About Equaliser (EQ)

EQ is a gender equality programme which speaks to UN Sustainable development Goal #5 (‘Gender Equality’). It provides funding for music videos and ensuing network events. The pilot programme (2021/2022) was developed in association with Women In Film & Television (WIFT) and SAE Creative Media Institute.

This project builds capacity and sustainability across the music and screen sectors, creates employment, opportunities and resilient networks of professionals who can then impart knowledge to similar cohorts of practitioners over the longer term.

2023 Grant Recipients

Musician applicants were asked to submit a song that is planned for 2023 release. Ideally the song would be completed or near completion at time of submission. Each successful project application will receive $10,000 to create content (music video, interstitials, visualisers) to support the release of new music this year.

Congratulations to our three recipients - AJA, Mel Parsons and Kelly Sherrod. 


AJA Ropata (Ngāti Toa rangatira, Āti Awa ki Whakarongotai, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou) is a highly respected figure in the fields of Māori education and music, known for her immense talents as a singer, songwriter, and performer.

With a deep-rooted passion for creating and producing music in both te reo Māori and Pākehā, AJA has become a prominent figure in the music industry. AJA's musical journey began with the release of her debut single 'Non-Handler' during Matariki in2019, which garnered widespread acclaim for its powerful vocals and thought-provoking lyrics.

In NZ Music Month 2020, she followed up with her second single 'Kāwai', a captivating exploration of themes such as creation and environmental awareness. Her unique ability to connect with her audience through her music has earned her a dedicated fan base and numerous accolades.

In 2022, AJA was honoured with the prestigious APRA Maioha Award for her collaboration waiata 'Te Iho', alongside Byllie-Jean and Chris Wethey. As a first-time finalist and winner, AJA expressed immense pride in elevating contemporary waiata reo Māori and further establishing her musical prowess.

AJA's powerful voice and innovative musical arrangements have captivated audiences across Aotearoa and beyond, drawing listeners into a vast musical landscape. Her live performances are highly anticipated, and she has been fronting her 12-piece band on her summer tour 'I CAN FEEL IT', including headlining performances at the Newtown Festival and the upcoming final show at Cuba Dupa in March 2023.

In addition to her impressive live performances, AJA has recently release her single and live video 'Feel it' and is also working on her first production, as the opening act for the Kia Mau Festival 2023, collaborating with renowned producer, singer, and musician, Mara TK from Electric Wire Hustle. With her unwavering dedication to her craft and her people, AJA Ropata is an artist whose music and shows are not be missed. Her contributions to Māori music and education have been immense, and her future endeavours are sure to be nothing short of extraordinary.

AJA has chosen to work with female director, Jessica Sanderson, see profile below.

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Tik Tok

Jessica Sanderson

Jessica Sanderson (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga, Te Ātiawa, Pākehā) is a television & film director based in Aotearoa New Zealand. Themes around identity and memory often appear in her work. Jessica is also passionate about working on stories that promote healing and on documentaries that can elevate inspiring voices to influence positive change. She is also a trained designer and passionate about creating beautiful imagery. 

Jessica has 10+ years of experience in the television industry in multiple roles. In 2019 she acted on her love for cinema and drama, writing and directing her first NZFC-funded short film – WAYS TO SEE (Sandy Lane Productions). Currently, she is writing her first feature film, supported by mentorship from the 2021 ‘Film Up’ program with Script to Screen. Jessica is passionate about the arts and supporting artists when possible – and has created MUSIC VIDEOS for some of Aotearoa’s most prolific musicians.  

Recently, Jessica finished directing MOKO (Velvetstone Media), an 8-part documentary series that explored the modern revival of tā moko (traditional Māori tattooing). Jessica’s commitment to the project, which started in 2018, was motivated by images of her tupuna (nō Heretaunga) wearing facial moko and the hope that it be just as commonplace for future generations.  

Jessica has a strong visual aesthetic – heavily influenced by the moody fantasy films of her childhood and contemporary Māori Art. Her own artistic impulses were fostered as a young person by her whānau. Before she realised directing was her path, she had intentions of being an Art Director and trained in ‘Performance Design’ at Massey University & Toi Whakaari (2009). She remains passionate about collaborating with people driven to create powerful imagery. Two of her most recent projects, 'Moko' and 'Ways To See', won cinematography awards for peers Tammy Williams (Ways To See) & Bevan Crothers (Moko). Moko was also a finalist in the 2022 Best Awards for Moving Image, Long Form.

Predominantly a director, Jessica has also held positions as a creative director and editor – working in the promotions and advertising space. Skills she brings to brands, artists and initiatives that promote quality, kaupapa Māori, the environment, or hauora (well-being). Her most recent collaboration involved a partnership with The Spinoff and Te Hiringa Hauora, where she directed and edited a short doco about NGĀ WĀNANGA O HINE KŌPŪ (Finalist 2022 Best Awards – Moving Image, Long Form). 

