Michael Te Arawa Bennett (of the Ngāti Pikiao and Ngāti Whakaue people) has written and directed many dozens of hours of prime-time television drama, children’s drama, and comedy. He has co-created and co-devised two produced TV series including the international award-winning children’s drama Kaitangata Twitch, and has been head writer and/or episode writer on many other prime-time drama series including New Zealand’s most popular home-grown series ever, Outrageous Fortune, and Mataku (the Māori Twilight Zone). In 2013 Michael devised and wrote all 20 episodes of the comedy/musical/drama web-series The Factory. Michael was awarded the British Council/NZ Writers’ Foundation Award in 2005, to work as a feature film screenplay developer at Film Four in London. In 2008/2009 Michael was an inaugural recipient of the NZ Film Commission Writers’ Award, to encourage excellence in feature film screenwriting.
He currently has a number of features in development, including a true-life historical biopic about an American drunkard who fought on both sides of the NZ Land Wars (in development with actor/producer Cliff Curtis); a historical epic set during the twilight of cannibalism in New Zealand (working with script consultant John Collee); a teen love story set in a dystopian future; a sci-fi time-travel film, which Michael is also writing as a YA graphic novel (working with award-winning graphic novelist Ant Sang); and a true crime movie about one of the most notorious murders in UK criminal history, for which Kerry Fox will make her directorial debut.
Since 2010, Michael has made a dedicated commitment to creating and developing co-production feature film projects with Asian cinema territories. He has co-written The Love Story, a wartime screenplay about a Māori soldier in the Korean war, co-produced with Entermedia Korea. Michael has three Chinese co-productions in development including a romantic comedy and an animated comedy called Downside Story.
Michael has also worked in non-fiction filmmaking, including The Confessions of Prisoner T (2013) which centres on Teina Pora, and New Zealand’s worst case of wrongful imprisonment. This documentary won Best Film at the Wairoa Film Festival 2015 and Best Non-Fiction Screenplay at the NZ Writers’ Guild Awards. In March 2016 Michael published a book on the case, In Dark Places, which he is adapting into a dramatic feature film later this year for producer Chloe Smith (Ash vs Evil Dead, Spartacus, 30 Days of Night) .