Up creek ‘Without a Paddle’
Oprah was in Queenstown.
It was appropriate really, being the queen of the talk shows. Hollywood stars are treated like royalty and many have filmed in New Zealand over the years. Reese Witherspoon (co-starring in the film AWrinkle in Time with Oprah) posted on Instagram wondering what to pack for New Zealand.
When I worked on the movie, Without A Paddle ( starring Seth Green, Burt Reynolds and Bart the Bear), the production team arrived probably packed for the tropical isles of the Pacific, rather than icy Antarctica lurking nearby.
They arrived bringing a nasty American flu, which laid out half the pre-production crew, including myself, for days. The Americans then all had to go out and buy the obligatory puffa jacket, standard attire for filmies.
Generously, they gave core crew a sleeveless puffa on wrap, no doubt thinking of our summers. I think Bart was okay, having fur insulation and all. He was the first bear in the country since a circus bear some years earlier and there was a lot of rules and regulations.
I was partly responsible for where Bart lived, apart from his trailer of course. The forest location was found in Wainuiomata and so that’s where Bart camped out. A delicately firstname.lastname@example.org
‘‘A delicately worded memo circulated that women "on their moons" shouldn't go near Bart.’’
worded memo circulated that women ‘‘on their moons’’ shouldn’t go near Bart. Yes, well, good advice!
By the time I came to to job, the Americans had been through two location scouts already. And no, they had not been fed to Bart, apparently they had been a bit too vocal.
How would I fare then, and how would the shoot go? The phrase ‘‘up the creek’’ was of course bandied around, being the first half of the saying. My initial experience was of a veneer of super niceness, followed by lots of ‘‘you’re welcomes’’.
On a recce though (short for reconnaissance) after I asked the last man out to please shut the van doors, I was told, ‘‘no that’s your job’’. They changed their tune later when I would leave them standing outside the van in the rain. And boy was there rain, being one of those super rainy springs and on a break before filming, some of the Americans buggered off to aforesaid Pacific islands.
My boss was homesick (for Queenstown) and kept trying to quit, and I became his go-between. If there was a problem, like, no we can not close off The Terrace before 9am on a weekday, I had to send a memo, and then I would be summoned to the assistant director’s office. They did not really like to take no for an answer, and yes there were times we were definitely up that proverbial creek!
Tax incentives, the sometimes low New Zealand dollar, increased quality of studio facilities in Auckland, and being what we are, means that the likelihood of overseas productions filming here is on the increase. Add to that our tiny record of terrorist attacks perhaps, is New Zealand set to become Zellywood.
Claire Ashton grew up in Hamilton and is based in Te Aroha. She can be contacted on Claireashton7@gmail.com.
Without a Paddle was filmed in New Zealand and starred Dax Shepherd, Seth Green and Matthew Lillard.