SourceHamish does publicity for Two Little Boys' upcoming Australian release
Posted on November 1, 2012 at 7:15 PM
Kyle and Jackie O, 2Day FM Breakfast (Sydney), Thursday 01/11/2012 : AUDIO LINK
Lisa Paul and Baz, 92.9 FM Breakfast (Perth), Thursday 01/11/2012 : AUDIO LINK
Before its official release on November 15 Hamish Blake will introduce TWO LITTLE BOYS at a preview screening in Southland, Melbourne on Wednesday, November 14 at 7pm. Buy tickets here via villagecinemas.com.au
The NZ film awards with so much moa
By Russell Baillie
10:00 PM Monday Nov 5, 2012
New Zealand movie makers left out in the cold by the national telly awards dropping film categories from their annual prize-giving are still getting an annual gong-fest to call their own.
The Sorta Unofficial New Zealand Film Awards - organised by Hugh Sundae of nzherald.co.nz and Ant Timpson and presented by the New Zealand Herald and Rialto Channel - announced its nomination list last night, recognising the past year's Kiwi flicks great and small.
The SUNZFA categories take in fully fledged features, cinema-aimed documentaries, self-funded features and short films.
Among the leading contenders for the Moas - "named in honour of something extinct" say the organisers - are Two Little Boys and The Orator with 11 nominations each.
Rialto Channel Best Film
How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Two Little Boys
Good For Nothing
The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Best Self-Funded Film
Good For Nothing
We Feel Fine
The Red House
Canon Best Director
Dean Hewison - How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Tusi Tamasese - The Orator
Mike Wallis - Good For Nothing
Kirstin Marcon - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Robert Sarkies - Two Little Boys
Simon Price - The Orator
Annie Collins - Two Little Boys
Greg Daniels - Good For Nothing
Leon Narbey - The Orator
Jac Fitzgerald - Two Little Boys
Crighton Bone - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Man O' War Best Actor
Richard Falkner - How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Fa'afiaula Sagote - The Orator
Bret McKenzie - Two Little Boys
Matt Whelan - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Man O' War Best Actress
Tandi Wright - Kiwi Flyer
Inge Rademeyer - Good For Nothing
Tausili Pushparaj - The Orator
Madeleine Sami - Sione's 2: Unfinished Business
Best Supporting Actor
John Bach - Rest For The Wicked
Johnathan Brugh - How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Will Hall - Netherwood
Best Supporting Actress
Aidee Walker - How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Jessica Joy Wood - Sione's 2: Unfinished Business
Salamasina Mataia - The Orator
Tusi Tamasese - The Orator
Dean Hewison, Richard Falkner and Sam Dickson - How to Meet Girls From a Distance
Duncan Sarkies and Robert Sarkies - Two Little Boys
Images Best Visual Effects
Steve Cronin and Paul Story - Good For Nothing
Frank Rueter - The Devil's Rock
Jon Baxter and Puck Murphy - Two Little Boys
Best Costume Design
Tristan McCallum - The Devil's Rock
Kirsty Cameron - The Orator
Amanda Neale - Two Little Boys
Best Makeup Design
Davina Lamont, Sean Foot and Richard Taylor - The Devil's Rock
Linda Wall - Two Little Boys
Ryk Fortuna - Good For Nothing
Best Production Design
Bruce Everard - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Jules Cook - Two Little Boys
Rob Astley, Roger Guise and Pouoa Malae Lialia'i - The Orator
APRA Best Score
Grayson Gilmour - The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Don McGlashan and Dawn Raid - Sione's 2: Unfinished Business
David Long - The Red House
Tim Prebble - The Orator
APRA Best Sound
Tim Prebble, Chris Todd, Richard Flynn, Mike Hedges and Gilbert Lake - The Orator
Dave Whitehead - Two Little Boys
Myk Farmer, Steve Finnigan and Chris Burt - Sione's 2: Unfinished Business
Pictures of Susan
How Far is Heaven
The Last Dogs of Winter
Maori Boy Genius
Shihad: Beautiful Machine
Dan Salmon - Pictures of Susan
Miriam Smith and Christopher Pryor - How Far is Heaven
Costa Botes - The Last Dogs of Winter
Pietra Brettkelly - Maori Boy Genius
Sam Peacocke - Shihad: Beautiful Machine
PLS Best Cinematography
Christopher Pryor - How Far is Heaven
Ben Freedman - Pictures of Susan
Peter Young - The Last Ocean
Christopher Pryor and Cushla Dillon - How Far is Heaven
Cushla Dillon - Shihad: Beautiful Machine
Jonno Woodford-Robinson and Richard Lord - The Last Ocean
