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Wairarapa’s own ‘Goodfellas’

Suave “mobster” suits and classic cars, a witty and “quotable” script, 30 litres of fake blood, and cameos from some famous voices: A group of young Wairarapa filmmakers are bringing the gritty and sometimes glamorous world of organised crime to the big screen.

This weekend, Regent 3 Cinemas in Masterton will host the debut screening of Sons and Heirs – a 40-minute short film written, directed by and starring a team of Kuranui College students, and shot on location throughout the region.

Sons and Heirs, based on a short story by Year 13 student Tomás Bale, is set in Wairarapa during the Great Depression and tells the story of two brothers drawn into illicit alcohol production – with gory consequences, made possible with some creative practical effects.

To realise his vision, Tomás joined forces with close friends and fellow cinephiles Ārana Edmonds, Leon Eldred, Carter Elwin-Pepperell, Jackson Harbers and Benjamin Rayner – who took charge of scriptwriting, art direction and costuming, casting, practical effects and post-production.

The boys also took the lead in bankrolling the production, applying for and receiving grants from South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] and various community organisations.
To stay within the budget, the crew shot the entire movie on a humble smartphone – Tomás’ iPhone 11X.

Though the friends have made several short films together, Sons and Heirs is their “biggest group effort” so far – influenced by an interest in the Prohibition era, love for 1930s fashions, and Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas.

Tomás said the boys were inspired to produce Sons and Heirs after their film-making classes at Kuranui were unable to go ahead – so they decided to take matters into their own hands.

“We were gutted – but we were also feeling a bit bored and like we needed a new project,” he said.

“We thought, ‘oh well, let’s just go for it and see what happens.’

“Making a movie was a stressful experience, but it was a lot of fun – and we’re excited to see what it looks like on the screen.

“We had a lot of amazing support from people in the community. We’ve definitely learned that if you ask, people will be keen to help out.”

Tomás said he and his friends have dabbled in film-making since starting at Kuranui, making “four-minute shorts” inspired by the works of Scorcese and Quentin Tarantino, classic horror flicks, and “all the good 80s movies”, like the Rocky franchise and The Karate Kid.

They began work on Sons and Heirs last year, galvanised by learning about prohibition in Wairarapa – specifically, the Masterton district going “dry” in 1909 after a campaign by the temperance movement.

“It’s something you don’t hear much about in the classroom,” screenwriter and producer Ārana said.

“People know about prohibition in Chicago, for example, but not that alcohol was banned in Masterton.”

The crew, under Ārana’s leadership, was able to raise $6,400 towards the film: With contributions from SWDC’s Creative Communities Scheme, Featherston’s Own Charitable Trust, South Wairarapa Rotary, and the Ngāti Tuwharetoa Trust [Ārana’s iwi], as well as donations from friends and family.

Funding mostly went towards equipment, transport, costuming [mostly sourced from second-hand stores], and renting era-appropriate cars.

Ārana said a large portion of the funding went towards the practical effects – including 30 litres of fake blood, which he made himself using glucose syrup, hot water, red food colouring and cocoa.

The boys also sourced an air compressor to create the illusion of blood splatter, and made “fake arms and legs” using cardboard and duct tape.

Filming took place over three months in various Wairarapa locations – including Queen Elizabeth Park, Cobblestones Museum, and heritage buildings in Carterton – featuring a cast of six leads and 11 extras.

The boys said the shooting process was hectic at times – especially with having to squeeze in as much filming as possible in the afternoons before it got dark – and involved “a lot of organising”.

“We had one scene organised with a whole load of extras – but only half of them showed up,” Tomás said.

“That was a bit stressful. But the people who did show up did really well.”

Editing and post-production took a further four weeks, and included incorporating an original score by fellow Kuranui students Caleb Drinnan and Michael McCaul.

One of the biggest coups for the boys was negotiating cameo appearances from ACT Party Leader David Seymour, political journalist Patrick Gower, and historian Paul Moon, who all lent their voices as narrators.

“They were really cool to work with,” Ārana said.

“Paul Moon just told us to put something in the movie saying that it’s inspired by true events – as we’ve made some slight alterations with history!”

Tomás said the crew hoped their audience would enjoy Sons and Heirs for its “cool cinematography, gory but believable effects, and quotable lines”.

  • Sons and Heirs will screen on Saturday, November 5 at 5pm, at Regent3 Cinemas. Entry is free.

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