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Dance Wildly, Off The Beat

06 May 2024

She's given acting, directing & writing tips to some of the best in the world - find out how Brita McVeigh discovered that "the fool in you is beautifully close to the fire in you."

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Brita McVeigh

Brita McVeigh's made a career out of improving other people's. 

She may not be a household name but she's been a crucial aide for many who are. McVeigh's specialised skillset has taken her across the globe as an acting coach and teacher, a story consultant or story doctor, and has the stats to prove it.

There are more than 500 pieces of performance - from feature films to short films, TV and theatre projects - with her touch applied to them in development and production. Not just here in New Zealand but across Australia, the US, Germany and the UK. 

It's a career that began working on films that helped launch Taika Waititi into superstardom - Eagle vs Shark and the iconic Boy. As Waititi puts it, "It was fantastic to watch Brita work with my actors. I was impressed with her ability to bring out the truth."

That goes for experienced performers too - with Aotearoa small screen royalty Robyn Malcolm working with McVeigh on the award-winning After The Party last year. "'Brita works not with the actor but with the person, which in my view is how the great performances happen," Malcolm affirms.

McVeigh works regularly with established production companies and on the development slates of FX USA, Warner Brothers and Netflix. She's also heavily involved with independent actors, writers and directors - with more than 1000 creative professionals attending her workshops across NZ and Australia.

She has a one-day acting intensive for creative practitioners of all disciplines,  in Auckland on 17 May filling up fast(details at bottom of page) - giving participants tools to explore with imagination, impulse, intuition and deep listening practises. McVeigh has given The Big Idea some insights from her own creative journey she wishes someone had given her.


Before I offer any advice to my earlier self, I need to state for the record that I feel I know nothing these days. The older I get, the more confident I become in my work and paradoxically, the more I feel open and empty. 

It’s a peculiar lightness of being to feel both skilled and a novice. It's a very powerful place to play from. I fundamentally believe, when I am working in creative spaces, that I’m no expert and nor is anyone else - and that’s a fun and scary feeling.

Make a fool of yourself

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Brita McVeigh in her 20s. Photo: Supplied. 

I was in my 30s and had been taking myself very seriously. Freaking out. Feeling like a failure. Wanting success. All the usual stuff. 

I was shamed a fair bit when I was growing up. So I was terrified of humiliation. It felt like death to me.

A key moment of liberation came when I put on a bear suit and danced down Lambton Quay in the Christmas parade. 

I was 35. I was with friends who were already deliciously free in spirit and I took inspiration from them and dove in, dancing like a wild maniac bear through the streets. 

Something about that bear suit changed my life. It was like a layer of my restrictive pride burnt off. 

I came out sweaty and messy and joyful and then I had to stuff myself into a stiff candle costume and retrace my steps back down Lambton Quay behind Santa’s float - the candle outfit was so rigid. Santa was upfront. He was in charge. I was following like a good obedient candle.

Something clicked. 

I’ve been teaching hundreds creatives to dance wildly, off the beat, for years since then. It can be profound. Like a shame burn-off. 

The fool in you is beautifully close to the fire in you.

Make art, privately, for yourself

It’s easy to close doors on your creative self. 

I never considered myself good with my hands.  I decided early on that I couldn’t draw. I’ve been liberated by working with Kim Gillingham’s Creative Dreamwork practise and I practise drawing using my non-dominant hand often. I draw my dreams, my predicaments, anything I feel. 

If I draw, for myself, using my hand that isn’t attached to my ego - I awaken and uncover all sorts of things. Mainly it makes me feel like anything is possible…

Listen to yourself

I wish someone had taken me aside and taught me about intuition when I was 22. I wish someone had taught me how to listen to my body, my heart, my gut, my whole self. 

I think the regret I used to feel that I was so physically disassociated from my instincts and intuition, in my 20’s, has really contributed to how I work now. 

I fundamentally believe that we are useless as a community - as a whole - if we can’t connect honestly with ourselves as individuals. I’m not suggesting it is easy, it can be life’s journey to feel into the mystery of yourself and all your feelings and instincts but it’s also deeply crucial to our social cohesion. 

Brita McVeigh's 1-day acting intensive workshop is on 17 May in Auckland, to apply for a position, please send CV to britamcveighstudio@gmail.com