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Set in Queenstown: From left, Tom Augustine, Isla Macleod, Malinna Liang and Danny Aumua spent three weeks immersing themselves in the district to create television production proposals

by LUCY WORMALD

Four proposals for southern-based television productions have emerged from an inaugural Queenstown screenwriters residency.

The Tahuna Writers Residency, created last year by Great Southern Television (GST) in partnership with Film Queenstown Lakes, saw Danny Aumua, Malinna Liang, Tom Augustine and Isla Macleod selected from more than 150 applicants from across the country for three weeks of workshops, mentoring, writing and pitching.

GST drama head Kathleen Anderson says the residency, supported by the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air, was about providing industry immersion with an eye on creating contemporary southern-based stories.

‘‘We want to foster more writing talent.

‘‘It’s difficult for writers to get their foot in the door — we have a long history of using the same writers … but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for new voices,’’ she says.

The writers were taken on trips around the district so they could “quickly feel at home”, before meeting local producers, commissioners and programmers and talking with international buyers and developers, Anderson says.

At the end of the residency, each submitted a full series proposal to go before a GST feedback panel, where at least one will be selected for development.

‘‘They contain not only the idea that they would like to make, but also character descriptions, [and] full series outline, beginning, middle, and end — we’re really impressed with the quality,’’ Anderson says.

Malinna Liang, who submitted a proposal for a caper thriller, says she’s never seen a residency like it.

“NZ is kind of famous for producing writers or actors, [however] there are very few initiatives, especially ones that are funded as generously as this one, specifically for writers,” she says.

Usually hired for other people’s projects and helping achieve someone else’s vision, Liang relished the opportunity to look for a story without a set criteria.

‘‘When you’re in a place for a month and you have that level of immersion, you can come up with stuff that’s not just surface-level.

‘‘And when you go away for that period of time and you get given that freedom and that trust, you can explore [and] come up with something that’s kind of uniquely yours.’’

Anderson says the residency will run again, agreeing platforms for new writers can be hard to come by.

‘‘You can throw your idea out to the world … but it’s not the same as giving people the opportunity to really immerse themselves in the environment, and also immerse themselves in television and find out from the global television makers what the mandates are, what are people looking for right now, and how can you achieve it?’’

Film Queenstown Lakes coordinator Kahli Scott says the residency’s a promising model for generating local script ideas and bringing more production to the district.

lucy.wormald@scene.co.nz