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Short Film Blitz in Wartime Wellington

5-12-05 Quarter Acre Pictures

Short Film Blitz in Wartime Wellington

Wellington added another film to its increasing repertoire as Quarter Acre Pictures finished shooting the poignant 1943 wartime romance Dead Letters last Friday. American GIs, vintage cars and young ladies in period clothing were sighted around town from Wellington Railway Station to the Paramount Theatre during the week.

Combining authentic 1940s newsreel footage with delicate moments of war-time heroism and an unconventional romance, Dead Letters will be the “bonsai epic” of 2006. Adapted by director Paolo Rotondo from a story by Jolisa Gracewood, the short drama tells of an unlikely love which blossoms between two people amongst the piles of letters to 'our boys' abroad. Quarter Acre Pictures is humbled by the impressive cast and crew that have formed around Dead Letters.

Grant Major, the Oscar® Award-winning Lord of the Rings production designer, came to Dead Letters directly from King Kong. Composer Gareth Farr, Emmy® Award-winning editor Margot Francis and accomplished director of photography James Cowley are also on board.

Gareth Reeves and Yvette Reid play the lead roles of Gerald and Ngaire. Tipped as “ones to watch”, both Reeves and Reid feature in the new TV2 series The Insiders Guide To Love, the follow-up to the award winning Gibson Group series The Insiders Guide to Happiness. Principal finance comes from the New Zealand Film Commission but with the huge production demands of a period 1940s setting, Quarter Acre Pictures is hugely appreciative of the generous sponsorship and support of Waiwera Infinity and The Bolton Hotel. “These companies share with us a keen interest in New Zealand’s social history, and they have significantly helped to make Dead Letters a reality. We couldn’t do it without them,” says producer Gemma Gracewood.

“Likewise, Clemenger BBDO’s sponsorship of our design budget has been invaluable in helping Grant to achieve his vision. Their commitment to this film and enduring contribution to Wellington creativity is unsurpassable.”

The Dead Letters team says Wellington as a whole has been hugely supportive. The Wellington region film office Film Wellington, local production house Gibson Group, national dance and drama centre Te Whaea and Wellington City Council have provided much-needed assistance.

“While Wellington is fast becoming famous as the film making capital of New Zealand, not all films have a King Kong-sized budget, says producer Fraser Brown. “We’re incredibly thankful to Toll NZ and Tranz Metro for their help with Wellington Railway Station as one of our iconic locations. Not to mention great local folk like Park Road Post, the Paramount Theatre, St Gerard’s Monastery, Peter Baker Transport, The Matterhorn, Havana Coffee Works & Deluxe, 42 Below, Hell Pizza, Pandoro, and the legendary John Bell at Time Cinema.”

The producers said TVNZ Archive at Avalon had also been fantastic with helping to access National Film Unit newsreel stock central to the story. Dead Letters is the first project from Quarter Acre Pictures, a new company formed by the dynamic trio of director Rotondo and producers Brown and Gracewood. Blueskin Films Ltds’ Catherine Fitzgerald is Executive Producer, and principal funding comes from the New Zealand Film Commission. Shooting took place from Sunday 27th November to Friday 2nd December.

Dead Letters was one of only nine films out of approximately 300 submissions to receive funding from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Short Film Fund this year. It will be released in 2006. The NZFC is handling international sales of Dead Letters.

About the Quarter Acre Pictures folk:

Fraser Brown: is perhaps best known by New Zealanders for his role as the dastardly Hugo on Shortland Street this year. As a graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, Fraser is no stranger to the Capital. He also spent an extended stretch of time in Wellington while filming a lead role in the Gibson Group drama Insiders Guide to Happiness. He recently finished a wellreceived run of the hit play The Return at Auckland’s Maidment Theatre with Gareth Reeves.

Gemma Gracewood: is a local Wellingtonian and producer of TV One’s flagship arts current affairs programme Frontseat for The Gibson Group. She has worked as a radio producer, commentator and documentary-maker on National Radio, Radio Active 89FM and Radio 95bFM, as a governmental press secretary/advisor, music critic and feature writer, and publicist for film and theatre.

Paolo Rotondo: is a regular visitor to Wellington as a stage actor in shows such as Downstage Theatre’s WW2 drama Fond Love and Kisses, and the sell-out seasons of his own comedy Little Che – which told of Che Guevara’s early years. He recently played clinic director Andrew Solomon on TV2’s Shortland Street. Aside from his acting roles in Stickmen and The Ugly, he wrote and directed the critically acclaimed short, The Freezer, which features on the Loop 007 compilation.


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