The Name’s Sparrow, Operation Sparrow

Move over James Bond, there’s a new British spy drama in town – and it’s already made the cut!

Operation Sparrow is a short film created by four local teens, including Westlake’s very own cinematographer Emma Wagner (Year 9). It has been selected as one of 15 films to feature in the finale of the International Youth Silent Film Festival – NZ Regionals, to be livestreamed on 11 November.

Film makers aged 20 and under from around the country created three minute silent films, set to one of 10 musical scores composed especially for the festival. This is the second time Emma has entered, having previously created a film while at Ponsonby Intermediate last year.

Emma says she became involved in this year’s project through her friends. “They were making a film for the Festival, and since I love to film and be involved in activities such as these, I happily volunteered my time behind the camera. I recorded with my iPhone 11 and used a DJI Phone Stabilizer for smooth movement in the chase and action scenes.”

There were four students involved. Timothy Chen (Age School, Takapuna) was the director and creator of the film. Sveta Hackett (Age School, Takapuna) and Matthew Curtis (Sacred Heart College) were the actors.

Delighted to have made the final, Emma describes Operation Sparrow as a spy film where a British agent must obtain secret files before a Russian spy gets to them first. “It involves a lot of action with fighting and chase scenes,” she says.

“I was very pleased with the final result. The editing is great, and I am pretty proud of my camera work. The actors did a great job and altogether it was a really organised and well thought out film.”

If the film places 1st or 2nd, it will advance to the international round in Portland, Oregon next year.

Emma is no stranger to the world of movie magic. “I have been dabbling around in photography and film art since I can remember,” she says. “My family has worked in the camera and lighting departments in the motion picture film industry, so I guess I was inspired to do creative things such as this. I have yet to fully learn all of the techniques but my parents tell me I’m making good progress.”

So, how long does it take to make a top 15 film? Not long apparently! “Once Tim (director/creator) came up with the concept and wrote the script and storyboards, we went straight to filming in the holidays (earlier this year – pre-lockdown). About three weeks after we wrapped on filming, we had the final edit.”

Don’t be fooled – they may be fast and furious, but they are also super talented.

Like any epic action movie worth its genre, the most challenging aspect was the fight scene. “They had to ‘fight’ without actually hurting each other,” says Emma. “The most challenging thing for me was to not film reflections or else you would see the camera and me filming. The most fun thing was probably getting to film one of the actors getting pushed into a pile of empty cardboard boxes: the stunt took many takes to get right and it was fun every time.”

With films in three festivals and some acting jobs to boot, this 14-year has some seriously creative skin in the game.

“I have always been interested in being in the film industry. I have done quite a few acting jobs on TV shows and commercials and I aspire to be part of the film community – whether it’s in front or behind the camera. I love the performing arts and a career as a performer or camera operator is my dream.”

A dream that somehow doesn’t seem very out of reach!

Want to check out more? Here are a couple of clips of Emma appearing in Power Rangers:

Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Ep 17 – Happy to be Me – Back to Normal – YouTube

And an advert for The Natural Confectionery Company: