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International award for film lecturer and scriptwriter

A still image from the short film A World In Your Window, photo, Gareth Moon

Costa Botes

A film with a script written by Wellington filmmaker Costa Botes, who lectures in screenwriting and documentary making at Massey’s Wellington campus, has won best short film at a Japanese film festival.

Mr Botes, who teaches at the School of English and Media Studies, and director Zoe McIntosh’s 15-minute film The World In Your Window was awarded first prize at the festival Short Shorts in Tokyo.

It follows the film being awarded the student prize in the international section of the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France in March.

Jurors described Mr Botes’ script about a son helping his father recover from the grief over his wife’s death, as a “real visual poem”. The film, praised for “the breath of humanism and tolerance that emerges”, will have its New Zealand premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival next month.

Mr Botes is a long-time independent filmmaker with experience in short films, television and features. More recently, he has specialised in long form documentaries, alongside his lecturing role at Massey University.

“For me, having been a freelancer for 35 years, it’s quite a culture shift.”

While the reality of making films was a long way from the glitz and glamour often portrayed in the industry, entering and then being acknowledged for such awards remained “incredibly special”.

“It’s all about creating a buzz around your work. It can make a very tangible difference too.”

It is the fifth time Mr Botes has worked with McIntosh, who has had approaches that could soon see her make her first full-length feature film.

Mr Botes seeks to inspire his students with his experiences and encourage them to also enter screenwriting and documentary-making competitions.

“Any opportunity to validate yourself is good, as you can be working a long time and I think [filmmaking is] about being able to meet an audience.”

He sees his own role as being more about creating an atmosphere of trust rather than just applying academic rigour to the task of teaching the craft.

His style clearly works. Last December one of his students, Alice Guerin, was presented with the Weta Digital Award at the annual Outlook for Someday Awards – a sustainability film project open to budding filmmakers aged under 25. At the time she credited Mr Botes’ advice and support for helping make her own film project.

Teaching is just the latest skill Mr Botes has added to a resume of film-based work.

A graduate of the llam School of Fine Arts in Christchurch, he collaborated with Peter Jackson on the 1995 made-for-television historical spoof film Forgotten Silver. Other works in Mr Botes’ back catalogue include Act of Kindness, a story of a young Kiwi’s search in the streets of Rwanda for a homeless crippled beggar who years earlier had helped him out of a potentially risky predicament, and editing and producing Lost in Wonderland about iconoclastic lawyer Rob Moodie, who made headlines last decade when arguing a case in court while wearing a dress.

He encourages his students to seek out their own documentary film subjects noting that it’s a definite advantage if the filmmaker has regular access to their subject.

Despite entering the movie industry industry at a time of upheaval triggered by streaming services and growing instances of film piracy, Mr Botes says today’s budding filmmakers still have plenty of opportunity to make their mark.

“I tell them if you’re good enough, have talent, persevere and work hard you have every chance.”


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