Police drama series wins Wellington University Prize

A television drama series fictionalising events around the Te Urewera police raids of 2007 has been awarded the 2019 David Carson-Parker Embassy Prize in Scriptwriting at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

Ken Duncum, Sam Kelly, Jonathan King, Marie Mamea-Crawford, Bill Sheat, Damien Wilkins

Written by David Mamea as part of his 2019 Master of Arts (MA) in Creative Writing folio at the University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), drama series Burning Spear, is described by its examiners as ‘visual and cinematic’ and ‘a political story with interesting things to say about race relations, in what is also an action-packed cop drama’.

Named in honour of the late David Carson-Parker, the $3,000 prize is awarded annually to an outstanding MA (Scriptwriting) student at the IIML.

Burning Spear features a disparate group of disenchanted police officers who find themselves caught up in behind-the-scenes machinations leading up to the raids, and resolve to break ranks in an attempt to prevent an injustice.

David says of his MA course, "The writing was relatively easy, it was the conversations around the work that were hard—to be up front with your supervisor and your classmates: ‘This is what I want to write but I have no idea what I'm talking about.’ And to be told over and over: ‘We trust you. You're okay. You're not alone’."

An examiner of the winning script wrote, 'Burning Spear is a compelling and entertaining drama with lots of excellent action scenes and characters who are three-dimensional and well-drawn. The series also asks some excellent questions about this country that New Zealanders would do well to try and answer'.

Fellow MA (Scriptwriting) student Jonathan King has won the Brad McGann Film Writing Award for his feature film script The Henge.

Named in honour of the late Brad McGann (writer/director of In My Father’s Den) the award is also worth $3,000.

The Henge is a horror story set in a big house in the country in which self-appointed guru Cleo has set up an alternative community. Meg, her husband, and young son are welcomed into the community and all initially seems idyllic, until Cleo’s real aims become apparent and the history of the house begins to press in on everyone.

Examiners described The Henge as ‘gripping’, 'emotionally involving and atmospheric', 'a confident take on the horror genre' with 'a sense of dread in almost every scene'.

Jonathan says, "Although I came to the MA in Creative Writing at the IIML with some professional experience behind me, I found the year to be one of the most thrilling and rewarding creative experiences of my life and it was a privilege to experience it among such a talented group of writers. I didn’t know Brad McGann well, but met him once and enjoyed it very much. It’s an honour to receive this prize in his name."