What have Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue) and ChristineLeunens got in common? Well, their novels have not only been snapped up by numerous international publisher but the stories are also currently making their way from the page to the screen. DougBrooks facilitates this ‘behind the scenes’ discussion about the adaptation of Better the Blood and In Amber’s Wake.
Michael Bennett is an award-winning screenwriter, director and author. His short films and feature films have won awards internationally. Better the Blood tells the story of tenacious Māori police detective Hana Westerman who is pulled into the search for Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s first serial killer. Better the Blood is Bennett’s first novel. His first book, In Dark Places (2016), won the Ngaio Marsh Award for nonfiction crime writing.
Christine Leunens’ new novel, In Amber’s Wake, is a romantic drama that is as unpredictable as it is heartfelt, by the author of Prix Médicis-nominated book Caging Skies, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning movie ‘Jojo Rabbit’ directed by Taika Waititi. The film adaptation of In Amber’s Wake, whose screenplay Leunens penned, is currently being made into a motion picture, by the producer of the Academy Award-winning ‘Thelma & Louise’.
Bennett and Leunens will reveal what happens behind the scenes when making a book into a film. Do authors get a say on casting actors? What do you take from the book for the screenplay, what do you need to leave behind? How does the financing of a film work; where do the millions come from? Editing a film, as opposed to a book. Working with hundreds of others, instead of working alone.
Listen to their kōrero on our Pukapuka Talks podcast now:
Michael Bennett’s films have been selected for numerous festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, and New York. In 2008 Michael was the inaugural recipient of the Writers Award from the New Zealand Film Commission, and in 2005 he was awarded the British Council/New Zealand Writers Foundation Award. In 2011 Michael’s feature film ‘Matariki’ won Best Feature Film Screenplay at the New Zealand Screenwriting Awards, and in 2013 he was awarded Best Documentary Screenplay for his documentary on the Teina Pora case, ‘The Confessions of Prisoner T’. He went on to publish In Dark Places in 2016, which won Best Non-Fiction Book at the Ngaio Marsh Awards and Best Biography/History at the Nga Kupu Ora Awards 2017. Michael lives in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and is Head of Screenwriting at South Seas Film School.
Christine Leunens is the author of: Primordial Soup, described by The Sunday Times as ‘a remarkable debut novel’; A Can of Sunshine, selected as one of the Best Books of the Year 2013 by the New Zealand Herald; and Caging Skies. Christine’s novels have been translated into more than 20 languages. She lives in Whakatū Nelson with her family and is currently working on her fifth novel.
Doug Brooks is a New Zealand born writer, actor and director of European and NgātiPāmoana descent and co-founder of the Top of the South Filmmakers. Beginning as an actor before branching out to teaching, writing, directing, and producing, he has been a key player in the growing filmmaking community in his home base of Nelson. His recent acting credits include the short film Blue Moon, the BBC series Mystic, US series The Wilds, and Shortland Street. Doug has had production experience in a wide variety of roles, on sets ranging from BBC Scotland and Dreamworks’ Light Between Oceans to community short film projects. He was nominated for the Falvey Filmmaker of the Year Award at the 2021 Top of the South Film Festival. His short film Sons of 71 won the People’s Choice award at the 2017 Top of the South Film Festival, and The Flame won Best Short Film at the 2017 Auckland International Film Festival. He was also awarded best actor at the Top of the South Film Festival in 2017 and 2016.