Issue date: 
Monday, 26 June 2023

We were thrilled to welcome Annie Murray as our new CEO at the NZFC last week. Although it was a busy week we managed to grab a few minutes of her time to ask her some questions about her background and what she is looking forward to.  

What attracted you to the screen industry?

Stories have been my passion for as long as I can remember.

We were the first in our street to get a colour TV so the neighbours would all come over to watch it. It made us popular, and as a kid that mattered!  My brother and I would go to the movies every Saturday at 2 o'clock. I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. on the big screen and not wanting to leave the cinema at the end. I was a huge reader and thought I would grow up to be either a detective or a spy, and I loved the kids' stories on the radio on Sunday mornings. Once Mum was away and Dad got dressed up to take us kids out to the Starlight Cinema, we were devastated when the man at the door turned us away because I was too young. That was Goodbye Pork Pie. Dad getting dressed up to go out was a rare event when we were little, so the importance of that movie is stored in my memory.

Tell me about how you started working in the industry. 

I came to the industry through PhD research I was doing on children as TV viewers. After far too many years at university I chucked in the PhD and finally found my niche in the children’s unit at Avalon Studios on What Now and other kids shows. My iwi is Te Arawa but in TV production I found my tribe, I loved it and didn’t look back.

Tell me a bit about your background in the screen sector.

My mahi as a commissioner was often about uplifting the voices of the unseen and unheard, giving expert but unpretentious New Zealanders their time on screen. I've commissioned all genres from childrens to arts, comedy, drama, and documentary. I've worked for TVNZ, Whakaata Māori, Sky TV and NZ On Air with consulting work in between. What I love about commissioning is being able to take an idea from the beginning right through to finding an audience and hearing people talk about what they've seen. Whether they like it or not, if they've watched it and have something to say about it then my job is done. 

Can you tell me about your whakapapa?

I'm mostly Irish with a bit of Māori and English. My ancestors were fighting chiefs and canoe builders, shopkeepers, teachers, nurses and engineers. Our iwi is Tūhourangi of Te Arawa and my great grandmother was Taima Te Ngahue, who was a survivor of the Tarawera eruption in 1886. She married Joseph Rickit, who emigrated from Louth in Lincolnshire in the 1850s, after serving in the Armed Constabulary he set up businesses in Taupo and together they had a lot of kids. Mum’s Irish side is through her Dad, Stanley Clarke, who came from the Kennedy and Clarke families of Portrush in the north. Grandad Stan was a breeder of champion British Bulldogs, but his problem was he didn't like to sell them, so Mum grew up with dogs to play tea parties with. Her Mum was the formidable Sister Jane Clarke of Greenlane Hospital, who was a working mother well before it was even remotely acceptable, I'd say she was a second wave feminist. My great great grandfather was Dr Adam Clarke, a Methodist theologian, and there’s a memorial church in his name in Portrush. On Dad’s side we're English and Irish. Dad’s Mum Helen Watts grew up in Geraldine and was a teacher in Te Kao in the far north before she met Grandad Jack Murray on a blind date at the movies and they settled in Taupo. Grandad was English and Irish, and his family had a general store in Manurewa – Murray Stores. 

What excites you about leading the NZFC?

The incredible legacy of the Film Commission and the enduring taonga it has helped to create since it started in 1978. Looking around the posters on the walls of this place I see history everywhere I look, I see our uniqueness as New Zealanders, our diversity and creative brilliance. It is an absolute privilege to lead Te Tumu Whakaata Taonga into the future.

What are you looking forward to over the next year?

I'm looking forward to empowering the exceptional creatives of Aotearoa to do their best work and finding the next generation of filmmaking talent.

What are the strengths of the New Zealand screen sector?

New Zealand is a creative powerhouse with an authentic and unique voice internationally.  Our  Māori stories have been among our most successful and enduring films, and they can't come from anywhere but here. The incredible success of our filmmakers over the years shows we have something in the water here in Aotearoa, together we need to figure out what that is and amplify it.

What makes New Zealand a good filmmaking destination?

Our world class crew and stunning locations. Incentives and infrastructure complete the package, but it is our talented and highly creative people who are our superpower. 

Last updated: 
Monday, 26 June 2023