Playwright, director, script writer and actor Briar Grace-Smith has become an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to theatre, film and television.

"I was absolutely blown away," said Briar regarding the Queen's Birthday Honours List award.

"Last year I went to visit a friend who was given the same award and I didn't expect that I would be receiving one this year, it is awesome.

"I've received awards in my life but it took me by surprise.


"I started thinking of how proud my parents would be if they were alive, they would be particularly proud of this one.

"It is quite amazing."

Briar's career in the industry started when training as a journalist with The Evening Post, sent to interview a Māori theatre company who were auditioning.

"The theatre company were auditioning, they needed an actress and I ended up not interviewing them and just auditioning for the role as an actress.

"I got the part and for 18 months I toured as an actor and then I started to write small plays for the company that we started to perform.

"So that's where it started and it didn't stop."

Briar, who lives in Paekākāriki, then produced a range of early plays between 1995 and 1997, which premiered at Taki Rua theatre before touring the country and abroad.

She has written 11 major theatrical plays to date and since 1998 has also written for short films, feature films and television.

She made her directorial debut in 2012 with the short film 9 of Hearts and was one of nine women directors and writers who co-created the feature film Waru.

Having found out months ago that she had been nominated for this award, it is the other directors from Waru that Briar is most looking forward to celebrating her success with.

"I'm really excited to tell the eight other women who I worked with on Waru with.

"I come from a very supportive community of arts practitioners.

"We celebrate everything we do and we get really happy for each other when something good comes our way so I'm excited to tell them."

Starting her journey back when she went to a play with her mother when she was 6 years old, Briar said, "I became obsessed with theatre and the way that plays were written and told, so I started writing little skits at school and at home."

Now Briar is adding directing to her bow with feature films also on the cards in the future.

Over the years she has grown to become proud of the combination of all her works together rather than a specific work.

"Recently I've worked a lot more in film, moving to directing which is exciting but now as I'm older it's the body of work I feel most proud of producing."