Shepherdess has ventured from print to television in a new project that celebrates rural women.
The wheels were set in motion nearly two years ago, with the fruits of the female-led production team’s efforts coming to life as a six-episode TV series, Shepherdess, premiering on October 22 on Sky Open.
The show celebrates eighteen different rural women living in provincial Aotearoa from all walks of life – and all at varying stages in their lives.
Described as “a beautiful, heartwarming series” that’s far from just a stereotypical view of rural women as farmers’ wives”, it showcases the depth of the lives of the women in provincial Aotearoa.
Shepherdess publisher and editor-in-chief Kristy McGregor, who is also executive producer of the show, says her team was approached by Sky, “who recognised there was a space to share stories of rural life with a female lens”.
“Four years ago we created the magazine – which tells these beautiful stories in print through raw, authentic photography, and words, many written by the women in their own voice – and so it was a natural progression to take this way of storytelling but to a new format, television, which can have an even greater reach,” McGregor said.
“Women in provincial Aotearoa are incredibly resourceful, talented, and have many stories to share. At the heart of what we set out to do was not just show the role women play at work, but see women for their whole selves, leaning into the rhythms and routines of their life on the land, as we unravel their personal thoughts and experiences.”
The show, which runs as six half-hour episodes, each featuring three rural women, is a product of collaboration at grassroots level.
“We collaborated with experienced film producer Nadia Maxwell, who is based in North Canterbury and brings incredible experience and eye in the film industry,” she said.
“With television, there’s quite a process you work through – pre-production where we researched the areas that we were going to film, including talking with locals, community organisations, volunteer groups, and anyone we knew in the areas that might be able to offer an insight into women who lived in the area.”
The crew spent a week in each town or village, filming with the women.
“Over the course of a week you get to know the women and what’s important to them, where they have come from, how they landed here, and their hopes and dreams.
McGregor says another “beautiful” aspect of the production process was the crew and bringing a strong female presence to a male-dominated industry.
“One of the most beautiful things about the production is our female-led crew. With the exception of a few Directors of Photography, we had an all female crew out on the ground – and for a male-dominated screen industry, that was incredible.”
The series is also led by the women, so viewers will hear their stories and insights in their own words, leaning into moments that matter and exploring issues and themes that resonate with people across Aotearoa.
“Down back roads, in the small towns and villages, there’s amazing women with stories to share. We really followed an approach of every woman had a story to tell – and you didn’t have to have just climbed Mount Everest or won the Mayor’s award – we were looking for real women who were just going about their everyday [lives]. Ordinary women with extraordinary stories,” McGregor said.
Hanna McOwan, who directed three episodes, described the show as “wholesome” and “visually beautiful – both in the immense beauty of the landscape and the cinematography”.
“I hope the show will offer an interesting insight into the special and incredibly important role many women play in these small rural communities. Many of them are the backbone of the community, keeping these towns alive and thriving in so many different ways,” she said.
More: Tune into Sky Open this Sunday at 7.30pm to watch episode one, featuring three powerful women from the tiny town of Tokanui.