Groundbreaking local webseries in production
A powerful new local web-series has wrapped principal photography this month, offering genuine representation of Aotearoa’s transgender community in both performative and production roles. With a five-episode story arc, the debut season of Rūrangi will explore issues that directly affect the trans community, including important conversations about mental health, familial tensions, and the impact we have on the environment.
Burnt out trans activist Caz Davis returns to Rūrangi, the rural dairy community he fled ten years ago, hoping to reconnect with his father who hasn’t heard from him since before Caz transitioned. As father and son slowly reconcile, Caz finds new, life-affirming purpose, spearheading the town’s environmental fight against ‘Big Dairy’.
Reflecting a changing tide in Hollywood, Rūrangi is committed to actively supporting the gender-diverse creative community, with 10 of the 24-strong cast identifying as gender-diverse. In Rūrangi, all transgender characters will be performed by trans actors, and gender-diverse actors will also star in several cisgender roles. Elz Carrad will take the lead as Caz in his screen-debut, bringing his affecting personal story to the role, with Ramon Te Wake as trans-activist character Ellie. Arlo Green (Homos, Or Everyone In America, Hir, A Streetcar Named Desire), Āwhina-Rose Ashby (Waru, The Ringins, Dear Murderer), and New Zealand screen legend Kirk Torrance (The Dark Horse, Outrageous Fortune) complete the core cast, while the supporting and guest roles are filled with outstanding local talent, including Aroha Rawson, Renee Lyons, Renee Sheridan, Sonny Tupu, and Nikki Si'ulepa.
At a narrative level, trans inclusion is vital, but the kaupapa of the project as a whole has been deeply focused on including and empowering the trans community of Aotearoa, providing active opportunities for gender-diverse people to work on the project. This led to the development of their intern programme, where six trans people have been employed in full-time roles as understudies within the series. The internships are focused around the key creative roles within film-making: directing, producing, cinematography, editing, wardrobe styling and production design – a world first.
The co-writer of the series is writer, educator, and prominent trans advocate Cole Meyers, who works as a consultant on trans and gender-diverse narratives in New Zealand. With his experience spanning film, television, web-series and theatre, the opportunity to develop a series that centres trans people in both the narrative and production was unmissable. Having seen first-hand the impact that representation can have, Meyers sees education about the potential and talent of trans people as vital.
“Productions like Rūrangi provide a platform for trans people to see themselves in narrative and in pop culture, but also represents and validates trans people as respected and talented human beings to the general public,” says Meyers. “It's a lot harder to hate and hurt people you fully see.”
Director Max Currie helms all five episodes, bringing his extensive experience to this ground-breaking new webseries. Cutting his teeth in the industry on the iconic LGBT series Queer Nation, Currie has previously worked extensively as a writer, including Step Dave and four years on Shortland Street. Currie's feature debut Everything We Loved was Moa-nominated for best director, writer, and film, for the powerful psychological family drama featuring two magicians and a child, that was selected for the ‘New Voices/New Visions’ section of the Palm Springs Film Festival.
The production also has a strong Māori kaupapa, working with Māori story and tikanga advisors, with Māori cast making up over half of the tight-knit production. Filming has taken place in Auckland, Paeroa, Ngatea, Thames and Te Aroha, with Ngatea forming the backdrop for the fictional town of Rūrangi.
Rūrangi is being made with support from New Zealand On Air, with the internship program supported by the New Zealand Film Commission and is being produced by Craig Gainsborough.