Please introduce yourself …
Ngaio: Director, co-created musical score, DJ, inclusion & diversity consultant in the arts industry.
Aodh: Shooting producer/director; background in documentaries. Together we have created the company Small Flame Films.
Why Tegan: Dreams of the Paralympics?
Ngaio: We were both really drawn to Tegan’s story because of her incredible spirit – she’s just a wonderful person to be around; she has such drive, she’s funny, she’s sassy. When I first met Tegan at Black Girls’ Convention, I was really impressed by her story but also by the way she conducted herself. It was the first time I’d ever seen a woman of colour talking about horseriding (I used to ride myself in Wales, but I gave up when I moved to Bristol). I then saw Tegan give a TED talk, and it just really touched my heart when she was talking about how horseriding helps her physically. So for all those reasons, Tegan was the first person I thought of when it came to whose story I wanted to tell – you know, she’s someone who is going to smash through expectations, won’t be told no. She’s very media savvy, and has done so much to get where she is, but needs a little extra help to be in that world which is not really built for her – I want to help tell the story on her terms.
Tell us about your team …
Both: Samantha Steele (project manager). Lindsey, our Netflix mentor, pointed us in her direction, and she was just so great at helping to alleviate stress. Patrick Smith (DOP). Anna Price (Editor) – really understood both the story and Tegan’s character. Tom Hackwell (co-creator of score). Mena Fombo (camera assistant). Lottie Sawyer (BTS). Mercedes White (general BTS assistant).
What’s the story for you?
Ngaio: I could see a lot of myself in T’s story – I was also a mixed-race woman growing up in predominantly white spaces, I felt like a bridge between two worlds in my personal life and this is reflected in my work. I want to make sure that the stories I’m telling are told from these perspectives. Several things about Tegan could be perceived as barriers: people may project lots of meanings onto T that are not necessarily her own; so I want to tell T’s story on her terms. Typically, we don’t associate any other cultural aspects with dressage other than, classical music, that polite applause at the side of the stage, not necessarily things like djembe drums and afrobeats. Creatively, it’s been really exciting to play with that narrative
Aodh: I was struck initially by T’s strength. We often see people with disabilities represented in a sympathetic way but that’s not how T wanted to be portrayed. She starts her TED talk by saying “I see you, do you see me?”, and that just really stayed with me.
Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit?
Ngaio: Well it has to be Coco, doesn’t it? (T’s horse she found and fell in love with.) We had the idea that we would like that moment to happen, you know, she needs her own horse to get to the next stage of her career but there are so many barriers – finding the horse, the expense of the horse, the cost of maintenance.
Aodh: Tegan’s parents brought her up to be strong and independent, so she’s a very stoic person, but she said quite early on that horseriding helps her stay in touch with emotions. Throughout the filming process, she stayed slightly stoic with us too, but when she finally buys Coco, we really saw her emotions come out and that was a really beautiful moment.
Share a skill-defining moment making Tegan: Dreams of the Paralympics?
Aodh: Ngaio’s ability to lead a really strong team and create a safe space. This may be her first film but so much of her work before this has been around creating safe environments for marginalised communities, and that’s been the vibe on all of our shoots – it’s inclusive, there’s no hierarchy, so the whole team felt really empowered. The score was also skill-defining. Ngaio has put a twist on the film and authored it in a way that no other director can, as her voice is throughout, singing and harmonising. She could have gone for something orchestral and worthy, but it wouldn’t have felt right. So, she opted for swing, afrobeats, etc. which gives the film a unique flavour, and stands her in good stead for filmmaking going forward.
Ngaio: I would have never gone for this without Aodh because he’s so good at what he does. Similarly, Tegan wouldn’t be where she is without the incredible support network around her – and of course, that doesn’t mean she’s not wonderful, but you do need people with different skills and different outlooks. I can get people in the room, but Aodh is the one who is going to be able to create a beautiful piece of art – the way he captured T in real moments of emotion, joy, stoicism, focus – it made it so authentic and honest.
Being a recipient of the 2021 Netflix Documentary Talent Fund means …?
Ngaio: I’m incredibly proud of us – new voices are ready to be heard in this industry which has formerly been very cliquey. And seeing the whole roster and the people involved has made me really excited – these are such interesting voices, interesting stories. I feel like this is the beginning of a new wave of how we see the industry and how it can evolve; who we’re giving storytelling power to. Stories get told in the editing suite so it’s not just about who is being interviewed. I’m very proud and hopeful for what comes next.
Ngaio: There’s so much more story to be told – so many elements we couldn’t go into because of time constraints, etc. What does it take to be in a world different from your own? Who are T’s heroes in dressage? No one looks like her so she has to be her own hero – she’s a trailblazer. T’s character makes you believe there is hope for anyone to do whatever they want, and so if we’re able to follow her more (if she’ll let us!) and go more in-depth that would be such joy.
Tegan: Dreams of the Paralympics