Interview with Filmmaker Katherine McRae (WATER BABY)

WATER BABY was the winner of BEST FILM at the December 2020 DOCUMENTARY Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I was intrigued by Sachiko and William’s lives and being a mother myself, I was interested to tell a story about birth. Sachiko was struck by the differences between the maternity systems in New Zealand and Japan and knew that she could communicate that to other Japanese women if we made a film about her birth.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Not long! The baby was due in March 2019 and Migiwa first asked me about it at Christmas time 2018 so we had to move fast. Sachiko and William already had the underwater footage and then William’s friend shot his swim across Cook Straight so my job was to shoot the interviews and the birth and combine it all together into a short documentary. We launched the film in September 2019.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

powerful
instinctive

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The biggest obstacle was filming the birth. There was the fear that we would miss it as it was a 5 hour drive from where I live to where Sachiko and William were living. Producer Migiwa moved there for two weeks so that she was close by. We had to co-ordinate with many female camera people to make sure someone was available at all times over the period of a few weeks.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was very moved to hear how the story had resonated with people. Our film became part of a series of documentaries called Loading Docs that has a time limit of 8 minutes so I was pleased to hear that I engaged the audience and made at least one woman cry in that time. Some viewers wanted to know more about various aspects in the film and I wish I could have expanded more but I had to work within the limited duration. We have previously received many comments from women online but I hadn’t heard many reactions from men before so it was great to hear what they got out of watching the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Our producer Migiwa Ozawa had met Sachiko and William at Vertical Blue, a free diving competition in the Bahamas. When Sachiko and William decided to come to New Zealand to have their baby, Sachiko asked Migiwa if she wanted to make a film about it. Migi is an old friend of mine and so she asked me to direct it.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

I’ve watched The Sting, The Last Waltz and Little Miss Sunshine several times over.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

FilmFreeway is a super easy way to check out festivals and submit to them.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

I don’t know…….Somewhere over the Rainbow????

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Water Baby has received such great feedback and has been viewed nearly 8 million times online. From this reaction, Migiwa and I know there is an audience for another documentary on similar themes. We are currently working on a longer documentary about the future of maternity care in the Pacific region called Pacific Mother. It will keep us busy for another year or two!

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