Napier woman Ali Beal is neither lacking skills nor the desire to learn.

She has embarked on a string of programmes - teacher training, opera singing, tourism attractions and also local amateur theatre.

Now Beal, nearly 40, is harnessing her wide-ranging life experience and talents in study for EIT's Diploma in Screen Production.

"For the first time in years I feel this is so where I am supposed to be," she said.


Ali recently won the senior section of the inaugural Media Machine competition run by Maori Television, Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc and Awa Transmedia Studios. Her winning entry was titled The Liberator.

It was the story of a professional assassin who delivers a body part as proof that she has completed an assignment.

"I like telling stories and I like its shock value," she said of the three-minute movie.

"You need fresh air passed over you, to think outside the box. It's uncomfortable, but then life's not comfortable."

It was something of a natural progression. She was involved in school productions at Taradale High School and, blessed with a great singing voice, completed EIT's Diploma in Performing Arts.

As a young mum she joined a local "improv" theatre group which led to a break at Hawke's Bay's CornEvil in Longlands Road where she orchestrated haunted horror corn maze shows.

Three years later she added Napier Prison's DeadHill Haunted tours to her CV.

Then, having discovered local theatre, she wanted to look at stage craft in a different way.

"I've been waiting to get on to the screen production programme for four years, but it was only this year that everything fell into place."

She wondered how she would relate to her younger classmates but said having a sense of humour helped.

"I am the mum," she laughed of her role in the class.

A more tech-savvy student is helping her master her iPad, which, together with Bay All Day clothing and a recent trip to the Maori Television studios in Auckland, made up her prize-winning package from the Media Machine competition.

"Spending a day with everyone at Maori TV last week was amazing - especially my mentor for the day, reporter Aroha Treacher. I realised just how lucky I am to find this screen production programme because it gives me a new vehicle for all my creative passions."

As to the future, she is in at least three minds.

"I want to keep doing local theatre but also feel the pull of a national stage. I'm also interested in learning how to make documentaries, to start telling stories here in Hawke's Bay that might have a wider appeal."

The ideal scenario, she says, would be to have her base in Hawke's Bay, while coming and going to accommodate the demands of an eclectic creative career.