APRA Silver Scrolls / Best Original Music in a Feature Film

Tane Mahuta

I could not be more delighted about this!

For the first time, APRA – who have presented the legendary Silver Scroll in New Zealand for 49 years, along with the more recent Maioha Award for music in Te Reo and the SOUNZ Contemporary Award for contemporary classical music – offered two awards for screen composers, Best Original Music in a Feature Film and Best Original Music in a Series.

It was my great pleasure to be in the company of Dave Long and Peter Van der Fluit as a nominee for the inaugural feature film award. Dave was nominated for his fantastic score for Beyond The Edge (view the trailer here) about Sir Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay’s ascent of Everest. Peter was nominated for the extraordinary Romeo and Juliet – A Love Song – a trash-opera retelling of the Shakespeare classic, set in a caravan park! And I was nominated for Field Punishment No.1.

Tom McLeod won the award for Best Music in a Series, for his great work on Girl vs. Boy – and he was nominated alongside the super Karl Steven (for Harry) and Andrew McDowell for Wiki the Kiwi. 

I’ve spoken many times before of our intimate industry and the various inspirations and challenges that go along with writing music for screen in a country with a small population and generally modest resources. I don’t envy whoever judged our awards last night because they were certainly asked to compare apples, oranges and (this being New Zealand after all) an untold array of other much richer and stranger fruit. I felt I was winning by simply being mentioned in the same sentence as Dave and Peter.

Apart from anything else, it is wonderful for a music awards ceremony to recognise the work of screen composers because our work is so often, by its nature, invisible – it’s designed to be part of a greater whole. So the idea that it might also considered as a free-standing entity, and listened to for all the details we know are there, but which fall, as they must, into a different context when they are mixed with all the other artful sounds of a film, is quite a lovely one.

The awards last night were bloody brilliant and reminded me of exactly what manner of wonder can come from an environment like ours. Luke Buda – himself an award winning screen composer (for Taika Cohen’s film, Boy) and member of the terrific Phoenix Foundation – was the Musical Director of a show that highlighted the mad, glorious, trail-blazing imaginations that exist – in disproportionately large numbers – within our little cultural enclave. There were epic analog synth performances, a white-clad choir whooping and wailing, throat singing, a gamelan orchestra, a giant banjo made out of a kick drum, fields of distorted sound… And everything was beautiful. And everything was about as far away from the shiny, corporatised Top 40 / X-Factor aesthetic as it’s possible to get. Long live originality and rebelliousness. Long live the people who inhabit the edges and the corners and the rocky outcrops and the dangerous places. And please, please can we keep building a culture that treasures and values original thought and fights for the risk-taking and the experiments that drive culture and creativity forwards.

I could not have been more proud to be part of our music industry.

The score for Field Punishment No.1 was brought into being with much love by many people – not least the writers and producers of the film, Donna Malane and Paula Boock at Lippy Pictures, the ever gentlemanly Pete Burger who directed it, Fraser Brown and his dignified and powerful portrayal of Archie Baxter – and on the musical side, my dear husband Ashley Brown who performed the cello, Nigel Gavin who performed the Ukelele, Justine Cormack, Dianna Cochrane, Amalia Hall, Jess Hindin, Catherine Bowie, Sue Wedde and David Garner who performed strings, Ryan Youens who got all the notes onto paper with tireless diligence, Andre Upston who engineered and mixed the score with Nick Buckton at Native Audio and Radio New Zealand, with his customary ear for detail and musical sensibility, and Tom Miskin, at Images and Sound, who incorporated the score so beautifully into the final mix.

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Victoria Kelly / Music

I am a composer and performer of music. I have three gorgeous children and a sweet (yet manly) husband... I'm a vegan (but my husband and children are passionate carnivores)... I love reading (and I'm not a literary snob, but I just could NOT stomach more than 2 pages of Fifty Shades of Grey)... I try to keep up a regular yoga practice (and regularly fail)... I appreciate honesty, clarity, mischief, intelligence and humour in other people... my many heroes include Oscar Wilde, Christopher Hitchens, Tina Fey, JS Bach, Prince, Kurt Vonnegut, Igor Stravinsky, Bernard Herrmann, Joni Mitchell, Stanley Kubrick and Francis Bacon... because they all tell the truth, individually and uncompromisingly, as they see it. I wish I could still eat cheese, mayonnaise and red meat but I'm better off without them and the world would probably be a better place if the manufacturing of those foods was carried out on a smaller scale, in a more compassionate, environmentally and socially conscious way. It would be great if we were all more directly involved with our food chain. I always vote, and get a bit tearful on election day, because brave women fought for that right on my behalf and there are women in the world who are still fighting for that right today. But I vote, now, with a sense of hopelessness and cynicism, because I don't think politicians have anything except their own, and their benefactors', best interests at heart. At the risk of sounding too serious, it should be said that I do love a good bottle of Pinot Noir. And indeed, Champagne. In fact... maybe even more than one bottle. More than two bottles however and I will either sing Eye of the Tiger or pretend to be a Solid Gold Dancer. Neither of these things are desirable outcomes. If a person can make me laugh until I cry, struggle to breathe and roll around in pain, I will be their friend forever. My guilty musical pleasure is Roger Whittaker. And, while I like to think of myself as fairly educated about music, I must confess that I simply cannot listen to Wagner. I love my work. And I love being a mother to my children. But I do feel as if, when I'm trying to do both, I do neither well. And yet, if I did only one of those things, my longing for the other would be as miserable as feeling that I can do neither thing well. I think this catch 22 is paralysing almost every woman I know. Feminism is not dead and neither should Masculinism be... men and women have been equally displaced by the social changes of the past few decades. But someone or something is profiteering from our compromises and our sacrifices and I would like to see that injustice addressed and some balance restored. I have no idea what that says about me politically - I believe as much in personal responsibility as I do in compassion for others. I cannot abide greed, racism or prejudice - or the proud and willful ignorance & arrogance that tends to go hand in hand with them. I fear for the world when I see those traits overrepresented in the people who lead us. But show me a good thing well made - whether it's a piece of art, a book, a song, a car, a building, a meal, a neighbourly gesture, a garden or a unified field theory - and I regain my hope for humanity instantly. (The painting is Dirty Grapes by Mark Rothko)

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