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

What does Hunapo have for breakfast?

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"Authors shouldn't write dialogue; they should let their characters speak for themselves."

Giving characters their own distinctive voice is the most profound lesson I have learnt from working with industry professionals. An interesting exercise at a table read of the Hīkoi screenplay was to remove the character headings from the actors' copies of the script and to see if it remains apparent to them when they are speaking.
Fascinating characters are essential for any work of fiction. I believe the success of Amiri & Aroha on the international film festival circuit is due to the audience's involvement with the characters. A competition judge told me he shed tears when the gang thwarted Aroha's childhood friendship with her cousin Hunapo.
Writing the novel has afforded the opportunity to develop these complex characters further. Understanding how they talk and react to adverse situations allows them to speak for themselves, adding tremendous depth to the story.
My old mentor, the late great David Lean, gave me this advice: "You must know what your characters eat for breakfast. It's not that you're going to show them having breakfast, but if you are to portray them accurately, you need to know them in that much detail."
During the shooting of Amiri & Aroha, I can recall some lively discussions between takes on what the protagonists would have for their breakfast. We all agreed that Amiri would be an eggs benedict man. We decided Aroha was more a muesli and toast girl, and there was no doubt that Hunapo would have eggs and lashings of bacon with black pudding, washed down with a swig of yesterday's beer.

Proofing Amiri & Aroha

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Mathew Wikotu as the young Hunapo.

Alongside working on Hikoi, I've spent the last few weeks proofreading Amiri & Aroha. It's been a labour of love on a project that has been such a vital part of my life over the past decade.
The strength of a story depends on the depth of its characters. Correcting and enhancing the manuscript has afforded me a unique opportunity to reflect on the character arcs in the novel.
Amiri & Aroha depicts a woman’s lifelong struggle to escape the misery of her gang roots, a journey defined by greed, corruption and the redeeming nature of love. A diverse cast of characters shape Aroha's rite of passage: her father Tautaru, a loathsome gang leader; her downtrodden mother Ngaio; Kōkā, a mysterious matakite; and Amiri, the hotshot businessman she believes will bring her freedom.
Of all the leading protagonists in Amiri & Aroha, Hunapo is perhaps the most complex, and judging from the response of my early reviewers, he is also one of the most engaging.
Hunapo is Aroha's cousin and her only childhood friend. It's hard to resist the mischievous rascal at the beginning of the story. But life is unkind to Hunapo. Chosen as the puppet leader of the gang and forced into an abortive arranged marriage, he lashes out at those closest to him and betrays Aroha. Seeking solace with alcohol and debauchery, Hunapo degenerates into a drunken lothario but ultimately finds redemption as a latter-day Robin Hood, risking his life to give back the protection money extorted by the gang.
One of the joys of independent filmmaking is the discovery of raw talent. I was fortunate to find two brilliant actors to play Hunapo in the films.
As the young Hunapo, Mathew Wikotu's soulful expression captured the dilemma of a lost kid in a hostile world, his childhood stolen by a bitter family feud.
Shayne Biddle, fresh from his role in the critically acclaimed New Zealand film The Strength of Water, took on the challenge of the adult Hunapo. Shayne's remarkable screen presence further defined this tragically flawed but genuinely appealing hero.
I remain hopeful that following the publication of the novel, we can entice a studio to pick up the story for a fully funded feature film. I would be delighted to have both Mathew and Shayne in the cast.

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Shayne Biddle as Hunapo

Amiri & Aroha - A New Zealand Story

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A couple of years ago, when Amiri's Child won an Award of Excellence at the Accolade Global Film Festival, a Hollywood producer asked to buy the rights for Amiri & Aroha. There was even talk of a mini-series, to be marketed as "the next Sopranos."
In so many ways, the offer was a dream come true. The sum on the table was significant and the deal hard to resist. What's not to like about a fully funded production of the story, with guaranteed distribution and a possible spin-off. So why did I hesitate?
Amiri and Aroha is a quintessential New Zealand story. In selling the rights, I would have lost control. It became apparent that the sorry would become Americanised, the Māori culture at the heart of my story would be replaced by American street gangs. After much soul-searching, I turned the offer down.
With two leading international publishers now interested in Amiri & Aroha, I am convinced that I made the right choice. The project began as a Māori take on Romeo and Juliet, and while the story is universal, it is firmly grounded in New Zealand life. The East Cape and the magnificent Rere Falls are as essential as the characters in the drama. I cannot imagine this story taking place anywhere else.
I only hope that we can find a New Zealand producer who is equally captivated by the story so that we can make the definitive film of Amiri & Aroha.

Amiri & Aroha submitted for publication

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For the past ten years, Amiri and Aroha has been an essential part of my life. I have lived and breathed with my characters; I have been there with them at every step of their journey. I have felt their pain and shared their joys and sorrows.
Following endless revisions and many months of intense book editing, I have at last submitted the manuscript to leading international publishers for consideration.
For a little while at least, the project is out of my hands while I await the editor's decision. It is a strange feeling, having been so close to the story for so long. But I have not had time to dwell on this; with the novel complete, I have at last been able to clear my mind for the next project. It is now over eighteen months since the child poverty debate in the run up to the New Zealand General Election in September 2014 inspired me to make Hīkoi. Throughout the editing of Amiri & Aroha, ideas for Hīkoi have been running through my mind, but I found it impossible to develop them while still immersed in Amiri & Aroha. Refining the vision and working on the screenplay for Hīkoi is now my top priority.
And whatever the publishers' verdict, the Amiri & Aroha saga is far from over. For those many loyal fans who have been waiting patiently, we plan a limited release of the film trilogy to coincide with the publication of the novel and the films will be available to stream or download on Vimeo-on-Demand.
My dream remains a fully financed film of Amiri & Aroha. Local producers are calling out for captivating New Zealand stories. Amiri & Aroha could be just what they are looking for.

Books aren't written, they're rewritten!

Amiri & Aroha Book Cover copy

“Books aren't written - they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it.” - Michael Crichton.

Although I am far beyond the seventh rewrite of Amiri & Aroha, Michael Crichton's perceptive words seem particularly appropriate. After seemingly endless years of work, the novel is almost ready for publication.
The experience has made me think about the difference between editing books and films. The filmmaker has an arsenal of tools at their disposal: the inflexion of the actor, the juxtaposition of contrasting images, and perhaps most evocative of all, the musical score. The writer has only the power of the written word to create atmosphere and tell their story.
Editing the novel of Amiri & Aroha has been profoundly different from cutting the film. Today's audiences demand fast moving drama, often forcing filmmakers to shorten and compress their work to deliver an ever more intense experience. In many ways, writing the book has been the opposite. My early reviewers consistently challenged me to provide more detail and background, to fill in the gaps in the story that were inherent in the film, which is, of its nature, and episodic medium.
There are similarities in technique. Where the filmmaker cuts rapidly to increase tension, the writer uses short, staccato sentences to achieve the same effect.
The novel will provide the definitive rendition of the Amiri & Aroha saga. At 500 pages and 180,000 words, the book is a genuine epic, but at its core remains a heartrending and gripping drama. It is my dream that a New Zealand production company will pick up the story, and we will see the definitive film version of Amiri & Aroha!

