Man drought? Don’t let love dry up
Saint Valentine’s Day, February 2000 and something, saw me in Stratford, Taranaki, in the heart of dairy country, chasing cows around a pasture.
It was easy to remember the shoot date, being the 14th. Women seem to have this date programmed into our life calendars, whereas men just seem to guess that Valentine’s Day is sometime in February, occurs during the year, or perhaps wistfully, that Valentine’s is perhaps a leap year event.
My initial brief a week earlier, from director Grant LaHood, an acclaimed short-film maker, was to find green dairy pastures. My location scouting revealed that there were none in the Wellington or Horowhenua regions. There was one in the Wairarapa, but on a sheep farm. So off to Taranaki it was.
I think the ad was for milk, or maybe a breakfast dairy product, and was being produced by Ainsley Gardiner, who produced Taika Waititi’s early films. Was it really necessary to go that far afield?
Shooting away from a major centre costs more. Well, yes, it was, being February and most of New Zealand in the grips of a drought.
Taranaki, due to its proximity to the mountain and some rainfall, had fared slightly better than other regions. So sunrise on the day of love, it was about leaping over cowpats whilst herding cows and extras - joggers provided by the local harriers club. Being a small shoot, I was acting as assistant director also.
The cows were courtesy of the farmer, who I am sure thought we were all bonkers, as did the cows, who were totally expecting to go back and graze that green pasture after morning milking, not be forced to caper about.
The farmer informed me his son was in the Young Farmers of the Year event that evening in the Stratford Town Hall. Perhaps there was going to be a chance for romance after all! But being a shoot day, sunrise became sunset, and it was back to the concrete block Stratford Motel, exhausted after a long day, and faced with another shoot day, it was an early night for myself and the rest of the crew.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, if your love life is looking drier than paddocks in drought, I would suggest the Sadie Hawkins approach (showing my age there perhaps?) and take the initiative and ask someone out, or plan a surprise for the person you are with. And just for the record, personally I don’t believe in a man drought. You just need to water ‘em occasionally.
*NB. My all-time favourite romantic comedy would have to be When Harry met Sally and New Zealand-wise, if you’re looking for a movie with a rural theme, then I suggest Harry Sinclair’s film The Price of Milk.
Claire Ashton grew up in Hamilton and is writer and shortfilm director now based in Te Aroha. She can be contacted on Claireashton7@gmail.com.
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Actress Danielle Cormack stars in Kiwi romantic flick, The Price of Milk, recommended for Valentine’s Day.