Director wins by a Whisker

Last updated 05:00 11/07/2014

STILL SHOT: A still from the film Whisker.

Steve Saussey
Ben Rogers
SPECIAL AWARD: Grey Lynn director Steve Saussey with his Jury Future Filmmaker Award from the Palm Springs International ShortFest.

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The story of a homeless, hungry drifter trying to feed his dog has won the hearts of the judging panel at the Palm Springs International ShortFest.

Auckland director Steve Saussey was awarded the Jury Future Filmmaker Award at the short film festival for his work on the film Whisker.

Set in small-town New Zealand the film tells the story of a man who enters a beard-growing competition at a quintessential pub. The prize is a meat pack which he desperately wants to win to feed his dog.

"What attracted me to the script is that it is a really great exercise in telling a complete story in 10 minutes and making people laugh and cry in that time," Saussey said. "I've always wanted to make an iconic New Zealand fable."

Saussey describes the film as a Barry Crump-like tale with a twist.

"For a New Zealand short film to be recognised by a major United States festival jury is fantastic, given the amazingly high standards of the films in competition."

The Palm Springs International ShortFest is one of only a handful of festivals specifically for short films.

According to Saussey it is among the biggest and most prestigious.

The film, written by Corey Chalmers and produced by Yolande Dewey, is a real Kiwi affair.

"It was interesting to see what the Americans laughed at versus the New Zealanders," Saussey said.

"Americans react to it as a story. When there's a sad bit they go ‘awww' and when there's an exciting bit they screech, but Kiwis are a quieter audience."

It was his first time directing a short film and it's behind the camera that the father of three feels most comfortable.

"I think the separation of the writer and director is quite an important thing."

"There are a lot of writer-directors but I think it's rare to be exceptional at both things."

Saussey has directed hundreds of TV commercials in Australia and New Zealand, and last year set up the production company Stuff and Nonsense.

He attributes much of his film-making success to his experience crafting commericals for the past 15 years.

Whisker has just been accepted into the Portland Film Festival and Saussey hopes the festival run will continue.

The New Zealand Film Commission helped fund some of the film and plays a role in submitting Whisker to international film festivals.

Saussey is now putting together his first feature film.

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