“In the New Zealand context, because we rely on public funding, it’s doubly complicated for Asian creatives. You could get stuck between a rock and a hard place. For some stories you get ‘Yeah, but how can you make this work for all New Zealanders?’ Whereas for other stories you may get, ‘Yeah, but what’s Asian about this? We’d like you to use your voice’. As an Asian do you always have to perform your Asianness? Who decides how ‘Asian’ something really is? Or what does ‘all New Zealanders’ mean? We have a lot of work to do to unpack these ideas.” – Shuchi Kothari, ‘Episode One’ designer and convenor in Medium
Episode One is a high-end development initiative that builds creative and professional capacity within our community of Pan-Asian screen practitioners. Our ambition is to launch sustainable careers for people who have been historically underrepresented in Aotearoa New Zealand’s screen industry. This initiative, made possible with the support of Irirangi Te Motu New Zealand On Air and Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission, has been designed by convenor Shuchi Kothari to take six teams with a web series idea through a development and training programme to create a series bible, pitch deck, and finally the production of a high quality pilot.
This structured course spans four months, including classes and workshops delivered by a range of industry experts. This will be followed by a six to eight-month scaffolded period within which each team produces the pilot episode of their web series. Pilots will be shared with the public and screened to industry stakeholders to solicit series production funding.
This capability-building initiative is geared towards emerging Pan-Asian practitioners who have the potential to develop and deliver a quality web series pilot for a local and/or international audience.
Six selected teams will receive structured tuition, individual mentoring, up to $15,000 for development expenses, and up to $70,000 for the production of the pilot episode.
Boost Pan-Asian capacity in the area of scripted content
Provide craft training and industry literacy to Pan-Asian creatives
Encourage respectful collaboration including working with practitioners of diverse backgrounds
Increase Pan-Asian representation on and behind the screen
Drive innovation in storytelling that breaks “mainstream” barriers
Discover new audiences
Train Pan-Asian practitioners to produce their best work in a culturally safe environment with professional oversight
Develop and produce a pilot episode with a high potential for series production and distribution
The initiative will also boost technical and business capability as it includes tailored mentoring, content development, engagement with local platforms and broadcasters, licensing, content production, marketing, audience building, internationalisation, and engagement strategies, fiscal responsibility, and IP negotiations.
Episode One seeks:
Unique voices with vision and a distinctive, original style
Practitioners with an ambition towards sustained screen careers
Excellence from creative teams who push and challenge boundaries
A series concept that has the potential to showcase Pan-Asian talent
A series concept with the potential to appeal to a broad audiences (international or local)
A series concept that takes risks, provokes and entertains audiences
A series that is confident of its relevance in the world today
The course consists of 9 half-days across four months. The syllabus is designed to include various progressive modules that enable participants to work collectively and individually to produce a series bible, episodic breakdown, pitch deck, and a pilot screenplay.
The development programme will also draw upon industry experts to address topics such as premise, characters, structure, scene design, representation, writers’ room, casting, coverage, creative collaboration, budgeting, contracts, IP, marketing, internationalisation, audience engagement etc. A mixture of workshops and lectures, the course expects a high level of peer engagement and out-of-class work from all teams. In between structured classes the course includes a series of ad-hoc guest lectures by industry experts both from overseas and from within New Zealand.
Also as part of the development process, each writer, director and producer will be matched with respective mentors for individual mentoring sessions.
Shuchi Kothari, the designer and convenor of Episode One, is a critically acclaimed screenwriter and producer with an illustrious history of teaching, mentoring, and advocacy. She has written and produced several award-winning projects (Firaaq, Apron Strings, Rann, Shit One Carries, Coffee & Allah, Fleeting Beauty, A Thousand Apologies, A Taste of Place) that have screened at over 100 international film festivals including Venice, Cannes, Toronto, BFI, Busan, and Telluride and broadcast on national television and Comedy Central.
Shuchi has extensive mentoring experience both as an academic who has taught screenwriting and film production at the University of Auckland for 25 years and also as an industry consultant and mentor who has guided filmmakers on behalf of NZFC, NZOA, Script to Screen, Show Me Shorts, and Outlook for Sunday. Shuchi has served on juries of Film and Television awards, national funding bodies and policy advisory groups.
In 2018 Shuchi co-founded the Pan-Asian Screen Collective to advocate for equitable representation of Asian screen practitioners on and behind the screens in Aotearoa New Zealand. She is currently co-producing a portmanteau feature film that brings together immigrant stories by nine Pan-Asian women writers/directors. She is one of six writers selected for Hollywood’s Blacklist programme in 2021. Shuchi’s work often explores themes of inclusion and exclusion, power and privilege, with a lightness of touch that keeps the drama buoyant.
There will be two stages of assessment.
Stage one: External assessors will generate a short list of up to 12-16 projects based on PASC kaupapa and criteria before Christmas 2021.
Stage two: Shortlisted teams will be interviewed by a panel (second half of January 2022). Post interview deliberations will conclude with the selection of six teams that will participate in this initiative.
1 September 2021 - Applications Open
25 November 2021 - Applications Close
23 December 2021 - Shortlist Notified
17-26 January 2022 - Shortlist Interviewed (online)
31 January 2022 - Final six teams Notified
March - June 2022 - Development Course: classes, workshops for series and pilot
July - August 2022 - Individual Mentoring
September 2022 - March 2023 - Pilot Production
1 April 2023 - Pilots Delivered to PASC and NZOA
The Pan Asian Screen Collective extends our deepest thanks to Irirangi Te Motu New Zealand On Air and Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga New Zealand Film Commission as key funders of Episode One, and to Dr Shuchi Kothari for creating and convening this initiative.
PASC acknowledges the Faculty of Arts, the home of Screen Production, at the University of Auckland and the Asia New Zealand Foundation for supporting Episode One.