My First Film 2024

Directed by Zia Anger Frames

A young filmmaker recounts the story of directing her first feature in Zia Anger’s enthralling, deeply personal inquiry into the growing pains inherent to creation and collaboration.

Aug 09

Hollywood Avondale

USA In English
100 minutes Colour / DCP
NZ Classification TBC



Taylor Shung, Riel Roch Decter


Zia Anger, Billy Feldman


Ashley Connor


Joe Bini, Matthew Hannam

Production Designer

Stephen Phelps

Costume Designer

Rachel Dainer-Best


Perfume Genius


Odessa Young, Devon Ross, Cole Doman, Sage Ftacek, Jane Wickline, Seth Steinburg


CPH:DOX 2024


“Collaboration is god”, tweeted filmmaker Zia Anger in 2024, 15 years after she made her debut micro-budget feature, Always All Ways, Anne Marie, with a cast and crew of family and friends. Since it never screened anywhere, IMDb classifies Always as “abandoned”, but that was Anger’s actual “first film”. My First Film, on the other hand, is a meta yet accessible, deeply personal treatise on the fraught process of making Always and the seemingly futile attempt to find satisfaction, catharsis, even happiness, as an artist.

Since shooting Always, Anger has directed music videos for Mitski, Jenny Hval, Beach House, and Angel Olsen as well as numerous acclaimed short films. So acclaimed, in fact, that industry names kept asking when she was going to make her first feature. She didn’t have the heart to tell them she already had, and it went nowhere. My First Film is not the first time Anger has reflected on the making of her debut feature – from 2018 until 2022 she toured her live multimedia performance titled My First Film through US cinemas and, during the pandemic, online. Reminiscent of the way a writer like Annie Ernaux or Maggie Nelson adapts her own life over and over again, examining it from different angles, sometimes coming to different conclusions, Anger has crafted My First Film as an autofiction piece that holds up all on its own, a film bitterly resonant for anyone who has devoted their life to trying to make art and worried that they may have wasted their energy in doing so.

Starring Odessa Young (Looking for Grace, NZIFF 2015) as Vita, a stand-in for younger Zia, and model Devon Ross (Irma Vep) as the lead actress of Vita’s micro-budget film, Anger recreates and recontextualises scenes from her debut effort. Vita has a crew of friends, a selfish boyfriend, an Adderall addiction and an unwanted pregnancy. She is trying her best to make a good movie, but she is not well equipped. Anger, conversely, has made an excellent movie in My First Film, which threads narration, plot, recreation, screen-recording, stock clips, archival footage, Instagram stories and scenes from Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon to tell its story of ambition, control and compromise, with a beautiful, bright score from Perfume Genius knitting it all together.

Monumentally generous in its transparency, My First Film is, in some ways, a film about failure. It is also a film about cinema, abortion, truth and storytelling, and about the perils of being a “young” “female” “independent filmmaker”. It is about the process of attempting to resurrect your spirit after rejection, and it is about trying to treat people better. More than anything, My First Film is a joyous tribute to the very act of creation, and a must-see for any young artist. — Amanda Jane Robinson