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Interview with Filmmaker Molly Doyle

Kia ora! My name is Molly Doyle. I am a 20-year-old Screenplay Writer, Director and Producer from Te Whanganui-a-Tara. I also study environmental sciences and art history part-time. In my spare time, I like to paint and go on terribly long hikes and outdoor adventures!

Your short film Sea Castles is in the editing stage and is due to be released this year. Can you tell us what the film is about, the environmental issues it explores and the significance of the title, ‘Sea Castles’?

Sea Castles is a short film I wrote in response to the climate crisis. The film follows the story of Emma, a young girl, who becomes aware of coastal erosion and climate change through playing games with her friend Maia at the local beach, also through various interactions she observes of the adults around her. I’m co-producing the short with the talented Parekawa Finlay who also makes an appearance in the film as Maia's older sister.

Shot in Paekākāriki, the film highlights the region's vulnerable positioning to large-scale erosion, sea-level rise and natural long term trends of shoreline movement. For Emma, and her father, the evidence of the sea level rising leaves them, and their local community both divided and facing a tough choice. Discussion and debates around infrastructure, private dwellings, sand dunes positioned on this coastline and how they all will be affected comes to a head in the local community hall.

As New Zealand facilitates the shift to a low carbon future, local communities will need to navigate natural hazards whose severity and incidence are increased by climate change. Emma, our protagonist, learns to get amongst the local conversations and makes her voice heard. Deepening her understanding that the actions taken now will affect her own future.

I’ve often found when writing short films I write from my experiences. In respect of Sea Castles, my studies, and NGOs I've been involved in, such as the school strike for climate, generation zero, youth4 nature & more, furthermore, my own upbringing have all had an impact on how I view and react to Climate Change. Drawing from both lived and discussed experiences definitely supports the depth of any of my own written narratives.

What made you decide to tell the story through the eyes of a child as opposed to an adult? How do you think this affects the narrative?

Our younger generations will pay the price of our inaction, yet it’s them that hold the face of optimism within climate movements. Narratives that focus on science often neglect the emotional and cultural loss that’s happening.

Children shouldn’t be the victims of climate change, yet they are. I choose to write the film from the view of a young kid as we can predict their lives will be adversely affected. We know that the sea is not just coming for private property owners, entire communities face losing precious and much-loved walkways, and play areas, and some communities losing built resources such as shops, libraries etc. The next generation's lives will be impacted, and their time on earth will be different from ours. So if we act sensibly, with intelligent foresight we can consider such things in our planning.

In regards to the science of climate change, a narrative, a story that is simple to understand, yet has an ethical and moral backbone and is based on fact which gives cause and effect informs the child. It is not scary if it is clearly and factually defined. We don't want a child overwhelmed with too much information, however, they deserve to be informed, and once they understand, they'll want to know why it matters. It matters because we all want to maintain a quality of life.

I think Sea Castles is a delicate balance between gloom and doom. Just enough to educate viewers but not overwhelm them. However, I’ll let you as the audience decide that for yourselves!

What has been the most challenging aspect of making the film?

From my experience, when you’re creating a film to do with a global issue so intense and destructive, you find yourself second-guessing the ethics of your story and reflecting on its importance. When touching on an issue that disproportionately affects marginalized communities, you need to ensure you’re doing it with sensitivity, and most importantly not speaking for or over those individuals.

Writing and making your own film is such a vulnerable experience. Often you feel self-doubt creeping up or a bit of imposter syndrome. It’s a weird one, but I’m slowly learning how to navigate it. If anyone has any expert tips let me know.

What made you choose coastal degradation as the focus of the film? Do you have a personal connection to this issue?

We all have a personal connection to this issue, we are all responsible for climate change. However, I have grown up near the sea, and I have a deep attachment to the water and the land, and it saddens me to think that we as an educated society do not respect its power. We all have some control over this situation and my hope is to empower others to feel they too can step up and take part in making the future, ecologically, a place where we can all have, as I said earlier, equal and good quality of life.

Little plug to remind people to update their voting details so we can vote people into power who want to make our environments thrive!

Who are some people that inspire you that are doing positive things in their field?

I don’t need to look far as all my friends and whānau are some incredibly inspiring people!

However, during 2019 I was lucky enough to get to know and spend time with incredible climate activists and changemakers. India Logan Riley is a member of Te Ara Whatu who addressed COP26, she passionately led the charge and advocates for indigenous rights in the climate space. Mary Gafaomalietoa Sapati Moeno-Kolio member of the 350 Pacific climate warriors who is forever laying down the fight for climate justice & uplifting Rangatahi voices. Lisa Mclaren and Jamie young-drew who wrote the Zero-carbon act!. And lastly, I am forever inspired by any young person who speaks up for what they believe in.

In what way can environmental films make an impact on people's relationship with the planet?

When you think of narrative and storytelling throughout history, it has been used as a tool to persuade, inspire and educate the masses. Deeply engraved in the human psyche, we’ve used storytelling to convey our experiences. However, just like our intrinsic connection to sharing stories, we have the same connection to nature and land. Yet in the western world, we’ve become so disconnected from this relationship. Humans have expelled copious amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in a really short period of time, exacerbating unnatural climate change. Our idea of growth has disconnected us from our surrounding environment.

Because of this, all of my films are written with allegory in mind. Directing an audience to have an empathic connection with the lead character and what they’re going through, will hopefully influence their own choices. I don’t say this lightly, but environmental films are essential to human survival. As much as it sounds dramatic, we need to educate people on the need to act to stop climate change and pollution as soon as possible. Our relationship with the planet is everything we have at the end of the day! I’d say if you have an idea for a short film about an environmental issue you’re passionate about, make it now! The sooner the better.

What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects etc?

I’ve just signed a contract for a year of work on an upcoming production. So my freelance work will become more of a weekend gig. But I do however have another Short film that’ll be shot in November called Hettie’s Elderly Hour. The film centres around the cognitive decline of a lady named Hettie, once again all observed from a child's perspective. Supported by Alzheimer's NZ the production boosted campaign will be released in a few months' time!

Keep your eyes peeled! I’ll be updating everyone on Sea Castles and my future projects via my social media channels.


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