Four people standing at a podium on stage at the New Zealand Youth Film Festival.

A young Wellington filmmaker has taken top honours in the New Zealand Youth Film Festival (NZYFF). The awards ceremony was held in the capital for the very first time in December 2023. Flynn Biara Allan won the Wellington UNESCO City of Film Best Overall Film award for his film ‘Tuned Out’. The film follows two girls trapped in a war zone, deprived of basic essentials. Suddenly, they’re confronted by an unsympathetic film crew wanting to exploit their trauma.

“We tend to treat news media as a sort of entertainment. Once something is covered for long periods of time, we start to get bored and tune out, even if the events remain current,” explains the 22-year-old.

The young director lives in Wellington. He’s in his second year of study at Massey University’s National Academy of Screen Arts School of film production. As well as directing, Flynn acts. He’s starred in the New Zealand comedy-drama ‘Nothing Trivial’ and the action-adventure TV series ‘Power Rangers Megaforce’.

Flynn’s NZYFF win resonates with what Wellington UNESCO City of Film is known for — being the best place in Aotearoa to learn about, create, and engage with film culture.

Flynn Biara Allen wears all black standing on the red carpet outside of the New Zealand Youth Film Festival.

Flynn Biara Allan

Flynn brought together a talented team of fellow students and lifelong friends to make the thought-provoking and visually stunning film. The film’s composer Jack England has known Flynn since they were five and they’ve collaborated on dozens of creative projects. Lead actor Lola McLeod-Riera has been performing since she was a child. The themes of Flynn’s film align with UNESCO’s mandate.

“It’s all about encouraging the exchange of ideas and culture to promote understanding of our experiences and shared humanity,” says Screen Wellington manager Tanya Black.

As well as the glory, Flynn and his crew’s win comes with a slew of prizes. They’ll enjoy lunch with Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and the Wētā Workshop team, and a cash prize. The film will also be screened on various platforms. 

His entry was among 426 in 11 categories from all over Aotearoa, a 20% jump on 2022’s entry figures.

Lola McLeod-Riera, Flynn Biara Allen and two other people stand together on stage and accept the Best Overall Film award at the New Zealand Youth Film Festival.

Auckland hosted the first awards ceremony in 2022, but Wellington has secured the event for the next three years. 

Recognised by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a Creative City of Film, Wellington joined a network of cities worldwide with significant creative industries in 2019.

“After being recognised by UNESCO as a Creative City of Film we’ve partnered with organisations and events that are inspiring the next generation of creative leaders and storytellers,” says Tanya.

“It made perfect sense to partner with NZYFF. The organisation is a great vehicle to recognise and provide more opportunities for Aotearoa’s aspiring filmmakers to showcase their talents.” 

A still from the short film "Turned Out" by Flynn Biara Allan.

2023 winners across 11 categories are:

Wellington UNESCO City of Film Best Overall Film - ‘Tuned Out’ by Flynn Biara Allan. 

South Pacific Pictures Best 15-18 age group film – ‘Space Cowboy’ by Emily McVicar. 

One New Zealand Best 19-21 age group film – ‘O’live me alone’ by Beth Davies. 

Warner Bros International Television Production New Zealand Best 22-24 age group film - ‘Love is Dead’ by Dylan Poihipi. 

South Pacific Pictures Best Acting - ‘For Thom’ by Rafa Yam. 

Canon Best Cinematography - ‘The Colorway Killer’ by Alex Metaxas. 

Massey University National Academy of Screen Arts Best Directing - ‘In Her Steps’ by Kit Coira. 

What the Actual?! Best Documentary - ‘Big Kids’ by Tom Field. 

Adobe Best Editing - ‘Eternal Return’ by Harrison Ashley. 

Universal Music New Zealand Best Music Video - ‘Deliverance’ by Lissa Lee. 

Wētā FX Best Visual Effects - ‘Men Who Went South’ by Josh Robertson.