The Official Blog for David Whittet's New Film

Hīkoi and Election Year


I had hoped my new film project Hīkoi would go into production this year. The issues of child poverty and homelessness are as relevant today as they were when I first wrote the screenplay in 2014. It would have been particularly appropriate to shoot the film in New Zealand’s election year.

Following positive reviews at the Emerging Writers and the Table Read My Screenplay festivals, I began negotiations with leading New Zealand production companies to bring the story to the screen. Regrettably, the Covid-19 pandemic has thwarted those plans and put the project on hold. Many overseas production companies regard New Zealand as the safest place in the world to make a film. With the industry getting back on its feet, I am renewing my efforts to find a production partner for Hīkoi.

Inspired by the hīkoi against child poverty in Auckland in 2014, this hard-hitting drama sees a burnt-out social worker taking risks to help a single mother escape from loan sharks. Hīkoi will remain as relevant as ever in a post Covid world.

The Photo that inspired Hīkoi

The demonstration against child poverty in Queen Street Auckland on 5 September 2014 is one of the real-life events featured in my screenplay Hīkoi. Almost four years later, the issue remains unresolved and forever in the news. My script, in which a young and idealistic social worker gets badly burned taking risks to save a single mother from two ruthless loan sharks, is as relevant now as when I first wrote it. I am looking for a New Zealand production company to help me bring this heart-wrenching story to the screen.
Photo Credit: Zealand Herald.

Hīkoi is more relevant than ever!

Hīkoi becomes more relevant by the minute. Inspired by the child poverty debate in the run up to the last general election, my screenplay includes several real life events woven into the story: the 2014 minor party leaders debate, the Hīkoi of protest to end child poverty and the presentation of a petition with fifteen thousand signatures to the government.
In the film, a young Māori social worker strives to make a difference, taking risks to help a single mother hounded by loan sharks. He's enraged by empty promises from the politicians during the election campaign, all claiming that they care. Abandoned by his employer, alone and bereft of support, he takes the blame when everything crashes down around him. He drops out after losing his licence, forcing him to join cardboard city with his former clients.
With the extraordinary political developments in New Zealand over the last week, accompanied by some angry rants on social media, I have been working out how my protagonist would react to all of this. What would he be tweeting? Perhaps I need to update the script to include the latest events––or start work on the sequel as the original goes into production!

A "Cathy Come Home" for our times!

is a hard-hitting drama that addresses the most critical issues facing New Zealand society today: homelessness, child poverty and burnout in the under-resourced social workers who have to deal with the fallout.
For such an inspirational and relevant project, I hope to get funding from the New Zealand Film Commission and New Zealand on Air. I am currently pitching my screenplay to prospective production partners. An influential producer has enthusiastically described my script as a Cathy Come Home for our times.
It is immensely humbling to have my work compared to Ken Loach's groundbreaking film. Cathy Come Home gave rise to the Shelter movement, founded by a New Zealander, Des Wilson.
I would be delighted if Hīkoi could bring about such positive social change.

Farewell Sundance, Hello New Orleans!

Farewell Sundance, Hello New Orleans!
With the feedback from the Table Read My Screenplay competition at Sundance fresh in my mind, I have just completed the rewrite of the Hīkoi script.
In this latest draft, I've concentrated on sharpening the dialogue and tightening the action, focusing the audience on Hīkoi's compelling message. I am confident that this thought-provoking story will resonate with cinema goers in New Zealand and beyond.
As the excitement of the Sundance competition begins to fade, anticipation mounts for the next Table Read My Screenplay at the New Orleans Film Festival in October 2017.
New Orleans is such a great city of music; it could be the ideal location to launch the Hīkoi music video!

Hīkoi at Sundance

As the Hikoi music video nears completion, preproduction for the Hikoi feature film is underway.
I have had excellent feedback from the Table Read My Screenplay competition at the Sundance Film Festival. The prize of a teleconference with a Hollywood screenwriter has afforded the opportunity for me to work one to one with a leading professional on the next draft of the Hikoi script.
As we are in an election year in New Zealand, Hikoi is as topical as ever. Inspired by the multi-party leaders' debate in the run-up to the last General Election, Hikoi is a hard-hitting drama that deals with child poverty, deprivation and burnout among the professionals who attempt to deal with with the issue.
I am looking for a co-producer and hope to pitch for funding from the NZ Film Commission for a very relevant New Zealand story.
It would be great to see Hikoi in production before this year's election!

First Table Read of the Hikoi Screenplay

A dark rehearsal room in the shadow of the Auckland City Mission lit up with the first full table read of the Hikoi screenplay. Performing the read through in the authentic locations added poignancy and a gritty realism to the actors' delivery. The atmosphere was electric as Hikoi reached its dramatic climax.
I was overwhelmed by the end of the reading. Input from all the participants has been invaluable, and I am full of inspiration for the next script revision.

