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Beyond the silver screen

Wairarapa Film Festival is hosting filmmaker Lindsay Christopherson at Martinborough’s Circus Cinema tomorrow for a special screening of a short film with a local connection. Festival director Jane Ross talks with Lindsay about ‘A Girl Called Elvis’ and her career path in the screen industry.

Jane Ross:

How did you get into the local film industry?

Lindsay Christopherson:

Art is my first love.

I was working in art galleries, and then I discovered film by making Super 8 films. I decided to apply for film school, and at the time there wasn’t a film school in New Zealand apart from Ilam School of Fine Arts in Christchurch, which did have a film department.

I applied for what is now VCA – Victorian College of the Arts – in Melbourne, and got in, which was amazing because they weren’t letting very many women in at the time.

JR: How was your experience there?

LC: Stressful, I have to say. For me, it was mainly good for learning as much as I could in those three years. I managed to get a job straight out of film school.

I was working for a TV series, in the art department.

Then I moved back to New Zealand and continued working in the screen industry as a freelancer.

JC: Was it difficult to find work back here in New Zealand?

LC: No, it wasn’t, because it was a much smaller scene and far less competitive. ‘Shortland Street’ was just starting up, so I trained on set doing continuity work.

JC: Tell me about your latest work, the short film ‘A Girl Called Elvis’.

LC: It’s been a long time in the making. I started writing it years ago but didn’t have an ending for it, which is a very common scenario with writing. Much later, as I was re-reading some of my old stories, I suddenly realised I knew how to end this story. I wrote a new version that I thought could work.

My next step was to start up a crowdfunding campaign to raise some money to make this film.

JC: Did you always want it to be a short film? Is this how you imagined it?

LC: Yes. I never saw it as a feature, and writing short films is an entirely different beast to writing long films.

It’s a specific skill – in the same way that writing short stories is different to writing a novel.

You have to make it work within a short time, and often with a twist at the end. So you have to think, ‘How can I develop these characters within a very short space of time and have a satisfying ending’?

JR: Yes, indeed, the audience needs to be invested in the characters for it to work.

On that note, how did you go about finding your cast and your crew?

LC: Finding my crew was actually relatively easy because there is now a pool of quite skilled workers in New Zealand. And there are lots of young people wanting to have experience on short films, music videos, or advertisements.

I had also done a writing course where I met some fellow filmmakers. This includes my co-producer Miles Wilson, and my friend Kate Burney, who helped out in the camera and art department.

It’s always quite tricky finding actors because you need a long lead-in time, which we didn’t have.

Fortunately, I was able to find my lead actors pretty fast by hosting a series of auditions in Wellington.

JR: It sounds like it was the generation of ideas and scripting that took the lion’s share of your time. Once you had your ending, did everything else come together quite quickly?

LC: Yes, the fundraising campaign took a month, and then we also had another month for pre-production. We filmed in early May, just over two weekends, and it was brilliant.

JR: Wairarapa Film Festival celebrates films with a local connection. For this film, it happens to be a member of your creative crew who lives in Featherston.

LC: Yes, that’s Caitlin Morris, who is a brilliant composer. She did the music for us.

JR: It is so great to acknowledge that there is an incredible community of skilled screen industry professionals who call Wairarapa ‘home’.

    Wairarapa Film Festival’s spring programme is a curated collection of fresh short films with a local connection. All films have strong female protagonists who are on a journey of self-discovery. Tickets for this Saturday Matinee are available directly from Circus Cinema. Reservations can be made by phone 06 306 9442 or email: [email protected]

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