Richard Lord and Ken Sparks - When A City Falls
I'm the One
Honk If You're Horny
Best Self-Funded Short
In Safe Hands
Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game
The Girl With The Clover Tattoo
Sam Kelly - Lambs
Paola Morabito - I'm The One
Joe Lonie - Honk If You're Horny
StarNow Best Actor
Waka Rowlands - Lambs
Jim Moriarty - Whakatiki
Andy Anderson - Honk If You're Horny
StarNow Best Actress
Mabelle Dennison - Whakatiki
Maya Stange - I'm The One
Anapela Polataivao - Night Shift
PLS Best Cinematography
Andrew Stroud - Ellen Is Leaving
Ari Wegner - Night Shift
Bonnie Elliott - I'm the One
What: The Sorta Unofficial New Zealand Film Awards
When and where: Tuesday, December 4 at The Civic Wintergarden
Online: The awards will be streamed live on nzherald.co.nz
LUCY GIBSON, The West Australian
November 9, 2012, 9:35 am
Jemaine Clement could be forgiven for thinking there's a third person threatening to come between him and his Flight of the Conchords co-star Bret McKenzie.
McKenzie is set to appear alongside Hamish Blake - better known as one half of Hamish and Andy (Lee) - in the dark comedy Two Little Boys and admits that the pair bonded over mullets and sea lions, leaving his Kiwi sidekick somewhat disturbed.
"Jemaine was pretty furious when he found out I was hanging out with Hamish," McKenzie says with a laugh over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, his Kiwi accent instantly recognisable.
"He calls Hamish 'the other guy'. I'm hoping he and Andy will get together for a sequel."
Relationship infidelity is, in fact, at the heart of New Zealand director Robert Sarkies' "twisted bromance" Two Little Boys.
As the title suggests, the film centres on two men, Deano (Blake) and Nige (McKenzie), who refuse to grow up. They've been pals for 15 years but the dynamics of their friendship change when Nige's new Maori mate Gav (Maaka Pohatu) arrives on the scene.
When Nige accidentally runs over a Norwegian backpacker in the middle of the night, Deano thinks it's the perfect opportunity to prove his undying commitment to his friend by helping him dispose of the body. But his plans go awry when Nige realises Deano is making the situation worse.
McKenzie says, despite the success of their respective television shows, both he and Blake were a little daunted at the prospect of starring in their first lead roles in a movie.
However, McKenzie thought nothing of getting out of his comfort zone after reading the script by Sarkies and his brother, Robert, who has written an episode of Conchords.
"They asked if I wanted to be involved and I read the script and really, really loved it," the 36-year-old says. "It was so unusual. So much darker than any bromance I had come across."
Indeed, the film does venture into some dark territory - including a particularly gruesome scene in which Deano cuts up the body - but, as you'd expect from a pair of award-winning comedians, there are plenty of laughs along the way.
Making it hard to keep a straight face off-screen was the fact the pair had to grow mullets for their parts.
"I was surprised by how easy it was to convert my hair into a mullet," McKenzie laughs. "It was just a slight trim at the sides. And because we're filming at the very bottom of New Zealand it's not an uncommon style, even today, so we fitted in quite nicely."
Two Little Boys took Wellington-born McKenzie to some far-flung areas of his homeland - it was shot in Invercargill and the Catlins on the South Island - and it also brought him a little closer to some of the native wildlife.
"There's this one scene with a real sea lion," he explains. "We rehearsed with a log and then we snuck down to the beach where there were real sea lions and quietly set up the cameras. It was like a couple of bogans making a nature documentary."
McKenzie, who is married and has two children with New Zealand publicist Hannah Clarke, will return to New Zealand next month for the world premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington.
The Kiwi has a cameo as an elf in Peter Jackson's much-anticipated adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien's novel, a role he was offered after appearing in the first and third Lord of the Rings movies.
"There was no mullet for my Hobbit role," he laughs. "The mullet was taken off and the ears put on. But the elves are supposed to be eternal so there was a lot more make-up this time to make it look like they hadn't aged 10 years."
