Archive for October, 2009

Moon Over Ponsonby

The front page of the local newspaper has a story about the film under the photo above (of Mike Riddell, DOP Tom Burstyn and lead Rawiri Paratene). It’s a good piece. The film must be going to happen – I read it in the news. Link here to read.


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Getting There

Amazing what can be accomplished in a day, with the right attitude and a good team of people committed to the cause. Every night I wake up with my mind buzzing – a raft of tasks that need to be completed, and conscious of how little time there is left.

But the astonishing thing is that by the end of the day, a huge amount has been achieved, and we are that much closer to getting there. And in this business, getting there is a significant achievement. Film is perhaps the highest form of art collaboration – no way of doing it without real teamwork and interdependence.
And so it is as we draw near the end of the first week of preproduction, that there is a certain sense of satisfaction alongside the constant panic. Also, many small events are convincing us that the mojo is flowing – that there’s a sense of rightness and timeliness about this whole project.
Time will tell, but there’s a massive amount of soul pouring into this production.

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It was great to tour round some of the locations with our DOP Tom Burstyn last week. Strange how you see things with new eyes when you’re looking alongside a cameraman. The image to the left is of the interior of the church which we’ll be using for the funeral scene. Tom could immediately see the beauty and potential of it.

This afternoon I was down at the boarding house (another location), drinking coffee and talking to the owners. They are the very best of people, and in the midst of a million distractions it was good to be with them. We had a wide ranging conversation about all sorts of things, but primarily about allowing people the dignity to be themselves without the constant pressure to be someone else.
There’s not only stigma with mental illness – there’s the constant attempt by agencies to make people ‘better’ or ‘normal’. It was so wonderful to be in an environment where aroha is the norm, and you’re allowed to be mad if you want to be mad. We swapped some stories of the enriching moments we’d experienced by living with people who are ‘different’.
Film, like life, is a way of seeing. Cropping the boundaries provides focus and perspective, so that sometimes you are aware of things which have always been there, but become newly evident.

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Pre Production

Today marks the start of our official pre-production. Just three weeks left to get ourselves organised for the shoot. It’s akin to the mounting of a significant military operation – no good getting part way through and discovering you didn’t organise the supply train.

So the busyness increases, the decisions multiply, the demands grow. But so does the excitement and the anticipation. And it’s a chance to get to know the team who will be working together to bring this dream to reality.
I was out of my depth some weeks ago, but it hasn’t stopped me yet. The idea is to learn from the duck, and keep all the frantic paddling below the surface.
At the end of all this labour, something will be born among us.

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We started out on this project to be producers who were open and transparent in our dealings with all. And that has continued to be our guiding star. There’s something about integrity and honesty which affects the atmosphere of the whole team. We’ve also looked for cast and crew who were not only talented but who believed in the story and wanted to be part of it.

This week has been a difficult one in which we’ve engaged some of the darker aspects of the industry. It’s been a challenge to maintain equilibrium and stick to our principles as we were caught up in some issues not of our making. But all credit to the main players who have found a way to get through in the interests of getting the film made.
Yesterday we looked at the camera test images for the Sony EX1 (night shooting, close-ups, depth of field etc) on the big screen, and were delighted to confirm that the data levels were within the ranges necessary for effective post production, and for printing to 35mm at the end of it all. Plus, it looked pretty damned good.
Of course it helps to have a DOP who knows how to play the instrument!
A great deal of buzz for me personally yesterday as we had our first HODs meeting up at the office, and there was the sense of a team on a mission. Everyone there was making some sort of sacrifice to be part of the film, but bringing their professionalism to it.
So. Official pre-production begins Tuesday. Here we go…

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Today we’re doing a test shoot with the camera setup we’ll be using for the film. DOP Tom Burstyn is up here to coincide with a couple of days when our lead Rawiri Paratene has some space in his busy schedule. It’s something of a tech rehearsal, but it also marks another staging post on the way toward shoot.

Tomorrow will be the first gathering of the clan, with most of the HODs for the film getting together for the first time with the director.
In the midst of the constant problem-solving and fire-fighting which occupies most of my days, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that what seemed impossible not so long ago is actually under way. Our former director Gillies Mackinnon describes the process of filmmaking as ‘from dream to shit and (hopefully) back to dream again’.
We’re just entering into the shit phase, but hoping to keep the dream in sight as we go forward.

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It’s a salutary lesson for a writer to be a producer. I’ve done it several times before, though never quite at this level. It does make you appreciate how easy it is to write something which will create headaches for the production team, and how pragmatic writers need to be when it comes to the telling of their story.

Unfortunately one of the side effects of production is that the process becomes all-consuming, leaving little of the unencumbered time that writers need for that final honing of the script. About the only thing I’m writing at the moment is contracts! And even that is just filling in the blanks for the most part.
But now we’ve taken on a Production Manager (Laina Cheung), I’m hoping that some space may miraculously appear so that I can do my final polish. And of course there will be the inevitable tweaks as we go along and the actors make their own contributions. Now, back to the contracts…

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