Q & A with Oscar Kightley | Pift Pacific Islanders in Film & TV

Oscar Kightley (MNZM) is a critically acclaimed award winning writer/actor/director who’s done heaps over two decades now. We sat down and did a quick Q & A with him to see what he’s been up to lately. If you want to find out more about Oscar a quick google search will see you right.

Q1 Hi Oscar, thanks much for doing this quick IV. Your most recent big screen appearance has been on ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, that has been incredibly successful, but tell us what other exciting things you have been up to over the past year?

So far it’s been mostly a year of writing so I’ve been chained to my laptop a bit developing a few screenplays. So it hasn’t been that exciting but it’s that vital writing part of the process before you can get on to the fun stuff of making it.

Q2. You mentioned an upcoming project, tell us more about that, or is it still top secret?

it’s not that it’s top secret. It’s just that these things can take ages and lots can still change script wise. So I tend to not talk about things until it’s more real and there’s more to talk about. I don’t want to be one of those people who talks about stuff for ages and then it doesn’t happen.

Q2a In 2014 you teamed up with Taika Waititi under Piki Films. There was talk of an upcoming film set during World War II in Samoa and Germany? Can you tell us anything about this? Or, is this that project…?

That’s been fun to develop with Piki Films. Their thing is to make things happen quickly, or as quickly as possible. The Naked Samoans have been writing that on and off for the last two years. We’re up to a 5th draft now so hopefully we’re getting closer.

Q3 What is it like to work with Taika?

Taika’s a genius. Not only that but he’s a really cool human being. It’s awesome working with him and I learned heaps. I loved how free he was with the scenes and how he didn’t feel stuck to the lines he’d written. [in reference to Hunt for the Wilderpeople]

Q4. What was it like working on the Wilderpeople?

One of the things I loved about Wilderpeople is that I wasn’t involved in the writing. It’s probably the first thing I’ve acted in where I haven’t been involved with the writing. With all my other work I had various off screen roles too so it wasn’t totally relaxing. In Wilderpeople I could just turn up and be an actor and have fun. Plus all the other actors were pretty fun to hang out with too so that was cool. It was great only being responsible for myself and making sure I learned my lines and stood in the right place.

Q5. Any plans for Sione’s 3?


I wish! I get asked that a lot from fans of that movie series. I would love to do a third part. If James [Griffin] and I can find some time to sit down and think up a cool idea for it that is also funny, we’ll definitely try and get support to make it happen.

Q6. You had your directorial debut in 2013 with the short film ‘Tom’s Dairy’ supported in part by the Commonwealth Writers Initiative. This faithful look at 80’s West Auckland is a lovely piece of work. Firstly, how was the experience of taking the idea for a short from start to finish and are you looking to do more directing of that sort? What were the challenges if any? Any advice for anyone also getting their’ shorts together?

I always wanted to make a short because I thought that’s the only way you can prove your onscreen directing chops so you can make something longer. That story is always what I had in mind so I’m glad I got to make it. It was thanks to my friend Elizabeth Mitchell who had also created and produced Bro’Town. I got to direct Madeline Sami’s second series of Super City II after that so I’m thankful for that experience. I’m definitely planning to do more directing. I don’t know about making another short film though. It was quite tough to make it happen and it wouldn’t have been possible without the goodwill, love and support of heaps of people who worked for next to – if not actually – nothing. My advice to anyone getting their shorts together is that it’s an absolute pain in the muli and you can only do it if you really love your idea and are determined to get it done.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – AUGUST 24: Elizabeth Mitchell, Oscar Kightley and Mario Gaoa receive the award for Best Script in a TV Comedy for Bro’Town at the Air New Zealand Screen Awards at Sky City Theatre August 24, 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand. The awards are regarded as the premier film and television industry awards in New Zealand. (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

Q7. You’ve been writing a regular column for the Sunday News for awhile now. Some of your commentary gets political; are we detecting a political bent? 

I’ve been writing a weekly column for the Sunday News for 5 years now. I’ve written about all sorts of things – some funny, some serious. I don’t have any specific political ambitions. It’s just that if you have the privilege of that kind of platform, it comes with a responsibility and you should use it to say stuff that could be useful.

Q8. How do you think Pacific people are faring in Aotearoa today? And, in particular where do you see us in the moving image/media/film landscape? Is there hope in pandora’s box?

Sole, that’s that’s three questions in one! I think Aotearoa is still a lucky country, compared to many others, so we should appreciate that. A lot of Pacific people swung to National to help them get into power 8 years ago, yet I’m not sure whether Pacfiic people are faring better than before. If someone can show me we are, I would happily listen. As for the moving image landscape, I don’t know enough about what’s happening at the ground level to comment. I try to stay busy contributing what I can to add to that landscape. And I hope any Pacific creatives out there get the support and opportunities they seek.

Malo lava Oscar and all the best.