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World Premiere of New Zealand Sci Fi Feature Film at Hamilton Garden’s Festival

Julia Reynolds directing her daughter, Olivia, on the set of 'Shepherd'.
SAE Creative Media Institute Film Lecturer and Film Director Dr Julia Reynolds is excited and nervous ahead of the world premiere of her first feature film, 'Shepherd' in Hamilton.


SAE Creative Media Institute Film Lecturer and Film Director Dr Julia Reynolds is both nervous and excited as her first feature film, Shepherd, prepares to have its world premiere at the Hamilton Gardens Festival on 15th February.

Shepherd is a New Zealand Science Fiction Feature Film and will be accompanied by live string quartet soundtrack of Jeremy Mayall’s beautifully composed film score at the premiere.

The film was a labour of love, and represents ten years of passion, blood, sweat and tears. Julia says she in incredibly proud of the final result.

Shepherd tells the story of Eden Green, a 16-year-old girl struggling to survive in a dystopian future. When Eden comes across an old tourist map she has been dreaming about she is faced with leaving the only life she knows to follow the map.

The film was a family affair, with Julia’s daughter, Olivia Reynolds, playing the film’s lead. ‘She started in the film when she was 12. We did the final filming was when she was 16. This could have been a disaster, but she was wonderful to work with. A brilliant actress and we are closer now than ever.’

Julia’s partner, Grant, is a set designer, so he was roped in to help as well. ‘He was the production designer. My son, Zak, is a chef. When the film started he was 21, and he was always supportive. He took time of work to chef on set.’

With a cast of over 300, Julia roped in extended family and friends to help as well. ‘I couldn’t have done it without their support, so getting the family actively involved was a good move!’

Julia says of her creative practice, ‘My work and research explores community, DIY film-making, process, empowerment and the environment – all served with a healthy spoon of philosophy.’

Shepherd was born out a short film Julia co-wrote with Wendy Cook in 2007. Julia says, ‘We knew there was more of a story there and we went into production with what became Shepard in 2010.’

'At its heart, Shepherd is a coming of age story, with a science fiction background.’

‘The film was around a quarter funded from community arts grants, and the Hamilton Arts council gave us some funding, but it was still a huge financial commitment.’

‘While I was working on Shepherd, I began my PhD exploring narrative around space instead of time. I looked at how narrative is told through space, and that did influence the way I looked at Shepherd. I made three other short films for my PhD while I was making Shepherd.’

It’s fitting that the film gets its premiere in Hamilton, as that’s where has Julia lived and worked for many years. She has been a lecturer at both Wintec and the University of Waikato. Julia still lives in Hamilton and is now lecturer of film at SAE Auckland. She took up the position of Film Lecturer at SAE earlier this year.

It’s not the first time SAE has had a strong relationship with Hamilton. SAE’s Director Dr Suzette Major is a degree monitor for the Media Arts School at Wintec and several of the SAE Auckland staff are currently completing their Masters at Wintec.

‘Hamilton’s just down the road,’ says Dr Major. ‘We are incredibly proud of Julia’s efforts and can’t wait to see how the film is received. We wish her all the best!’

Shepherd premieres at the Hamilton Gardens Festival on 15th February, 8.30pm.

Further information: 

About SAE

SAE Auckland offers world-leading government accredited courses in creative media across two discipline streams – audio and film. Internationally, SAE is a leading global educator, operating 53 campuses in 27 countries. Originating as an audio engineering institute in 1976, SAE has evolved to offer world-class qualifications in animation, design, digital journalism, film, games and web & mobile. SAE is a part of the Navitas group. Further information about SAE is available at

About Navitas

Navitas is an Australian global education leader providing pre-university and university programs, English language courses, migrant education and settlement services, creative media education, student recruitment, professional development and corporate training services to more than 80,000 students across a network of over 100 colleges and campuses in 27 countries. Navitas is an ASX Top 200 Company. Further information about Navitas is available at

For further information contact:

Heidi North

SAE New Zealand

M: (+64) 22 0283579


Contact details: 
Heidi North

Written by

SAE Auckland

9 Feb 2018