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Chelsea Grant: A Face Of The Future Promoting Maori
Culture To A World Eager For Diversity In Presentation

Chelsea Grant, CEO Kiwi Film House
Chelsea Grant is a face of the future, one of the new group of talented, passionate, enthusiastic and committed female filmmakers, making their mark around the world.
The enterprising founder and CEO of Kiwi Film House is a writer, director, producer and actress proudly promoting her Maori roots, in a world where both women and indigenous people are campaigning for a rightful place in their home territories and the world's stage.
The Maori make up 14% of New Zealand's population and history; their language and traditions are central to New Zealand's identity. Chelsea Grant recently completed her first Short Film Titiro for which she wrote the screenplay, produced, directed and starred in.
The Business of Film is in conversation with Chelsea Grant following the showing of her film at the inaugural Red Rock Entertainment Short Film Festival held at the Century Club in London.

THE BUSINESS OF FILM: What was the catalyst or series of events that triggered your decision to set up your own company?

CHELSEA GRANT: I saw a gap in the marketplace. Actually more than one - lack of women in film and a lack of Maori culture in film. I want to change that and promote Maori and our culture to the world, something which isn't done too often, as well as bring more Kiwis into the industry. I also want to see more women in senior positions in this industry, women of all nationalities and ages.

Young females have a really hard time in this industry and that was a main catalyst for me. I want to help young women succeed, because I was one of those young women and I had to fight hard to get where I am today.

I was fortunate enough to have some strong women raise me, so I knew I could do it. I also had a very special person in London believe in me (my number 1 fan) and that helped me to overcome any mental blocks that might have been in the way.

TBOF: Titiro is a short film steeped in Maori culture that you wrote, directed, produced, and funded - why was this an important project for you?

CG: Maori culture isn't as strong in today's film industry as it should be. The heritage of Maori is fascinating and something I am proud of. Growing up in New Zealand I was told a lot of stories of how the earth was created and the ancient legends of our people. The stories are not only entertaining but steeped in tradition and something I want to share with the world.

Chelsea Grant - Shooting Titiro
TBOF: It was your first foray into production? Was it a difficult shoot wearing so many hats?

CG: It was the most rewarding experience I have ever had. I would do it all again tomorrow! The hard part was lack of sleep when wearing so many hats. I learnt so much on this shoot that I would use to my advantage on the next shoot, and every shoot after that!

It was not too difficult though, because I knew what I wanted to achieve going into it. The planning took several months, and I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted the finished product to look, and spent the time with the various crew members, so we all shared the same vision. The crew working alongside me were fabulous.

Yes, the weather turned and we had to move the shoot days up and change things around last minute, but that's filmmaking for you! If you can't handle the heat stay out of the kitchen.

TBOF: The project is the precursor to a feature film of the same name - do you think Maori culture will resonate worldwide? And why?

CG: The feature is called The White Warrior. It is set in the same world yet the story line is different. It focuses more on William coming into the strange lands and the way the Maori welcome him in. To this day Maori are very welcoming and kind hearted.

I am sure The White Warrior will resonate worldwide because it is set in the world of the ancient Maori which is mythical and engaging, it also has underlying values people can relate to: Love, loss, discovery and personal growth.

It has a similar vibe or genre to such ethnic films as Apocalypto, The Last Samurai, The Last of the Mohicans. Although a completely different storyline, it will retain the overall vision and look. The shared aspect for the audience is that it portrays an ethnicity that many may not know, and which is steeped in history.

TBOF: What other projects are percolating for your company that you can share with us?

CG: We have the feature The White Warrior, and four other features in the financing slate. Covering topics Kiwi Film House will tackle in its own way, about mental illness and loss, domestic abuse and inner struggles, a humanitarian story about finding yourself and giving back to the world and a very dark twisted project relating to suicide, drug addiction and loss.

There is also a TV series Model Citizen, which is completely different. Part drama, part chick flick, very contemporary and introducing exciting new fashion designers, with intelligent and engaging writing.

TBOF: In the journey to realise your dreams what have been some of the obstacles that surfaced - and how do you put them aside?

CG: A huge obstacle is being a young woman in the industry. It is honestly hard at times to be taken seriously. Some people think you are just a pretty face. To overcome this I find the best way is to ignore it.

An example has been I saw someone I wanted to talk to so I got over my nerves, which is easier said than done at times, and walked right up to them and introduced myself. Then I went straight into what I do. Usually people are taken aback, but intrigued, and more often than not they end up engaging with me and give me the opportunity to share my vision and ideas.

I have had "no" thrown in my face and the door shut on me so many times. My belief is that you just have to keep going and keep doing what you know are the right steps to succeed. If you are doing everything right then the success is going to happen.

Living so far from home and not having my family around me is a difficulty for me; the benefit is that I tend to put all those emotions into my screenplays which has its rewards, as one is always digging deeper.

I recall people looking at me, thinking I was crazy when I told them what I was going to do one day, having a film production company and producing, directing and acting in films. I even had a family member tell me my dreams were too big, that I wasn't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Whatever it was, it was negative. Even a talent agent in New Zealand said I was living in a dream world, but I believe dreams can come to fruition, and I have made some of my dreams a reality!

TBOF: Accomplishing what you have to date is remarkable in its scope - was there singular groundbreaking experience or moment?

CG: The time my first investor believed in me. That was a feeling like nothing else. That he saw my potential, my hard work and creativity. Still today I can feel that pride, and it keeps me going.

TBOF: What would you share with others as they embark on their independent journey in film and television?

CG: I would say never give up. Just keep going. Think outside the box. Network your socks off! Stay passionate and hungry! And get ready for some hard, long work. You have to put it in to get the results. It's like anything, it doesn't come easy and it won't come to you. Get out there and grab it with both hands!

Contact  During  Cannes  2016  -  Riviera  Stand D7

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Day 1 - May 11th
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