McKenzie describes filming alongside Hugo Weaving and Sir Ian McKellen as surreal but a lot of fun - "Yeah, having lunch with Gandalf was pretty cool," he says with a chuckle - but moreover he's delighted that the spotlight will be back on New Zealand.
"Peter Jackson has made it famous. When I tell people I am from New Zealand it's the first thing they associate with the place. That and Once Were Warriors."
However, it's not just Jackson who has helped put the Land of the Long White Cloud on the map.
Not content with the success of Flight of the Conchords, which has a worldwide cult following, earlier this year McKenzie picked up an Academy Award for best original song for Man or Muppet from Disney's 2011 musical film The Muppets - something he still can't quite get his head around.
"Yes, it was unbelievable," says McKenzie, who is busily penning new tunes for the next Muppets film, expected to arrive in cinemas next Christmas. "It feels like it was a long time ago but it was only February. It certainly opened up several doors in Hollywood and (is) a very handy thing to have."
Not that he has the Oscar statuette with him in LA, rather it's safely tucked away in Wellington. He does, however, have a replica of sorts sitting on top of a piano.
"I have a toy one here," McKenzie says. "You get them in the souvenir shops. It says Best Lover."
Bret battered and bruised on film
From: National Features
November 14, 2012 7:00PM
Fighting fit: Bret McKenzie as Nige in Two Little Boys
BRET McKenzie took a serious hiding on his latest film, a twisted bromance set in New Zealand's deep south in the 1990s.
But it wasn't from the critics.
Off screen, the Flight Of the Conchords star got along well with new comedy bestie Hamish Blake.
But on screen, they beat each other black and blue.
"Hamish and I were so inexperienced that we didn't know how to do fake fighting," McKenzie says.
"So (director) Rob (Sarkies) just told us to punch each other to make it real.
"We ended up so bruised and beaten - particularly me, because Hamish is a bit bigger than me - that they had to put make-up over the bruises when they were filming."
McKenzie plays "another hapless fool, but an extreme version this time" in Sarkies's black comedy, which explores the dysfunctional relationship between two childhood friends growing up in Invercargill, New Zealand's southern-most "city".
When Two Little Boys opens, Nige (McKenzie) has managed to extricate himself from the clutches of a deeply possessive Deano (Blake) by moving in with his new friend Gav (Maaka Pohatu), a giant teddy bear of a man.
But after the mullet-sporting pushover accidentally runs over a Norwegian backpacker - after spilling a hot meat pie on his stone-washed jeans - he is sucked back into Deano's suffocating orbit.
For the professionally affable Blake, it was a welcome chance to play against type.
"It's great isn't it?" says McKenzie. "I love that. His character is so different from what people are going to expect from him."
Although they joked they felt like they were cheating on their long-time comedy partners - Jemaine Clement and Andy Lee - they quickly adjusted to the infidelity.
"That was probably one of the best things about the film," McKenzie says. "Even though it's a comedy, some scenes were quite bleak to shoot.
"It was great having Hamish to bounce off, because he is such an incredibly funny man."
McKenzie has his chance to play against type in his next project, the romantic comedy Austenland, in which he stars opposite Felicity's Keri Russell as a confident ladies' man.
There's been no bullying, either, on his latest project - even though he's back working with Miss Piggy.
Miss Piggy and Kermit and the gang have retired to a backlot while McKenzie and director James Bobin work on a follow up to The Muppets.
Despite the best original song Oscar McKenzie won for Man or Muppet, Two Little Boys' Kiwi black comedic tone is in some ways closer to his heart.
"It's definitely the stuff I find funny as well," he says.
"Working in Los Angeles, I have learned to tone it down. I just know that there are some things I find funny that will not make it through the system."
McKenzie expects the new Muppets movie to keep him gainfully occupied for most of next year. This will come as a disappointment to Flight Of the Conchords fans, since that means that that long-anticipated movie probably won't get off the ground.
"I'm not sure if that is going to happen," he says. "We like the idea but it's no more than an idea. We are busy doing other things and films take such a long time to make. I find it hard to imagine us finding two years to work on a film."
SEE Two Little Boys opens Thursday 15 November.
Bret McKenzie: “If you did kill someone, it would be a very stressful time."
