Professional Weirdo: Filmmaker Pachali Brewster
Pachali Brewster came to Wellington to “be an eccentric queerdo”. Now she’s producing a documentary about diversity, innovation, and sustainability for Wellington UNESCO City of Film
Pachali Brewster has been writing, directing, and producing uproarious and unconventional indie and community content for the stage, screen, and internet, for the past sixteen years. She specialises in satire and absurdity, and her work often features strong elements of sci-fi, horror, drama, and feminist/sexual politics.
Pachali’s love story with Wellington began in 2004 when she won an all-expenses paid trip to be a young journalist at Youth Parliament. “I fell in love with Wellington’s arty culture, vibe, and aesthetics. I quickly realised that this was the place to be.”
She soon moved to the capital to study film and philosophy at Victoria University of Wellington and found the city an easy place to make friends, network, and build community. “I've often found that in Wellington, when you meet a stranger for the second time, you are now friends, henceforth.” Pachali says living in Wellington means she can “freely be an eccentric queerdo” because the vibrant culture allows it. “Many of my people are here: burners, hippies, punks, artists, and the occasional wizard.”
Proudly queer and NZ-Eurasian, Pachali has been steadily gaining notoriety in the screen industry for her distinctive and humorous voice and experimental indie cred. “I used to describe myself as an ‘indie writer/director/producer of stage, screen and internet’ but recently I've begun describing myself as a 'Professional Weirdo', as I am an openly eccentric woman who ticks most of the ‘diversity boxes’.”
Last year Tanya Black, who runs Wellington UNESCO City of Film, got in touch. Aware of Pachali’s history of producing unconventional work and community projects, Tanya wanted her to produce and direct a documentary about diversity, innovation, and sustainability in Wellington’s film industry.
The best piece of advice I ever heard is: Let your freak flag fly, so the other freaks know where to find you
Pachali’s response was enthusiastic: “A doco about sustainability and innovation in screen work? AND an excuse to meet creative, articulate people to discuss the future of filmmaking? With BONUS POINTS for creating something that’s also engaging, entertaining, and visually interesting? That’s a dream job, sign me up!”
The project is called Diverse Voices: Making Screen Work Different. “We interviewed six different innovators from six different backgrounds, who were all from the Wellington region: Casey Zilbert, Laura Yilmaz, Kathleen Winter, Jade Jackson, Oriwa Hakaria, and Adi Parige. Then we formed a hui around our central question: How can we make screen work different?”
Victoria University of Wellington’s Missy Molloy and Raqi Syed served as hui facilitators, and Massey University College of Creative Arts offered their “international-standard, tech-lover’s dream of a soundstage” for the shoot.
“The interesting thing was, as we went about creating this doco, with its experimental form and content, we realised that the process of participating in the doco, whether they were in front of, or behind the camera, had been the true journey all along. It has also meant training and work opportunities for new and emerging local crew, all-in-all fitting perfectly into the UNESCO City of Film’s vision of a more inclusive, diverse, and innovative screen sector."
Now in post-production, the documentary will be released online on 18 May and will be available to view for free on Wellington UNESCO City of Film.
In the meantime, Pachali says that three things people could be doing to better support diverse voices are: “helping remove the barriers that exist to ‘breaking in’, encouraging funding bodies to take more risks, and recognising a screen project’s cultural value, as opposed to just its commercial value.”
Wellington was named a Creative City of Film by UNESCO in November 2019.