Rachel O’Neill is a filmmaker, writer and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa.
As a writer/director Rachel is developing feature film, episodic and short film projects. They collaborate with storytellers on exhibitions, video works, books, and cross-disciplinary projects, and they are a member of All the Cunning Stunts, a four-artist collaborative group with Liz Allan, Clare Noonan and Marnie Slater.
After Rachel was awarded a 2018 SEED Grant (NZWG/NZFC) to develop a feature film, the script was selected for the 2nd round of consideration for both the 2020 and 2021 Sundance Development Tracks. Rachel wrote, directed and produced SHE SEWED HIM IN A BLANKET (2020), a short drama developed during the 2017 Aotearoa Short Film Lab.
A widely published author of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, Rachel has received a range of development grants, residencies and commissions. They are the author of two books, One Human in Height (Hue & Cry Press, 2013) and Requiem for a Fruit (We Are Babies Press, 2021).
Rachel holds a BA/BFA Conjoint Degree from the University of Auckland/Elam School of Fine Art, a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington/International Institute of Modern Letters, and a Poupou Huia Te Reo Certificate, Te Wānanga o Raukawa, Aotearoa.
As Pākehā my practice responds to the challenge Merata Mita made to Pākehā filmmakers, which was to leave Māori images alone and look instead at our own culture. In response to this challenge, part of my storytelling practice is to ask, what is a Pākehā image?
In responding to this question, I must first always acknowledge that Aotearoa is a Māori place, an Indigenous place in Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa where traditions of storytelling innovation exist that are thousands of years old. In Aotearoa, both Māori and tauiwi have formed constellations of connections. As I look unflinchingly at Pākehā culture, including the violence inherent in my culture, I am compelled to reflect on and respond to intersecting relationships of peoples in Aotearoa.
The awareness that I am made complicit in what has been, what is unfolding, and what will come is the beginning step in the process of developing specific kaupapa for projects, and taking a responsive and necessarily reciprocal position in my life and storytelling practice.
I am a queer non-binary person. I actively question habits of looking, thinking and feeling to unearth fresh ways to see, understand and represent the longing for connection and the humour and strangeness that lie at the heart of human experience.