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‘Two Idiots’ take the screen

The Carterton crew of Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle with Snowy the goat. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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A film partially shot in Carterton gives a new lease on life to long neglected and often detested musical instrument.

While Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle may not improve the reputation of the recorder – forever tarnished by soaking in vats of disinfectant for primary school classes to share – it somehow manages to inspire empathy for those who play the instrument.

Former Times-Age reporter Eli Hill joined Jason Ellis to co-direct the film, which follows the journeys of four competitors in a talent show – two of whom are recorder players.

“It’s kind of like America’s Got Talent, but the small-town New Zealand version of it,” Hill said.

Released last Friday, the 77-minute film featured scenes from across the Wellington region, revolving around Porirua College and the Titahi Bay Bowling Club, with rural scenes shot in Carterton.

For those scenes, Hill and Ellis put a call out for several Wairarapa-based actors – and one goat.

“It was kind of crazy because I put out an advertisement for a goat and got quite a few [responses] actually – we might have had eight goat owners contact us.”

One goat in particular – named Snowy – caught the eye of the directors.

“His owner said he’s an older goat and he’d love to be in a movie, and so we went with Snowy,” Hill said.

Part of the appeal of filming in a region like Wairarapa was sourcing local talent who may not have had any opportunities to get involved in film, Ellis said.

Most actors for Two Idiots had been sourced through website StarNow, where directors can post roles for actors, models, and musicians.

“It was a small group, but everyone got on really well,” Ellis said.

“There were no divas or clashes.”

The drama was saved for on-screen, with Ellis calling Louis McMillan-Grant, who played the self-absorbed antagonist Giovani, “one of the nicest guys” in real life.

“As soon as we wrapped, he went and got a haircut, changed his whole style just to lose the character.”

However, McMillan-Grant would soon have to resume the character, as the cast would return for four ‘sequel’ shows at the Wellington Fringe Festival in March.

The stage show would take the format of a reunion special set two years after the talent competition, with a synopsis promising that “old grudges will resurface, and secrets will be revealed”.

Originally intending to release the film in cinemas across the country, Hill and Ellis eventually decided to release it online to give people a chance to view it before the Fringe Festival.

Shooting of the film was also completed under a tight deadline.

Porirua College teacher Mat Hoyes composed the film’s music, and while his school provided the location for many scenes, the cut-off date for shooting was the return of students in February 2020.

Sound mixer Hayden Washington-Smith was also due to start work on the Avatar sequel, meaning that Ellis had to put together an edit of the film very quickly.

In hindsight, Ellis said that those time limits were blessings, as the bulk of work was completed before the country went into lockdown.

Ellis and Hill have submitted Two Idiots to the Rome Independent Film Festival, which had moved online due to covid-19.

If selected as a semi-finalist, the film would be streamed on Twitch.

Asked why a more local audience should watch the film, Hill said that Wairarapa residents would enjoy seeing some familiar faces and locations.

“It’s always pretty nice when you see your own backyard on the screen, not just the New York skyline.”

  • Stream Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle online at vimeo.com.

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