Write stuff: Casey Whelan

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After a lot of years in a lot of countries, Casey Whelan has now had a decade to adjust back into New Zealand life. She reckons she’s starting to get the hang of it.

In September, Casey Whelan took two awards at the Writers Guild’s SWANZ ceremony, the New Writer gong and a share of the Best Feature Film award along with Steve Barr and Hone Kouka.

She and Barr are writing partners, sometimes under the production moniker S.C. Wheelbarrow & Sons. The pair suggests a variation on a classic odd-couple, Whelan the crop-haired sassy dame to Barr’s straight man. The two elements combine to give you the distinct sense there’s more just under the surface.

In a bid to curb Whelan’s love of “telling fibs” as a young girl (“I would make up all sorts of things, and often for no reason… I just liked telling tall tales”) Casey’s mother took her to the local priest for an admonitory dose of The Fear of God. Did it dissuade her? Ss she’s still telling tales for a living 20 years later, no. That particular approach didn’t exactly do the trick.

More early life snatches tantalise with glimpses of an exotic transient lifestyle. “Dad worked for an oil company, so I spent most of my childhood travelling with my family.” She feels the time “immersed in foreign cultures” gave her “a unique perspective on the world and [her] place in it”.

S.C.Wheelbarrow & Sons

S.C.Wheelbarrow & Sons

Her career seems to have evolved seamlessly from a colourful childhood in which writing was always an inherent element. As a 13 year old Casey and her sister were confined to home by post-9/11 security concerns in their then residence in Karachi, Pakistan. Having run out of books and movies to entertain her, young Casey adapted a book into a movie script — her very first.

This led to being self-confessedly obsessed with screenwriting. “I mean obsessed; I used to get in trouble with my parents for staying up late and sneaking onto my computer in the middle of the night to work on scripts.” The Karachi story and the late night writing, you suspect, are just two of a suite of tales from exotic places, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if one day more of them made it on to the page.


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Back in New Zealand Whelan went to study Film and English at Auckland University before going on to work in the infamous training ground of the Shortland Street script department. “I’m grateful for the years that I spent there,” she says, “and continue to be proud of the incredible cast and crew who work around the clock to deliver world class TV day in day out.”

For now, she’s busy honing further those skills picked up on Shortland Street. She credits the experience with building on her studies, teaching her “the real world craft of executing a successful script, the multiple functions performed by a screenplay, and how to be creative within strict stylistic and practical confines”.

Whelan has a few shorts under her belt, having written Blankets and Dancers, both directed by Lousie Leitch. Whelan has also written and directed her own short, teen romance with a horror twist Pretty in Plaid.

Dancers (click to play)

Dancers (click to play)

The current projects she’s excited about (and can discuss openly) span a range of genres and themes and include: A comedy TV series and two feature films – one a millennial comedy and the other an adaptation of a play.

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