MATTSHEA Wednesday 14 Nov 2012 - 3:00 PM
Bret McKenzie’s debut starring role in a feature film is sweetly timed. After all, it was only in February that the New Zealander and one half of enormously successful comedy duo Flight of the Conchords picked up a Best Original Song Oscar for ‘Man or Muppet’.
But Two Little Boys has been some time coming. As long ago as 2009, McKenzie was being sent scripts by fraternal Kiwi writer-director team, Duncan and Robert Sarkies. In the film, McKenzie plays Nige, a put upon Invercargill bank teller with a best friend from hell. When Nige accidentally runs over a Norwegian backpacker, he has no one else to turn to other than mildly psychopathic bud, Deano (played by Australian comedian Hamish Blake). And so the two attempt to cover up the crime with an axe, a Ford Laser and a trip deep into the New Zealand wilderness.
Hilarity ensues, of course, but Two Little Boys is darkened around its edges by questions of mateship and the importance of personal self-determination. Duncan Sarkies’ script is funny, but brother Robert is best known this side of the Tasman as director of the stylish true-life drama, Out of the Blue. Anyone who has seen that film will have an idea of the kind of crystalline visual fluency that occasionally creeps into Two Little Boys.
With Two Little Boys set for release this Thursday, TheVine caught up with McKenzie over the phone from Los Angeles. We spoke at length about the film, the particular nature of Kiwi humour, life after the Oscar, and whether there ever will be a third season of the HBO Flight of the Conchords television show.
Where are you, Bret?
I’m in Los Angeles at the moment.
What keeps you there?
I’m working on a new Muppets film. Writing songs at the moment for Kermit. But yeah, it’s good.
Where are you based at the moment. Or where do you consider home?
I guess I live in New Zealand, but I travel a lot for work.
Two Little Boys: this is your first major role in a feature film. How long has it been on the cards for you?
I read the script a few years ago. I knew the writers from New Zealand. Duncan Sarkies in fact wrote a couple of Conchords episodes, and we’ve worked together a lot over the years. He and Robert sent me the script and I really loved it, because it was so twisted and unusual. Really funny, but quite dark as well. That’s what got me interested, and then it was just a matter of working out when we could get it made, and then when Hamish was available at the same time.
Read: TheVine's Top 10 Flight of the Conchords music clips
Jemaine [Clement, McKenzie’s Conchords partner] already has a bunch of film credits up his sleeve. Did you feel overdue to do a feature film?
I guess I’ve always loved film. In a way, I’m more likely to watch film than I am TV. So I was pretty excited. I’m really happy to have been able to work in film over the last year or two.
You were attached to the project in 2009. Was it frustrating that it took so long to come around?
Yeah. For me it was frustrating, because I’m so used to doing TV work, which happens so quickly. You make it, and it’s on TV literally days after you finish the edit, whereas with this, films really take years to make. It’s funny, because we filmed it last summer and I read the script three years ago – it’s definitely a slow process.
A year after wrapping, you’re doing the promo.
Yeah! You have to think back and you sort of have vague memories of what you got up to. But yeah, it is frustrating having come from TV, but I’m definitely getting used to that pace.
The guys sent you the script, but it was actually based on a Duncan Sarkies novel of the same name. Had you read that?
No, I hadn’t read the book, so I went straight to the script.
When you’re working with Jemaine, it’s with characters and situations that you’ve created. What’s it like trying to inhabit this character you haven’t had a hand in putting on paper? Did that create unexpected pressure for you?
That’s exactly right. I’m used to doing jobs where I’ve been one of the creators and the writers. In Conchords we’re so lucky: if something didn’t work, we could just change it ourselves and there was no one else to say, “Hey, hang on, that’s not how it’s meant to go!” [laughs]. Hamish was in a pretty similar situation, having a history of working with Andy [Lee], playing himself. And with this, we had to bring to life someone else’s idea and you’re just hoping that you’re doing it the way they want it.
Was there an element of being wary of crashing in on that brotherly connection – like you might be in danger of ruining a joke?
Yeah [laughs]. Luckily they were really clear about what they wanted, but if Hamish and I made a film it would probably be pretty different to this film. Duncan and Robert have such a twisted sensibility, so that was definitely an unusual experience.
Was Nige more of a challenge than you originally anticipated? He’s a character that I think on page would immediately make sense, but actually inhabiting that person might be much harder, particularly given the tone of the film.
Yeah, I wish I’d spoken to you before I did the job [laughs]. Reading it: “Oh yeah. It’s a guy who hits a backpacker, he’s trying to get rid of the body and it’s a bit of laugh.” And then when we started filming it, we realised that to make the film seem real and the world credible, we needed to treat the dead backpacker with a certain respect for that idea to exist – otherwise it was going to end up being Weekend at Bernie’s. So yeah: it was quite stressful. I spent a couple of months playing a guy who’s just killed someone and it makes me think that if you did kill someone, it would be a very stressful time [laughs].
Were you sometimes in danger of losing the funny side of things?
Oh yeah. That’s the challenge of doing a comedy that’s also a drama, which a lot of comedies at the moment are. You’re walking that line: you can go too far the drama way or too far the comedy way, and you have to find that balance. That’s definitely a tricky thing, and doing Conchords we always went straight for the comedy. I don’t ever remember doing a scene in Conchords where we took a second take because we didn’t think it was believable [laughs]. We weren’t too worried about that. Whereas with this film, you have the audience for an hour and a half, and if it’s not believable – if it’s not real enough – it’ll end up becoming a sketch. It’s a tricky balance, for sure.
How much freedom did Robert give you with the characters, in terms of adlibbing and so on?
We improvised quite a lot. Hamish, in particular, is really great at it. His character was in a situation where he could do a bit more, in a way. But Rob and Duncan did have a pretty clear idea of what they wanted, so 80 percent of the film, I’d say, is the original script.
Being chained to this guy – to Deano. Some would argue that’s what’s become of you and Jemaine since Conchords took off – and the same with Hamish and Andy, I guess.
Yeah, it’s funny that the film was about these two guys that are basically married, and absolutely when you’re in a comedy duo, it’s a bit like a marriage.
Regardless of how well or not you get on with your creative partner, there’s always going to be a degree of cabin fever.
Oh yeah. We work together so much. Making the TV show, in particular: we worked out at one point that we’d worked 100 days together consecutively. And you notice it, because you start finishing each other’s stories. And that’s the point where you go, “Hmmm. I think we might need to go and do something else. We’ll get back together when we’ve got something new to tell each other.” [laughs]
Do you draw on that stuff when tying two characters together like Nige and Deano?
I guess you draw on everything you’ve got, really. But the relationships between the two characters is so intense – when people see the film, it’s quite dark, what’s going on. And what Duncan was trying to do – he wanted these friends who are breaking up, so it’s like a friendship, but how do you break up a friendship? You can’t get divorced from a friend. That’s where it all started. It’s pretty fascinating stuff.
It feels like this was a project just a little bit out of both yours and Hamish’s comfort zones. Is that a fair comment?
Absolutely true, yeah [laughs]. The two of us were inexperienced at doing films in the first place. And then the characters and the world are just a little bit darker and a little bit more dramatic than anything else we’ve done. But Rob has a really strong dramatic background, and the idea was that we’d take care of the comedy and he’d make the dramatic side of it hold up.
Rob’s background is interesting. I watched the film with someone who hasn’t seen Out of the Blue and they were really surprised with how much drama there is just in the way it’s shot.
I know! There are all these sweeping helicopter shots and beautiful, really remote New Zealand coastlines. We filmed in the middle of nowhere at the very bottom of New Zealand – as close to Antarctica as we could get. It’s a part of New Zealand that New Zealanders don’t even get to. So it really is remote. It’s hard to describe – I don’t know if Tasmania’s like that. I’ve lived in New Zealand all my life, and I’d never been to these places.
The film makes this interesting point about mateship – two-on-two mateship, in particular – and I think perhaps implies that it’s a particularly Kiwi thing, or maybe an ANZAC thing – it even refers to that with the World War I battle scenes. Do you look at it that way?
I think something happens in countries that are isolated and smaller. Maybe not in the big cities, but definitely in the smaller towns – you don’t have that many options for friends [laughs]. In a big city you can meet someone else, but in a small town you’re with your mates, whether you like them or not, I think. So it’s probably fairly true of smaller places.
The whole Invercargill thing – it’s very much a Kiwi in-joke – are you worried at all about that being lost on international audiences?
No. In New Zealand that was a strong part of it. The film’s set in 1991 and we literally didn’t have to change anything in that town. Like, we had to maybe put a couple of signs up to make it look more futuristic [laughs], to bring it into the 90s. I guess an element of that will be lost on an Australian and overseas audience, but I think you still get a sense of it being quite remote.
Maybe there’s a flipside to that question, that perhaps international audiences are now a bit more familiar with New Zealand and New Zealand humour – that something like this becomes viable. Perhaps the Conchords illustrated that it can translate.
Yeah, that dryness. It’ll be curious to see what Australian audiences connect to in this film, and then American audiences. There’s a lot of swearing in the film, which is funny: I work in America quite a lot now, and Americans don’t really swear nearly as much as Australians and New Zealanders do. I think the first 25 words in the film are f-bombs. Yeah, I don’t know how it will play in the States.
I think Kiwis are self-reflective enough to know they’re a bit odd – but being away so much, has that really driven home how distinctive and quirky New Zealand is as a place?
Yeah. I guess I don’t see it as quirky – I still find Americans weird. But I’m much more aware of the qualities that make New Zealanders different. You just start to see it, and the more time I’ve spent in the States, the more I’ve realised it would take a lifetime to completely assimilate. There are just all these little things that we do that are different. I think it takes a generation for that stuff to move on.
I understand. I’m a New Zealander and I’ve lived in Australia over half my life, but people still laugh at me when I say ‘fizzy drink’.
[laughs] Yeah. It’s the little things. They pop up and you don’t even notice them. I call documentaries ‘docos’ and a friend who writes on The Simpsons will say, “Oh, I love that about you. Let’s get together and talk about docos!” [laughs] It’s those things that crack foreigners up. You become really aware of them.
What are your plans looking ahead? You have a role in the Hobbit films, as I understand it.
I do a cameo as an elf. I’m pretty sure it’s in the first one. But now that they’ve made three, I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure it’s the first one. I don’t think they can bring my character back, because it wouldn’t make sense. I’d have to show up later in the journey. “Hey Bilbo. I’ve just popped by to check how you’re going.” Maybe if Peter Jackson finds himself short of material he’ll give me a call [laughs].
I was going to say that Two Little Boys finally clears the slate – that you’ll no longer be known as the elf out of Lord of the Rings – but The Hobbit will just bring that right back.
Yeah, it’s coming back to the surface [laughs]. But it’s great: it’s just such a great project to be involved in. I’m lucky, really.
You’re working on music for a second Muppets film. Has life changed much for you since the Oscar?
I guess I’m busier. But it hasn’t changed too much, really. I’ve been lucky: I’ve been busy for quite a while now. One thing that has changed – an agent said to me: “If there’s anyone in Hollywood you want to talk to, or you’ve ever wanted to work with, now’s a good time to have a meeting.” Because with an Oscar, you can pretty much meet anyone [laughs]. I should really take them up on that and go and have lunch with some legends.
Well I hope it’s packed – that you brought it with you so you can put it on the restaurant table.
Yeah, that’s a good idea. I left it at home but a friend gave me a little souvenir one – I’ve got a miniature one. A travel Oscar [laughs]. I’ve got my pocket Oscar with me.
I think a few people I talked to before this interview wanted to know if you’d ever consider doing a third season of Flight of the Conchords. Any thoughts?
I can’t imagine we’d do a third season, no. That seems highly unlikely. Yeah, I’m not quite sure what more there is to do with those characters.
One Little (Oscar-Winning) Boy named Bret McKenzie
Bret McKenzie is one half of "Flight of the Conchords", and he’s in a brand new movie 'Two Little Boys’.
Find out about wearing the mullets, winning an oscar and other prestigious New-Zealand awards.
lyward: Good night #hamishblake #bretmckenzie #twolittleboys #moviepremiere
A Small Country Crowded With Filmmakers
By BROOKS BARNES and MICHAEL CIEPLY
Published: November 23, 2012
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Don’t misunderstand: New Zealand’s independent film community is enormously grateful for Peter Jackson, whose blockbuster “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, among other things, gave Kiwi directors a jolt of confidence.
“We saw one of our own kind do it,” said Robert Sarkies, a Wellington-based screenwriter and director. “For a remote country that lacks industry and has a feeling of cultural insecurity, what Peter Jackson achieved is pretty huge.”
Still, some film people here worry that Mr. Jackson’s rise has come at a price. The New Zealand government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Mr. Jackson’s mainstream movies and even rewritten labor laws to accommodate his Hollywood partners. What about other homegrown directors, particularly those interested in artier cinema? Is enough being done to make their careers sprout?
“The government has shown generosity toward these big films while smaller ones are left to struggle,” said Mr. Sarkies, whose movies include “Two Little Boys,” a comedy starring Bret McKenzie. “The fact is, government funding for smaller New Zealand films hasn’t even remained the same; it has gotten smaller and smaller.”
Patsy Reddy, the chairwoman of New Zealand’s film commission, disputed Mr. Sarkies’s assessment, saying that government support for smaller movies has not diminished — at least since 2008, when lawmakers created a film fund focused on smaller productions. Rather, she said, changes in the world film market and a strengthening local currency have made it more difficult for art house directors to match public support with private investment.
“Government funding doesn’t go as far as it used to,” she said. Ms. Reddy added that the New Zealand government was now undertaking a “major review” of the film fund.
Gaylene Preston, sometimes called Auntie Gaylene for her role in guiding young filmmakers here, made her mark with films like “War Stories: Our Mother Never Told Us” and “Perfect Strangers.” Ms. Preston, who lives in Wellington, last year added her voice to the protests against a plan to raise a “Wellywood” sign on a hillside near the local airport — the seeming mind-meld with Hollywood was a bit much for many New Zealanders, and the plan was scrapped.
This island nation has a long history of scrappy moviemaking, occasionally exporting indie darlings like Jane Campion, who won an Oscar in 1994 for writing “The Piano,” which she also directed, and Taika Waititi, whose comedic drama “Boy” was nominated for the Sundance Film Festival’s grand jury prize for world cinema in 2010.
Roger Donaldson was the first local director to cross over into Hollywood; his 1977 thriller “Sleeping Dogs” led to mainstream jobs like “Cocktail” and “Dante’s Peak.” Auckland has turned out filmmaking stars like Andrew Adamson, best known for directing “Shrek” and the first two “Chronicles of Narnia” films.
Despite all the attention focused on Wellington, where Mr. Jackson’s studio and Weta Digital effects operation sprawl, Auckland has a vibrant entertainment industry of its own. Robert Tapert, a producer who is married to the “Xena” actress Lucy Lawless, has formed the backbone; Mr. Tapert, in partnership with the American director Sam Raimi, produced “Spartacus” for Starz and is finishing a new “Evil Dead” movie. Tim Coddington, another Auckland-based producer, just this year had credits on both “Emperor” and “Mr. Pip,” a pair of independent films.
When it comes to supporting fledgling filmmakers, part of New Zealand’s challenge is the sheer number of them. Inspired by Mr. Jackson’s success, young people are swarming film schools here. Another measure of the cinematic fever that has gripped this country is V48HOURS, a national film competition where teams of amateur and professional filmmakers make a short movie in one weekend; about 750 teams participated last year, up from 270 in 2005.
Weta Digital itself is creating part of the surge. The company employs at times more than a thousand graphic artists, as it has lately in order to finish work on Mr. Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and many of those people are now skilled enough to want to progress in their careers by directing movies of their own.
Mike Wallis, 36, is one of them. Just over a decade ago, Mr. Wallis was working at a Wellington ticket-selling company when Mr. Jackson’s personal assistant called with a favor: Could he buy tickets to the David Bowie concert even though they weren’t on sale yet?
“I said, ‘I’ll make that happen, if you put my C.V. on top of the stack at Weta,’ ” Mr. Wallis recalled in an interview at Joe’s Garage, a coffee shop here. Bowie canceled his concert, but Mr. Wallis was soon employed as a runner at Mr. Jackson’s company, where he rose in the ranks to become a manager in the animation department before quitting to make his own film.
Mr. Wallis spent about $60,000 to write and direct a spaghetti Western called “Good For Nothing,” which was released in New Zealand in May. Starring Inge Rademeyer (who is also Mr. Wallis’s fiancée), “Good For Nothing” took in $186,119, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com — a modest sum but more than has been generated here by some Hollywood movies, like Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie.”
But he is cautious about what’s next. “There is a talent pool here that has learned so much,” he said. “But whether it can be sustained — whether emerging filmmakers can grow in their careers with resources as they are — isn’t an easy question to answer.”
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