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Acting Graduate: I tell the stories of my people

  • Hanelle Harris - Unitec Acting Graduate
    Hanelle Harris - Unitec Acting Graduate

JOB: Filmmaker and actor

QUALIFICATION: Bachelor of Performing & Screen Arts (Acting for Screen and Theatre) & Postgraduate Diploma in Creative Practice 

“I'm a filmmaker and a storyteller. I tell the stories of my Maori and Pasifika people so that society can better understand us and in doing so have empathy. It's through this empathy that brings people together. My media studies teacher recommended I apply for Unitec, which had one of the best drama schools in the country. At seventeen years of age, I auditioned and was the youngest to secure a place in the acting programme.
“Filmmaking was an unexpected evolution for me. It wasn't until my tutor encouraged me that I'd make a good director after seeing me do some scene work with a group of friends at Unitec.  I love writing and directing and gutted I never started earlier. I only studied film for a year, but I got in a lot of hours and didn't have any fear about being on set when I stepped into the industry. Unitec gave me great confidence because there isn't too much difference between school projects and the way low budget productions in the industry are run.
“The first short film I shot after I graduated, The Promise of Piha, involved Unitec students and graduates. We crowd funded and it ended up travelling the world on the film festival circuit. I thought it was amazing that a film made with such little money could speak to so many people. This film has had over 20 international screenings. Creating and making the web series, Baby Mama's Club is also really up there. Any time an idea starts in your mind and it manifests on screen is just such a humbling experience.”
“I’ve been really lucky to have made a living wearing different hats in the industry. I have a couple of feature film projects in the pipeline. They're very different to each other but they're still very much me and my voice. My advice to others is know your voice and what matters to you in the world. Figure out what you're passionate about and create from that place. Being original is about knowing your quirk or purpose.”