Interview in the New Zealand Rural GP Network News

NGRGPN Network News Cover

Movies and medicine have been my life. Friends and journalists often ask me which is the closest to my heart. I invariably answer that I am equally passionate about both cinema and general practice. The common thread is an abiding interest in people’s stories. I discussed this in this in an interview with Rob Olsen in the current issue of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network News.

Read the interview in the current issue of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network News

Tekapo Promotional Shoot

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As the Amiri & Aroha novel approaches publication, I have been engaged in some promotional shoots at significant real life locations which feature in the story.
The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo must surely be the most beautiful church in New Zealand, and it plays a significant role in the developing drama.
Look out for some more pictures from our road trip to outstanding Amiri & Aroha locations.

Revisions and rewrites

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Amiri & Aroha is truly a project that refuses to end. My recent post was premature. With a major rewrite complete and book editing underway, I thought I was putting the finishing touches on the novel.
On reflection, there are still critical areas that could be improved. The three opening chapters have proved particularly challenging as they differ significantly from the films and cover a considerable amount of new material that we were unable to shoot in the original pilot film.
The most rewarding aspect is that with each successive revision, the book becomes stronger and closer to being ready for publication. I am again indebted to my mentor, Joyce Cocchi for her advice and suggestions on making these crucial first chapters as compelling as possible.
With the prospect of a new and fully funded film series ahead, I feel confident that Amiri & Aroha will be keeping me occupied for a long time into the future!

An Adventure that stubbornly refuses to end

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Tonight I have put the finishing touches to the Amiri & Aroha novel and it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on a project that has taken over my life for the past decade. When I first developed the concept for a one-off independent short film, little did I think I would still be working on it over ten years later, let alone continuing to find new and exciting plot twists!
The success of the original film on the international film festival circuit, which started with a win at the Best Shorts competition, began an amazing journey that stubbornly refuses to come to an end. With so much added depth and complexity, the novel has enough intrigue for another trilogy at the very least!
I again wish to acknowledge the contribution of everyone who has shared this journey with me. I am eternally grateful to the cast and crew of the film trilogy, whose faith in the project helped to turn my dreams into reality.
I extend my most sincere thanks to my mentors, Joyce Cocchi, Warren Philp and Nicky Sinclair, who have read and reread the novel through countless drafts and rewrites and provided me with expert feedback. I am especially thankful to Joyce who has been an unfailing source of advice and inspiration.

An extraordinary journey draws to a conclusion

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Another stage of an extraordinary journey is almost at an end. After months of intensive work, writing and re-writing, the novel of Amiri & Aroha is virtually complete. It is almost time to hand the project over to a book editor as the road to publication begins!
Thank you again to everyone who has supported me throughout this amazing voyage of discovery. Your enthusiasm has been a tremendous inspiration. I would like to add a special word of thanks to everyone who has been in touch asking about the DVD release. It is immensely satisfying to all of us who worked on the films that so many of you want to get hold of your own copies of the trilogy. Regretfully, I have to ask you to be patient just a little longer. Negotiations are continuing with potential distribution partners and they have requested that we delay the DVD/Blu-ray release until after distribution is secured. We promise you it will be worth the wait! Watch out for a major release to coincide with publication of the novel!
In the meantime, why not check out the cool new photo galleries on this site? There are loads of new and hitherto unpublished behind the scenes pictures.
With my work on the novel nearly finished, I am heading back to the cutting room to work on the book trailer. Some of the images accompanying my recent posts show a selection of the graphics I have produced specially for the trailer, with a definite literary feel and will draw the story out of the page. A trailer is a specialised short film and at its best, a work of art in its own right.
It’s great to be in the editing suite again, creating movies. Keep watching this blog for an awesome trailer in the very near future!

The Further Adventures of Amiri & Aroha

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Writing the Amiri & Aroha novel has been a wonderful experience. I have taken the characters created in the films to new levels and travelled with them on new adventures and experiences. Yet the journey has not been entirely without its downside. Working on the book has been a constant and painful reminder of the constraints of micro budget independent film making. Throughout my work on the novel, I have kept imagining what a wonderful film could be made with the depth and characterisation I have added in the book.
After discussing these thoughts with one of our distribution partners, I found myself crafting a new screenplay, incorporating all the new material and profundity from the novel. I am currently talking to film funding agencies about the possibility of shooting this new script with a full unit.
In a previous post, I suggested that the Amiri & Aroha story is just reaching its most exciting phase. I am now taking that thought one stage further.
2015 will be the year of Amiri & Aroha!

Amiri & Aroha: A remarkable Journey

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Creating the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has been a remarkable journey. I have met so many wonderful people along the way and forged such tremendous friendships, bonds that will last a lifetime.
Over the past few months, I have been privileged to make that journey for a second time, as I craft the novel based on the film trilogy.
Writing the novel has been a tremendous voyage of discovery. I have lived and breathed the story anew. I have shared in the characters’ joys and grieved with them in their sadness.
The book affords me the opportunity to tell the story as I had originally envisaged it, without the restrictions inherent in the making of a micro budget independent film.
Despite those enormous constraints, financial and otherwise, which were imposed on us during the making of the trilogy, the films continue to garner awards and engage film festival audiences throughout the world.
I extend my sincerest thanks to all those who have been in touch to ask when you will be able to see the trilogy. Rest assured I have been working hard behind the scenes to secure distribution, both for broadcast and a theatrical release. I have been working on some enhancements to the films, following feedback from film festival judges, our distribution partners and, of course, our wonderful World Premiere audience. I am grateful to you all for your unfailing support.
In so many ways, the Amiri and Aroha story is reaching its most exciting phase. Keep watching this blog!

Rere's Children wins at the Accolade Global Film Competition

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Amiri & Aroha
continues to take the international film festival circuit by storm with an Award of Merit for Rere’s Children at the Accolade Global Film Competition. We have won four international awards in as many months and the trilogy has now won a total of eleven major awards in international competition.
Since the premiere, the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has constantly been amongst the top rated films released in 2014 throughout the world on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb). Thank you to all who have had the chance to see the films and have voted us so highly.
We are hoping to give a much wider audience the opportunity to see the the trilogy in the near future, as we continue to explore distribution options.

Another Major Award for Amiri's Child

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Amiri & Aroha continues to take the international film festival circuit by storm with another major award for Amiri’s Child at the IndieFest.
Hot on the heels of an Award of Excellence in the Accolade Global Film Competition, Amiri’s Child has won an Award of Merit at the prestigious IndieFest Film Awards. Our third award in as many months keeps Amiri & Aroha up there with Hollywood’s greatest and with our latest win, in the company of the world’s foremost independent film makers.
As the organisers of the IndieFest are quick to point out, “IndieFest awardees have won Oscars & Emmys!”

IMDb Trivia puts Amiri's Child back in the news!

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Explosive images: this sequence where Miriama (Ebony Tuhaka) announces the acquisition of a fictional Mighty River Power quickly went viral when released on YouTube last year!


