Performance-driven shorts selected by Miranda Harcourt

This Screening Room comes from long-serving Kiwi actor and sought-after acting coach Miranda Harcourt, ONZM. A great supporter of New Zealand short film, Miranda’s first short film as a director, “Voiceover”, won Best Short Film at the 1997 NZ Film and Television Awards. Miranda is a Show Me Shorts ambassador and is sharing three NZ shorts that influence her work.

I love short films. In part because they make my life easier. I teach acting and run workshops all over the place and have recently run a workshop in Sydney for the writers and actors on a hit webseries. Like many of the workshops I run it is only a daylong exercise – I can’t screen an episode of a TV show, let alone a feature. But I want the actors and filmmakers I am working with to experience a rewarding arc. Enter short films! There are three I almost always show…


Truant (2005)

One of these is Truant by TV and commercial director Michael Duignan. There are many things to love about this beautiful short film, and one of them is the way the characters use objects. I also love the production design, the gorgeous ensemble performances and the way Michael gives his particular take on that classic New Zealand trope — the coming of age of a young man.


Fog (2007)

Fog is a celebration of a particular place, a place that is being celebrated again on TV at the moment in the current Lotto “Pirates” ad. The place is Ngawi, a wild, rough, inhospitable gravel beach on the East Coast of the North Island. Jim Moriarty and Tina Cook give beautiful performances as the parents of a shy young man who wants to escape. A wild misfit, played by Chelsie Preston Crayford in her first role, inspires him. Short films have always been a building block for new actors to develop careers.


An Exercise in Discipline- Peel (1982)

Click to watch Peel through NZOnScreen

Click the image above to watch “Peel” through NZOnScreen

The last film I will mention is the first short film by Jane Campion, Peel, which won the Cannes Palme d’Or for Best Short Film in 1986. This film is an investigation into a series of tiny moments that build something remarkable. It finds something universal by being particular, something all my favourite short films have in common.