Life is full of ups and downs – but every moment counts.

– 2015 Tropfest NZ Winner –

Director: Gabriel Reid – Auckland
Producer: Gabriel Reid & Maile Daugherty

Viewfinder talked to Director Gabriel Reid about the inspiration for making his short film – and the challenges along the way.

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 is taking place on Valentine’s Day, it feels 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. 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 Hotel DeBrett location was a major source of inspiration, informing everything from staging to costuming.”

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 Bio: Prior to this Tropfest entry, Gabriel directed the short film ‘As Dreams Are Made On’ (2004). He has worked in various capacities on a range of film and television projects. As an actor, he’s appeared in Outrageous Fortune, Street Legal and Shortland Street and has also worked as an assistant director on such projects as The Chronicles of Narnia. While actively developing a slate of film projects, Gabriel contracts his services as a director and promo producer, primarily to TVNZ. He has worked in various roles on assorted film and television projects, both in front of and behind the camera. Gabriel hopes to produce dramas, thrillers and comedies, including rom-coms and musicals.

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