A new trivia item on the Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) puts Amiri’s Child back in the headlines!
When preview audiences first saw Amiri’s Child last year, they were quick to point out parallels with the government’s sale of shares in the power industry. Political advocates of all persuasions saw in Amiri’s Child an allegory of what can happen when the power industry is itself engulfed in a power struggle. The David and Goliath battle between Arapeta and Koriata continues to promote discussion on asset sales.
This is particularly relevant at the present time in the run up to the New Zealand General Election. Amiri’s Child is once again central to the cut and thrust of political debate!
The goal throughout the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has been to produce top class, engrossing entertainment which is also compelling cinema, tackling important contemporary issues and giving audiences something to think about and something to talk about.

Check out the story on the IMDb trivia page here.

Rere's Children the highest rated film released in 2014 on IMDb!

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Rere’s Children has launched on the Internet Movie Data Base and today is the highest rated feature film released in 2014 in the World!

Sincere thanks to all who have enjoyed the movie at its premiere and voted us into this extraordinarily prestigious position!

Gisborne Herald Coverage of our premiere



Check out this video which Ben Cowper made for the Gisborne Herald at our premiere.

Our sincere thanks to Ben and the Gisborne Herald for their tremendous support over the years we have been working on Amiri & Aroha!

Check out also the recent coverage of Amiri & Aroha in the Gisborne Herald here.

World Premiere Photo Gallery

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The World Premiere of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy was truly a night I will never forget! After over five years of work on the trilogy, it was an amazing experience to share this story with an audience!

I am overwhelmed by the wonderful feedback I have received since the premiere. So many of our guests have told me they were gripped by the story and have taken it to their hearts. Thank you all for your kind words!

Check out our photo gallery from this momentous occasion here.

Amiri & Aroha comes to Hobbiton

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Amiri & Aroha comes to Hobbiton!

Continuing my promotional road trip around New Zealand, we have been visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata in the heart of the Waikato.

The Hobbiton set is a magic experience with many fascinating insights into the film making process. Highly recommended to all film makers and fans of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Amiri & Aroha World Premiere is a resounding success!

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Thank you to everyone who helped make our World Premiere such a resounding success. It was great to have so many of the cast and crew at the premiere and we had a wonderful reunion.

I was overwhelmed by the support of the Gisborne public. The Dome Cinema was packed to capacity and the staff worked overtime to cook pizzas for everyone!

I really appreciate all the kind comments you have all made about the films. We will be posting an album of photographs from the Premiere in the next few days. In the meantime, a very big thank you again to everyone who helped make my dream come true!

The Red Carpet is Rolled out

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Walter (The Wiz) Walsh and Mark Whittet roll out the red carpet for tonight’s World Premiere.

The final preparations are complete, the red carpet is rolled out and our guests are about to arrive!

World Premiere tonight!

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I have lived and breathed the story of Amiri & Aroha over the past five years. Likewise, our cast have lived with their characters over our extended shoots. Today we will share our story with the world!

Amiri & Aroha is the talk of the town in Gisborne!

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Excitement is reaching fever pitch with the premiere just 24 hours away!

Just about everyone in Gisborne knows somebody who worked on the trilogy and Amiri & Aroha is the talk of the town.

Let the combined magic of the Dome Cinema and the Amiri & Aroha trilogy entrance you at 6 pm tomorrow!

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Road trip to the Premiere

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A moment’s reflection on the trilogy on the shores of Lake Waikopiro in Hawke’s Bay.

With the premiere just days away, all roads are leading to Gisborne for this auspicious event!

I’ve been on a promotional road trip for trilogy, sailing over Cook Strait on the Interislander, a quick stop in Wellington to check out the Embassy Cinema and some press interviews en route!

The atmosphere in Gisborne is magic with a tremendous buzz in the city. Everyone seems to be anticipating the Premiere!

Yes, Gisborne is definitely the place to be on Saturday night!

The Most Beautiful Award in the Industry!

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The Accolade statuette is a constellation of 24K gold stars mounted on a piano finished base of rosewood. It has been called the most beautiful award in the industry.

Life has been a whirlwind in the last few weeks with the excitement of two major awards in Hollywood and preparations for the World Premiere. But it has also been an opportunity for reflection. When I first conceived the idea of Amiri & Aroha back in 2008, I had no idea of the extraordinary journey that was about to begin. All artistic endeavours have moments of both agony and ecstasy and the trilogy has certainly had more than its fair share of trauma, anxiety and sleepless nights! Yet the reward of watching the dream take shape and gradually become reality makes all the stress seem immaterial. And the joy of completing the films and sharing them with an audience is without equal.

But most important of all, I have met so many wonderful people making the trilogy. It has been a delight to work with such talented people on both sides of the camera and I have made wonderful friends during production - friendships which will last a lifetime. I look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible at the premiere.

Read our latest Press Release announcing the new awards.

The Countdown to the Premiere is on!



The clock is ticking, the Premiere is just days away!

But if you absolutely can’t wait, you can always check out our First Look Videos!

Gisborne History Lives on in Amiri & Aroha!

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Local history lives on in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy! The building with blood coming from the walls has gone!

The location for this dramatic scene in Rere’s Children has been demolished. The dark mood of this sequence was heightened by the chilling location, the sinister and eerie atmosphere had a profound effect on the cast and crew, who swore they could see blood oozing from the walls...

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Koriata (John Stainton) and Miriama (Ebony Tuhaka) play out an intense scene at an iconic location that is no more. Lost forever, now only to be seen in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

Can't wait for the Premiere? Check out these first look videos!


The premiere is now just seven days away, but if you can’t wait, check out our trailers and previews on our Video Portfolio page.

Koriata’s Dilemma is the latest addition to the collection. This key sequence from Rere's Children sees a desperate Koriata (John Stainton) face his inner demons. Koriata’s Way was an early working title for the final film in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Koriata’s journey from the son of a gang president to a business leader and company director is no ordinary rags to riches story. Koriata’s desire to shed his gangland roots and follow his own path is fraught with danger and will reveal some sinister secrets.

Nine days away - premiere arrangements confirmed

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With the World Premiere of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy now just nine days away, we all getting very excited and I am delighted to announce the final arrangements for this auspicious event.

The premiere will take place at the Dome Cinema in Gisborne on Saturday 19 July at 6 pm.

It is with great pleasure that we invite everyone who took part in the film to the premiere. We discovered so much new talent in Gisborne and this will be a showcase of your work. We will be sending invitations to all the cast and crew over the next couple of days.

I am especially pleased that we are able to host the premiere in Gisborne and members of the public will be most welcome to attend the premiere for a cost of $10 at the door. We are very grateful to the Gisborne community for their support of our project and hope that as many as possible will take the opportunity to be the first to experience this local production which is destined for the world.

Bar and refreshments will be available at the Dome Cinema (at own cost), treats including a tempting selection of pizza and ice cream.

We are particularly grateful to Sally and Katy at the Dome Cinema for hosting our very special night. Please support the Dome – it’s a local treasure!

If you took part in the film and have not received an invitation by the end of this week, please email me at davidwhittet@mac.com.

The Premiere is just ten days away!

