Jharaiz Kiriona ticked off a few firsts in the making of his film for the Tropfest competition.

It was the first time he had entered the short film festival and his first time in the director's chair. And not only did the film make the finals, the former Wanganui High School student took out the Te Tohu Auahatanga Maori Award.

Tropfest is the world's largest short film festival and the New Zealand version was held in New Plymouth on Saturday night.

Wings, a seven-minute film, was the idea of writer Georgina Bloomfield who approached Kiriona with it. When they began putting it together Kiriona was only in an acting role before the original director had to pull out.


"I just wanted to develop my character," Kiriona said. "Initially I was just acting on it because I hadn't directed anything before but everyone knew I knew the story better than anyone.

"I do eventually want to do directing and it's always good to practise these things as they come up."

The 25-year-old said it was tough switching between acting and directing roles.

"It was a lot of fun but it was just exhausting."

After months of working on the story, Wings was filmed in three days on the North Shore and was edited in about six weeks after that. The seven-minute film tells the story of a Ruby, played by Grace Goulter, whose dream of flying is eventually facilitated by Kiriona's character Ollie.

Dream was the theme of the festival this year. "We could pretty much interpret that however we wanted it," Kiriona said. "We had the obvious theme of Ruby wanting to fly. As a director that was the main driving force force for the story."

But within that Kiriona's own character Ollie has his own battles. "He essentially has a desire to almost have a peaceful life. His life isn't exactly in a good place but (it shows) the circumstances don't have to dictate what we do in the future."

Nga Aho Whakaari and Te Puni Kokiri sponsored the award which recognises outstanding creativity in film and came with a $2500 prize. Nga Aho Whakaari chairman Whetu Fala was impressed by Kiriona's work on the film.

"His work offers a window of hope for young people facing challenges. Wings is a satisfyingly beautiful short film about the power of love."

Kiriona has completed an on-screen acting course at South Seas in Auckland and has been pursing a career in acting for the past four years.

-The film is available on YouTube under the title 'Wings - 2016 Tropfest NZ Finalist'.