Humour and heart win emerging filmmaker award

Congratulations to Yuzhou (Yvette) Liu who has received the 2021 Geoff Murphy Emerging Filmmaker award.

Behind the scenes of 'Mary'
Behind the scenes of 'Mary'
The award was established to honour the late Geoff Murphy (Goodbye Pork Pie), who was a leading figure in the New Zealand film industry in the 1970s, and is awarded to the top student in the Master of Fine Arts (Creative Practice) (MFA(CP)) Film programme.

Yvette wrote and produced Mary, a funny but moving short film, which the judges described as original, cleverly structured, with compelling performances from the main cast. The film follows Mary, a Chinese-Kiwi girl who has been hiding her romantic relationships from her traditional mother and the resulting fall out when the truth comes out.

“Her efficiency and positive personality combined with her creative and original approach was recognised by judges and appreciated by the MFA(CP) staff,” says MFA(CP) Film programme director Associate Professor Paul Wolffram.

“I feel very honoured to receive this award and to be recognised by industry filmmakers and the MFA(CP) staff members. I feel inspired by Geoff Murphy’s work, which showcased New Zealand’s cultural identities on-screen internationally,” says Yvette.

Mary is inspired by Yvette’s own experiences growing up with different ideologies and values from her family and having to decide whether to be honest when that could damage relationships. “Obviously in the film, the drama is manifested to a greater degree,” says Yvette.

Yvette acknowledges the impact of her fellow classmates and supervisors on her success: “We all know that no great work is a one-man job, therefore, although I won, the credit goes to all my cohort and my supervisors. The film ended up richer than its original script, thanks to the creative input from the cast and crew. I feel privileged to have worked on these projects alongside my talented peers.”

Prior to coming to Wellington to study the MFA(CP), Yvette was working as a production manager on NZ-China animated preschool shows in China, but saw the Master’s programme as an opportunity to expand her knowledge and creative skills in filmmaking, especially in live-action.

The MFA(CP) degree is designed to give the students opportunities to work in different roles on each other’s projects. “It gave me an understanding of how each department within a film production works and helped me become a better producer in the long term. It also encouraged me to be creative in areas where I have no prior experience.

“This fit perfectly with my desire to learn, and through my previous work experience, I knew that Wellington is full of wonderful, creative, talented people.”

“The MFA(CP) provided us with a safe space for trial and error, to refine our ideas, and to become friends and working partners. The most valuable lesson was learning to collaborate and to learn from the people I work with.”

Since completing her MFA(CP) earlier in 2021, Yvette has taken a job in Wellington working in VFX production, which will further her filmmaking knowledge and give her the opportunity to develop ideas and stories on cultural identity and the immigrant experience, the topics close to her heart.