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Movie magic in Masterton

By Jake Beleski

[email protected]

Head to Hood Aerodrome next week and you may find yourself on the front battle lines of World War 1.

Tanks, planes and infantry will be in full flight as WWI re-enactment scenes are filmed for a new Anzac Memorial War Museum, set to open in France on Anzac Day next year.

Located at the Australian National Memorial near Villers-Bretonneux, the centre will be the central hub of the existing Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front.

Wairarapa residents have the chance to play their part as extras in the filming process, and casting calls have been held this week.

The final casting call will be held at the aerodrome from 5.30pm tonight.

Canberra-based director Serge Ou said the aim was to encompass the whole experience the Anzacs faced during the war.

“It’s more or less the chronology of the experience of the whole war.

“From arriving on the Western Front, to what the guys had to deal with, types of battles they went through in the conflict, and culminating with the end of the war and the return home.”

The contribution of both countries to the battle on the Western Front was one of the first times both New Zealand and Australia had contributed on a global scale, he said.

“It’s about the lens that we look at, and the experiences we went through.

“I’ve spent a lot of time at the Western Front, and it’s a very humbling experience.”

The crew have already filmed urban scenes in Oamaru with over 200 local extras, and they were hoping for similar numbers to be involved in Masterton.

The choice to bring filming to Wairarapa was made for several reasons, Mr Ou said.

“I like to involve the community as much as possible . . . and we’ve come here because the landscape speaks for itself in regards to being very European, and there’s a lot of things we can use.

“Usually you would have to do a lot of CG (computer generated) work, but Masterton gives us the opportunity to bring in the tanks, planes and infantry.”

He acknowledged the battle on the Western Front was often secondary to the Gallipoli campaign for New Zealanders and Australians, but said it was important to remember all contributions.

Filming for the project starts on May 25, and is scheduled to run to June 9.

“From the casting, we hope to really get a cross section of people which is a fair representation.

“We all know the stories of 15 year olds sneaking to the front lines, but there were also 40 year olds fighting.”

When the museum opens next year, Mr Ou hopes it will be an accurate representation of how the Anzacs changed history in “our own little way”.

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