Joanna Hunkin is the Head of Entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Oscars 2016: Kiwi producer Finola Dwyer set to make history

Finola Dwyer has been based in the United Kingdom since the early 90s but says she is still very much a Kiwi. Photo / Getty
Finola Dwyer has been based in the United Kingdom since the early 90s but says she is still very much a Kiwi. Photo / Getty

When Kiwi producer Finola Dwyer walks the Oscar red carpet tomorrow, she will be making history.

Nominated for Best Picture for the film Brooklyn, she and her business partner Amanda Posey are the first female producing team to be nominated twice for the prestigious prize.

The first time was in 2010 for the coming-of-age tale An Education. Six years later, Dwyer says she has learnt to pace herself ahead of the big night but admits the whole experience is still a great thrill.

"It was so fun the last time. The red carpet's great, the whole thing is just very exciting, really. It's thrilling to see people that you really like and admire."

Dwyer has been based in the United Kingdom since the early 90s but says she is still very much a Kiwi. In fact, she believes being a New Zealander has been fundamental to her success.

"We tend to cut to the chase, push on and just get on with things. That's always been my approach."

Born and raised in Wellington, Dwyer began her career at the National Film Unit before working as an editor at TVNZ, working on the institution that is Country Calendar.

She quickly progressed to producing and created New Zealand's first successful talk show, McCormick. But after two seasons, she left New Zealand, following her then-husband to London, where he had taken up a job offer.

"I wouldn't have ever gone otherwise. I had no desire to go.

"It was tough. I was doing well in New Zealand, I was producing films and television and was doing everything I wanted to do.

"Coming to London, it was the end of Thatcher's time in power. England was really depressed. There was such high unemployment, the film industry was in the doldrums. It was a really difficult time in the early 90s to go to London. I really absolutely hated it. "

It took her nearly a year to find work as a producer, facing daily rejection from across the industry.

"There was one guy, an American who lived and worked in England. He said, 'Nobody will give you a break. Why should they? The English industry is in such dire straits and there are so many people not working. Why would they give somebody from NZ a break?'

"I walked out of his office and nearly burst into tears but then thought 'F*** you, I'll show you'."

And she did. Fifteen years later, she ran into him again and thanked him for his brutal advice. Rather than break her, it had calcified her resolve to succeed.

By the time her marriage ended, Dwyer had invested so much in establishing her now flourishing career, she decided to stay.

"Every year when I go home I feel [New Zealand] is where I should be living. That's why Brooklyn is just so personal for me."

Based on the book by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish girl who emigrates to New York and is forced to choose between her new life in America and her friends and family back home.

Set in the 1950s, the story instantly resonated with Dwyer, whose own mother emigrated from Ireland in 1951.

Dwyer herself continues to struggle with conflicting feelings about a return to New Zealand. But she certainly hasn't ruled it out.

"I couldn't do what I'm doing there. Whether I do something completely different - like open a coffee bar on Waiheke Island. There's a lot of other things to do in life. Producing is very demanding and it's hard to have a life as well as do it."

For now, she's still happy to meet those demands -- and enjoy the thrill of Hollywood's biggest night.

The Oscars is on today and is bringing you all the action. Spy Editor Ricardo Simich joins The Hits host Polly Gillespie and NZME's Laura McGoldrick to deliver our take on who got it right and who got it wrong on the red carpet. Tune in for our live blog from 11.30am and don't miss our Red Carpet Report video, live on from 5pm.

- NZ Herald

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