Private Project


Unsung New Zealand oratory and debating guru to inmates of New York's prisons recounts his earlier struggle with a debilitating stutter. His story leads to an astounding revelation that has helped people break out of their mental prisons.

  • Huanhuan Zhang
  • Alex Clark
  • Huanhuan Zhang
  • Mark Nicholas
    Key Cast
    "John Wareham"
  • Rohan McCarthy
    Key Cast
    "John Wareham (child)"
  • Catherine Mercer
    Key Cast
    "Margaret Wareham"
  • Hilary Norris
    Key Cast
    "Grandmother of John"
  • John Wareham
    Adapted from true stories of
  • Greg Jennings
    Director of photography
  • Adam Browne
  • Paul Irving
    Art Department Coordinator
  • Francesca Logan
    First Camera Assist
  • Jessica Inkpen
    Hair and Make-up
  • Graeme Ford
    Extra Coordinator
  • Sarah L Mun
    Extra Coordinator
  • Shreyas Beltangdy
  • Gao Ping
    Original Score by
  • Bernard Blackburn
    Sound Mixer
  • Hu Yong
    Music Producer
  • Nathaniel Wolkstein
    Music Producer
  • Wanda Menchi
    Extra Hair and Makeup
  • John Stewart Jakeman
    Extra Hair and Makeup
  • MOBY
    Song "Hope is Gone (Ambient)" by
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    biography, crime, documentary
  • Runtime:
    24 minutes 34 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    July 25, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    New Zealand
  • Country of Filming:
    New Zealand
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
    1.90 : 1
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Huanhuan Zhang

Beijing-born Huanhuan Zhang is a bilingual screenwriter with extensive experience in NZ-China coproduction. His writing credits include studio tentpole Zhong Kui Fu Mo(2015), Candle In the Tomb - Wrath of Time (2018) currently streaming on Tencent pay-video website to great reviews.

Prior to Huanhuan’s screenwriting career, he has worked on a variety of roles in cable TV documentaries including development (Ice Vegas, Shaolin Inc for NatGeo), production fixer (Jurassic CSI) and post directing (Tough Rides China).

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

During my interviews with John, his stories transported me to maximum-security prisons, rival gangs’ peace talk and to the dark recesses of a mental prison which lies in almost everyone. Split up parents, his crippling stutter, juvenile delinquency, brutalizing and pedophile teachers at school were just a few things that used to drive him to a corner and eventually, his attempt suicide. He spoke about them light-heartedly and never failed to find humor in the tragedies. He joked being a writer of traumatizing past, he’s got a lot of capital to work with.
Not only did he generously share his capital with me, but John is also amazing speaking on camera. Through Errol Morris “interrotron” setup during the interview (through a teleprompter glass on my camera’s lens he monitored my live feed ), his dramatic telling rendered a fable quality to the otherwise too bleak and too self-important a film. Such fable quality also guided the dramatization, from acting’s choices to the art direction.
I often smile when people ask of the experience filming and listening to someone who speaks motivationally, though John disapproves of this label - motivational. He much preferred “Liberating”. His stories inadvertently broke me out of my own mental prison. His resolve in not giving in and to see hopeless situations as a gift inspired me. He had been coping with his life-long stammer, reminiscent of my effort in expressing myself fully in English. The immediate effect on me from the interview was that I signed back on to a local Toastmaster Club for my own public speaking chops so that I shall no longer shirk a director’s responsibility to pitch stories I believe in, such as this one.

The journey for John and his many inmate students would have been too big a corpus to include in this film. What I did include is how John used his inspiration from the ordeal to help his students to see the vicious cycle of criminality and incarceration. During John’s public speaking classes, minds break free. Personally, I can’t conceive of any other subject that’s more watchable, cathartic, or important.