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Screen CanterburyNZ

Q & A With Jess Todd 

Ōtautahi Christchurch-based Producer Jess Todd has had a busy start to 2024; we reached out to find out a little bit more about her screen background and plans for the future.

When did you get your start in the screen industry?  

I decided at the age of 16 that I wanted to work in the screen industry as it was a perfect combination of my interests - books, art, games and technology. But I didn’t actually think it was a career path open to me in Aotearoa. Thankfully I had some teachers that knew otherwise and set me on a course to enter the industry. We decided that I should pursue a degree in Fine Arts at UC majoring in film and the rest, as they say, is history. 

I got my first proper foot in the door opportunity in 2018 when I returned from three years living in London. I wanted to work on big dramas that were filming in Auckland at the time, so I sent everyone I knew up there my CV and landed myself a job as a cast driver on an American TV pilot. Every job I’ve had since then I can trace back to that first opportunity.

What do you enjoy about working in Ōtautahi Christchurch?  

It’s home for me. I’ve spent the last decade following work opportunities around New Zealand (and back to London) but every time I’m back in the city I feel very at peace. You’re often working crazy hours in this industry, so your space outside of work is very important and the pace of life in Christchurch is perfect for me.

Also, because the industry is smaller and more emerging here, people are very generous with the resources that they have. Many, if not all, of my projects wouldn’t have been possible without the generosity of more established crew in the region.

I love that many of the people I studied with have made their careers here too and we have come up together at the same time. These people have also remained my close friends and getting to support and enjoy each other’s successes is a real privilege.

What challenges do you face? 

In all honestly, 2024 is shaping up to be an exciting and busy year for me, so the biggest challenge is how to fit everything in!

We’re in a time of change and turbulence in the screen industry, and I am spending a lot of time pondering who will emerge the winners on the other side of it… and how we can be one of those winners.

You have recently teamed up with Liv McClymont again, tell us about that? What other projects are in the pipeline? 

The success of ‘I Stand for Consent’ last year really kept the momentum up for us and Liv and I are continually developing projects as a director/producer team. We’ve received funding for two of them this year.

Through Loading Docs, we are making ‘The Man Outside’ which explores a true story of stalking and the lack of laws to protect victims of stalking in Aotearoa. We’re currently prepping for this and begin filming in June. You can expect to see this released later in 2024.

We also received funding in the NZOA ‘Within My Reach’ round aimed at emerging filmmakers to produce content for a youth audience. We’ve been commissioned to produce ‘The Sender’ which we have co-created and co-written together. “The Sender” is a teen mystery show about a group of prefects who are blackmailed on the eve of a new school year and must figure out who the sender is before their secrets are aired! This is being made specifically to be released on social media. We’re currently in the contracting and development stage and hoping for an early 2025 release.

What draws you to these projects? 

I’m a big believer that entertainment is a way to change the world and that’s why the projects that Liv and I are developing all have a socially conscious theme at their heart. We want to use our projects to spread the word on issues that are important to us. And we also want to make compelling entertainment!

We’re hoping to use The Man Outside the spread awareness on the need for stalking to become a crime in Aotearoa. In fact, if you feel strongly about this, you can sign a petition.