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Kiwi Makes the Cut for US Film Festival

Kiwi Makes the Cut for US Film Festival

The last fortnight has been a scramble for EIT-trained filmmaker Mathew Watkins, fast-tracking a passport and booking flights to see his short movie Divide make its international debut at the upcoming Atlanta Horror Film Festival.

Divide is the only Kiwi-made film of seven selected from around the world to screen in the horror/foreign film section of the festival, held as part of October’s Independent Film Month in Atlanta, USA.

The Wellington-based filmmaker is travelling with the help of donations, including $3000 gifted by an anonymous sponsor. Flying out on Monday (October 14) on what will be his first overseas trip, the 21-year-old is hoping his movie will do well in its category, which will make it eligible for the Best of Fest Award.

Mathew wrote and directed Divide as the major project for his Diploma in Screen Production, which he completed at EIT’s project-based ideaschool last year.

The movie premiered last November at the invitation-only ideaschool Short Film Festival staged at the Reading Cinema complex in Napier, but it has yet to be more widely shown in New Zealand. Atlanta will be the film’s first public screening.

EIT screen production programme coordinator Claire McCormick says it is a coup for a student-made film to be accept for screening in an international film competition.

Originally from Napier, Matthew works as an independent filmmaker.

He says Divide has a soundscape as well as narrative thread.

“The visual story is what came to me first. I pictured the whole thing in my head and it took me a while to be convinced that the film needed anything else.

“The sound part of the script took a while. I spent my EIT holidays creating the sound effects in all the usual classic ways, stabbing cabbages and experimenting to get what I wanted.”

The eight-minute film features a cast of four characters – non-actors from Mathew’s “film theatre family”. In the starring role, indie band jacob’s bassist Maurice Beckett gets the kind of call from his daughter that every father dreads.

Mathew largely shot the film on a set he purpose-built in one of ideaschool’s screen studios, working with design tutor and ex-WETA prop and set maker Jonathan Clark (formerly Rogers), making props that included teeth and blood.

As a fledgling filmmaker, Matthew has already notched up indie-cred working with Berlin-based independent music video director Edward De Vere as first assistant director and compositor on the music video Who Are You?, made for Julian Dyne and featuring the recording artists Ladi6 and Parks.

He is a founding member of Hawke’s Bay-based screen production company Top Blokes, which is linked to the movie – cameraman Harvey Watkins plays an unidentified man in the film and fellow member John Norris is accompanying Mathew to Atlanta.

Since moving to Wellington, Mathew has filmed indie bands John the Baptist and Emily Fairlight during Radio Active’s studio live sessions.

The festival’s director of communications, Sandy Astudillo, says the horror festival is not the typical showcase of blood and guts and was created as a platform for the many innovative indie filmmakers who break the boundaries of self-expression.

“Although we love that stuff too, we present cutting-edge films that represent the new genre of horror, films that audiences can’t and won’t forget. This year is our 10-year anniversary and the festival will be the biggest and best yet.”

Film Hawke’s Bay manager Tessa Tylee says the film, which screens on Wednesday (October 16) Atlanta time, makes evocative use of the Heretaunga Plains and Tutaekuri River in the bookend opening and closing scenes.

While New Zealanders see the American film industry centred on Hollywood and maybe New York, Tessa points out that the state of Georgia ranks as the USA’s fourth biggest player – a status strengthened by tax incentives introduced in 2002.

“I’m not at all surprised Mathew’s film was accepted,” she says. “It’s very good.”


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