Dream coming true after cancer turns life around

By David Loughrey

Dunedin writer and director Emma Schranz has gained funding for two short films in Otago, and is working on overseas productions. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Dunedin writer and director Emma Schranz has gained funding for two short films in Otago, and is working on overseas productions. Photo / Peter McIntosh

A Dunedin woman who found breast cancer a great motivator to chase her ambition of being a film-maker is working on films in New York and Hollywood, and now two of her own in Otago.

Emma Schranz has won $10,000 funding from Short Film Otago for not one, but two of her scripts, with both about to go into pre-production.

All that is going on while the mother of a 1-year-old daughter is completing a master's degree at the University of Otago and working towards making her own Dunedin-based feature film, after gaining support from the New Zealand Film Commission.

Miss Schranz said she was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 32, and the cancer had been in remission for six years.

"It was a great thing because it completely turned my life around in the sense of what I want to do, and I decided not to waste any more time.

"I'd always wanted to do film, but I thought it was a frivolous pursuit, and unrealistic.''

She said since making a decision to do that, she had "achieved more in the last six years of my life than the 15 before''.

"That's a great motivator.''

Born in England, raised in Hong Kong and schooled in Australia, Miss Schranz came to New Zealand with her parents when they retired to Wanaka in 2007.

She completed a bachelor's degree in digital media in Invercargill in 2013, then moved to Dunedin with partner Logan Westwood, who works at NHNZ.

Miss Schranz did a postgraduate diploma in natural history film-making at the University of Otago in 2014 and is now doing a master's degree in science communication.

She got her first job in film "straight out of film school'', working on the script of a Hollywood feature in 2013, a film still in development.

She got the job after entering New Zealand competition Make my Horror Movie, and while she did not win, an American producer read her idea and liked it, and a job screenwriting from New Zealand followed.

That, she said, was "pretty lucky''.

"It was my first job. It was a biggie, too.''

She then got work writing for another feature film in New York, which was also in development.

She had also been chosen by the New Zealand Film Commission as one of eight people to get support to make a feature film of her own, a fictional drama about a highwaywoman in Dunedin in the 1860s.

"It's a fictional drama, but it's kick-ass.

"I call it Girl with the Dragon Tattoo meets Deadwood.''

She would be directing one and writing another of her Short Film Otago-funded film ideas.

One was called Eyrie, about a motorcyclist who has a collision with a hawk eating roadkill, then ends up in hospital with locked in syndrome.

The other was about a relationship between an old man at a beach and a young boy, with a sinister twist.

"I can actually say with confidence now that I'm probably going to be a film director and screenwriter, which is a dream come true.

"To do it as a mum is another really cool thing.''

- Otago Daily Times

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