Briar Grace-Smith was born in Whakatane, the daughter of Miriam and Alan Smith, and was educated at Pukerua Bay Primary School and Aotea College in Porirua. While at high school Briar participated in short journalism courses run by the Tu Tangata magazine. After she left school she worked for the Youth Focus on the Evening Post. In 1983 she became a founding member of Te Ohu Whakaari and worked as an actor/writer with this full time theatre company which toured nationally for 18 months. She worked as an actor and writer on the devised production Treat it Right which was performed at Maidment Theatre 1990. From 1989 to 1997 she worked as an actor and writer on devised productions for He Ara Hou Māori Theatre Company. She toured nationally with He Ara Hou which performed at the 1992 Adelaide Fringe Festival and at the Popular Peoples Theatre Exchange, Sydney, in 1993. He Ara Hou Productions included Whatungarongaro, Hine, Ko Miria Au.
She writes short stories and poetry about young people, teenagers and motherhood and has had short stories produced by Ears for National Radio. Briar has studied Māori language at Te Wananga o Raukawa. She is also a weaver and has tutored weaving in MACESS schemes at Maraeroa at Porirua and at Hongoeka Bay.
In 1994 she trained as a Script Adviser with Playmarket and from August to December 1997 worked as Staff Script Adviser with Playmarket. She has also had ongoing work as a Dramaturge and Script Assessor. In 1998 she was the facilitator of South of Nga Puhi New Playwrights Group. In 2001 she judged the Huia Publishers Short Film Competition and in 2000 was appointed as a Governor of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. She was a member of Te Ha – the Contemporary Māori Writers Committee of Toi Māori Aotearoa from 2002-2006. In 2007 she was appointed as a Theatre Committee member of the Emerging Artists Trust (EAT) Wellington.
She has received various awards for her work as a playwright. In 1995 she won the Bruce Mason Playwrights’ Award. Her play Ngā Pou Wāhine won the Peter Harcourt award for best short play during the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Purapurawhetu won the Chapmann Tripp Theatre Award for Best New Zealand play in 1997. Briar was the 1998 Writer in Residence at Massey University. Also in 1998 she became South of Nga Puhi, New Māori Playwrights Group, Facilitator. She received a Kapiti Premiere Literature Award presented by members of the Kapiti Arts community for contribution to the arts. In 2000 she was awarded one of five Arts Foundation of New Zealand Inaugural Laureate Awards. In 2001 she was one of four nominated for the Glenn Schaeffer Writing Award. In 2003 she was Writer in Residence at Victoria University and in January 2006 her feature film ‘The Strength of Water’ was chosen for an intensive week-long laboratory at the Sundance Screenwriters Laboratory at Utah. She also attended the directors/writer laboratory in Utah in June 2006.
"Grace-Smith wrote the screenplay for feature film The Strength of Water, which showed at international film festivals across the world in 2009. It was workshopped with director Armagan Ballantyne at Sundance Directors’ and Screenwriters’ Labs in Utah in 2006. A review by Peter Calder in the NZ Herald said: 'Grace-Smith has created that wonderful thing: a story that is richly and intensely of this land but whose concerns are so universal that it could, with small adjustments, be set in Iceland or Japan. It is a remarkable achievement.'
Grace-Smith co-wrote the screenplay of the 2011 series Billy with Dave Armstrong. She also wrote her plays Purapurawhetu and When Sun and Moon Collide into screenplays for television adaptation.
Her screenplay for the 2012 movie Fresh Meat, starring Temuera Morrison, sees cannibalism collide with comedy to create a highly entertaining viewing experience.
Grace-Smith’s latest scriptwriting work was broadcast in the 2015 series When We Go To War, which commemorated and recounted the events surrounding the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign.
Briar Grace-Smith resides in Wellington’s Kapiti Coast."
Briar has provided some of the annotations below; these appear in quotation.
- Interview, phone conversation and correspondence with Briar Grace Smith, Aug. 1992, 3 and 9 Sept. 1998, and 22 Oct. 2008.
- Huia Short Stories 1995. Wellington, N.Z.: Huia, 1995. 136.
http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/profiles/grace-smith,%20briar 7 September 2016