Tropfest New Zealand screened live in February at the TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth where 16 New Zealand short films vied for the first prize of a five-day film immersion trip to LA, sponsored by the New Zealand Screen Association and Motion Picture Association and a $10,000 cash prize from Tropfest NZ.
Auckland short film writer and director Gabriel Reid earned the top spot with his seven-minute film ‘Every Moment.’
We asked the filmmakers what the inspiration was for their films – and what challenges they had along the way in making their seven minute (maximum) films.
Film: EVERY MOMENT
Life is full of ups and downs – but every moment counts.
GABRIEL: “Tropfest is itself an inspiration. It’s just such a wonderful platform for filmmakers and getting into the festival was our target from the get-go. The whole team is tremendously happy to have achieved that aim.
“Being a fan of rom-coms, I was keen to produce something in that genre and, given that Tropfest 2015 took place on Valentine’s Day, it felt like an apt choice. Our short is set in a hotel. In my teens I worked in one and I’ve always been intrigued by the ways in which hotels are akin to theatres. You have backstage areas, a front of house, an ensemble of regular cast members (staff) and an endless parade of stars (guests).
“Years ago, I enjoyed reading a play called ‘Hotel’ by the very witty, very subversive Thomas Sainsbury. He embraced the idea of reworking a portion of that material into a short film and (at the suggestion of my producer’s mother) we came up with a pretty nifty way of incorporating this year’s Tropfest Signature Item (TSI), wire, by using the wire of a champagne cork as a wedding ring. The film is essentially a walk-and-talk in which two staff members imagine an entire lifetime of ups and downs.
“I knew we had a viable project when the owners of Hotel DeBrett agreed to let us shoot there. The location was a major source of inspiration, informing everything from staging to costuming. It was a favourite haunt during my misspent youth and it’s been lovingly restored by the owners, husband and wife John Courtney and Michelle Deery. It’s an absolute gem of a building and it was my first choice as a setting for this story. I am so grateful and happy that John and Michelle made it possible to shoot there.
“The biggest challenge we faced was that we were shooting for one night only in a busy, fully operational boutique hotel and that our characters traverse every inch of it in what appears to be real time. We needed to ensure that our shoot didn’t compromise the experience of paying guests. My first thought had been to shoot the entire film as a single, unbroken, six-minute take. Of course, that wasn’t really feasible in a location that we weren’t able to lock down, so we ended up shooting the film in just a handful of set-ups. Todd Bilton was both director of photography and camera operator. We shot with the Arri Alexa mounted on a Steadicam rig. The action was carefully choreographed and rehearsed. I think our cast (led by Bree Peters and Aaron McGregor) really enjoyed the latitude afforded by these fairly lengthy takes. Ultimately, we managed to capture the gently unfolding, ambling, occasionally balletic quality I desired. It was a huge night for Todd and he really did a masterful job. Indeed, the entire cast and crew managed to pull off a challenging but hugely satisfying shoot.”
– Director: Gabriel Reid – Auckland, Producer: Gabriel Reid & Maile Daugherty
Film: THIS SIDE UP REMOVALS
A bittersweet mockumentary about an eager young furniture removal man, trying to gain respect by lifting increasingly heavy objects.
LUKE AND KIRK: “The inspiration for our film was that we really wanted to get into the Tropfest finals and so we just kept writing ideas until we came up with a strong idea.
“One challenge on our film was working with a piano. It was so heavy that we had to dismantle it prior to filming so we could remove the heavy steal harp and then remake it ready for filming. Even then it was still heavy.”
– Director & Producer: Luke Bremner & Kirk Bremner – Auckland
Film: RED ON THE GREEN
A wronged lawn bowls champion returns to his club to claim back his rightful trophy from the crooked committee.
ADAM: “My producer, cinematographer and I were inspired to make our film by seeing a Q and A by Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement about their film ‘What We Do In The Shadows’. As we travelled home from Auckland we threw around ideas and by the time we reached Hamilton we had the basic idea of a western set in a bowling club, of the lone stranger returning to a club taken over by bad guys.
“One memorable filming moment was having persuaded all the cast and crew to stay late one day to finish a scene, I was called away by my son’s babysitter, leaving the producer and cinematographer to direct the scene. Not exactly leading by example!”
– Director: Adam Harvey – Ohaupo. Producer: Chris Hanlon
Film: SCHOOL OF FOOLS
When motivational speaker Clive Doring is confronted with his epic delusion at the ‘School of Cool’, he finds himself lonely, without hope or a muffin.
ALLAN: “My inspiration for the film was that I had what you could call a ‘storytelling goal’. That goal was to tell an emotional story with a flawed character combined with my (limited) experience in comedy. I wanted to step away from the completely gag based style of comedy, to more of an emotional incarnation of it. I believe this is a style of storytelling with universal appeal.
