Looking at the World Through the Lens of Motherhood

By Sabrina Scalfari

Wellington. It is as windy as they all say it is and, charming. It was our home for two years and the place my second child was born. Years after we left, I came across a link to a short film called Coffee Group, created by local Wellingtonians.

Coffee Group is a short film written and directed by Tess Jamieson-Karaha, based on characters written by Tess, Jane Ballentyne and Stefanie Delprete. It is a story of “3 mums, 1 mother of a morning, 3 conceptions, and 3 very different reactions to a positive pregnancy test.” The film is an honest exploration of the moments of motherhood we all experience, but rarely talk openly about. After watching the film and being so inspired, I knew I had to reach out to Tess Jamieson-Karaha, who wrote and directed it.

Please, introduce yourself Tess!

I was born and raised in Wellington. I travelled the world for 5 years after high school then returned to study at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama school when I was 26. I was pregnant when I graduated in 2010 and so my double careers of motherhood and acting were born simultaneously! Since then I have worked in film, TV, radio and theatre and currently teach screen acting at Te Auaha New Zealand Institute of Creativity.

How did you recruit the team that created Coffee Group? (I’m assuming that with a team full of mamas and lots of laughter, there definitely were some near accidents!)

Jane (Karen) came to an open acting class I was teaching. We bonded over the real life of motherhood (she has four girls!), and so it was a no-brainer that we had to create a film together, plus, she’s a comedic genius. Megs (Phoebe) was in my acting class at Toi Whakaari, so we had a strong creative bond as well. The rest of the crew were sourced randomly, but it just felt like everyone who was attracted to the project “got it”. Andreas ( D.O.P ) is a father so he also loved the idea of creating a glimpse into the “secret life of…”. There were some real life accidents on set! A beautiful poop on cue from my niece (who played my baby)!

The stories are candid and confronting, especially in the face of idyllic representations of motherhood in the media. Was it easy for you to share these stories or were you apprehensive at all?

I was driven to tell this story as candidly as I could. I was sick of seeing glossed over representations of motherhood on screen. I wanted to show reality so that mums out there could go, “Yes! That’s me! Ahh, I’m not the only one! I’m doing OK.”

What do you love about each of your characters?

I love that they are all just doing the best they can with the resources they have; each searching for some connection from the outside world to get inspiration, whether it be caffeine for some kind of brain function, someone to talk “at”, or just 5 minutes of peace. Underneath it all, it’s just a place to be messy, vulnerable and accepted. All the characters represent a different part of me. I am all three of these women at different times.

What advice, if any, would you have each of them if you could sit down and hold her hand?

Haha, firstly – don’t listen to my advice! I don’t know what I’m talking about. And then repeat after me: keep bringing it back to kind. You’ll be OK. They’ll be OK.

Would you be happy to comment on your experience as a first-time mother?

We were really idealistic about the kind of birth we wanted and what type of parents we were going to be. All that was blown to pieces in the form of an emergency cesarean and a little insomniac firecracker of a daughter! Being an actor freshly trained, staying at home as a mum was really challenging for me. Luckily, my partner Hayden had a flexible job and he worked extremely hard to provide for us, whilst supporting me in building a career at the same time.

See next page for the rest…

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