Issue date: 
Tuesday, 9 April 2024

NZFC Spotlight jumped at the chance to chat with screen all-rounder Loren Taylor who recently directed her first feature film The Moon is Upside Down which is out in NZ cinemas on May 2, 2024. 

1. Tell me a bit about yourself

I'm Loren. I'm 46, born in Onehunga in a house overlooking the water. I was raised without a TV and with a love for nature and art - my parents were both in the peace movement and environmental activists and I always felt that art was of great value. I live in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with my husband and our four year old. Our home is one block back from the sea. Sometimes I'm aware I'm living in a sand dune. My Mum, Step-Dad and my Sister and her family live directly over the road. We're raising our kids as sisters. There is a little grove in the asphalt from trudging back and forth. I'm grateful for our vege and flower garden and for living in a community.

2. What was your first dabble in creating something film related?
When I was in 5th form at Palmerston North Girl's High School, my friends and I made a short film. It was heavily inspired by The Piano (seminal film) and I'm sure it was very, very bad. Two of those friends Angeline Loo (Kāinga) and Meg Mason (Sorrow and Bliss novelist who is writing for screen now too) have gone on to a life in the industry, which is lovely. When I was working as a casting associate on Top of the Lake I met Jane Campion. She has been immensely generous in sharing her luminous and potent brilliance with me ever since I met her. The Piano remains a film that is lodged in my cinema DNA.

3. Tell me about your journey into filmmaking
I left school in 7th form to be an actor in a play at Bats Theatre. Jo Randerson was the playwright and Jackie Van Beek was one of the cast. That experience gave me the confidence to get an agent and I started getting screen work. Jackie and I wrote and directed a short film starring both of us, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement for the Victoria uni film awards - another truly terrible short film!

I worked as a reader in casting rooms and that was a profound education - thank you to casting director Tina Cleary for all those years. She always had energy for whoever was auditioning and worked to get something true and to have a meaningful exchange. Her loving attention and stamina for the work has been a huge influence on me.

In my early 20s I worked with Taika casting Two Cars One Night and then on set with the kids. I attended the Sundance Directors Lab as an actor and co-creator of Eagle vs Shark and then the Sundance Writer's Lab. We learnt from Philipp Seymour Hoffman, Gyula Gazdag, Joan Tewkesbury among others - the depth of discussion around character, rhythm, visual language and structuring scenes was a masterclass.

I was alongside Taika for every step of Eagle vs Shark but as it was being released, I began to suffer from debilitating PTSD symptoms, a delayed response to a major trauma in my teens, and that up-ended my life and stalled my creative momentum. I was only able to do minimal work through my thirties. I do feel that time of reflection and the emotional and spiritual work I was doing informs everything I do now.

I coached the lead child actor in Glendyn's Ivin's Aussie film Last Ride. The daily proximity to the monitor, observing the process between Glendyn and cinematographer Greig Fraser and collaborating with Glendyn was invaluable. I made a NZFC funded short Apis that Gin Loane shot (they have been a hugely important and generous creative mentor to me). Then I went on to a few music videos, commercial directing, NZFC funded Hey Brainy Man a short that I co-directed with Jo Randerson and most recently a feature. I received NZFC 125 funding for The Moon is Upside Down - it was a long time in the birth we finally are!!

4. Was this your first interaction with NZFC?
I first worked with NZFC when I was about 19! They held a filmmaking workshop at the Tapu Te Ranga Marae in Island Bay. I was hired as an actor and worked with Peter Salmon and Ainsley Gardiner (both still dear friends).

5. What was the best lesson you learned?
Hmmmm. Be like water! Flow around obstacles! Trust there will be a way through.

6. What was the most difficult experience you had while making The Moon is Upside Down?
Ha! Robyn Malcolm told me that great quote about filmmaking being like your house burning down and having three minutes to save everything you love. We had a very low budget so that meant some reimagining of the script/locations which was tricky. Then Covid hit which stalled and then threw some spanners at us while we were filming. Then I was juggling being a new mum while in post production. I found early motherhood and filmmaking to be a bit like oil and water. As a final flourish, after three years of avoiding getting Covid, I came down with it on day three of our final post (thanks to the exceptional Alex and James at Department of Post for their creativity and support). My producers Georgina Conder and Philippa Campbell have been indomitable companions in the face of all those swerves and a profound support in making the film happen alongside my demanding family life. I am forever grateful to them.

7. What are the most important attributes for a director?
A capacity to listen deeply - to yourself, your collaborators, your story.
I think kindness and gratitude are vital attributes to cultivate. It's not a solitary vocation and feeding good energy into the work is so important. If there is wellbeing on set then you are making space for everyone to do deep, good work.

8. What advice can you offer to aspiring filmmakers in Aotearoa?
Develop tools to manage stress so you can remain open, connected and kind in the face of the inevitable difficulties that arise.

9. Do you have a particular film, filmmakers, quote, actor that inspires you and if so why?

I have a stable of filmmakers that inspire me at the moment - Tatiana Huezo, Alice Rohrwacher, Carla Simón Pipo, Maren Ade. Their films are utterly alive and unique. Political, angry, poignant, poetic, funny, wild....all the things I love in cinema.

P.s I'm really looking forward to seeing my good friends film's The Mountain and We were Dangerous in the cinema too and A Mistake! What a great year for female filmmakers in Aotearoa.

Images by Rebecca McMillan Photography

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 10 April 2024