Georgie Girl

PBS Premiere: June 20, 2003Check the broadcast schedule »

Filmmaker Interview

POV: What is your motivation as a filmmaker? Why did you choose documentary in this case?

Annie Goldson: I have been producing and directing documentary for some years and it seems to be my preferred genre to work in. My interests lie in the direction of social and political issues, although I do like to experiment with form if the production context is receptive to that. My motivation is a little hard to pin down, but we have a useful phrase here in New Zealand about the role of being "critic and conscience" in society, which seems one way of putting it.

POV: What generally inspires your interest?

Goldson: It is hard to say really, I think one stumbles over ideas, but the recognition that an idea can become a documentary requires a certain set of circumstances to preexist. For example, one has to be receptive to an idea to recognize it, and that receptiveness derives most likely from a mix of one's personal philosophy, prior knowledge, research base and inclination. And then the idea has to be "do-able" within the context one lives and works in: will funders fund it, distributors show it, audiences watch it? I think those sorts of practical issues do inform one's decisions, even if one does exist more at the margins than the mainstream. In New Zealand — which apparently reached the population of 4 million yesterday — there is a very small alternative infrastructure. This is good and bad: one may not be able to experiment meaningfully and have any audience at all, but you are able to engage with large audiences nonetheless. One third of New Zealand television watchers watched "Georgie Girl" (if you can believe the ratings!).

POV: What inspired you to make Georgie Girl?

Goldson: Georgina herself is such a rich character, but the idea came to be while I was watching our national election results in 1999 on television. Georgina was awaiting the results at the Returned Service Association Hall, which is basically a pub, in a tiny rural town called Carterton. She was surrounded by folk, predominantly elderly and Pakeha (of European descent) sipping their shandies and beers, who clearly were devoted to her and were prepared to stay up until midnight for the results to come in. The idea for the documentary came to me in part because of Geogina's remarkable life story and personal charisma, but also because of the unlikely alliance between a conservative, rural electorate and a transgendered person of Maori descent who had been a sex-worker and drug user. It made me reflect on my personal preconceptions of rural communities, and perhaps revisit some of my own prejudices. Of course, Georgina won by a wide margin and became the first transsexual to be voted into national office in the world. Although I knew the film would be popular in New Zealand, I hoped that her "world-first" status could spark international interest and indeed, it has done so.

POV: What were your goals in making Georgie Girl? And what would you like to see happen with it?

Goldson: I suppose my goals were to make the best film that I could that was representative of her and the context within which she works. I tried to use craft and humour and the natural narrative of Georgina's story.

POV: What was the most surprising thing to you in making Georgie Girl?

Goldson: The range of characters was wonderful to work with, as you will see. Georgina's elderly neighbor and one of her fans, Dulcie, is always a great hit, as is Carmen, a remarkable Maori transgendered person, now living in Sydney, who is an old friend of Georgina's. She is quite elderly now, but has had a remarkable life too. She was raised as one of 8 in a tiny rural town, by a single mother who recognized her boy as having feminine attributes and kept him at home to help with the housework. She became an entertainer, and finally, owns several very successful businesses including Carmen's International Coffee Lounge and The Balcony (apparently named after the Genet play). But I was also inspired by the range of activities that Georgina undertakes in a single day, as you will see in the film.

POV: What are you currently working on or what would you like to be working on?

Goldson: I have quite a few things in development, but get a bit suspicious about talking about them before they get funding. Given the priority of our funders who require local content, they all have a New Zealand basis but some of them do stretch further afield. I also am writing a book on human rights and documentary which is coming out with Temple University Press in 2005. I've also taken the plunge into fiction and written a short drama but have not seriously pursued producing it yet!