Film shot in Wanaka finalist

Filming a scene from web television series pilot Constance, on location in Wanaka in August, are (from left) producer Fiona Armstrong, co-writer and unit manager Tessa Livingston and crew member Jonathan Harris. Photo: Mickey Ross
Filming a scene from web television series pilot Constance, on location in Wanaka in August, are (from left) producer Fiona Armstrong, co-writer and unit manager Tessa Livingston and crew member Jonathan Harris. Photo: Mickey Ross
A desire to showcase ''epic emotions against an epic backdrop'' has helped a Tapanui-born actress and screenwriter reach the finals of a $100,000 TVNZ competition.

Former Blue Mountain College pupil Tessa Livingston (24) is part of script-writing team shortlisted as one of five web television pilot fianlists in the broadcaster's ''New Blood'' competition.

Tessa Livingston.
Tessa Livingston.
Ms Livingston said she and fellow writer-producers Fiona Armstrong, Travis Graham and Henry Rolleston - all of whom had ''home ties'' to the South Island - filmed a pilot for their ''Scandi-noir influenced'' drama Constance in Wanaka this August, after receiving a finalists' award of $5000 production funding.

Despite initially being discouraged by competition organisers from filming in Wanaka, due to perceived location costs, the Auckland-based collective had called in friends and favours to produce a 15-minute pilot they were ''incredibly proud of''.

''We achieved a lot in two days. Luckily we all have good contacts, friends and family down south, so thanks to a massive collective effort we got over the line under budget.''

Constance marked a ''definite shift'' in the calibre and form of NZ web series pilots, Ms Livingston said.

''Fiona and I had been watching a lot of drama like Broadchurch and Top of the Lake, and we wanted to make something influenced by Scandi-noir television, but set in our own backyard. The story centres around two South Island farming families, one of whom has just lost their daughter. A tragic hunting accident could have a much more sinister twist.''

She believed South Islanders were underserved by commercial television at present, and she hoped Constance could redress the balance.

The actress and screenwriter said her ambitions had always been in the spotlight.

Former teacher, Blue Mountain College head of arts Vicki Crawford, said Ms Livingston's incipient success did not surprise her.

''She always had huge potential. She was the sort of person who would go in boots and all when [she was] passionate about something.''

Ms Livingston hoped that passion would translate into victory for Constance at the close of public voting next month.

''We've made it from 750 entries to the last five, and the feedback has been good. It's time for the south to stand tall.''

Online voting closes October 12.

richard.davison@odt.co.nz

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