Hop­ing to be home by Christ­mas

Matamata Chronicle - - Your Paper, Your Place - CLAIRE ASH­TON

Waikato writer and film­maker Claire Ash­ton be­gins the first of her monthly col­umns, Be­hind The Scenes, giv­ing read­ers an in­sight into New Zealand’s ex­cit­ing film in­dus­try.

The great thing about work­ing on movies is that oc­ca­sion­ally you get to do some­thing re­ally cool for peo­ple.

When I worked as a lo­ca­tion scout and man­ager on Home by Christ­mas, a film by Gay­lene Pre­ston, I serendip­i­tously found a house lo­ca­tion where the fam­ily could re­ally do with the ex­tra money from the lo­ca­tion fee.

‘Twas in the Christ­mas spirit that the land­lord didn’t want a share of the spoils!

The fam­ily of eight were kind, church-go­ing Samoans.

Their house pro­vided the per­fect back­yard to recre­ate 1940s New Zealand, where the ef­fects of the war were per­sonal and felt on the do­mes­tic home front.

Old fruit trees were abun­dant in the back gar­den, and the art de­part­ment let the grass grow long, brought in chick­ens to scratch around, and dug and planted out a veg­gie patch, which re­mained for the fam­ily af­ter we fin­ished film­ing.

The in­te­rior of the house was shot in a small stu­dio.

The shot that comes to mind is of Gay­lene’s grand­fa­ther, (played by Martin Hen­der­son) back from the war, rid­ing a bi­cy­cle with a rose be­tween his teeth.

Some ro­mance bloomed on set too.

A cer­tain ac­tor missed a cou­ple of flights back to LA and also a limo pick-up, to fol­low a cer­tain actress to her hol­i­day home, much to the cha­grin of the pro­ducer.

Home by Christ­mas was very much a fam­ily shoot.

Chelsie Pre­ston-Cray­ford, Gay­lene’s daugh­ter played Tui, Gay­lene’s grand­mother.

The whanau feel­ing was rounded off by some poor kid hav­ing their act­ing de­but at just six weeks old.

It’s al­ways fun as a free­lancer when you’re all back to­gether again on a shoot.

Alun Bollinger, (AlBol) the leg­endary bare­foot di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, and Gay­lene worked even moreso as a dy­namic duo, hav­ing come from a lengthy stint to­gether on a doc­u­men­tary shoot.

At the end of the shoot there is al­ways some­thing called a wrap party which is lit­er­ally that. Ev­ery­thing is wrapped up. Some first as­sis­tant direc­tors call the very last shot a ‘‘mar­tini’’, which pretty much means it’s time to break up for drinks.

At the wrap party, Gay­lene had a photo card for all the cast and crew; on the back of mine she had writ­ten: ‘‘Thanks Claire, you did us proud.’’ Bless. Gay­lene Pre­ston has re­cently been awarded the an­nual Screen Pro­ducer and Di­rec­tor’s As­so­ci­a­tion (SPADA) award of In­dus­try Cham­pion.

Claire Ash­ton (B.A, M.A) lives in Te Aroha. Con­tact: Claireash­ton7@gmail.com

Waikato writer and film-maker Claire Ash­ton.

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