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Theatrical Self-Release For 2 No-Budget Films

Theatrical Self-Release For Two Truly No-Budget Wellington Films

Innovative Wellington no-budget feature film-makers Gordon Productions are taking another big step into new territory, with the upcoming theatrical release of their two dramatic feature films, Uncomfortable Comfortable and Shifter this week.

Both films are starting a strictly limited season at the City Cinema (inside Wellington’s City Gallery in Civic Square) on Thursday August 10.

“Usually in the film industry, the distribution and exhibition parts of the process are quite separated from the production side”, says Campbell Walker. “But film distribution in New Zealand is almost solely based around mainstream film making, and our small-scale, close to the ground films don’t really fit in to the distribution paradigms, so we’re doing it ourselves.”

“We feel like we’ve got an idea about how to make a film for next to nothing. But distributing the films ourselves for next to nothing is a whole new challenge, and a much bigger one.”

“This is actually one of the richest traditions of New Zealand film making. Early pioneers like Rudall Hayward used to travel from town to town in the 1920s making “community comedies” with the local population and location, and then screening them to the town at large. More recently in the 1970s Super-8 pioneer Martin Rumsby used to hitchhike the length of the country with a backpack full of experimental films, and documentary maker Alister Barry reached a substantial audience outside the mainstream both in theatres and on video with his self-distributed documentary on the new right, Someone Else’s Country.

“Local filmmakers are always trying to evoke some nebulous idea of the Kiwi spirit of DIY. But its much easier to do it yourself when someone else is providing $300 000 to do it with - like Hopeless and Magik and Rose, and others of the Film Commission’s so called “No Budget” scheme. No matter how much cheaper these films are than those made in Hollywood, there’s no comparison - $300 000 is a lot of money to try and make back in the local market, so these films are always compromised from above.

“The people who make these films are always making films within the mainstream - normal scripts, normal crews, normal distributors. There’s nothing especially personal about them - DIY doesn’t mean doing things a little cheaper than people in other countries, it means developing your own ways of doing things that reflect your resources and aims.

“We’re trying to make films that are true to the New Zealand we live in, that represent rhythms and nuances of urban life in New Zealand. The way they make films in Hollywood doesn’t do this at all - it provides a pre-digested, entertaining story that provides an immediate gratification, and can be forgotten easily to make room for the next one. Our films should stick in your head and get under your skin.”

Accordingly, both critical and audience responses to both Uncomfortable Comfortable and Shifter are more intense than is usually the case with more mainstream films. Both films have been acclaimed by a surprised critical community, who aren’t used to this kind of work any more than audiences are. Even more striking has been the audience response. Of course not everyone gets it, but a surprisingly broad cross-section of people have been startled by seeing people they recognise - instead of caricatures and stereotypes - in a film.

“We often get people coming up and saying, ‘I’ve been in exactly that situation’, or ‘I’ve had relationships just like that’, or ‘That was just like my flat’. Some of them are not the people we expected to recognise the characters - they tend to come from all ages and walks of life.

“Once at a party, I had someone dressed as Wonder Woman come up to me and say that Uncomfortable changed her life. That was particularly surreal.”

The two films are probably the cheapest dramatic features that have ever been released in New Zealand. Uncomfortable Comfortable was shot for about $1500 and completed for about $6000 last year. Shifter was even cheaper - shot for $110 and finished for $2500 this year. Both film premiered at the Wellington Film Festival - Uncomfortable last year and Shifter last month.

Both films will also be screened in other parts of the country as we work out how and where.

Uncomfortable Comfortable and Shifter screening at the City Cinema from August 10
Shifter, rated M screens daily 6.15pm
Uncomfortable Comfortable, rated M, screens daily 8pm.
Ticket prices: $10 adult, $7 concession.
For more information/ interviews/ stills/ press comps phone Campbell Walker/ Diane McAllen 801 8843
or Colin Hodson 934 6626 / 025 610 2056
email : gordonpro@hotmail.com

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