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It seems a lifetime since we launched the pilot film at Gisborne’s iconic Dome Cinema on 9 October 2011. Since that auspicious event, the original film has been reshot and two further films made to complete the trilogy. The films have gone on to win multiple awards and commendations at intentional film festivals worldwide. At last we are ready to bring this amazing story to the world. We are holding the premiere in the heart of Gisborne to enable local people to be the first to experience this cinematic phenomenon!

The Dome Cinema will once again host our premiere. The Dome is truly unique, with a magical atmosphere and the ideal venue for our premiere:

“The Dome room has long had a reputation for bewitching its guests. Lingering between the pools of soft light glowing down from the domes, wondering where in the world they are. Many think of her thick red carpet, they've kicked off many a shoe to dance bare foot where billiard balls once fell in boisterous games of old. Likewise, the Dome Cinema is a charming mixture of the modern and fun, of old elegance and romance. Somehow it makes you feel right at home.

We invite you to come cosy up with a drink, and a pizza. For some good old fashioned entertainment, an experience to engage the senses and capture the imagination, welcome to the Dome Cinema...”


We will be making the formal announcement regarding arrangements for the Premiere tomorrow and sending out invitations to the cast and crew. Members of the public will also be welcome for a nominal fee. Watch out for the post tomorrow!

Rere's Children Theatrical Trailer Released


Rere’s Children is the stunning conclusion to the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. The heart wrenching finale to the saga is full of passion, intrigue and raw emotion!

In the best Amiri & Aroha tradition, this intense theatrical trailer provides a dramatic ride through the story a breakneck speed.

Enjoy the ride and we hope you will come and see the film. We can’t wait to bring this story to the world!

Creating an awesome trailer for Rere's Children

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With the countdown to the premiere of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy well underway, it has been back to burning the midnight oil for me, creating a trailer for Rere’s Children.

I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response to the newly released trailers for Amiri & Aroha. This has also set me a formidable challenge, to make an even more dazzling trailer for Rere’s Children!

The trailer will be released tomorrow and promises to be another roller coaster ride of emotion, intrigue and passion, a montage of compelling images and intense music as we experience the story of Rere’s Children in just under three minutes!

The Broken Promises music video is released



Broken Promises
is the evocative music video that accompanies the award winning Amiri & Aroha film trilogy.

Rising star Alyssha Maynard performs her original composition at the iconic Rere waterfalls, the principal location for Amiri & Aroha.

Alyssha's poignant song takes us on a breathtaking journey through the trilogy. We meet the mystic Koka, a Maori soothsayer haunted by her past, and Aroha, the daughter of a notorious gang leader who is determined to escape from the gang and an arranged marriage to her cousin Hunapo.

Amiri & Aroha is a Maori take on Romeo and Juliet, set on New Zealand's stunning East Cape. Aroha meets Amiri, a hot shot businessman from the big smoke of Auckland, who promises Aroha a new life away from the gang. But Hunapo, a gang leader in waiting, refuses to let go of Aroha and threatens to kill her if she goes ahead with the marriage to Amiri.

Through spellbinding music and images, we share Aroha's desperate right of passage, a voyage from darkness to light as she struggles to find her own way in life.

Alyssha Maynard's music beautifully captures the spirit of Amiri & Aroha and is a perfect prelude to the trilogy.

Broken Promises

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Alyssha Maynard performs her original composition Broken Promises which beautifully captures the spirit of Amiri & Aroha.

With the final cut of Rere’s Children at last in the can, I have been working on a music video to promote the trilogy. Alyssha Maynard has written a poignant, evocative song which eloquently captures the lifeblood of our story.

I love cutting music videos, which are truly an art form in their own right. The Broken Promises video could be subtitled The Trilogy in Two Minutes, juxtaposing scenes from Amiri & Aroha with Alyssha’s stunning performance.

Watch out for the Broken Promises video which will be premiering on this site in the very near future.

Amiri & Aroha takes on the World!

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All smiles at the end of a very long journey for Amiri & Aroha!

Amiri & Aroha is taking on the world!

I have lived and breathed this story for the past few years and it is immensely satisfying to see my dreams come to fruition as the films continue to attract enthusiastic attention at film festivals throughout the world.

Watch out for an exciting press release on our latest success on the intentional film festival circuit!

Piecing the Jigsaw together

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Much of my life in the past couple of months has been spent in a darkened room, colour grading Rere’s Children. This key scene of Miriama’s first meeting with Koriata has been a particularly difficult scene to balance and getting it right has become an obsession!

Making a film is like doing a jigsaw. Both films and jigsaw puzzles are made up of a large number of pieces which must come together to make a satisfying entity. In the case of a film, those tiny pieces are shot out of order and often in isolation of each other. The challenge for the film maker is getting each shot, each little piece of the jigsaw, as close to perfection as possible. And just like a jigsaw, one piece that doesn’t fit can ruin the entire picture.

Editing a film always entails shuffling scenes around into a different order in search of that elusive prefect fit. Juggling story lines, juxtaposing images, this is where a film is made or broken.

For Rere’s Children, the jigsaw is at last compete. All the elements have come together to produce a compelling story, that elusive fit has been achieved!

This First Look video is a rough cut of the scene which has given me so much heartache in post production! A tense, edgy scene where Miriama and Koriaita first meet in a dockside cafe.

The Countdown is on!

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A dramatic explosion in Amiri’s Child changes everything. But another countdown is just beginning...

The countdown is now on for the Charity World Premiere of the entire Amiri & Aroha trilogy. And this is just the start of our journey. As Amiri & Aroha continues to take the intentional film festival circuit by storm, negotiations continue for a mini series, a feature film and an ongoing series. Keep watching this blog!

We are looking for sponsors for our charity premiere. We want to make this gala event as special as possible. The proceeds will go to developing family medicine networks in regions of extreme need in the poorest parts of the world. If you are in a position to support us, we would love to hear from you. If you know someone who might be interested, please spread the word. Associate yourself with our success story!

Carl de Malmanche, our new Executive Producer



Welcome to Carl de Malmanche, our new Executive Producer.

It’s great that all of our supporters have got so involved in the production, and Carl and his friend Morino Ravenberg have played Interpol officers in the dramatic arrest of Amiri in Rere's Children.

Without giving away any spoilers, we've put together this short clip to give you a feeling for the scene!

Welcome to the crew, Carl.

Rere's Children is in final post production

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With Rere's Children in the final stages of post production, the Amiri & Aroha trilogy is almost complete. There is a certain amount of agony and ecstasy in any artistic endeavour and the last couple of months have proved something of an emotional roller coaster ride, working round the clock to finish the film.

Perhaps the most exciting - and nerve wracking - experience has been test screenings with preview audiences. Recent work has concentrated on fine tuning as a result of immensely valuable feedback from our preview audiences.

Honing the editing is immensely satisfying, with each successive enhancement, the film becomes more powerful and ready for exhibition!

With such intensive post production work, there just haven't been enough hours in the day to keep up to date with this production blog. But with an end now very clearly in sight, in the run up to the World Premiere of the trilogy, we will be catching up with our posts and bringing you the latest news of the final stages of production.

It's a wrap - finally!

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The cameras have been rolling for the last time on the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, with the final pick ups for Rere’s Children at last in the can.

There were some scenes we were unable to film during the November shoot and I have been casting round for actors for some of the small but significant small parts.

