ten interesting questions (answered)
Where did the idea for Hook, Line & Sinker come from?
Where an idea comes from is very organic and what you begin with as a creative impulse and where you take it can sometimes seem unconnected. A couple summers ago, we were at Houghton Bay on Wellington's south coast. An empty city bus pulled up and an older bus-driver, rather overweight, emerged a few minutes later in his togs. He had a quick dip in the choppy sea, returned to his bus and took off. An older man who loves the sea and drives for a living. That's it. Hook, Line & Sinker began with a character. More characters were developed with the actors. We bring them together in improvisations and the journey begins.
How do you co-direct?
Andrea works with the actors, concentrating on performance, and Shane (who works as freelance editor) blocks through the action and chooses the shots to construct the scene. As a director, it is tough to be working on all these elements simultaneously, and directing performance is the element of filmmaking that is most often sacrificed.
Where did you shoot the film?
The film was shot entirely on location in and around Wellington. As filmmakers we are convinced that even the best film set can never substitute for a real location. From the trucking yard to the old people's home to the WINZ office to the family home - all are real, functioning environments and this reality inevitably impacts on performance.
Why did you hand-hold most of the film?
We shot Hook, Line & Sinker in real locations, thirty-eight in total, with a crew of twelve. Using a handheld camera makes for efficient shooting, being both mobile and flexible. We shot through windows, from behind doors, around corners, to create a sense that we the audience are peeping into the lives of the characters in an almost documentary style.
Why did you choose to have such an old cast?
In a culture (and particularly cinema culture) which is preoccupied with youth and the concerns of youth - first love etc. - we feel that the stories of older people are neglected. Interesting considering that all the cinema owners we contacted unanimously said their mainstay audience is women over thirty and older people! We also feel that actors get better and better as they get older, ironically when there becomes less work for them, especially women actors.
How did you get Geraldine Brophy on board?
Geraldine was intrigued by the idea of starting a film with no script! She came on board because she wanted to explore the improvisational processes that we were working with and she was interested in a story (whatever it was to become) centred around older characters. All she knew at the start was the she and Carmel McGlone were to play sisters.
How did you get funding?
We received a grant from the last sitting of the Screen Innovation Production Fund. We held an art auction of works donated by well-known NZ artists including Gretchen Albrecht, Richard Killeen, Billy Apple, Grahame Sydney and Philip Trusttum. We also received substantial donations from several individuals who had seen and liked our previous feature Taking the Waewae Express. Our Wellington community has also been incredibly generous to us providing us with locations (eg. trucking yard and trucks), props and film equipment. We received a post-production grant from the New Zealand Film Commission to help complete the film. And finally returns from Waewae Express fed into the budget.
What was your budget?
In hard cash terms, the film was completed to a stage ready for distribution on $87,000. Everyone was paid exactly the same amount per week regardless of their job; the directors the same as the cook. We set the weekly wage at $580 gross per week, the average NZ wage at the time we began shooting. The budget was able to pay everyone $300 per week and the film owes $87,000 of deferrals to actors and crew. (NOTE: Since we began distributing the film, half of these deferrals have been paid off). Our local community contributed many things in the form of props, locations and equipment, the value of which is not really quantifiable.
Couldn't you get a distributor?
We are our own distributor and that was a conscious choice. We want to make more films and we would like to avoid the institutional funding treadmill. Self-distribution is imperative in order to return to the filmmaker or producer what would otherwise go to the distributor. The current distribution model worldwide sees the distributor taking, in our view, too large a cut of box office returns, leaving little (less than 10%) to the filmmaker or producer. But with the rapid proliferation of digital cinemas around the country, and the equally rapid demise of 35mm film as the standard screening format, it becomes possible for independent filmmakers to distribute their films on a scale not possible even two years ago. With local audiences willing to see New Zealand films coupled with new digital technology, the opportunity now exists to develop a truly sustainable industry that can pay its own way.
Is a sustainable film industry a reality or just a pipe-dream?
In an era when filmmaking has never before been so inexpensive, films have, ironically, never cost so much to make. Issues around financial sustainability are not part of the language of the notoriously money-hungry film industry. As long as budgets are modest, and we take on the responsibilty of self-distribution, it may well be possible. But unless we try, we will never know. To have a healthy and prolific film industry, it is crucial that we start thinking and acting outside the square to develop new filmmaking models and quite simply have more people making films. As French filmmaker Jean Cocteau said, "Film will only become an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper." We mightn't be there yet, but digital technology certainly brings us closer to this than ever before. Give us a year and we can report back on our self-distribution experience!