The Amiri & Aroha Blog
The Official Blog for David Whittet's Novel and Film Trilogy

A critical day's filming at Morere Hot Springs, the most challenging shoot to date

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The scenes where Aroha tells her story to the Matakite (the Māori soothsayer) form the narrative framework of the story. They take up a significant amount of screen time and I was determined that they would not simply be a narrative device to tell Aroha’s childhood story. They must be an integral part of the film and an important part of my task today was to ensure that Matakite as significant a player in the story as any of the other characters.

It had been my hope to have these scenes in the can in early October, before principal photography commenced, but this was not to be. The weather, the Hobbit factor and many other logistic nightmares resulted in the shooting being delayed until today, nearly at the end of principal photography. I was uneasy about leaving such significant scenes so late in the shoot and having a new actor joining the cast so close to completion. However, Cushla Tangaere took it all in her stride, easing herself into the role of the Matakite and investing her with a unique personality.

Whilst the Gypsy Rose caravan at Morere Hot Springs was a tremendous find, the technical challenges it produced were immense. Positioned in a field outside the entrance to the Morere Hot Springs, the caravan was close to the main road (New Zealand’s State Highway 2) and dialogue scenes had to be filmed in between cars and heavy trucks roaring past. Inside the caravan, we were working in extremely cramped conditions on a swelteringly hot day. We had to close up the door and windows of the caravan to minimize the noise levels and this coupled with the heat from the portable lights I was using turned the caravan into a veritable sauna. The shortage of space also restricted my camera angles, making it harder to show the developing relationship between Aroha and Matakite.

Oh for the budget to be able to create a mock up in a studio with moveable walls!

Despite all these issues, and the pressure of completing such a huge part of the film in one day, we had a lot of fun together. Cushla and Kristel were great to work with and shooting was punctuated by a lot of laughs, despite the less than ideal working conditions on set. Most important of all, we did not allow any of these difficulties to impact on the quality of our work, which was a significant achievement in the circumstances and a great tribute to both Kristel and Cushla’s professionalism.

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My original was that Matakite would glide effortlessly between Māori, her native tongue, and English. Cushla Tangaere achieved this beautifully adding great depth to the work.

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This scene where Matakite and Aroha part prior to Aroha’s wedding was particularly effective and comes at a critical phase in the story’s development.

We were late back in Gisborne this evening and and feeling pretty exhausted, but encouraged to find a great article in tonight’s Gisborne Herald on our film.