From Shortland Street to water births: Katherine McRae's new focus

The director was on hand when the ocean lovers gave birth.

By Amy Prebble
Katherine McRae's documentary Water Baby boasts incredible footage of the first seconds of Mila Trubridge's life.
Baby Mila arrives under water in a birthing pool, and is tenderly swooped into the arms of her exhausted parents, famous freedivers Sachiko Fukumoto and William Trubridge.
Katherine (57), who directed the short documentary, was ecstatic about capturing the moment on film.
"We were all in the room with Sachiko and William, and every time she had a contraction, we rolled the cameras," she recalls.
"Luckily, I had been given this GoPro, so I put that on a clamp in the birth pool and was so thrilled to actually get the shot of the baby coming out in the water!"
Freedivers William and Sachiko's journey to parenthood is documented on Water Baby.
Sachiko (37) had originally wanted to give birth in the sea in a nod to the couple's love of water – William (39) is an 18-time world record holder and current world freediving champion – in either Long Island, Bahamas or Okinawa, Japan, but given her March due date, the sea proved to be too cold.
Then, in her native Japan, she struggled to find anyone prepared to let her attempt a water birth at home.
So the couple opted to have the baby in New Zealand, finding midwife Julie Kinloch in Hawke's Bay, where William's parents David and Linda are based.
When she knew she would be giving birth in Aotearoa, Sachiko contacted producer Migawa Ozawa to see if she wanted to make a film about it.
Migawa and Katherine had formed a close working relationship after creating a piece about musician Willie Crummer together, and she was delighted to be enlisted as director on the project.
"These two people spend so much of their time in the oceans; they care about them so deeply and I was hoping that through us watching them pass on that love to their daughter that we would all care about the oceans a bit more at the end of the film," she explains.
There was a point where Wellington-based Katherine thought she might miss the March birth.
"The challenge of filming the birth was full-on because you can't schedule it," she tells.
"Migawa was standing by in the Hawke's Bay. When Sachiko went into labour, my phone was on silent! I'd been waiting for weeks and inadvertently my ringer thing was off. I drove up at 3am when her contractions were five minutes apart, worrying I'd missed everything!"
As it turned out, little Mila's arrival was still hours away. Katherine says she is glad Kiwi women have the option of choosing a home-based delivery if it's appropriate.
She shares, "I couldn't have that myself because I had a very difficult pregnancy with twins, which was potentially fatal the whole time, so I had to embrace full medical care. And that is why I have my daughters today."
Six-month-old Mila will grow up with a love of the sea.
Katherine is very proud of her three girls – Sally and Henrietta (26) and Elsie (22), with her husband, music critic and author Nick Bollinger (61).
Sally and Elsie have followed in their mum's footsteps and are part of Candle Wasters, a group that created a Shakespeare-inspired webseries, Nothing Much to Do, and now has NZ on Air funding for a new webseries, Tragicomic.
Henrietta, who has cerebral palsy, is a playwright, poet and disability advocate.
Katherine is still recognised from her stint as Brenda on Shortland Street, but she actually spent far longer behind the cameras on the soap. She was a full-time director at South Pacific Pictures for seven years, working on Nothing Trivial and Go Girls as well.
"When I was learning to direct for TV, my daughters were at an age where they got quite influenced by that," Katherine says. "They have done a lot of film festivals and things like that."
She is currently remounting a production of *A Doll's House*, a play originally written by Henrik Ibsen and written into a New Zealand context by acclaimed Kiwi author Emily Perkins.
"It's a funny contrast to Water Baby," muses Katherine.
"Both are about women and their choices. One about how to have her baby, and one about a woman who has to face a choice when her marriage is exposed as a lie."
Water Baby is available on TVNZ OnDemand. A Doll's House will be touring Nelson on September 10 and Hamilton on September 14.

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