went missing with Ben Smart on the eve of 1997.  One of New Zealand's greatest unsolved murder cases, it was a pretty incredible and bizarre to be a part of something so real and tragic.

We stayed at Furneaux Lodge which was eery because although it was beautiful and I got to take myself for a run along the Queen Charlotte track each morning (how out of control was my life), it was still the actual location of the mystery.

I have some beautiful pictures as I wanted to remember the experience of working on a period piece (when I say period piece, I mean for the 90's) and I loved my wardrobe - I felt as cool as my old babysitter.

You can view Doubt: The Scott Watson Case on TVNZ OnDemand here.

Chronesthesia (now 'love and time travel')

I spent my weekends at the start of 2015 assisting in the shooting of Hayden Weal's braindchild, Chronesthesia, with our dear friend Simeon Duncombe.  We shot it over five or so months on our weekends while juggling full time jobs.  Hayden edited it during a five month trip throughout Europe, came back, hustled, and the film has since then featured not only in the New Zealand Film Festival, but also the Austin Film Festival and been nominated at the NZ Film Awards 'The Moas' where it won Phil Burton Best Sound Design in a Feature Film which was well-deserved as nearly the entire film required ADR.

I have a supporting role in this indie-rom com and helped produce it, as an amateur camera assistant, make-up artist, caterer, soundie, driver, extras coordinator and props hand.  Despite not knowing much, I learnt that "going with the flow" is the best attitude you can take and I'm super grateful for the experience I had.

Check out this behind the scenes blog for an awesome insight into the unique way it was filmed.

It’s a huge privilege to be an artist, so you want to be sure you are being honest about what is driving you.
— Loren Taylor

WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS

I had a teeny tiny role on this with my talented friend Emma Draper - the purpose of our being there was basically to show that vampires can and do get chicks.  I was in the trailer for a flash of a moment (so cool) but did not make the cut.  This wasn't surprising though as they had days of footage (because the film was improvised) so to be in the trailer for such a fun and popular kiwi film was very exciting and an absolute honor.

We were shooting in Alice (a 'down-into-the-rabbit-whole' style themed bar accessible only via my favourite club of all time - RIP Boogie Wonderland) and before the scene, I loved watching Jonny, Taika and Jermaine improvise.  It was totally mesmerising.

Girl vs Boy

Girl vs Boy was New Zealand's first "who-dunnit rom-com" produced by my favourite directing duo, Thomas Robins and David Stubbs, who told me that they'd written the character with me in mind (and then my head got so big it exploded).  I played Kjesten, a Norwegian stalker and after 3 seasons occurring annually, I learnt most of what I know now from being apart of this show.

This show to me, is a perfect example of how brilliant everyone around me was.  My character was hilarious and it was all thanks to some of the most outrageous Norwegian-themed props I'd ever seen, genius script-writing and the amazing energy from everyone else on set.  If only I could still pass for a 16 year old because I was a great Norwegian.

You can view the series here on TVNZ OnDemand

About Last Night: Chav

This was another Abby and Andy collaboration that started with me doing a terrible attempt at a chav accent for a while and Andy making me think it was great by laughing so much.  We wrote the concept around two chav twins: "Angus wakes up to realise he can't remember a lot about the night before. In fact, he wakes up seeing double" and shot the entire thing before lunch time on a Saturday morning.  Andy edited it brilliantly and my dear friend and flatmate John Bozinov reminds me on a regular basis that this performance was my 'peak' and that it's all downhill from here.  So enjoy.  Please.

DRIVE.GOVT.NZ

Thanks to these NZTA and ACC funded driving tutorials, hundreds of people have passed their driving tests with confidence and I am now a professional parallel parker.  It's one of my greatest assets, after having to reverse into a park nearly 50 times. It's a good shot.

This was quite a challenging series to shoot for a few reasons - I loved it.  We had GoPro's attached to a brand new Suzuki Swift on the inside and out.  This car was the 'learner' vehicle and was often followed by a van with a camera shooting from the boot. I was always playing the 'learner,' meaning that I had to act like one but in reality - drive safely and confidently, match the speed of the van in front, and ultimately, go with the flow.  Literally.  We had a loose script but would ad lib as every take would naturally, be very different due to traffic, pedestrians and other variables. 

There's a sweet spot that I love to find when filming.  It's deep in the heart of a good performance but balanced with something technically challenging.  Finding that sweet spot every day on this shoot was critical as NZTA, ACC and the Director had important requirements that needed to be met and it was instant gratification to be a piece of the puzzle that harmonised them. You can watch the tutorial videos here.

Ha The Unclear - Music Video

My friend Simon Oliver gave me a call asking if I'd be free to shoot for the day on a music video for Ha the Unclear which was cool. I love the song, and the bands' dry, kiwi humour that comes through their music.

This one is called the Secret Lives of Furniture.   It's worth the watch, due to some seriously cool stop-motion that brought old retro couches and a forgotten coffee table to life.

Who Are You Campaign

I featured in this video about preventing rape, directed by the genius Alan Morrison.  The concept was great and the video has lent itself well to being showed to youth in school assemblies, as part of training or inductions for new employees and the general public.

We shot it pretty quick over a weekend and a lot of my friends feature including Johanna Cosgrove and Frith Horan (and so does the flat we lived in during university).  I'm very proud to have given my time to this and be a part of helping spread the important message of stepping in and following your gut instincts.  If you see something that doesn't feel right, it probably isn't so don't turn a blind eye; you could change somebodies life for the better.

You can view the 7 minute video clip here.