Hīkoi in Preproduction

Hīkoi was inspired by the One News Multi-Party Leaders Debate on 05 September 2014, in the run up to the New Zealand General Election. Almost two years on, I have finally completed the screenplay.
The Leaders Debate focused on child poverty. My story centres on Tipene Tapihana, a young Māori trainee social worker, and his struggle to balance the impossible demands of his work with his own personal and social problems. Tipene is an idealist - he wants to change the world, but faced with burnout, it is the hīkoi that changes him.
I have weaved my story around real life events. The film opens with Tipene's frenzied reaction to the Leaders Debate. Subsequently, we see Tipene taking part in the Hīkoi of Protest against child poverty in Auckland's Queen Street in August 2014. The film culminates with the Hīkoi on the New Zealand Parliament on 20 May 2015, when protesters presented a petition with fifteen thousand signatures to the government, calling for an end to child poverty.
I have received fantastic feedback from screenwriting forums and the international film festival circuit. Professional coverage and table readings have enabled me to hone my script into a hard-hitting drama which deals with contemporary issues facing New Zealand and the world.
We are looking for a production partner for Hīkoi. Ideally, I would like to co-produce with a local production company. I am also hoping to attach some well known Kiwi actors to the project and hopefully we will go into production in 2017!

Hīkoi Music Video to Shoot in Taranaki in August 2015

It takes more than a polar blast to deter dedicated film makers, and I am delighted to report that we are back on track with the Hīkoi music video. Nikki Te Ataarangi Brand and the band are ready and waiting, together with some aspiring child actors. Excitement is running high with an intensive shoot scheduled for 8 & 9 August in Taranaki.
The response to our previous posts has been overwhelming, and we look forward to bringing you a compelling piece of cinema!

Shooting of the Hīkoi Music Video Delayed by Polar Blast!

We are delighted at the enthusiastic response to our announcement of Nikki Te Ataarangi Brand's powerful song. Sadly, plans to shoot the Hīkoi music video have been interrupted by the polar blast that has hit New Zealand over the past few days. We were due to film in Taranaki, but record rainfall and gale force winds meant abandoning the shoot.
Film making is intense. There is huge excitement amongst cast and crew when the cameras are ready to roll. Equally the disappointment is tremendous when circumstances beyond our control delay the project, which is particularly disheartening for new and emerging artists.
I am convinced that our music video will bring Nikki's work to the world stage, and I can't wait to reschedule the filming! Our video will make an eloquent statement about poverty and inequality, and we hope it will cause a stir on the international music festival scene.
In the meantime, negotiations with potential funders and supporters are underway, and some major announcements will be coming soon!

Previz for the Hīkoi Music Video

Pre-production for the Hīkoi music video has been intense. I have been matching images to Nikki’s striking lyrics, and I hope that the combination of the music with potent visuals will bring home the reality of child poverty.
Have a look at this clip to get an idea of the scenes we are hoping to capture.

Hīkoi Music Video - Introducing Nikki Ataarangi Brand

I have just been listening to a demo track for an emotionally charged song that speaks powerfully and eloquently for the underprivileged of our world.
Nikki Te Ataarangi Brand has written a truly inspirational song for my new film Hīkoi. The profound and thought provoking lyrics reflect the message of Hīkoi and the music will beautifully enhance the mood of the film.
The song is a potent reminder of the inequalities that surround us, and I am excited about shooting a music video with Nikki and her band.
The video will feature Nikki as a street musician and show vignettes of poverty through the eyes of the musician. Working on the storyboard convinces me that the music video will be a compelling piece of cinema.
Nikki is an awesome talent, and I hope that Hīkoi will prove her big break.

Calling all budding singer-songwriters!

I am looking for a talented musician to write a song to promote Hīkoi!
Hīkoi is my new film project, a gritty New Zealand drama inspired by the child poverty debate. I am planning a music video to promote the project and the song will also feature prominently on the film’s soundtrack.
Ideally, I am looking for a song in the style of Streets of London, with an urban New Zealand setting. The lyrics should convey vignettes reflecting child poverty and related issues including unemployment and Māori health inequalities.
This could be an amazing opportunity for an up and coming musician/singer-song writer. My previous films have won numerous awards on the international film festival circuit and music from these films has been acknowledged at the Global Music Awards.
If you are interested, I would love to hear from you. If you know someone who is waiting for their big break in the music industry, please forward this post to them!

Introducing Hīkoi: Inspiration form the Child Poverty Debate

With the completion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, my thoughts have been turning to my next project. Whilst my publishers constantly urge me to focus on finishing the novelisation of Amiri & Aroha, film making is so deeply engrained in my DNA that I a get very restless when I am without a film project.
Around the time of the New Zealand general election in September, I announced a new project on my blog. Child poverty was a major issue in the election campaign and watching some of the political debates stirred memories of a script I wrote some years back. Updated with an urban Māori setting and with the working title Hīkoi, my next film will be an uncompromising look at some troubling issues, wrapped up in a deeply affecting story.
Work on the novel has proved so all consuming in the intervening months that I have not had the time to develop the idea further. But it has been simmering away in the back of my mind and taking shape. With the Christmas holidays I have had a chance to cement these ideas and begin early preproduction. Watch out for a casting call and a Pledge Me campaign in the New Year.
Hīkoi promises to be a gritty, hard-hitting drama with an important message.