Back in 2014, a weird thing was happening. Word was starting to generate on the film festival circuit, spreading from critic to critic, that Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s vampire mockumentary based on their 2005 short film wasn’t good. Rather, it was excellent!!! What We Do In The Shadows was the kind of genre movie that connected with its audience so strongly, it immediately became a cult hit. That’s not to mention a financial one, with the horror comedy grossing more than four times its $1.6M budget at the international box-office (along with being one of the most pirated films of 2014 and 2015 collectively).
The ‘Vellington’ they crafted was a rich one, with the inevitable expansions not only demanded for by fans, but necessary. There’s the forthcoming sequel We’re Wolves, a US television adaptation hitting FX in 2019, and now Wellington Paranormal - a six-part series that follows the exploits of Officers Minogue and O’Leary who first popped up in the original movie. Also from Waititi and Clements and shot in the same mockumentary style, it broadens the scope of the supernatural suburbia they established and allows a spotlight to shine on some other incredible New Zealand talent.
One of the most versatile creatives coming out of Aotearoa at the moment, it makes a whole lot of sense that Jessica Hansell would lend her multifaceted skillset to Wellington Paranormal. Also known as the rapper Coco Solid, she wrote episode three which sees the hapless Officers Minogue and O’Leary investigate another ‘unusual’ case of a ‘she wolf’ assigned to them by the scene-stealing Sergeant Maaka. Speaking of scene-stealers, another huge talent - Ana Scotney – appears in the episode, fresh off her performance as the tough on the outside, sweet on the inside Sepa in The Breaker Upperers.
As part of Waititi’s Piki Films collective, Hansell has been mentored by the Hunt For The Wilder people filmmaker and Clement over the years and already has her own animated series Aroha Bridge, which is about to go into its second season for Māori Television. A writer, producer and actress on sketch comedy Only In Aotearoa and a writer on drama Ahikāroa, she may be young but she has a wealth of experience in the industry and a black comedic edge that makes her an asset to Wellington Paranormal.
Jackie van Beek
The actress, writer, producer, director and editor is already someone who holds a special place in the staked hearts of Wellington Paranormal fans, due to her role as the vampires thankless human familiar Jackie in What We Do In The Shadows. Switching her spot in front of the camera for a role behind it, van Beek directs the mid-season Things That Do The Bump In The Night that – according to her – was shot “in a mouldy mansion that is allegedly ‘actually haunted’.”
With the tone parodying IRL law enforcement reality shows like Border Patrol and Highway Cops, the episode adds some shades of The X-Files and haunted house classics to the mix. She also sits in the directors chair for episode four, which punches through the glass ceiling of female werewolf representation.
It’s the latest high-profile directing gig the Kiwi filmmaker has landed, after the success of The Breaker Upperers which she co-directed, co-wrote and co-stars in with Madeleine Sami (who also popped up in What We Do In The Shadows as vamp Morana). There’s an additional layer to the creative crossover of hilarious New Zealand women, with the star of Wellington Paranormal: Karen O’Leary who plays Officer O’Leary. She appears as a cop in one of The Breaker Upperers funniest – and wildest – moments.
The 22-year-old is better known for her biting stand-up comedy routines and presence on social media than she is her screen work, yet that perception has been shifting thanks to her role as a recurring guest reporter on the Kiwi version of The Project since 2017. Bracewell lends her comedic chops to Wellington Paranormal, making her screenwriting debut on the brilliantly titled Cop Circles. The second episode of the season, it sees the show take a a sci-fi turn as it toys with genre tropes from flicks like Signs, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and Alien.
Featuring some of the best lines from the entire season (“People and cows can rest assured that the New Zealand Police force take this sort of thing very seriously”), her narrative is enhanced by the deadpan delivery from O’Leary, Minogue and Maaka. Bracewell landed the gig after Paranormal’s producer Paul Yates saw one of her stand-up shows in Wellington, offering her a chance to work on the series. Having Clement as a fan on Twitter certainly didn’t hurt, but here’s hoping we’ll get to see more of Bracewell’s razor-sharp wit with future seasons of Wellington Paranormal and whatever gigs she lands next.
You can see Wellington Paranormal every Tuesday night on SBS VICELAND at 9:30pm or stream episodes at SBS On Demand: