28 April 2007

Documentary Progress

So I am almost finished with the ‘Telling Tales’ project, after getting up unreasonably early on Thursday to film Molesworth Street without people. Unfortunately I planned without considering the early start times of public sector workers. But I still think I got the footage I need. On Friday I went off to Martinborough again to film the harvest at the vineyards.

Another setback, though, as John Porter was unavailable. But my fabulous production manager Christian arranged for me to visit another vineyard to shoot the last of the picking and pressing of the grapes. I talked to the vineyard and cellar managers about their job and the work they did, so at the moment the doc is going into a different direction than I planned.

I also got up REALLY early again to shoot early morning shots of the countryside, but getting good audio at the same time proved to be very hard. All of Martinborough seems to get up early to drive around in their car and ruin my lovely recordings of bird sounds. I need a sound recordist!

25 April 2007

Telling Tales

NZBlogPhoto18-2007-04-25-03-24.jpeg ANZAC Day today, but I’m working on the Telling Tales piece. I found someone who was at the Anti-Springbok demo in 1981 who is willing to be interviewed about her experiences. Turned out I had all the fabulous quotes I needed after about 5 minutes. We talked a bit more, and afterwards I rushed home to cut the interview down to 1 minute before I forgot everything. I did a quick transcript of the bits I wanted to use so I could rearrange them before cutting them in FCP. That worked really well. Now I need some shots of Molesworth Street when it’s empty, i.e. early in the morning. I just wished I had done this last weekend, as I now have to get into town before the workers arrive tomorrow morning. Oh, well...

20 April 2007

The Truth of the Matter

NZBlogPhoto17-2007-04-20-09-51.jpeg Another trip to Park Road Post (always a pleasure) to a WIFT (Women in Film and Television) event with Phillipa Boyens, Gaylene Preston, Linda Niccol, hosted by Miranda Harcourt entitled “The Truth of the Matter”. It was an inspiring evening, hearing these experienced writers talk about how they get stuff done, how they get over procrastinating (or not) and how they pick a story (the one where you can see the ending, according to Phillipa Boyens).

18 April 2007

Documentary Research


The first week of the new term we launch straight into a teeny-tiny documentary project. The Wellington Museum of City and Sea has an exhibition called Telling Tales, which covers one story per year for the last 100 years up to 2000 A.D. using a single exhibit and a short description of the event. These range from the arrival of the lion that caused the foundation of Wellington Zoo to the Anti-Springbok tour demonstrations in 1981, from the burning of the National Archives to the building of the first windmill.

 Last year a group of photography students from Victoria University were asked to create still images in response to one of the year exhibits, and this year it is our turn to create a one-minute movie. For a documentary maker like me it is a heaven-sent assignment. Here is a huge supply of real stories, pre-researched, and all I had to do is react to them. Great! After humming and hawing over the years I was most interested in I was still left with about 20, so I ruthlessly cut them down till I was left with two possibles that I felt I had opportunity and material to tackle considering the tight deadline and the very short duration of the film.

 So far I am loving the research aspect of the assignment, calling contacts to get an interview with someone who was involved with the anti-springbok tour demos and trying to come up with material to illustrate the first Reclaim the Night march in Wellington in 1979. Today I have been at the library recovering my research skills which have disappeared after ten years out of college. I even used a microfiche machine! Despite the joys of the internet I still find it so useful to research in a library, where there is helpful staff even if the storage medium is a little antiquated. Come on Google Books!!!

17 April 2007

Script to Screen

NZBlogPhoto15-2007-04-17-09-45.jpeg This week is turning into a whirlwind of film-related events. Tonight there is a speech organised by ‘script to screen’ by Hollywood writer and professor Tom Abrams talking about the international perspective, after this the crew screening of “The Last Great Snail Race”. Tomorrow we are invited to the premier of “When Night Falls” a thriller set in the ‘30s and on Thurday it’s off to Park Road Post to hear some women writers talk about “The Truth of the Matter”. Busy, busy, busy.

04 April 2007

Crew Exercise


As an end-of-term project we spent the last week writing a script and filming it with the help of a professional director and cinematographer. It was to be the first time we practice working as a crew, covering all the technical roles as well as providing all other roles needed on the set from 1st AD to catering, grips, gaffers, art department, production management and so on. At least that was the theory. It turned out to be the first (and hopefully the last) major disappointment at film school. Due to the difficult relationship the group had with the director the process became one of struggling against bad teaching and un-constructive attitude rather than a combined effort of making the best film possible. The result was general lack of interest in the project - and on the positive side a pulling together of the crew (even though that probably wasn’t the objective of the exercise).

 What began with a really exciting pitching session where we came up with 30 story ideas and only stopped when we ran out of whiteboard space soon deteriorated when the director ripped down ideas with unhelpful (to say the least) comments on the boringness of our ideas. It became quite demoralising as we tried to defend our story concepts. As time went on more and more people dropped out and became frustrated. In the end even the original author of the story that was chosen withdrew and the director ended up writing the final draft. During the re-writes it became apparent that the script as written by the director would not allow any involvement for most of the assigned crew roles.

There was to be little art department requirement, no lighting and the camera work was to be hand-held by the cinematographer, negating a need for grips or a camera operator. In the end the script was changed to allow at least the art department to work, but most of the shoot was still handheld and only the last few hours of the shoot did the lighting and grip department have any work to do. It was unfortunate that what for many of us was the first opportunity to work on a film set ended up with half the crew sitting round with nothing to do all day and learning little to no hands-on skills.

Luckily our cinematographer, the esteemed Richard Bluck of Black Sheep
(a very funny must-see comedy horror, a true New Zealand movie in the best possible sense), was very communicative about the techniques he was using and spent some time answering questions.