Q&A: Sam Kelly

Growing up in Porirua, Sam Kelly had friends who were directly impacted by gang violence.

He says he’s often wrestled with the question of why young people are drawn into gangs and what they find there.

This month Sam’s debut feature film, Savage, hits cinemas. It’s inspired by stories from New Zealand’s boys homes and the early history of our gangs.

We asked the writer and director a few questions.

What book is beside your bed?
Homo Deus, the sequel to Sapiens. I love understanding big ideas that shape societies and this book is full of them… and predicts the future!

What’s a secret skill, hobby or talent you have?
Complex strategy board games. Shhhh don’t tell anyone. Also I started playing chess during the first lockdown and now I’m hopelessly addicted. 

Where did Savage come from?
It seems strange to say that despite this story being set in the foreign world of gangs, it felt like the most personal script I’d written. It’s about a character who feels lost, isolated from the world around him and yearns for something more. The script was the expression of a masculine primal scream – of wanting to find love, to find belonging, but struggling to do so.

What has been the hardest thing about making this film?
Never having enough time. For every single goddamn thing!

What has been the highlight?
I shared the film with some older gang leaders in an advance screening in Hastings. I’m telling their story so their reaction was what I was most nervous about in releasing the film… and it couldn’t have gone better. 

If people take one thing away from watching Savage I hope that it’s…
One of the central themes of the film is around the forces that push and pull young people into gangs, but there are other themes too… I try to avoid reducing films down to singular propositions as they sound superficial and obvious, and also nobody likes to be told anything. In short the best way to fully understand the film is to come see it!

You could win a double pass to see Savage. Enter here.

Read more Q&As here.


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