Waititi won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay for Jojo Rabbit at last night's ceremony, dedicating it in his acceptance speech to "all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, and dance, and do stories".
He and wife Chelsea Winstanley - who were the first Māori to be nominated as producers for Best Picture - told RNZ Checkpoint's Lisa Owen it was "pretty awesome" to win, but standing up in front of all those people was horrible.
"Horrible ... everything you think you're gonna say you forget and then you're just standing there and you just want to get off as soon as possible.
"It wasn't really nerves, like I was stood up there stunned for a long time but it's just, I'm not usually lost for words and that was one of those rare moments my brain didn't work."
Owen asked where the trophy was.
"Somewhere, I left it somewhere ... I've still gotta find my mum. I'll find my mum first then I'll find that statue."
He said he felt the award was a recognition of the decade spent making the film.
"I wrote it in 2010 and then it took a long time to get it made ... and also because it's writing which is a thing where I don't really put myself out there as a writer, it made me feel like maybe I should just say I'm a writer now."
He said it was a message for indigenous kids to just keep pursuing the arts.
"Growing up in New Zealand - it's different now but I think when we were kids it was a harder thing to get into the arts and to be taken seriously when at a certain age you're told to put down your pens and stop writing stories and start doing 'real world subjects'.
"And I never really agreed with that, and my parents never really agreed with that either and I'm really grateful to them for encouraging me to pursue the arts."
Winstanley has produced award-winning titles including the short films Night Shift and Meathead, and features What We do in the Shadows, the documentary Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen about film-maker and activist Merata Mita.
She also wrote and directed as one of the eight wāhine directors behind Waru, for which they received the New Zealand Film Commission's first Māori Screen Excellence Award.
She said the pressure was now off and it was great to be able to celebrate all the New Zealanders who had been nominated.
"It's an amazing feat for so many Kiwis and we've got so many people to be thankful for. We didnt' get here on our own that's for sure, you know.
"It's just such an exciting thing to be a part of, you just want to celebrate everybody's hard work in every category. So it was actually a really great night, it was really fun."
Jojo Rabbit missed out on the five other categories it was nominated for, including Best Picture, but Waititi paid tribute to the winner Parasite, which also won Best Director, Best International Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.
"Here's to Parasite, [director] Bong Joon Ho is like my favourite, I love that guy and couldn't be happier."
Full list of Winners:
BEST PICTURE - Parasite
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE - Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE - Renee Zellweger (Judy)
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood)
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE - Laura Dern (Marriage Story)
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM - Toy Story 4
CINEMATOGRAPHY - Robert Richardson (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood)
COSTUME DESIGN - Jacqueline Durran (Little Women)
DIRECTING - Bong Joon-Ho (Parasite)
DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE) - American Factory
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT) - Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)
FILM EDITING - Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland (Ford v Ferrari)
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM - Parasite (South Korea)
MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING - Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan and Vivian Baker (Bombshell)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE) - Hildur Guðnadóttirer (Joker)
MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG) - "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away", Randy Newman (Toy Story 4)
PRODUCTION DESIGN - Barbara Ling; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh (Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood)
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED) - Hair Love
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION) - The Neighbours' Window
SOUND EDITING - Donald Sylveste (Ford v Ferrari)
SOUND MIXING - Mark Taylor and Stuart Wilson (1917)
VISUAL EFFECTS - Guillaume Rocheron, Greg Butler and Dominic Tuohy (1917)
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY) - Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit)
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY) - Bong Joon Ho, Han Jin Won (Parasite)
This article was first published on Radio NZ.