Jessica is currently finishing creative direction for an online offering from Te Tihi o Ruahine, which will share mātauranga on “ADVANCING MĀORI ASPIRATIONS” –which is heavily influenced by 'Whānau Ora', an indigenous and holistic approach to wellbeing. 

Jessica also spends her time reviving her visual arts practice, learning te reo Māori and being a māmā. To contact Jessica about potential collaborations – please get in touch with her agent via Dusty Road


Kelly Sherrod

Living between Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland and Nashville, Tennessee, Kelly Sherrod is a multi-faceted artist practicing in both audio and visual media. She writes, produces and performs as Proteins of Magic, and makes visual worlds to translate her songs to screen by using claymation to digital art; creating an alchemy of sound, vision, time and nature.

There isn’t a single genre that describes the musical output of Proteins of Magic, but in broad terms it embodies the realm of Gothic; from the use of voices from elsewhere, layered upon one another, to the drama of chamber pop melded with eerie post-punk, she blurs the boundaries between innovative alt-folk and contemporary art music.

In 2022, she signed to Particle Recordings, with her single 'Lethal' going to Number 1 in the NZ Radioscope alternative charts. Her next single 'Divine Physics' in 2023 went to Number 1 in the 95bFM top 10, and was toured in a series of headline shows in Aotearoa.

Kelly has chosen to work with Alyx Duncan.

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Alyx Duncan

Alyx Duncan is an artist and filmmaker. She has directed one critically acclaimed feature film, award-winning shorts, dance and theatre. She choreographs for film and TV.

She was a recipient of the New Zealand Film Commission Gaylene Preston Female Directors’ Award. Alyx won SPADA (Screen Production and Development Association) New Filmmaker of the Year Award. Her films THE TIDE KEEPER won awards across the globe and THE RED HOUSE was loved by audiences in New Zealand and abroad.

She is mother to a five-year-old child. 


Mel Parsons

Multi-award winning singer songwriter Mel Parsons is one of Aotearoa’s most beloved touring acts. Part musician and part raconteur, Parsons’ beguiling voice and disarming line of humour has won her a very dedicated fan base and has seen her spend the past decade performing all over the world - from festival stages to theatres to working woolsheds.

Parsons’ newest record ‘Slow Burn' debuted at #3 on the Top40 Charts, was a finalist for Best Folk Artist at the 2023 AMAs & has already clocked up over 700k streams.

‘Slow Burn’ follows Parsons’ critically acclaimed fourth album ‘Glass Heart’, which was produced by legendary LA-based Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Suzanne Vega, Elvis Costello, Missy Higgins, Randy Newman, Lindsay Buckingham/Christine McVie), which saw her win the coveted Best Folk Artist at the 2020 AMAs, was a finalist for the 2019 Taite Music Prize and a Top 20 finalist at 2019’s APRA Silver Scroll Award.

The success of ‘Glass Heart’ followed a string of accolades for Parsons, whose debut album ‘Over My Shoulder’ and her sophomore album ‘Red Grey Blue’ were both finalists for Folk Album of the Year (in 2009 and 2011, respectively).

The full-time touring artist garnered a Silver Scroll finalist nod for ‘Get Out Alive’ in 2015, won the 2016 NZCMA Best Song for ‘Alberta Sun’ and the VNZMA for Best Engineer for the ‘Drylands’ record. Both her debut album ‘Over My Shoulder’ (2009) and sophomore offering ‘Red Grey Blue’ (2011) were also VNZMA finalists for Folk Album of the Year. Parsons is also a cast member of Kiwi musical supergroup ‘Fly My Pretties‘, with sell out tours and festival performances throughout Australasia.

Mel has chosen to work with female Director, Morgan Albrecht.


Listen here:
Band Camp 

Image credit: Sabin Holloway

Morgan Leary

Morgan is a New Zealand filmmaker and musician with a passion for bringing the two worlds of music and film together.

Growing up in rural New Zealand in the 90s before cellphones - writing stories, animals and cam-corders were the main source of her entertainment - and continue to be into adulthood, living on a wild reserve in West Auckland.

Playing in several New Zealand indie bands (Dictaphone Blues, Creme Jean, Cindy, Kathy Bates Motel) informs her lens as a filmmaker - the importance of sound combined with images, the energy and spirit of live music, simultaneously challenging and inspiring lifestyle of touring, the dichotomy of the camaraderie of a band, and the loneliness of being away from family.

Now as a young parent she spends more time in the film industry, her award winning films such as Bird’s Eye! and We Rock! have played at prestigious international and local film festivals.

Morgan is currently making a feature film about the friendship between New Zealand and Japanese punk rock scenes.



Thanks to everyone who applied for our latest funding round. Applications are closed. For information about the grant, please contact Renée Tanner via email at