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Briar Grace-Smith on set with Ainsley Gardiner

identified most with Missy, and each became the spokesperson-meets-lead-director for their respective character’s segments of the film. The pair thought about bringing in a third direc- tor to be responsible for Makareta’s focus, but recognised it would be hard to add another el- ement to the mix. Grace-Smith is also in the film, playing the elder Makareta, a role originally to be filled by the late Nancy Brunning. “As time went on we saw she was becoming increasingly frail,” says Gardiner, “but we just couldn’t replace her, her mana was too great. Nancy, Briar, and Rachel (House, who plays the elder Missy), had come up together as actors, so Briar auditioned, stepped in, and did a great job.” As the pair observed children in schools around the country as part of the casting process, did they uncover any future stars? “Always,” says Gardiner with no hesitation, “it’s always such a wonderful part of the filmmaking process. We did it on Boy , and with some other short films, and it is amazing how much talent is out there. You’re spoiled for choice.” When she worked on Boy , the crewwere based on an East Coast marae, and Gardiner has said that she was determined to find a way of work- ing that suited people's families, and spouses and children were welcome. Was it the same with Cousins ? “Absolutely. It’s tikanga for us, an underlying way of working that is just natural for now. Life and art have no boundaries.” Gardiner had the full red carpet experience with short film Two Cars, One Night , when it was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film at the 2005 Academy Awards. Does shemiss the ability to travel with her work, or has Covid allowed her to stop and breathe a little? “With Cousins it was a bit of a blessing to be honest, we got to spend more time on the film. “With a film like this with so many elements to put in place, we were really grateful to slow down.” COUSINS – IN CINEMAS 4TH SEE MORE

first- time feature film directors are co-directing it, which never would have got across the line almost twenty years ago”. One wonders: how does the co-directing pro- cess work – are both women on set all the time, or did each select elements they’d like to work with? “We actually found a really elegant way of doing it in the end,” explains Gardiner, who has workedwith different co-directors in the past “where personality and might win at the end of the day!” The ones that work well are often family who work together, as they have a long understanding of how the other communicates. She and Grace-Smith have had a great work- ing relationship over the years, and gradually learned each other’s artistic language. They worked on the script development and pre- production of Cousins for almost six years too, so by the time filming rolled around, they had high levels of trust in each other. The process came down to the three main pro- tagonists in the story, and who each identified with the most. They drew on personal experi- ences, characteristics, and understandings to infuse cousins Missy, Mata and Makareta with the spirit of the author, as well as their own journeys. “I identified with Mata because I was- n’t raised on a marae around wha¯nau,” says Gardiner. “I had a more middle class, pa¯keha¯ experience growing up inWellington, andMata’s sense of isolation from hapu¯, iwi, language, and culture was definitely felt by me.” Grace-Smith

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