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Rachel O'Neill & Pip Adam

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.
A while back, in Courtenay Place Wellington, All the Cunning Stunts installed a series of frames that made me smile. Juxtaposed with the Reading Cinemas complex, it provided me with a short film experience as I walked by, pausing often.

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.
I love it that at home we can now watch films at our own pace, pause on individual images, replay sequences. It's like turning the pages of a book. And at the All The Cunning Stunts installation, instead of clicking on my computer I 'walked' what felt like an experimental film. With drama. Read text that felt like poems. Reflected on the ideas. Delighted in this elegant manifestation of media convergence, complete with reference to the Topp Twins (remember The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls?)

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Installation view.

So imagine my delight when Pip Adam suggested that she interview Rachel O'Neill, who happens to be one of The Cunning Stunts. 

I long for more public discussion between women about the ideas that inform their work as filmmakers, artists and writers. In film, I want conversations that go beyond the difficulties of ‘getting work’ as a writer or director, of raising finance. Conversations that go beyond production stories and stories designed to attract an audience. I want conversations like this one that Pip Adam initiated with Rachel O’Neill. Unedited conversations that engage me, with hesitations and uncertainties among the insights. Without soundbites. Bechdel Test(!) conversations, to help me learn about directors who arrive at feature filmmaking from multiple-medium practices and diverse collaborations. Who fearlessly experiment. Who may illuminate issues around media convergence. Many thanks, Pip and Rachel.

Pip Adam–

Rachel O’Neill is an artist, writer, filmmaker and occasional editor living in Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. You can read more about her here.

Rachel is a graduate of Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University and the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington and I’ve come across Rachel’s work in a variety of places and forms. Her debut poetry collection One Human in Height was published by Hue & Cry Press in October 2013. She is also a card-carrying member of All the Cunning Stunts, with fellow artists Liz Allan, Clare Noonan, and Marnie Slater.

I enjoy how Rachel’s varied pursuits feel like a body of work. I love encountering her ideas and art in different ways. Rachel’s film work interests me particularly, after a conversation we had at a Hue & Cry launch this year about film writing, development and production. I was excited to hear that Rachel is developing a script at the moment and that she’d taken part in The Rehearsal Room run by the Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand as a director, workshopping a short scene from one of her screenplays with local actors.

Rachel is the creator of with sympathy, a YouTube-based series of web episodes that follow the trials and tribulations of an heiress to a greeting card empire. I love this work. You can see with sympathy and a selection of some of her other experimental short films on her You Tube channel.

I was watching an episode of with sympathy a couple of months ago and I got this crazy idea that I’d love to record an interview with Rachel using some kind of video calling system. A lot of Rachel’s work, including with sympathy, is filmed using the webcam on her computer and I liked the idea that we could somehow talk about some of her lowfi aesthetics using lowfi technology. I’m grateful Rachel agreed.

The interview is laggy in parts, echoey in others, and features a guest appearance from my daughter and her toy cat. The perfectionist in me would love to tidy these things up, but there’s something about them that also seems perfect for this interview. Although Rachel’s work is very different from this interview, it’s orchestrated and beautiful, I gained a better understanding through doing the interview of why an artist would chose a lowfi production value. I was surprised how vulnerable I felt, knowing editing wasn’t an easy option and realising I was limited to the one oddly-framed square that the webcam allowed. It reminded me of a discussion I heard about painted self-portraits, of how the subject/painter often looks angry because they’re concentrating so much on looking at themselves that this is the face they see. There was something about the webcam trained on both of us that gave me a new respect for solo filmmakers, like Rachel, who often makes themselves the subject of their work. And interested in what she had to say about moving to working with others in her film work.

I was particularly taken when I realised, during our conversation about humor, that our different framing makes me look a lot shorter than Rachel, it made me think of Abbot and Costello or Laurel and Hardy. ‘Here’s another fine mess you’ve got us into,’ I thought as my daughter appeared in the back of shot again and soon after a set of rabbit ears sprouted shakily out of my head. Rachel was amazingly patient, ‘You never know what’s going to happen,’ she says at one point.

So in hindsight, despite feeling slightly queasy about my furrowed brow and strange eyeline, I learnt heaps doing the interview this way and I think it demonstrates something about the possibilities of film in an age where the technology is so accessible. I’m grateful Rachel agreed to talk with me in this way.

Rachel and I also talked about her latest project and I enjoyed listening to her talk about writing a treatment and her experience at The Rehearsal Room.

I encourage you to look out Rachel’s work. I find it exciting and affecting and often very funny.

Rachel's Stalactitus

I gained an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from Victoria University in 2007, and a PhD in 2012. I was grateful to receive an Arts Foundation of New Zealand New Generation Award in 2012 and my first collection of short stories, Everything We Hoped For (Victoria University Press) won the NZ Post Best First Book Award in 2011. In 2013 Victoria University Press published my first novel I’m Working on a Building. In September I launched my podcast Better off Read where I talk with writers about a book they didn't write as a means to explore how reading relates to writing.

I went to film school in 1994 and miss working in television and film a lot. I feel really excited about television and film today, especially the work that’s being produced and broadcast through alternative means.

Pip elsewhere in Wellywood Woman
Making Noise, Hearing Noise (Lake  Bell's In A World)
Jane Campion's Workshops #4 – Participants Speak

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.

All the Cunning Stunts (2010-11) Detail.
All the Cunning Stunts installation images by Neil Price.


Rachel's One Human in Height
Pip Adam – Author

Media Convergence and Wellywood Woman Pinterest board


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