THE TATTOOIST was written by me and Matthew Grainger, directed by Peter Burger and produced by Robin Scholes. Robin invited Matt and me to work on developing a screenplay from a treatment they already had, based on idea by Vela Manusaute. We suggested throwing everything out, except four words: Samoan tattooing horror movie. We introduced the element of the pe’a to the story, and the idea of shame as a powerful force in the story and we came up with – we thought – a pretty cool and fresh movie monster.
It was an interesting experience writing a film for hire at the same time as I was directing my own original screenplay, Black Sheep. Matt did at least one draft by himself while I was shooting and we re-grouped for another pass together after I’d finished. We weren’t entirely thrilled with the finished film … despite the conscientious work by Pete Burger, the director – with whom we had a great relationship on the film (though our involvement was slight, by the time cameras were rolling) – who played the hand he was dealt. I think there were probably too many voices in the mix, and certainly – the closer they got to production – different ideas about exactly what it should be; other people got to throw their ten cents’ worth into the script. We did notice there was a point where it stopped being called a horror movie and started being called a supernatural thriller. The term ‘love story with supernatural elements’ may have also come into play.
Ah well. But all in all, it was an invaluable experience writing a film and seeing it produced. Certainly the experience we got rewriting gave us well-earned combat miles. We were thrilled to see actors like Mia Blake, Nathaniel Lees, Dave Fane, John Bach and Robbie Magasiva bring to life characters we had invented.