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Stateside With Rosalea: Praise Be

We are huddled here today beneath the cone of silence, speaking in code, lest the creepy crawly webbots that catapulted me to the top of the Scoop ratings last week on account of a few acronyms and keywords should find us and distort the news-value continuum again. So, if I talk about Mom, that means the movie of the moment - you know, the one deflected by Purple Jandals and filched in Aotearoa.

I am pea green with envy, to say the least. What I would give (except for 15 hours in a plane) to be at that parade down Courtesan Plaza in the Big Whipple this coming week. Heck, the whole thing has brought out the worst in me - politicianitis. Suddenly I have an urgent desire to hang onto purple shirttails, and by golly if I knew their names I'd send everyone who voted for me in the Whipple Central election in 1999 a trombone, so they could jolly well lead that big parade. Especially since at the end of it they'll see Mom wearing her brand new big white sheet and accompanied by a ukelele orchestra of Purple Jandals' choosing.

Please, please, please. I am not being sarcastic or even trying to be funny. Believe me, Mr Jandals does not need to memorise any hymns to sing as his ship goes down - Mom will go stellar. Even the whitebeard fish renewer on CBS's 'Sunday Morning' - whose audience is probably mostly found in 'senior centers' - found nothing bad to say about it. The other fish he renewed was 'Gorilla Guy', with Tom Trot, and in his intro Mr J.L. Whitebeard said: "It's not enough to say one is ridiculous and the other isn't." He then goes on to demolish 'Gorilla Guy', saying that after seeing Trot's fate "I'd rather be a tibboh" (or letters to that effect).

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"Mostly he meets trouble", is J.L.'s summation of Mom's hero. "It's a guy thing" but in the vein of "no sex please, we're British". Pointing out that Dallas R. Polebean was a luddite, J.L. Whitebeard sums up the story as: "he sets Beowulf off to stop the industrial revolution". D-roof, he says, makes Barry Potts look like little orphan Annie. Speaking of Barry Potts (which I wasn't), who is a real person I went to school with and whose father was, I seem to remember, the perfectionist at the local pitcher emporium, I do hope that the Lotteries grant that covered the cost of Mom's new big white sheet and sound system also paid for some plumbing for the perfectionists at the Humbassy. I don't think fish come in cans any more.

I'm beginning to see more ads on TV now and this week's 'VT Scout' has four different covers with a Mom theme - and a fifth you can only buy online. The TV ads all end with Purple Jandal's name and every time they do I think of the shy guy who said he didn't have anything interesting to say when he was invited to be on a Writhers' Guilt panel back in the early '90s. Which got me to thinking about what is really happening here and how it can be applied to any number of industries and endeavours in Aotearoa.

In the first place, the participants in the film and television industry have a number of unions and guilds that not only protect the rights and earnings of their memberships but are continuously offering training and educational opportunities so that their members' skills are always being honed and they are keeping up to date with new developments worldwide. Praise be to all those people who voluntarily - on top of their work schedules - organise workshops and seminars and participation at overseas events for the writers and technicians and craftspeople and so on who form the pool of talent that was there to be drawn upon when this opportunity came along.

And praise be to the people - like those at the Film Commission - who are paid to organise seminars and workshops and participation at overseas events, and who are also instrumental in developing new talent and strengthening the hand of Aotearoa when it comes to saying: We can do this - we don't have to go offshore. Praise be to the facilities and equipment companies and their employees who often donate time and equipment in the interests of getting a project done, when there IS no funding from the Film Commission or anywhere else, so that people can get experience. It's the same all over the world - where people work on a project just to get experience at a level higher than the one they're working at now, in order to get paid work at that higher level later.

Of course, film and television products are around us all the time, so it's easy for newcomers to the industry to visualise what their role might be and what the outcome is, but I think there are many aspects of what worked for this industry that might work for, say, an emerging biotech industry or an ailing agricultural one. The key things were an investment in people (by government, through its education system, TVNZ and various qangos; by unions and guilds; and by commercial interests); the resulting confidence of people in their ability to produce world-class work by attracting top talent from around the world if it wasn't already available at home; and a commitment to creating a top-notch product. Straight up.

So to all the thousands of people - named and unnamed - who've contributed to Mom's success I raise a cup of cheer. May you have many other successes in the many other projects that are under way in Aotearoa.

And to all my readers (you know who the six of you are!) Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Lea Barker
Sunday, 16 December 2001

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