28 Apr 2024

From aquatic algae to Niuean rites of passage: Loading Docs back for 10th season

From Culture 101, 12:30 pm on 28 April 2024


Julia Parnell

Julia Parnell Photo: Supplied

It’s the 10th season of Loading Docs - an initiative to showcase Aotearoa’s documentary  filmmakers. For a decade, it’s helped mentor emerging talent who’ve gone on to pursue successful careers in the screen industry. 

Audiences can support projects and filmmakers through Boosted campaigns - an Arts Foundation crowdfunding platform to help them reach an all-or-nothing goal of $5000. 

Speaking to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau, Loading Docs founder and filmmaker Julia Parnell says crowd-funding is an important part of the process. The filmmakers are supported in the creative process, through production and post-production, but Parnell also wanted to teach filmmakers about putting their finances together.

“We want to enable our filmmakers to have the money they need to make the films but we looked at it as being a holistic programme of professional development.

“We cannot just rely on government funding. We need to think laterally about audiences and crowdfunding is a learning opportunity.”

Filmmakers are encouraged to think about how to communicate their ideas and projects while in the development phase and in early pre-production. It’s a lesson in pitching and getting audience buy-in.

“How do you engage your first followers that will stay with you through release?”

“They all have to do these videos.. It’s difficult to put yourself out there and you have to be brave but filmmaking and documentary filmmaking is an act of bravery in of itself. 

“The best films have the filmmaker’s heart and motivation at the centre of the progress so being brave enough to put your face in front of your project when pitching it is one of the biggest steps in creating something people will want to watch.”

Six projects are now in the crowd-funding process with some achieving their $5000 goal on the first day.

Those films can now work towards a ‘stretch’ goal where the funding aim is increased.

Once the minimum target is reached, it then unlocks further funding and support from Loading Docs. 

The short documentaries can range from seven or eight minutes to 15 minutes. Films range from the threat of aquatic algae to marine life in the waters around Aotea Great barrier island to a young man facing a Niuean rite of passage: his first haircut in a hifi ulu ceremony.

Parnell has been reflecting on starting Loading Docs in 2024. 

“The environment for documentaries was quite restricted. I have really dedicated my career to documentary storytelling and we were thinking about how we could expand the opportunity.”

It was also the first year of NZ On Air’s digital media fund. It was the first foray into funding stories with a digital-first focus. 

While the stories should appeal to local audiences, there are benefits to thinking globally which could attract international funding. 

“We are very lucky in NZ with the support we have. There is the sense that if you can attract funding support locally and internationally it shows the funders you have a project worth supporting.” 

Julia Parnell spoke to Culture 101’s Perlina Lau.