For the most significant of these roles, the detective who interviews gang leader Tautaru, I had to look no further than my colleague Andrew Wilson.

Andrew proved a natural in front of the camera. It's always difficult doing green screen work out of context but Andrew had no problem getting to grips with the laconic detective who unwittingly draws the truth out of Tautaru.

The shoot was in the best tradition of Indie film making, Andrew and edited the green screen footage into the sequence as soon as we completed the shoot. Thank you for being past of the film, Andrew.

This gritty sequence, near the conclusion of Rere’s Children, is one of my personal favourites from the trilogy.

2014: The Year of the Premiere

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A very Happy New Year to all our followers from the cast and crew of Amiri & Aroha.

2014 promises to be a very exciting year for us! This is the year we will finally complete the trilogy and bring this amazing story to the world!

The November shoot ends up in the cells!

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The November shoot has wrapped with this dramatic scene between Tautaru and Lamonge in the police cells. A fitting climax to a punishing couple of week’s filming!

As I work through the rushes, we certainly have some amazing footage and I look forward to cutting this material into some compelling scenes which will make Rere’s Children an even more powerful climax to the trilogy.

Yet it's not quite a wrap. There are some scenes we have not been able to complete and there are still a few parts to cast. I’m looking for a detective to interview the notorious Tauataru!

Shooting under pressure!

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When John Stainton landed in Gisborne for the 24 hour intensive shoot, he confided with me that he works best under pressure. That was definitely put to the test with this scene.

With the clock ticking and time evaporating, we completed this critical scene between Koriata and his unwilling fellow conspirator Alice (Lisa Beach) just minutes before John's flight back to Wellington.

John clearly does work best under pressure - I have just been editing the scene and it is one of his most powerful.

Koriata's Way - An Intensive 24 hour shoot!

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John Stainton (Koriata) flew in from Wellington this afternoon for 24 hours of intensive shooting. Early work on the rough cut of Rere's Children identified the need to increase the dramatic tension of the climactic scenes where Koriata has to decide if he is prepared to risk his life to do the right thing. A priority of this shoot is to make these scenes as powerful and heart rending as possible.

It was straight down to work on John's arrival with some emotional and moving scenes in gangland. Koriata’s naive attempts to bring down the gang result in tragedy to those closest to him. Tonight’s scenes see Koriata with blood on his hands - literally - as he confronts his friend Alice (Lisa Beach), whose life is destroyed by Koriata’s actions.

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A desperate Koriata (John Stainton) looks at the lights of Gisborne from Kaiti Hill as he contemplates his inner turmoil.

Koriata’s Way
was an early working title for the final film in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Koriata’s journey from the son of a gang president to a business leader and company director is no ordinary rags to riches story. Koriata’s desire to shed his gangland roots and follow his own path is fraught with danger and will reveal some sinister secrets.

I was determined that this shoot would take Koriata out of his comfort zone. After the intense scene with Lisa Beach and the gangsters, I took John up to Kaiti Hill for a night shoot, where Koriata must face his demons and decide if he is going to do the right thing. Tonight’s shoot captured some raw emotion and will make Rere’s Children a much more powerful drama.

A Powerful Scene in Gangland

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Alice (Lisa Beach) with her man Dan (Te Hamua Shane Nikora) who suffers the consequences of standing up for what is right. This touching scene at the end of the evening’s shoot brought tears to the eyes of everyone watching on set.

Tonight we shot a climactic scene for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy as a brave man takes on the gang. Te Hamua Shane Nikora joined the cast as Dan, a security guard whose attempt to bring down notorious gang leader Tautaru ends in tragedy. It was necessarily a disturbing scene, which gives the resolution of our story its meaning. Te Hamua and our group of gangsters acted with such force and conviction that everyone on set was deeply affected by what they saw.

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Beauty and the Beast - All smiles following the shoot! There was palpable relief amongst cast and crew when we finally wrapped this intense and heart rending shoot.

The Power of the Green Screen!

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Our great casting find today was Wendy Adams, played our news anchor beautifully, an all important role which brings a gritty realism to the story.

Another great day's shooting - today was the day of the paparazzi hounding Arapeta following the explosion at the power station. These scenes come early in Rere’s Children and set the tone for the dramatic conclusion to the trilogy.

The Dialogue Coach is an unsung hero in film making. Today's shooting was entirely done against a green screen, making it particularly difficult for our actors to get into their roles and visualise the finished picture. Lisa Beach worked tirelessly throughout the shoot, role playing all the parts and making our actors feel they were in the thick of the action!

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David Whittet with Associate Producer Lisa Beach and today’s discovery, Wendy Adams.

Brief Encounter - Lamonge & Bronwyn

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Parting is such sweet sorrow...The painful end to an all too brief encounter between Lamonge (Warren Philp) and Bronwyn Kay in an emotional scene for Rere's Children, shot at Gisborne Harbour this afternoon.

Amiri & Aroha
began as a Māori take on Romeo and Juliet. But Amiri and Aroha are not the only star crossed lovers in the story! First up for the final shoot has been shooting a bitter sweet affair of the heart between the infamous lawyer Lamonge and Bronwyn Kay.

Bronwyn was our principal sponsor from the IndieGoGo campaign and has proven a consummate actress as her part has developed into a major storyline in Rere’s Children.

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Lamonge and Bronwyn - a sad wave and a last look back.

You ain't seen nothing yet! The final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy is underway!

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I am back in Gisborne for the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Whilst the trilogy has seen some intense excitement - from a raging furnace to exploding a power station - I can confidently say you ain't seen nothing yet! The combination of explosive action and high drama to be shot in the next ten days will bring the Amiri & Aroha to a stunning conclusion!

Previz for the Pickups

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With an intense shoot ahead, pre-visualisation (known as Previz) is essential preparation. This storyboard is for Bronwyn Kay’s scene, a pivotal sequence for the November shoot.

With the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy just weeks away, preparations are now reaching fever pitch! It certainly promises to be another full on shoot with an intense mix of pickups and some exciting new scenes. This is our opportunity to make the trilogy something really special and to take advantage of the amazing distribution opportunities ahead.

Over the past five years, working on the trilogy has proved a tremendous voyage of discovery and I have met and worked with so many awesome people. The extended shoots have enabled real character development. I am really looking forward to developing Bronwyn Kay’s scene as Bronwyn plays a key role in the story’s development.

Return of the Invisible Man!

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The invisible man, with piercing eyes that could kill!

The Amiri & Aroha trilogy has been an amazing journey and it has been wonderful to share the experience with so many fans and supporters through this blog and my Facebook page. It is great that we have a worldwide audience eagerly anticipating the conclusion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

The wait is almost over and we are feeling the pressure as we approach the final shoot! We are determined to bring you a stunning climax which will match everyone’s expectations!

We’ve already heard that one of our characters will escape on a boat, another key protagonist plans his escape disguised as the invisible man!

All will be revealed when Amiri & Aroha reaches a screen near you!