“My challenge was that writing comedy is incredibly difficult as it is, and it’s very difficult to time out this kind of comedy script. So for this film I overwrote it by about four minutes (or more…). A lot of the performances also ran longer than they were written, and at one point in post production I had 21 minutes of a rough edit in my timeline.”
– Director: Allan George – Auckland, Producer: Ben Fowler, Lisa Fothergill & Allan George
Film: LIFE THROUGH A WIRE
A short animated romance about the ever increasing gap in day to day communication.
JAMES: “The inspiration for my film came when I started to deconstruct the concept of ‘wire’. For me the first two things that came to mind were fences and telephone wires or power lines.
“So I started thinking about what fences are and I guess there main function is either to keep something in or to keep something out. Then I thought about what if the same function was applied to telecommunication.
“We’ve used telephone wires and modern telecommunications over the years to both let people into our life, but at the same time I feel more than ever we use it to also distance or even keep people out of our lives.
“And so with this moral in mind I decided to play with an animation technique I’d been wanting to try for a while, which was replicating papermation digitally. And so I decided to try and pan back and forth through the history of telecommunications, with the greater distances physically being overcome with each technological advance, leading to a greater distance of emotional detachment.
“For me the main challenge was time, I made the decision pretty late to enter Tropfest, (two weeks before the deadline). And the style I was trying to achieve ended up being a lot more consuming than I first estimated. But I got it finished and handed in on time and we made the finals! So I’m extremely ecstatic to be honoured amongst what look like a fantastic bunch of films.”
– Director & Producer: James Wilkinson – Invercargill
Hopeless? Helpless? Hire a Mum!
LOUISE: “The inspiration for my film was my mum, who also stars in it. I wanted to highlight, albeit humorously, how much work mothers do for free, often un-thanked and under-appreciated. My mum had been unemployed for over a year and was living with me and my boyfriend – we joked with her one day that she should be a professional mum, because she does a really good job of it!
“My film is based around putting a price on all the stuff mums do for free and writing it made me realise all the little stuff my mum does for me. It was quite a humbling experience really, because I’m finishing my Masters and since my mum been living with us my grade point average has gone up! She also acted in this, something she’s never done before, and knowing how much this was out of her comfort zone also made me realise how far she’s willing to go for me.”
– Director & Producer: Louise Hutt – Hamilton
A story about dental hygiene, violence and friendship.
HAYLEY: “The entire story of Bottlebrush came to me in a dream. The setting, the characters, the events, everything was made up and put in a nice box for me by my subconscious. The morning I woke from the dream, I scrabbled out of bed and drew an extremely rough storyboard before the dream slipped away. I know for sure that the play ‘Waiting for Godot’ by Samuel Beckett had a huge influence on Bottlebrush, having been the most memorable play I performed in high school. I played Estragon, one of two male charters in a dull setting where very little of importance happens, and yet, you’re glued to your seat desperate to know what’s going to happen next!”
-Director & Producer: Hayley Marjorie Robertson – Auckland
A man has a lot to think about when he wakes up dead.
BEN: “I’d say that the inspiration for the film was the way people communicate. It seems people can be rather closed off and not take the opportunity to say the things they need to, often leaving it until it is too late. This message has been told time and time again but I thought it would be interesting to create a film where the characters involved actually got to hear those final words people can be reluctant to say.
“The highlight of the whole process had to be seeing the amount of effort everyone was willing to put into the project. I was able to recruit an excellent team and they all bought skills and a passion that took the film to the next level. I’m sure I would not be in the finals without them.”
-Director: Ben Hobbs – Auckland, Producer: Mike Banks
Film: CHARLIE FLOYD’S VISIONARIUM
In a 1920s black and white world, Charlie Floyd must chose a life of riches and fame…or love?
JAIMEE: “’Charlie Floyd’s Visionarium’ was created by Electric Shoelace Productions which is a Film and Animation collaborative team. This was the first film we made as a collective and we wanted to create something that would highlight the talents of both our crews. We felt this idea was not only visually stunning but provided a challenge for the film makers (as it’s a 1920s period piece) and also a challenge for the animators (being a live action animated black and white film). It’s a beautiful, classic love story set in a very romantic era. We felt we hadn’t seen much of that on the big screen and wanted to bring it back.
“This lil film was a huge learning experience for all the crew on every level. It was the first film where 20 of us moved to another town for over a week to make it. We were fortunate to have the wonderful people of Mataura, Southland give us the keys to the town. As it’s a period piece we were fortunate that Mataura set the perfect backdrop for our film. The biggest highlight was at Tropfest. It’s been almost two years since we came up with the concept to finally completing the edit so it’s amazing to see it have its day on the big screen. We hope everyone will enjoy it.”
