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 Claireash­


Letters must be no more than 200 words and re­ceived by noon Fri­days. Send to: kel­ley.tantau@fair­fax­me­

Ac­tress Danielle Cor­mack stars in Kiwi ro­man­tic flick, The Price of Milk, rec­om­mended for Valen­tine’s Day.

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