Lamonge's Last Stand

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This tranquil scene at Gisborne Harbour is about to be shattered by a spectacular escape in Rere’s Children. But who is escaping? And from what? The wait is nearly over for the dramatic conclusion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

With the November shoot fast approaching, Warren Philp (aka seedy lawyer Lamonge) and I have been working on this powerful scene which will see a key character take to sea to escape inevitable comeuppance. With the help of our principal sponsor Bronwyn Kay, we have found the boat that will take our fugitive into the distant sunset! Kim Currie, of Currie Construction, is making his boat Spindrift available for this pivotal scene. Thank you so much Kim and a huge thank you to Bronwyn for her continued support of our project!

First Look Video: Koriata's Nightmare



In Rere's Children, we follow Koriata's desperate attempts to escape his gangland origins and follow his own path in life (an early working tittle for the film was Koriata's Way). In this dramatic First Look video, despite outward success in the business world, the gang will not let him forget that they remain his master.

A breathtaking conclusion for Amiri & Aroha!

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The great director Alfred Hitchcock once said: “start with an earthquake, then build up to a climax!”

With the explosive openings of Amiri & Aroha and Amiri’s Child, I’ve tried to do just that. And over the past few years of intensive shooting, we have been working towards that climax!

Without giving away any spoilers, I can promise our fans a spectacular and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. Perhaps this screen shot will provide just a hint of the direction we are taking!

Koriata's journey takes shape in post production

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Editing of Rere's Children is at an immensely exciting stage, with the dramatic conclusion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy already exerting its power in the raw footage of the rough cut. This screen shot comes from a montage sequence signalling Koriata's dominance of the power industry. But Koriata's victory comes at an immense personal cost...

Watch out for a First Look video of this scene, coming in the next couple of days!

Wiz is a Wanted Man!

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This front page is one of many newspaper and magazine covers created for the montage sequences of Rere’s Children, accurate down to the last detail of the text!

The arrest of Gang President Tautaru (Walter "The Wiz" Walsh) is a key turning point in Rere's Children. This newspaper front page features in a montage sequence, pronouncing the repercussions of Tautaru's arrest.

Events which occur in the immediate aftermath of Tautaru’s arrest will be a key part of the upcoming November shoot and final refinements to the script are being made as the story takes shape in the cutting room!

Amiri in the Asylum for the Criminally Insane

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Another dark and edgy scene I'm working on in post production: Amiri in the asylum for the criminally insane, writing increasingly bizarre letters to his estranged son Arapeta. Mike Hollis's performance is astonishing, lucid one moment, descending into madness the next.

Rere's Children comes alive in the editing suite!

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Our story begins and ends at Rere falls, with some spectacular adventures in between. As post production continues, I have been editing the climactic scenes of the trilogy.  It's wonderful to work with such awesome material and even in their raw state, these scenes are powerful and compelling.

Observers sitting in on editing sessions have found themselves drawn into this gripping story. Watch out for some new first look videos, coming soon!

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“The Pōriro is accepted” - Editing the dramatic conclusion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

Zero Film Festival - A Fair Go for Indie Film Makers

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Amiri & Aroha has achieved astonishing success on the international film festival circuit, especially considering it is a self funded project by a small group of self made Indie film makers. We have won awards at major festivals worldwide, in competition with full budget productions from major studios. But there is a festival that gives Indie film makers on a zero budget a fair go. Not only does the Zero Film Festival, which is restricted to self funded productions, allow Indie film makers to compete on a level playing field, but also provides the option of detailed feedback on their work and a vibrant film making community.

I am currently submitting both Amiri & Aroha and Amiri’s Child to the Zero Film Festival and hope that Rere’s Children will be joining them soon. But despite our reputation for producing world class films with negligible funding, even micro budget film makers need a little help! When I first conceived this project five years ago, who could have predicted that we would now be talking to Hollywood about a major new series?

Do read about our project and if you like what you see, please help us to complete the project with a breathtaking finale!

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Another Powerful Scene takes shape!

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With the November shoot on the horizon, I'm working round the clock on post production to ensure that this amazing story is ready for the gala World Premiere early in the New Year.

I've just finished working on another very powerful scene, where ruthless gang leader Tautaru despatches one of his minions to dispense gang justice to someone who can't pay their protection money. The young generation in the gang will not tolerate Tautaru's reign of terror. Desperate for a better future for their whānau, they are determined to bring Tautaru down.

Look out for some more First Look videos very soon.

November shoot confirmed - And a New Year Premiere

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Cameras will roll once more in November for the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. It promises to be an intense shoot, with a spectacular car chase, a dramatic escape at sea and many other sensational scenes for an unforgettable conclusion to the trilogy!

Meticulous planning is required for the complex and hair-raising stunts. This shoot will be the most dazzling and electrifying to date and will send off the trilogy with a bang!

Post production continues alongside the preparations and we are on course for the Gala Première early in the New Year.

These are exciting times for all us of who have worked so hard on this project for so long. And new adventures lie ahead as Amiri & Aroha takes on Hollywood!

Please help us make this finale as special as possible by supporting our IndieGoGo campaign!

Planning and Post Production

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"Amiri, Amiri, have you truly learnt nothing? You can explode power stations and wreak havoc everywhere, but you won’t be happy until you make good..."
- Kōkā to Amiri


Planning and post production are progressing with renewed vigour with all the exciting news we have been receiving this week!

I have been working on this dramatic scene, which opens Rere's Children. On top of the Rere Falls, Amiri faces his demons, in the shape of the etherial Kōkā, who haunts him from her crystal ball!

Amiri & Aroha - The Next Sopranos?

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We’ve been telling our IndieGoGo supporters they will be part of the next great thing - now it’s official!

As negotiations continue with satellite channels, one clear message is coming across: Amiri & Aroha could be the next Sopranos.

I have been stunned by how many media moguls have drawn parallels between The Sopranos and Amiri & Aroha. Executives have told us that both have powerful characters, compelling and well written stories which captivate audiences. Praise indeed!

Get in on the Action at our IndieGoGo site!

A Project Unlike Any Other!

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The young generation of the gang challenge the old guard, they will not tolerate Tautaru’s rule of terror and chide him that his days are numbered.

Long gone are the days when the film director could hide behind the camera! Today’s film makers have to promote themselves as well as their work. Blogs, websites, Facebook fan pages - these are all vital to secure funding and to reach audiences!

Indie film makers are passionate about their work and I believe that in Amiri & Aroha, we have created a unique piece of cinema. This is reflected in feedback from film festival audiences and this week a potential distributor told me he thought we had “a project unlike any other - a heady mixture of love, rivalry, tribal ritual, gang warfare, full of intrigue and to cap it all, shot in the heart of Middle Earth!”

Amiri & Aroha Goes Viral!

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Everybody seems to be checking out the Amiri & Aroha Campaign!

With the launch of the IndieGoGo campaign to raise finishing funds for the project, Amiri & Aroha has gone viral!

The total reach of our Facebook page has skyrocketed with a staggering increase of 1,797,000% in the past week!

A sincere thank you to everyone who has helped to spread the word about our awesome project. We believe we have have an amazing story to tell the world and we need your help as we approach the final hurdle!

Our IndieGoGo Campaign is live!



As a result of our success on the international film festival circuit, we now have the opportunity to broadcast the Amiri & Aroha trilogy as a mini series and there is even the option of a long running series using the characters we have created. Following broadcast of the mini series, we are editing a single feature film for cinema release.

