Cian Elyse White was told many times to stop as her ideas were no good.
"But I am dog-headed and now I'm here. It's in my blood."
Now White (Ngāti Te Takinga, Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Porou) is a successful actor, writer and director and, alongside producer Tweedie Waititi, has won the Department of Post Best NZ Film Award at the recent Show Me Shorts Film Festival awards 2020, for te reo short film, Daddy's Girl (Kōtiro).
Director of photography Fred Renata, also won a Best Cinematographer award for the film.
The wins mean the movie is now eligible to be nominated for an Oscar at the prestigious Academy Awards.
"Te reo Māori is my heart and soul," White said.
"To win these awards was surreal. It has been a long, wonderful challenge with many ebbs and flows that began as an idea in 2016 and was completed in January this year."
Daddy's Girl is a story about the undying love between a father and his daughter and the power of that love to endure, even when all else seems lost.
The inspiration behind the film came from White's personal experience. Her Nana died from dementia in 2002. While her Nana's memories slowly slipped away, White explained her Nana's love of singing, music and te reo remained to the end.
"That was what I was exploring here [in the film], but with te reo Māori. Tui speaks te reo, still knows his way around his house and how to cook, but there are other things going on. That is what's revealed in the twist of the film."
White said the support from Rotorua, the NZ Film Commission, Script to Screen, and seasoned mentors such as Renata and the editor of the film Annie Collins, had been key.
"Te Arawa always take care of me. My elders, cousins, friends, iwi, the hapori nei [community], champion me, my reanga [generation], and rangatahi [youth]. I would not have been able to do it without the people I've got around me."
White believed the Rotorua film industry was booming and lucrative.
"We have a $6 million production happening now until Christmas, that's estimated to bring $15.6m into the Rotorua economy. Cousins, the feature film, was shot here last year, and other productions are coming up as well.
"Te Arawa are powerhouses in terms of storytelling. It is in our sinew, our bones. We are part of a whakapapa line [of descent]. We are not the beginning or the end. We are a strand."
With the recent wins under her belt and a booming film scene, White has a desire to create more stories with wāhine Māori at the forefront. She currently has a film that is set in Rotorua, in development.
"I write for me, for people like me. We have won three national awards now and are on several A list international festivals. That tells me there's an audience."