Milk is a heartwarming short film directed by Celia Jaspers, who’s been involved with filmmaking for nearly three decades, including House Hunters International on HGTV, where she travels the world to makes real estate look great.
“I was lucky,” Celia says of her start in showbiz. Getting a start early from high school, she had work experience in several several workplaces to get a taste of career choices.
Celia’s next stop was a film set, right? Not exactly. “I was going to be an architect and was first placed in an architect’s office, but it was so boring, I thought I can’t do this for a job!”
But luckily she had a chance for a behind the scenes peek in the local television studio. She reveals “I found out they made a kid’s show that I watched. I asked if I could come back in and watch it go out live. I turned up very early on the weekend of recording and took a bit of initiative and helped a cameraman with cables. They asked if I wanted to come back next week and that was my in!”
After being offered a part time job to begin with, moving through the ranks, Television New Zealand gave her the chance of a life time as a full time intern/trainee upon completing high school, “It was so lucky, I’ve never looked back and I’ve been at this 28 years now.”
Whilst a prolific career in television followed, film was always Celia’s passion and this year she realized that dream creating a short film “Milk”, the product of a desire to make more narrative films and the effects of the global pandemic. “We were on lockdown in New Zealand. We had seven weeks of Level 4, as we call it, where you couldn’t leave your house. So, I first made a simple short film called Homeschool with my kids.”
Success with this film, inspired the next more elaborate production, Milk. Its a simple story with some beautiful cinematography and an adorable lead character played by Celia’s daughter, Charlotte. “I was so excited to do another movie,” Celia reveals, “I was driving to the market with my daughter and ideas started percolating. The Milk story came up about compassion and kindness and I thought that’s perfect.”
“The climate in New Zealand and perhaps the world is very much about looking out for other people,” she says. “I wrote a script, and the ball started rolling. Before we knew it, I had a van load of gear and technicians and we took over the whole little village where I live. It was zero budget, but we kept high standards despite not having much to work with.”
Celia’s daughter is onscreen for nearly every second of Milk’s runtime. “We had a few rehearsals at home before I was certain she could carry it, there was a lot riding on an 8 year old! But she had great focus in the moment for some long takes and has quite a deep emotion range for a child.”
Making Milk was “exciting” for Celia, and she proclaims without reservation, “I want to make another one!”
House Hunters International
“I’d never heard of the show before they contacted me,” she says about House Hunters, “they had been filming in New Zealand for a few years but it wasn’t shown here at that time, so when I realized how big it was overseas, it was an amazing opportunity.”
Celia is one of “only a few directors from around the world” working on the show. “We keep the same teams so it’s often easier just to send us to different locations than train up new crew, so we get to travel a lot. It’s a fantastic show to travel with. You get to see amazing places and meet a lot of cool people.”
Shooting House Hunters episodes are “very fast,” Celia says, “Each half-hour program takes about five days. It’s a lot of content to get through often in foreign and challenging environments”.
Celia’s a pro now. “I know the format pretty well now, though; it’s all in my head. And if a spanner is thrown in the works, you just have to adjust.”
When asked about directors she admires, “I do love Ron Howard,” she answers. “I’ve been doing his master class, and it’s been inspiring hearing him speak.” She adds two more to the list: “Ridley Scott and Chris Nolan.”
The talk of directors turns to New Zealand born and bred filmmakers. “Niki Caro and Jane Campion. Jane Campion very much inspired this whole thing. I was 15 when I watched The Piano, and I was swept away by that film. And it was shot in New Zealand, by a woman, which was so rare at the time.”
“Taika Waititi is doing amazing things,” she adds, “Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor of course, the whole industry is so strong now. We’re not this tiny little outpost at the bottom of the pacific; we’re our own Hollywood.”
Celia’s goal is to continue making her films. “I love family films and action films. And stories that have a lot of heart interest me. I would dearly love to do a feature”.
There’s more to come from Celia in 2021. “I have two shorts in development. One’s a fun film about elderly people taking their power back, and the other is a beautiful story about a man finding his voice to make music.”
“Also more House Hunters in the new year,” she says, “I also do a popular documentary series in New Zealand about people living off the land and farming, so I’m pretty busy most weeks. We’re off to the Chatham Islands next, a very remote set of islands several hours east of New Zealand. Making content and traveling it doesn’t get much better than that”.
Are you a fan of House Hunters International?
Thanks to Celia Jaspers and Impact24 PR
for making this interview possible.
Read more interviews from Ruben R. Diaz!