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.
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’. ”