us two

Mary Ri­naldi, 32, and Sasha Nixon, 37, are a Hamil­ton cou­ple who make films to­gether. Their first col­lab­o­ra­tion, The An­niver­sary, scooped a num­ber of awards in­clud­ing Best Film at the Tropfest New Zealand short film fes­ti­val.

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS - In­ter­view/ Jack van Bey­nen Pho­to­graph/ Mark Tay­lor

SASHA/ Film­mak­ing – it’s a bit like you’re try­ing to make this tasty dish, and you can use any spices that you want. It’s just a real mix­ture of in­gre­di­ents that’s go­ing to go into this thing, but you have to have a strong opin­ion about how it’s go­ing to taste.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, the very first time we met was the first Tropfest film that we were both in­volved with. This was about three-and-a-half years ago.

The film was a kind of James Bond ad­ven­ture spoof, which I co-wrote and acted in. There was a cock­tail party scene which in­volved a bunch of ex­tras – we had about 20-odd peo­ple all dressed up in suits and gowns and Mary was one of those ex­tras.

I met her very briefly, kind of just in be­tween takes and down­time and stuff. I did the rounds and smiled and said hi to peo­ple, and that was about it. We didn’t re­ally get to talk at all.

We con­nected over those cou­ple of years on var­i­ous film sets, and just be­came friends and be­came closer. She was def­i­nitely the best fe­male ac­tor I’d come across, and I started to think of roles I could write for her.

But once we got to­gether – like, got to­gether-got to­gether – we wanted to start mak­ing things to­gether.

Mary is a fully-trained ac­tor and she still goes up to Auck­land for au­di­tions and things.

One car trip back we were talk­ing about what we might do for Tropfest, and we spit-balled a cou­ple of ideas, and Mary had an idea in her head about a cou­ple and she wanted to pull faces. That’s what even­tu­ally be­came The An­niver­sary.

Usu­ally it would be me; I would come up with an idea and I would run that train of thought and go off on a tangent.

In­evitably Mary will go, “Let’s just leave it there, and talk about it later”. I’ve prob­a­bly talked her ear off about all these ideas.

The thing with me is that once I get an idea and it sparks, that idea could off­shoot to a num­ber of dif­fer­ent direc­tions, whereas Mary is a lit­tle bit more fo­cused. I’m the ideas guy. I could talk about movies for­ever. We both tended to agree on pretty much ev­ery­thing, our sen­si­bil­i­ties are very sim­i­lar.

But Mary and I have talked about this; we couldn’t have come up with The An­niver­sary on our own.

We ac­tu­ally needed each other. It would have been com­pletely dif­fer­ent, or it would have just not been made at all, with­out one of us.

The per­fect in­gre­di­ents just sort of came to­gether. MARY/ Mostly my back­ground has been in acting, and quite a lot of theatre. But I moved to Hamil­ton in 2012 and just wanted to do more stuff and meet more peo­ple. That was why I joined the Hamil­ton ac­tors’ group on Face­book and started re­spond­ing to cast­ing calls when they came up, which was how we met.

Last year Sash and I de­cided that we re­ally wanted to write some­thing that we could act in to­gether, and that would be our vi­sion as a team, and it kind of grew from there.

One day Sash asked me, “If you could play any char­ac­ter, what kind of char­ac­ter would you like to play? What would you like your char­ac­ter to do?”

I said, “You know, I’ve never had the op­por­tu­nity to play a char­ac­ter that just makes ridicu­lous, silly faces all the time”. It was just a silly thing, but it turned into a lot more than that. That was the ker­nel of the idea, just pulling faces at each other.

Our re­la­tion­ship didn’t change too much af­ter we started work­ing to­gether. If some­thing pops up you just say it. Even with­out a spe­cific project, that hap­pens all the time. We’ll be hav­ing din­ner or driv­ing in the car or some­thing and one of us will say, “What about this?”

Sash never gets sick of talk­ing about movies. When I get sick of talk­ing about movies I just go and hang out with my sis­ter, or some­thing.

Get­ting to­gether with Sash, not only on a per­sonal level but also with the film col­lab­o­ra­tion, re­ally taught me so much about how writ­ing can be such a group ef­fort, and that feed­back from oth­ers is so im­por­tant.

I’ve al­ways been a bit of a per­fec­tion­ist with what I write – it has to be right first time – but Sash has taught me about work­ing on some­thing over a long pe­riod of time and sev­eral drafts.

I’m the or­gan­ised one. I’m the cu­ra­tor. But that’s partly why we work so well to­gether as a team and why in our first col­lab­o­ra­tion, we’ve been so suc­cess­ful.

Our skills re­ally do com­ple­ment each other and bring all the parts of film­mak­ing to­gether. It’s been re­ally great.

I ab­so­lutely love work­ing with my part­ner. It’s re­ally re­ward­ing. When we came up with a vi­sion, we were able to make some­thing that was very re­flec­tive of us and our re­la­tion­ship and how we in­ter­act with each other.

We were able to bring our own skills to the ta­ble and bring a group of peo­ple to­gether to make it a re­al­ity – and make it the best film it could be.

If you have the op­por­tu­nity to work with your part­ner in life on some­thing cre­ative then do it, be­cause it is so re­ward­ing.

We’ve got a few other short film ideas float­ing around that we want to prop­erly develop this year or early next year. It would be great to sub­mit an­other film to Tropfest, and in terms of the long game I sup­pose we def­i­nitely would like to start work­ing on de­vel­op­ing a fea­ture film.

Sash has a great idea, a great con­cept, that just needs fur­ther de­vel­op­ment. It’s a bit daunt­ing.

“I said, ‘You know, I’ve never had the op­por­tu­nity to play a char­ac­ter that just makes ridicu­lous silly faces all the time’. ”

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