Amiri & Aroha is poised to become the next big media sensation!

With such tremendous potential, we are determined to make the trilogy as stunning as possible for worldwide television and cinema audiences. Please support our campaign and together we can make cinema history!

On the cusp of something great

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This is a truly exciting time for all of us who have worked so hard on Amiri & Aroha over the past five years.

I have been negotiating options for a prime time mini series and have options for a long running series. With this and a forthcoming cinema release, we really feel we are on the cusp of something great!

Rere's Children - The Rough Cut

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The rough cut of Rere's Children is coming together beautifully and is shaping up to be a compelling piece of cinema in its own right, as well as a stunning conclusion to the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

But with negotiations continuing for a mini series and a cinema release, it is clear that we will need another shooting session to complete the trilogy. Most significantly, we were unable to film the car chase as Cory Garrett, who plays Troy, went down with Norovirus during our last shoot. The car chase results in Amiri's arrest, a key storyline in the final film.

We also hope to shoot Lamonge's escape on a ship in a dramatic scene at Gisborne Harbour.

Keep watching this blog for more news: the current plan is an October shoot and a Christmas premiere for the trilogy.

Shooting a new Promo

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Introducing the promo video at Rere Falls.

I've been busy shooting a new promotional video for a forthcoming IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds to complete the project.

We ran a highly successful campaign last year to fund Rere's Children, the final film of the trilogy. Highlights of the campaign included developing a tense and atmospheric scene featuring our principle sponsor, Bronwyn Kay. We named a lead character after Hayden Searle, another key supporter. Jonathan Fox became the first virtual assistant director in cinema history.

With exciting possibilities in the offing, including broadcasting the three hour-long films as a mini series and a feature film cut for cinema release, we need funding for pick up shots and additional photography.

Help us to bring this amazing story to the world. Watch out for the IndieGoGo campaign, launching very soon!

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The Amiri & Aroha Blog to be published

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The cover for the soon to be published Amiri & Aroha movie tie-in

The Amiri & Aroha blog is soon to be published as the official companion to the motion picture trilogy.

Over the past three years, this blog has charted the making of the trilogy from the first concept through to the final cut and chronicles the journey of a dedicated team of independent film makers.

And the story is not over yet! With post production on Rere’s Children in full swing and Amiri’s Child on the international film festival circuit, these are exciting times! Add to that a gala charity premiere later this year and the novel in the near future, the Amiri & Aroha story still has far to go!

An Assembly Edit for Rere's Children

Rere's-Children-Title-Card

With Amiri’s Child at last complete and important meetings with distributors this week, the pressure is on to complete an assembly edit of Rere’s Chldren, the final film of the trilogy.

This rough cut will show potential distributors how the story concludes and will be immensely valuable to me in determining what level of reshoots and pick up shots will be required to complete the trilogy.

Working on the edit has been a voyage of rediscovery. I have been so preoccupied with completing Amiri’s Child these last few months that I had almost forgotten just how good the footage is for Rere’s Children! It has been a real joy to go back to these wonderful performances and to cut them into a compelling drama!

Amiri & Aroha to help children in extreme need

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As post production, reshoots and discussions with distributors continue, thoughts have been turning towards the premiere of the complete trilogy.

I am delighted to announce that we plan to have a gala charity premiere later in the year, the proceeds of which will go to support a project I am working on to develop family medicine in Cambodia.

Prestige Award Presentation

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The news of our success in the Prestige Awards was a major boost during the last shoot of Rere's Children in Gisborne.

Likewise, presentation of the award has been most encouraging at a critical time in post production on the trilogy.

It's tremendously satisfying to have done so well, with an essentially self funded independent film, especially when in competition with the world's top film makers and  fully resourced Hollywood productions.

We look forward to continuing our high profile as the competed trilogy will soon be hitting the international film festival circuit.  

Read our updated Press Release.

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The growing collection of awards for Amiri & Aroha.

Digital Anarchy

Digital-Anarchy
Perfecting burns in post - using Digital Anarchy's Beauty Box/Ugly Box plug-ins for Final Cut.

One of the main reasons why post production on Amiri's Child is taking so long is the painstaking digital enhancement of Amiri's burns makeup.

I have been using some brilliant software from Digital Anarchy. Whilst famed for their award winning Beauty Box skin retouching technology, it is the companion Ugly Box which is proving invaluable for Amiri's Child.

Whereas Beauty Box smooths wrinkles and blemishes, instead of smoothing the skin texture, Ugly Box enhances it to bring out all the variations, wrinkles and blemishes. This is ideal for adding edge to Amiri's grossly burnt skin and for dramatically ageing Kōkā on her fateful return to Rere.

The January 2013 Shoot wraps - where to from here?

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Young Arapeta (Mark Whittet) and Miriama (Sophee Hills) work out their troubled relationship in the spectacular setting of the Elephant rocks. This touching scene is a highlight of the January 2013 shoot.

With some beautiful scenes between Arapeta and Miriama at the Elephant Rocks and some pick up shots up and down the Waitaki Valley, filming for the January 2013 shoot wrapped.

The difference in Mark and Sophee’s performances during this session has been amazing. Both young actors brought a wealth of experience from the previous shoots and a new depth and maturity to their characters. I am so pleased that we expanded and re-shot these scenes. They will make Amiri’s Child a much more powerful film.

Yet this excitement is tempered by some concerns. There are problem areas that are proving difficult to resolve. I remain uneasy about the youth gang scene in Amiri’s Child. Despite the re-write and some promising new footage, the scene just doesn’t have the gritty realism to carry the audience through Miriama’s change of heart. I fear further retakes will be necessary. Will the Amiri & Aroha trilogy ever be completely in the can?

Yet more tough decisions lie ahead in post production!

Bronwyn Kay finds Amiri the perfect property

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The perfect refuge for Amiri & Aroha, complete with its own waterfall - thanks to Bronwyn Kay!

Bronwyn Kay is our major supporter from the IndieGoGo campaign last year and we are most grateful to Bronwyn for her generous support of our project.

As regular followers of this blog will know, in addition to her financial contribution to the film, Bronwyn also took on a starring role in a key sequence in Rere’s Children.

Amiri is on the run from both his enemies and the authorities and he must find a remote hideaway where he can live with Aroha in secret. He entrusts his lawyer Lamonge to find him a luxurious mansion, far away from the prying eyes of his adversaries. Lamonge turns to Bronwyn Kay to find the ideal sanctuary for Amiri. Bronwyn delivers a property to die for, only accessible by a precarious swing bridge, and complete with its own swing bridge, to remind Amiri & Aroha of their first meeting at the Rere falls.

As Amiri’s Child is nearing completion in post production, I have been turning my attention to Rere’s Children and I have been working on Bronwyn’s scene. It is a very tense encounter between Lamonge and Bronwyn, with Lamonge inadvertently saying to much during the meeting and Bronwyn realises that his client is indeed the notorious Amiri.

Bronwyn was a true star and played the part to perfection. You can read about the shooting here.

I have put together this preview of Bronwyn’s scene. Enjoy!

We remain externally grateful to Bronwyn. Your contribution has made a huge difference to our project!

