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Meet Our Mentors!

Film and Moving Image, Television, Writing for Screen

We’re excited about our first Screen Incubator programme – which is underway with local writers and their mentors.

We wanted to ensure we had mentors with real-world experience and a connection with Otautahi, fortunately for us, we found six of the best!

Tainui Stephens

Born and raised in Ōtautahi, Tainui is behind some of Aotearoa’s best loved documentaries and programmes. Since joining Koha as a reporter in 1984, he has brought many Māori stories to television, and worked on everything from Marae to Māori Television’s version of It’s in the Bag. Among the notable documentaries he has directed are Māori Battalion doco March to Victory and award-winning show The New Zealand Wars. He was a producer on Vincent Ward film Rain of the Children.

Carmen Leonard

Born in Ōtautahi, you will have seen Carmen’s name in a string of producing credits over the years. Television runs in veteran her blood — her father was legendary Māori producer Ernie Leonard. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Leonard has worked across many areas of the industry: from floor managing and first assistant directing, to producing drama and documentaries, including Outrageous Fortune, international hit The CasketeersErebus: Operation Overdue and 2019’s Runaway Millionaires.

Irene Gardiner

Irene Gardiner is known for her work as a producer and commissioning editor, and her time as head of the TVNZ production unit. She has extensive experience in popular factual programmes and documentaries. Gardiner was NZ On Screen’s Content Director from 2009 to 2016, and is also a media commentator. She is the president of Kiwi screen organisation SPADA, and a member of the Radio New Zealand board.

Nadia Maxwell

After five years in the United Kingdom, Nadia Maxwell returned to Aotearoa in 2003, to work at regional film office Film South. As a production manager at Raconteur Productions in Christchurch, she worked on documentaries for TVNZ, TV3 and Al Jazeera, and directed NZ Stories episode Singing With Conviction, and episodes of Making Italy Home. A graduate of Amsterdam’s prestigious Binger Filmlab, she has since produced shorts and two features — Nic Gorman’s three on an island drama Human Traces (2017), which played at festivals in Toronto and Melbourne, and past meets present thriller Reunion (2020).

Rob McLaughlin

Christchurch born, but currently a resident of Auckland, Rob has been directing for over 20 plus years. TV commercials, TV programmes, corporates, film, video, and HD. He began his career in television as a floor manager/1st AD back in the days of “What Now?” and “Son Of A Gunn”, when Christchurch TVNZ was a fully functional and thriving TV station.

He’s directed a lot of TVCs and TV shows, including campaigns for Dilmah Tea, Pizza Hut, Food In A Minute, Sony, Dairy NZ, Electricity Commission TSB Bank, SmartShopper for Progressive Enterprises, amongst many others. He’s also directed the documentary Le Quesnoy -The Legacy of Liberation.

Nick Ward

Nick Ward broke into screenwriting with pool comedy Stickmen. An instant Kiwi hit, the film won him a New Zealand Film Award for Best Screenplay in 2001. He went on to originate and co-write hit romance Second-Hand Wedding, then reconvened with Wedding director Paul Murphy for follow-up Love Birds. In 2019 he created television black comedy Fresh Eggs with Kim Harrop. Ward has also penned episodes of series Outrageous Fortune and Burying Brian, and horror flick The Ferryman.
(Thanks to our content partner NZ On Screen for the biographies of our mentors.)


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