From movie trailer to award winning movie maker - The extraordinary story of Susan Parker


A few months ago, I profiled a wonderful colleague of mine Jasmine Platt, who is truly living a life by design.

Someone else who truly deserves a blog dedicated to her is Susan Parker, a very talented film and TV producer I met around two years ago (She has worked on the likes of In my Father's Den and Vertical Limit).

We met at the amazing Paulus Romijn’s Presenters Platform course in early 2014. At the time she had left the unpredictable world of free lance producing (the film industry had kind of flipped out a bit) and had set herself up as Popgun Films, where she was planning to apply her well honed skills to the corporate world, and create corporate videos for them.

But she had this niggle that kept on distracting her, a love story about a Kiwi boy, Hap and a US girl, Mandy who were navigating a nightmare journey through immigration. She had met the kiwi boy at a documentary event, and discovered he had hundreds of hours of self filmed footage of their travels biking around Africa, and supporting Bikes for Humanity , a very cool Melbourne based charity which collects old bikes, refurbishes them, then sends them off in container loads to villages in developing countries, along with a few bike mechanics (including Hap).

Susan knew what made a great story, and this had all the makings – drama, a ludicrous bureaucracy system, love, a break up, amazing scenery and incredibly powerful back stories. But there was only one problem, there was no money or funding to spend on the project to bring it to life.

When you have a vision, create the trailer and pretend it exists already!!

That’s exactly what Susan did. I first found out about the film was when she showed our presentation group the trailer. We were blown away, and couldn’t wait to see the movie...until she told us that it actually hadn’t been created yet. I love the old perception creates reality adage, and here it was in action – we could all see the movie in our heads, and wanted to see it for real!

Suddenly, this project became bigger than her. Liz Gilbert in her stunning book Big Magic talks about Eudaimonia, the exhilarating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration and that’s certainly what happened to Susan.

She realised that her true calling was the film industry, not the corporate world, and decided to fight for this little movie to be made! It involved one failed Kick-Starter project, one resigning director (so Susan stepped up!), continuing immigration dramas and an amazing example of sacrifice and kiwi ingenuity; the movie was created on a shoe string and Susan invested significantly personally herself. I was personally coaching Susan at the time and experienced many of the highs and lows as they occurred, it was almost a movie in itself!

Fast forward two years, the movie is completed and last week Susan won Best NZ Feature Film and Best NZ Director at the Doc Edge awards. I had the privilege of seeing it this week at the Fan screening, and was totally absorbed. With incredible rawness, amazing cinematography, and riveting back stories of HIV inAfrican villages and Mandy’s own back story of a massively challenging childhood, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a screenplay, not actual real life.

There are two reasonsI am sharing this with you (over and above celebrating a friend who I am truly proud of)

  1. If you are in Auckland, I thoroughly recommend you go along next week and see it (Thursday May 26 at 8:30pm and Sunday May 29th at 3:30pm) – Susan will be holding a Q and A afterwards (click here to purchase tickets).
  2. Have a think about a dream or vision you have, and think about how you can ‘create your trailer’. What is your version of perception becoming reality? Maybe it’s getting a book cover for your book designed on Fiverr? Or designing the logo fora business you have been thinking about for years? Ora prototype for the jewelry pieces you have been designing in your head?

When I asked Susan how she felt last week, after the whirlwind of the screenings and the awards, she replied ‘tired’. I think that sums it up! Following your dreams (IF you choose to, remember I am not a passion bully any more :-)) takes courage, energy, money and time. But think of the difference doing so makes not only in your life, but others around you. I for one feel very blessed to have been part of this quest, and seeing the wonderful end result.

Posted on May 23, 2016 .