Essential information

The New Zealand Film Commission is excited to be working with Ainsley Gardiner and Desray Armstrong as patrons of this year’s NZFC Gender Scholarship which has a focus on wāhine Māori looking to produce drama.

The annual Gender Scholarship recognises and celebrates women in the screen industry and is aimed at supporting their career progression.

Since 2015, the NZFC has awarded an annual scholarship to female filmmakers in areas of the industry where female participation has historically been low.  Past scholarships have been awarded to female cinematographers, directors, wahine Māori directors, Pacific Island screen writers and women working in comedy. 

The Gender Scholarship is a $15,000 grant. The NZFC will award two grants in total and recipients will be matched with mentors to support their development through the duration of the scholarship.

Applications for this award are to be submitted by nomination, there are two ways to nominate:

  • Where a nominee fills in the application themselves (self-nomination)
  • Nomination by others: where a person who has consent from the nominee fills out the application on behalf of the nominee.  

If you are nominating someone, you need to have their consent and be able to provide a biography and description of what you believe makes that person successful, and why they should receive the scholarship.


Nominees must be:

  • New Zealand citizens or permanent residents
  • Wāhine Māori (or identify as female)
  • Producers looking to develop and produce long-form drama projects (open also to factual producers looking to move into the drama space)
  • Actively participating in the screen industry in New Zealand or overseas.

Applicants must supply the following:

  • An overview of why the nominee should receive the Gender Scholarship (300 words maximum)
  • A brief biography of the nominee including film credits and achievements (200 words maximum - can include links to NZ OnScreen, IMDB etc)

This can be submitted as a written response, by a self-nominee or someone nominating a person. 


  • As a piece to camera video by self-nominees (maximum of three minutes submitted as a Vimeo link). Self-nominee applicants may submit both a written piece and video if they wish but one or the other is acceptable.

How to Apply

Applications close Monday 30 May. Files should be emailed to

Recipients of the Gender Scholarship will be notified by Monday 20 June.

This fund is currently closed to applications.

Kaupapa: Tuakana Teina   

“Those who are willing to learn. Those who are willing to teach.” 

Apply to be a Mentor

This form is to indicate your expression of interest in being a mentor in this programme. 

Open to: Experienced drama producers who are keen to share their knowledge and experience and to contribute to the growth of the next generation of producers coming through. 

Please note: If matched with a mentee, you will be paid for your time as a mentor. The level of time commitment will be bespoke to the needs of the mentee and the availability of the mentors and the patrons.

Apply now

Call for Expression of Interest Open:             Friday 13  May
Applications Close:                                            Monday  6  June     

The mentors of the Gender Scholarship will be contacted by Wednesday 8 June. 

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact the Talent Development team at:

About the Patrons:

Producers Ainsley Gardiner and Desray Armstrong attribute much of their success to the support and mentorship they have gained throughout their careers.  They also recognize that there is increasing need for Māori drama producers and wish to encourage a growth in industry capacity.  

Desray Armstrong (Te Aitanga-ā-Hauiti, Ngāti Porou, Pākehā) is a Wellington based film and television producer with almost two decades of physical production experience across documentary, factual, studio, short and long form drama. Her screen career began in 2004, making content for broadcast on the newly launched Māori Television Service before establishing production company Stan’Strong with producer/director Chelsea Winstanley, making documentary and factual programming with a Māori worldview from 2007-2011. During that period Desray developed a passion for scripted drama and has worked predominantly in this space for the last decade years.  In 2018, Desray produced her first feature, Stray. Amidst the challenges of COVID-19, in 2021 she completed and launched three feature films in a single year – Juniper, Coming Home in the Dark and Millie Lies Low and was subsequently awarded the New Zealand Film Commission’s Te Aupounamu Māori Screen Excellence Award.  
Her film and television development slate has a strong indigenous focus, including a number of projects with wāhine Māori at the helm.

Ainsley Gardiner (Ngāti Awa, Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Ngāti  Pikiao and Whakatōhea) 
Her first short film as writer/director, Mokopuna, had a successful festival life, winning Gold at the Dreamspeakers Indigenous Film Festival.  She was one of nine Wāhine Māori filmmakers to write and direct the acclaimed feature film Waru. She recently completed her second feature, Cousins, co-directing with the film’s screenplay writer, Briar Grace-Smith. Notably Ainsley produced the short films Two Cars, One Night and Tama Tu written and directed by Oscar-nominee, Taika Waititi. She went on to collaborate with Waititi on his feature films, Eagle vs Shark in 2005 and his first No. 1 Box Office hit, Boy, in 2009. She produced 2018’s comedy hit, The Breaker Upperers. Ainsley has mentored wāhine Māori throughout her career and sees the tuakana teina relationship as an essential one to build the industry. 
New Zealand Filmmakers, Screenwriter
Funding type
Last updated: 
Monday, 30 May 2022