Returning to film making has been a lovely experience. We’d had the filming of our theatrical response to the Pike disaster, Goodnight Irene, on the agenda for some time and finally it was possible. A budget of $2300 is ridiculous, but people’s generosity kicked in: Alun Bollinger, arguably New Zealand’s foremost cinematographer and resident on the Coast, said he’d film it; Patrick McBride, TV stringer, was willing to bring his camera and operate; Natalia, a Colombian migrant who works with Patrick and who had made films in Colombia joined the crew; Francis from the theatre group became boom operator; a Wellington lass, Owlsca, on the Coast for her gap year and the maker of charming short video clips became continuity and clapper; Brian Wood donated his house for the set; the Blackball fire engine and ambulance turned out for a shot; the local caterer arrived with quiche; the cast was nervous, myself included – we’d done little film acting so we rehearsed with a camera … but it’s all turned out. The rushes are great, Alun is a master (modern technology doesn’t require hefty lighting) and as actors we adapted to the construction of a part as opposed to the live-performance-being of a part.

It’s been a community film project par excellence. Tempers never frayed, even on a wet day of exteriors. As Patrick commented, From this sort of project a West Coast film culture might be built. That would be nice.

And it was all so different from film making where money is the bottom line: the sweat of raising the capital, the strings that capital inevitably arrives with, the anxiety of filming when thousands of dollars are spent each day. Maybe I’m a woos, but I preferred this experience.

But money inevitably comes into it. We can manage an edit, but then there’s the sound mix and colour grading. Expensive gear and expertise are involved in order to reach the smooth appearance that the outlets require, even though, for most consumers, the experience is a momentary one. And it’s at this point that the present disappears – it all becomes future or past (whereas theatre is all present, then it becomes definitely past) – threatening to become as forgettable as watching a movie on an aeroplane or a screen in a takeaway outlet as you wait for your order, the wallpaper of modern existence, undisturbing and bland, the chatter of latter day capital as it bombs the shit out of Syria.

We’ll see. Hopefully there’s a way around it. And the eventual screenings will be interesting, as they move from the local context to the national.

Irene

Photo: Jane Wells

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