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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:20 pm

Google YouTube is bringing kiwi horror to the world’s screens

Kiwiana with a side of horror was exactly the kind of content Google YouTube was looking for when it joined New Zealand on Air to create the Skip Ahead digital initiative.

Ao-TERROR-Oa is a web series of six short horror films based on classic Kiwi experiences including a sunny day at the beach, a summer road trip and a friendly game of rugby.

It is the first time New Zealand on Air has partnered with a global digital platform, and the organisation’s head of innovation Brenda Leeuwenberg says the Skip Ahead funding idea originally came from overseas. 

“In Australia they’d started this programme where they said if you have a minimum number of subscribers, and you’re regularly publishing content on your channel, then [they’d be] interested in funding you to make something a bit different,” Ms Leeuwenberg says.

Ao-TERROR-Oa is the brainchild of Hweiling Ow (right) of H2Ow Productions.

Ms Ow already has made numerous short films, and is a finalist in best female director category of this year’s 48 Hours Filmmaking competition

Malaysian-born Ms Ow, who has been in New Zealand more than 20 years, considers it a great part of the world to be based in.

“I think we actually have a bigger creative freedom and we’re less swept away by the business of Hollywood,” Ms Ow says.

But Kiwis can still learn from the US.

“I think we have great people, great talent, great ideas and we just need to package ourselves better.

“The Americans are just so great at that! The packaging and the confidence and just going out there and doing the hustle.”

The hustle is something that Ms Ow is familiar with.

She describes her move to New Zealand at the age of 20 as “a starting over point” because for the first time she got to figure out who she was and what she wanted to do and be.

“I never even dreamed about being in this industry when I was growing up in Malaysia.

“It was not considered at all as an occupation for a woman,”

Describing her home country as more community focused than New Zealand, Ms Ow said she is aware of the expectations placed on working women.

“In Malaysia women are expected to put men first, every time.

“Sometimes I feel guilty for wanting my husband to split the chores 50/50 but then I go ‘Nah! This is how it should be’.”

“Luckily he agrees.”

Diversity is also an important issue to H2Ow Productions, which is known locally for its diverse casting.

Ms Ow says it’s not an accident they cast this way, and it stems in part from her own experiences as an actor.

“I’ve got a lot more selective over the parts I’ll do as an actress.

“If it’s an Asian character with an Asian accent for no reason I say no because that’s where I am in my life, and I can do that.

“I’m proud of the diversity in the casting of Ao-TERROR-Oa.

“It wasn’t a big thing. It’s just how I see New Zealand.”

Ao-TERROR-Oa is available on YouTube at H2Ow New Zealand.


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is Christchurch born, has lived in Auckland and is loving Wellington. She believes fairness, honesty, David Bowie, and accountability are the foundations of society. Something to tell her? Hit that email button or call her (+64) 27 254 7930.
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