One short step to the Oscars for local animator

Lily Martin-Babin during the production process of the short film Miro Wine, which was nominated as a finalist in the Show Me Shorts Film Festival.

A young Blenheim animator is one step away from the Oscars, with a one-in-three chance of walking the red carpet.

All it will take for Lily Martin-Babin (21) to become eligible is for the short film she co-produced to win the title of Department of Post Best New Zealand Film in the Show Me Shorts Film Festival.

Martin-Babin and her co-producer Bree Greally produced the short film “Miro Wine” during their final year of study for a Bachelor of Digital Design degree at Auckland University of Technology last year.

Martin-Babin also graduated with the Head of School Award for the top student in her degree.

The main characters in the short film Miro Wine are a friendly pīwakawaka and a grumpy kererū.

The film is one of three nominated in the Best New Zealand Film category, and if it wins, becomes eligible for entry into the Oscars.

“It’s just crazy thinking that our little student film was something that people like. It’s really rewarding for us,” Martin-Babin said this week.

“We’re absolutely just shocked that we got nominated for this prize – we weren’t expecting it. That it was one of only three nominated was a big shock to us as well,” she said.

The opportunity to take it to the Oscars would be “really hard to believe”, she added.

Martin-Babin is currently based in Auckland, where she works full time as an animator for Kara Technologies, creating sign language avatars which help to remove the communication barriers and information gaps for the Deaf community.

The film Miro Wine tells the story of a grumpy kererū (New Zealand Pigeon) who is annoyed by the affections of a friendly pīwakawaka (New Zealand Fantail).

Slowly a bond is formed and the kererū ends up missing the pīwakawaka when it is no longer there.

Miro Wine is a reference to the fact that the kererū is known to eat the fermented berries of the Miro tree and subsequently become intoxicated.

The subject choice came from a passion for New Zealand and the country’s wildlife, Martin-Babin said.

“We thought the birds both had the most interesting personalities. Fantails are always super chirpy. When you see them they’re quite young at heart and really energetic, whereas the kererū is super slow.”

“We sort of imagined him as this old man who prefers to be left alone, and so we thought their personalities would make a really good mix, and they could hopefully learn from one another.”

There is definitely a message in the film and a lesson to be learnt, Martin-Babin said. “It’s about friendship and compassion.”

“Taking people and relationships for granted means you’ll end up like our kererū; you won’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Unfortunately, not everyone has a persistent fantail friend to break down those walls!”

Covid-19 and the accompanying lockdowns had a significant impact on the production of the film, Martin-Babin said. “Lockdown allowed us to focus on more achievable goals. In a way it helped us to make smarter decisions, and simplify things.”

Lily Martin-Babin said it would be “really hard to believe” if her short film became eligible for entry to the Oscars.

“Ultimately, Miro Wine benefited from the struggle and came out the other side as a more polished and engaging film.”

The short films will be screened around the country over the next two weeks, with an awards’ ceremony scheduled for October 17, dependent on alert levels. This is when the girls will find out if their film wins the ultimate prize.

In Marlborough, interested film buffs will be able to see the shorts, including Miro Wine, at Endeavour Park in Picton at 2pm this Friday, October 8, or at the Renwick Sports and Events Centre next Wednesday, October 13 at 2pm.


Links: Stuff – One short step to the Oscars for local animator

Centre for Design Research
Te Kura Toi a Hoahoa
School of Art and Design

Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau,
Auckland University of Technology


Susan Hedges
Mandy Smith

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