Hoping to be home by Christmas
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.