Storytelling is life – Joshua Prendeville’s cinematic worlds 

Joshua Prendeville“It was the idea of cinema as a whole that engulfed me. Cinema as something completely immersive and vast that one surrenders oneself to. A reason to sit in the dark, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sharing something intimate and, hopefully, unsettling.”  

From his earlier years of completing a Massey Diploma in Photography in 2013, Joshua has embraced the stories that life insists we’re the main character of. From working as a director’s assistant and studying theatre at a method acting school in Paris, to many, often difficult, life lessons, Joshua’s journey is one that shows tenacity can result in something beautiful.   

Joshua, looking back on his time at Massey, says, “My favourite part of my studies was likely a combination of having two years to explore the world artistically under the demanding framework of deadlines and assignments coupled with having access to an equipment room where you could hire out gear and simply go make things.” This was a real pleasure – “to be given the freedom to make art and express yourself without having to turn it into something that also paid your rent.” The teaching staff also had an impact. One tutor particularly, Richard Shepherd, left a deep impression on Joshua. “I remember him having this untainted fondness for art and he seemed to revel in its beauty and boundless possibilities. I always left his class happy and inspired and I believe, at its core, that is the most valuable gift a teacher can give a student.” 

Joshua found filmmaking by way of photography – “in the sense of learning to look at things in a more critical manner,” he says. Influenced at the time by artists such as Jeff Wall, David Lynch, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Andreas Gursky and Cindy Sherman, Joshua was profoundly impacted by their use of elaborate narratives within the compositional frame. In his final year, he convinced one of his lecturers to let him make a short film – “and after that experience I was lost to it.” 

What followed after graduation were many adventures, including shooting stills on a film campaign for Giorgio Armani. Joshua says, “As they had flown a large French team of creatives to New Zealand for the project, it quickly put me in touch with an array of fascinating people in that milieu. After finishing, I waited for my payment to arrive and then, with that money in my pocket, I jumped on a plane to Paris. I spent the next few years totally obsessed with cinema and I would spend all day at little theatres all over the city, often watching up to five films a day and just sort of bathing in it from every angle.”  

Joshua adds, “I was hopelessly in love with what cinema offered as a means of expression… and that obsessive manner of cinephilia was, and still is, my way of navigating my desire and infatuation for it.”  

‘In Passing’ is Joshua’s recently released film – “a film that, on one hand, is deeply personal and specific, while on the other hand, uses the form of cinema as a prism through which to pass through,” Joshua says. “It’s the story of a young, troubled musician in New Zealand who has lost his parents and has a complicated obligation to his young sister, his only living relative. He meets a French actress who is in New Zealand for a year-long theatre residency and falls in love. As the story progresses, he desperately struggles to construct something that resembles a family between the three of them.” Joshua emphasizes, “But, sadly, it is an intention built from a perspective of fantasy rather than solid reality, and this blindness to realism leads to horrific consequences.”  

He shares, “it’s a story that navigates the pitfalls of performance, which is something we all do to some extent. For me the film investigates the way in which we become so consumed with how we want something to be, rather than how it actually is, that we destroy ourselves and the things around us through the arrogance of our own actions.” In thinking about his approach to storytelling, Joshua reflects, “the film is a collision between my desire to tell a story, as well as the desire to simply express myself cinematically.”  

The film is an independent New Zealand production and was made with a lot of dedication and support from a great variety of local cast and crew. Throughout his career and in the process of making ‘In Passing’, Joshua says, “I learnt quickly that you have to really believe in yourself, your ideas, and put your money where your mouth is.” Your team is also important, he affirms. “You have to find passionate collaborators who share a love for seeing those ideas brought to life, because without them, the rest would be impossible. Your team is everything. And I don’t mean that in a flippant manner in relation to an individual’s skills or abilities; but the craftmanship, sensibilities, and soul of each person that you collaborate with inevitably bleeds into the film, so you have to choose those people carefully. If you can’t compete on money, then you have to compete on passion – and the truthfulness of that drive becomes your currency.” 

As for what’s next? Joshua is contemplative in his answer. “I never know for sure because life is unexpected and, if we’ve learnt anything from the last two years, it’s how severely we can all underline that fact. But I have a film set in France that I wrote and am currently developing. I also have a New Zealand set screenplay that I spent most of last year researching and writing and which I’ve finished a draft on,” Joshua says. “It’s a period piece with a larger scope, temporally speaking, than I’ve previously worked on, and the characters fascinate me so I would love to bring it to life. So, we’ll see. I’ve always been a firm believer in Jean Renoir’s maxim that you must always leave a door open on set because you never know what might walk in, so I try to live with that idea in my back pocket. Ultimately, I hope to continue making things that are worthwhile. Time will tell.”   

You can watch ‘In Passing’ on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. Stay tuned for a special alumni event related to the film.  


In Passing film
In Passing film
In Passing film
In passing film