-Director: Emma Schranz – Invercargill, Producer: Jaimee Poipoi
A silent portrayal of two women caught in the ruins of their relationship.
PETRA: “I wanted to make a short film that felt more like poetry than narrative – something that captured a mood, emotion or moment that isn’t easily expressed through spoken language. I am very interested in exploring the scope of short form.
“The highlight for me throughout the process was being fortunate enough to work with an amazingly talented team of people.”
-Director: Petra Kate Cibilich – Auckland, Producer: Angela da Silva
Film: FOREIGN FIELDS
In the middle of ‘No Mans Land’, soldiers bring a wounded man home.
DAVID: “After seeing a picture of a stretcher party in the First World War, I thought how did these men come together to carry a man across the battlefield. My original plan was to show how the men one by one came to the aid of assisting the wounded man across the battlefield. I couldn’t afford a large ‘no mans land’ nor show them returning him to a field hospital. So instead of taking him there, what if they carried him ‘home’ and what if the men dropped away so as to increase the burden and raise the tension. Every man in the front line dreams of returning home, I hoped to capture this in a symbolic and spiritual way.
“Our biggest challenge in making the film was that we began our key shooting day with the easiest shots and those closest to our base, and we were still left with the vital battle sequence at the end of the day. Originally we had planned to do this in three hours but with fading light and everyone cold, tired and eager to begin the two hour journey home we got out a marker pen and storyboards so that the battle was scaled down and made in an hour.”
-Director & Producer: David Gunson – Auckland
Film: CHILD PROOF
A lime dressed idiot helps a woman break into her locked car with a baby inside only to be surprised by the consequences.
CHARLIE: “One challenge in making the film was at 3am of the morning of the shoot I was awoken by a text from the other actor in the film Cohen Holloway saying that he wasn’t feeling well but that I shouldn’t worry he’d still make the shoot for sure… but then at 5am I got another text and he apologised saying he was sorry he wasn’t going to make it because he was on his way to hospital with appendicitis!!! And this was all in the tone as if it was just a normal day for him!
“I spent the next couple of hours worrying about him till he said he was going to be fine, and I’d basically decided to pull the pin on the shoot, but then – on the off chance – I texted Emma Draper to see if she could randomly make a day’s shooting with us – thankfully she could make the time and we got to make the film.”
– Director: Charlie Bleakley, Wgtn, Producer: Alex Clarke
Film: CONVERSATIONS OF KARANGAHAPE ROAD
In search of her true path, Karla converses with the characters that make up Auckland’s most unique road.
MELISSA: “Coming home to New Zealand was inspiration for the short film. I had only just decided to officially move back to Auckland after having lived in Paris for about three years. A week before the Tropfest deadline, I was in Melbourne on another shoot and when I was at the Melbourne airport before hopping on the plane ride to Auckland I had a clear sense for the first time that going back to New Zealand was home. Having a French mother and a Kiwi father, I’ve always felt in-between the two countries – so I was inspired by finally knowing where I needed to be at this time in my life.
“My learning experience was that everything is always possible, even when pressed for time. I contacted my film partner Bertrand just before stepping on that plane and asked him if he thought it would be possible for him to film and edit the film within five days in time for the deadline. He said yes! Just write. The highlight for us was that it felt like the entire Karangahape Road spirit came to life the night we shot. Our talent were really willing to be part of the project, people loaned us their offices, cafes and even the Auckland skies cleared up. Our actress Eirin Forsberg was standing by in Paris by the Eiffel Tower (8am her time/8pm our time – she had organised a babysitter for her kids). It was a perfectly orchestrated production where everyone came together in five short filming hours. The energy within the cast and crew was spectacular.”
-Director: Melissa Bamford & Bertrand Remaut – Auckland, Producer: Melissa Bamford
Other films include:
Film: LUNCH BREAK
“What people get up to on their lunch breaks”
-Director & Producer: Matt Gibson – Auckland
The future is the past and something needs to change.
-Director & Producer: David Jurakovich – Auckland
An overactive imagination leads to trouble.
-Director: Steven Aroha McNicholl – Auckland , Producer: Kennedy Faimanifo
Tropfest 2015 Award Winners
Gabriel Reid for ‘Every Moment’
Kirk & Luke Bremner for ‘This Side Up Removals’
Ben Hobbs for ‘Slabbed’
Tropfest Best Actress
Bree Peters in ‘Every Moment’
Tropfest Best Male Actor
Preston O’Brien in ‘Slabbed’
Yoobee School of Design Best VFX
Emma Schranz for ‘Charlie Floyd’s Visionarium’
Yoobee School of Design Best Animated Film
Steven McNicholl for ‘Egg’
Nga Aho Whakaari & Te Puni Kokiri Te Tohu Auahatanga Maori Award
Bree Peters in ‘Every Moment’
ZM Viewer’s Choice award
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