As I’ve mentioned on Twitter – and as Chad Taylor has briefly blogged – I’ve started shooting a new film. Realiti is a script that Chad wrote in the time between me making Black Sheep and Under the Mountain. We were developing it together as a film that could contain big ideas, while being made on – even benefiting from – a modest budget. We decided to revisit it this year – not least because a modest budget can now be more modest than it ever was, but also because it was a story that had very much stayed with me over that time. As we went over the various drafts of its development it was exciting to discover that, in almost every way, the best version was the first draft that Chad had written, based on a treatment he’d written and that I’d responded to, and partly inspired by a loose ‘mood’ reel I had cut from some favourite films.Another aspect of Realiti that I was very attracted to was the idea of making a low, low budget film. Some of the films that had earliest inspired me that I could actually make films myself were things like Bad Taste, The Evil Dead and, later, Pi. I’d thought, read and studied a lot about how to make a film for next-to-no money. One of the reasons I had started off making 100-odd music videos was to learn to shoot as much film as I could, and also to have a hand in as many aspects of production as I could including producing, directing, editing and, later, cinematographing (?) them myself. Therefore, it was something of a surprise when my first film, Black Sheep, raised a budget of more than $5 million; Under the Mountain was made for more than $10 million. I’m under no illusions about how fortunate I was to be making films in those circumstances (and how much help I had getting there) but, as I learned, more money does not necessarily buy an easier road; not to mention the fact that $5-$10 million – while a vast amount of money by New Zealand standards – is still, by international standards, a relatively low budget. Certainly it’s the kind of money that buys you all the obligations and anxieties of spending a vast amount of someone else’s money, all the mechanics and structures of the big film production but, not necessarily, the resources or freedom to achieve what you hope to. After making two films with the mixed blessings of budgets in the millions I – perhaps ludicrously – began to regret that I might never get to make a no budget film. With a number of factors coming into play, including failing to get a medium-budgeted adaptation of a novel off the ground, and my reluctance to pursue any of the international opportunities that came my way during my brief period of ‘heat’ following Black Sheep (and the subsequent precipitous cooling of said heat) and, really most significantly, the substantial realignment – downwards – of the international independent film business coupled with an explosion in digital production and distribution, it seemed the perfect time to tackle Realiti.
We began shooting last week – in a way very different to my previous two features but, as it happens, not hugely differently from the way I worked in the years when I was learning my, ahem, craft.
Of course I’m still learning a vast amount about the craft – and art – of filmmaking, not least in the last few days. I look forward to talking more here about what I learn and discover in this – for me – new way of making feature films, including the equipment I’m shooting it on, the size and configuration of the crew I’m working with, and the benefits and impediments of working this way. Until then, here are a couple of images from Realiti: the film features above, Michelle Langstone and, below, Nathan Meister and Miranda Manasiadis.
PS: A chocolate fish to the first person that can identify all the films captured in the montage in the middle of the post.