CapU prof connects his passion for film with his heritage
Annalisse Crosswell // contributor
Well-established television writer and playwright, David Geary, has been repping a Canadian flag since 2008. Since moving from New Zealand, he has continued to build a name for himself, teaching at Capilano University on and off for four years, teaching a two-year Indigenous Film program, documentary classes, playwriting classes and acting as Motion Picture Arts Coordinator. In that time, he has been able to make an impact on his students by right of his previous experience in the film industry both in New Zealand and Canada, his more conversational approach to teaching and the unique perspective that comes from his Māori roots in New Zealand.
Despite the influence of his Māori heritage in his approach to teaching different forms of storytelling, Geary did not claim his roots until he was in his thirties. With a fairer complexion and not knowing his self-governing nation, he felt uncomfortable claiming the heritage until describing his story to a woman who led him to find another side of his family that he had yet to connect with. Now, he embraces his place as a part of the Taranaki Maori iwi and Ngāti Pākehā, working closely here in Canada with the Indigenous populations.
Geary begun his studies at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, where he took a poetry course taught by famous poet, Bill Manhire. When the course required that he write in other forms he found that his writing was highly dialogue focused. From there, he began hanging out with the drama students because he found them to be the most interesting. This in turn led him to the New Zealand drama school where he started writing plays. “We had this really good drama club experimental play culture,” he said. There he studied acting, because the school had no directing programs at the time.
Geary’s playwriting eventually led him to his career in the New Zealand film industry, and he went on to create many notable works, some of which were not ever presented to the public. One being a film for the creators of Trainspotting about a Māori hit woman that was based on a true story set in England. It went through 10 drafts over five years before the script was dropped, at which point Geary felt almost a sense of relief as he felt he could never get the script quite right.
Today, Geary’s teaching style is heavily influenced by the concept of Ako, which is based on the idea of reciprocity in teaching and learning. This manifests itself in his teaching style – one that focuses more on facilitating insteade of instructing, while also involving students in the learning process. “People from a place don’t see their stories as being valuable, because they don’t see them as valuable…” he said. When working with First Nations students, he focuses on storytelling from the unique perspectives, asking individuals how their people approach storytelling and using the connection of maps in telling stories. He also engages students in trying to understand the connection between traditional stories and storytelling in the modern age. His unique approach to storytelling has taken him through many avenues so far. This only adds to what he has to offer students, as he continues to embrace his heritage and educate individuals on the significance of Indigenous communities and the power that film has to continuously shape the audience’s perception of cultural significance.