WHEN Polly Green took up white-water kayaking, she knew the thrill of the ride was never going to be enough. She decided that, if she was going to go for it, she was going to go hard: “I told myself that I was going to be the world champion.”
That particular gong eluded her — the closest she came being the fifth placing she earned at the world champs in Austria six years ago.
But today she has another, equally lofty, goal. Now reinvented as a filmmaker, she says she’s aiming to earn a gold statuette at the Academy Awards.
US-born Green is already well on her way. Her debut short documentary, Nomads (2006), screened at more than 30 international film festivals and won half a dozen prizes, including Best Paddling Documentary (Reel Film Festival, Canada) and the Activism Through Adventure Award (Boulder Adventure Film Festival, US).
And the follow-up, Soft Power Health — again about kayaker Dr Jessie Stone’s humanitarian aid efforts in Uganda — is tipped to get just as much attention. Green this month left for Los Angeles where Soft Power will be screened at the My Hero Short Film Festival, where it is a finalist for the Dan Eldon Activist Award.
With Soft Power fresh from the editing suite at her Makorori Beach home, it is just the beginning of a release Green hopes will be even more successful than that enjoyed by Nomads.
“My passion is telling stories about people doing positive things,” she says. “And the My Hero festival is the perfect platform to showcase films that honour heroes from around the world.”
Green has, it could be said, used kayaking as a vehicle to take her into the world of filmmaking.
As a fine arts student at the University of Colorado, she was already a hardcore sportswoman when she took it up in the early 1990s.
Travelling the world to compete and teach kayaking, she used photography as a creative outlet. That was until 2000 when she helped out on a National Geographic expedition in Vietnam. With the help of a supportive National Geographic crew member, she envisaged a new career in filmmaking and her travels took her to a small village in Uganda where she wrote and produced Nomads.
The following year she was the videographer for Blue Planet Run, a 95-day, 24-hour relay run around the world, founded to raise awareness about the need for clean drinking water. And she also produced Running for Water, a documentary about the run and the clean drinking water issue.
Green says her production company, Flair Films, is dedicated to “creating films that are inspiring, empowering and help create positive change in the world”.
To do so requires a bit of travel from the film-maker — a bit of a nomad herself. Having put down roots at the beach settlement just out of Gisborne, however, she hopes to spend more time at her homely hillside bach.
“There will be a lot of travelling for Soft Power and if I want to get it out there, that’s just what I have to do,” she says. “But I would really like to spend more time at home so am looking forward to doing more work in New Zealand.”
That commitment to working in her adopted country has already borne fruit. Green has this year created a show reel for local DJ Hat (Jeremy Derbyshire) and a video for her countryman Peter Dickson — a writer/filmmaker, now also based in Gisborne — to promote his latest book.
Next on the list is a piece about Maori carving on the East Coast, to be produced for Tairawhiti Museum under the direction of artist Jo Tito.
And Green has also established a new arm to her operation — homestoview.net — which offers videographer services to commercial clients.
Projects like this, she hopes, will help fund her humanitarian filmmaking.
“I really want to keep that focus on telling stories that empower people, especially women,” she says. “Wanting to win a gold medal was all very well, but this work just feels like it has a lot more substance to it.”
Page created on 10/10/2011 12:00:00 AM
Last edited 10/10/2011 12:00:00 AM