Director and writer
New Zealand/Canadian Alison Maclean emigrated to New Zealand as a teenager, and later attended Elam Art School in Auckland. On her first job, as a production assistant on Vincent Ward’s Vigil, she met producer Bridget Ikin, with whom she would collaborate on a number of short films. These began with Taunt (1983), an experimental film scripted, shot, edited and directed by Maclean in her final year at Elam.
In 1987 the duo collaborated on 48-minute drama Talkback (1987), about the unusual relationship between a woman forced to become a late-night radio host (Lucy Sheehan), and a sometimes antagonistic caller (Peter Tait). Talkback was the first of two consecutive Maclean-directed films to take away the Listener award for best local short.
Short film Kitchen Sink, a surreal suburban nightmare, burst onto the international scene with the same impact as the hairy monster from the plughole in the film. Starring Theresa Healey, it debuted In Competition at Cannes in 1989 and has won eight international awards. Arguably the most successful short film to come from NZ, it later screened as part of a ‘best of’ Sundance retrospective at UCLA’s Hammer Museum. It continues to be cited as a favourite short film by filmmakers and audiences worldwide.
Maclean’s debut feature, Crush (1992), produced by Ikin and starring American Marcia Gay Harden, was also invited to play In Competition at Cannes – the only debut feature in competition that year. The film won praise from a range of critics; Moving Pictures International editor Nick Roddick called it an “extraordinary debut feature”.
Maclean moved to New York in 1992. After several years developing projects, she made her second feature, Jesus’ Son (1999), starring Billy Crudup and Samantha Morton.Jesus’ Son won the Baby Lion and OCIC Catholic Awards at the Venice Film Festival; The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and critic Roger Ebert all rated it one of the 10 best films of the year.
In 2004, Maclean made the documentary Persons of Interest, a series of interviews with New York Arabs and Muslims detained on immigration charges after September 11th. Co-directed with Tobias Perse, the film was selected for Sundance and the International Human Rights Watch Festival.
Her TV work includes directing episodes of Sex and the City, Gossip Girl, Carnivale, The L-Word, Homicide: Life on the Street, Michael: Tuesdays and Thursdays and The Tudors.
Maclean has continued to direct shorts including Intolerable, starring David Rakoff (2006) and The Professor (2012), based on a Lydia Davis story. She also directs TV commercials and music videos, including Torn for Natalie Imbruglia.