Tough Decisions in Post Production

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There is agony and ecstasy in the creation of any artistic endeavour. In film making, joy and despair come together in post production.

My current work completing Amiri’s Child has certainly brought some highs, as the rough cut takes shape and promises to be a compelling piece of cinema. But there are some problem areas where the material is just not working.

In particular, the scenes between the young Arapeta and Miriama are not sufficiently developed. Whilst the scenes have been through a number of revisions already, more work is required if these sequences are to achieve their full impact.

So over the next few days, I will concentrate on re-writing the scenes, with the benefit of hindsight from the previous shoots and an overview of the entire project. I hope to set up a shooting session for later in January for these scenes.

Movie Magic, illusion and painstaking compositing!

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Working on a complex compositing shot using Apple’s Motion software.

I am falling behind with post production work on the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. I was hoping to have Amiri’s Child complete by the end of this year, but release will now be well into the New Year.

The reason for the delay is the painstaking work on special effects. I have previously commented in this blog on the endless list of Digital Compositors on the titles in the commercial cinema and how this contrasts with the Indy film maker, who does all the work themselves. Amiri’s Child in particular is heavy on effects shots. As well as images in Kōkā’s crystal ball, there is a complex opening sequence, an overture in which the crystal ball travels back to Rere and Kōkā foresees the birth of Amiri’s child.

I have spent the last fortnight working on Kōkā’s return to Rere, a dramatic scene towards the end of Amiri’s Child. Kokā must take the crystal ball back to Rere and smash it on the rocks to break a curse, and as she travels back to Rere in her caravan, she asks her beloved crystal ball to show her the future one last time. Creating these effects (using Apple’s Motion programme) has been laborious, which single shots taking several days to achieve the level of perfection essential to make the audience believe in the illusion.

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Creating a travelling matte around the actress’s fingers so that they appear in front of the lightening, which has been superimposed on the shot to create the illusion that the lightening is inside the crystal ball.
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The completed effect, with the fire in the crystal ball on Kōkā’s final journey.

Digital compositing may be an exacting task, but the results are rewarding when they work!

Reviewing the Rushes for the October Shoot

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Importing the footage from the October shoot into Final Cut Pro X for cataloguing. Each shoot has generated several terabytes of material!

Each of our extended shoots on the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has produced a mass of material to be viewed, catalogued and assessed prior to getting down to editing proper.

With the huge amount of work in the October shoot, this has been the biggest import of footage in the trilogy. As the material is downloaded and backed up to multiple off-site locations, I am constantly looking to see if it matches up to expectations and will cut together.

Will that long shot match that close up? Is that shot believable? Is the actor plausible in the role?

These are the questions that race through the film makers head as the new martial is ingested!

Principal Photography wraps with Aunt Hinemoa

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Payback time for Uncle Ben: David Whittet directs Shane Luke (Arapeta), Willie Grace Senior (Uncle Ben) and Kohi Marama Rogers (Aunt Hinemoa) in a tense scene where Arapeta confronts demons from his past, which wraps principal photography on Rere’s Children.

The October shoot has been by far the most challenging of the trilogy. I always knew it would be tough to complete such a massive amount of visual story-telling in a two week period, but didm’t realise just how much I was asking of myself and stress levels were high at times during this fortnight!

It felt fitting to wrap principal photography with the Aunt Hinemoa scenes, as it is this encounter that clears Arapeta’s mind and shapes his outlook on the future. Shane Luke and Willie Grace worked beautifully together at the role reversal from earlier in the trilogy and Kohi Marama Rogers took over the role of the older Aunt Hinemoa, bringing depth to the person who has been Arapeta’s rock throughout his life.

A wrap at last? There are still some pick up shots to be done and there will inevitably be some retakes. But at the end of today’s shoot, I felt a sense of achievement. Once more we had accomplished the impossible and created a powerful piece of contemporary cinema with virtually zero resources. And that is an achievement.

Bruised, yes. But still smiling!

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A look of relief from director David Whittet as the shooting is at last completed with all major scenes in the can.

Tautaru's Arrest

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Tautaru is arrested at gang headquarters as his henchmen look on in total disbelief. The New Zealand Police threw everything into the scene and showed actor Walter Walsh (the WIz) no mercy as Tautaru was unceremoniously handcuffed and dragged away!

Tonight was another mammoth shoot at Smash Palace, an atmospheric bar in Gisborne which was the perfect location for gang headquarters. Unfortunately, we only had Smash Palace for one night and it was a huge ask to get through the mountain of scenes at gang headquarters in one night!

The evening started with the New Zealand Police joining us on set to film Tautaru’s arrest. The two officers who performed the arrest were brilliant and totally entered into the spirit of the film. We are so grateful the the New Zealand Police for participating in the film and bringing such gritty realism to these all important scenes.

Otherwise, it was a long hard night of filming, ploughing through seemingly endless pages of script to complete the shoot. But as always, we pulled it off and got all the material in the can. But the night took its toll and I have to admit to wondering - if only for a fleeting moment - why I make films!

Watch a first look video of Tautaru’s arrest and hear actor Walter Walsh (the Wiz) talk about the experience!

Lamonge's Reward

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Director David Whittet confers with Assistant director Mark during the shooting of a tense scene where Lamonge (Warren Philp) claims his reward for money laundering, a gangland slut (played by Juvana Rangi).

This morning we filmed an extraordinary sequence at an amazing location. It was one of those shots where everything just worked, the camera angles all felt right and stalwarts of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, Warren Philp, Ayden Malone and Edward Tipene delivered powerful performances. We were joined by a new addition to the cast, Juvana Rangi, who played the gangland slut who turns out to be Lamonge’s reward. Juvana played the role with a definite edge which added to the gritty realism of the scene.

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We had a wonderfully atmospheric location for this morning’s filming. The mattresses in front of the graffiti covered walls are home to several vagrants every night.
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Edward Tipene and Ayden Malone play the gangsters who deliver Lamonge his reward.

Press Release - The Prestige Film Awards

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Today we released our press release following the success of Amiri & Aroha at the Prestige Film Awards.

This prestigious award has come at an opportune moment and proved a great stimulus as we near completion of principal photography for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

Read our press release here.

Hunapo's Redemption

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A troubled Hunapo (Shayne Biddle) returns to the place where he betrayed Aroha.

It was a great pleasure to work with Shayne Biddle again today, once more reprising the role of Hunapo. Tonight we filmed Hunapo’s redemption, the key scenes where a guilt ridden Hunapo is forced to confront his demons and do the right thing, redeeming an otherwise wasted life. Shayne was on top form for these emotionally demanding scenes.

Mrs Brown's Boys

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The cast and crew for today’s shoot which we affectionately called “Mrs Brown’s Boys”.

The turning point in Rere’s Children comes when the youth of the gang refuse to tolerate the reign of terror of the old guard. This comes to a head when the youngsters witness the harsh treatment of older people who cannot pay their protection money. These brave young men decide to take action and plot to overthrow the gang leader, Tautaru.

These scenes were difficult to film and our cast delivered a moving and forceful performance. There is huge unrecognised talent in Gisborne!

Very special thanks to Lisa Beach who coordinated today’s shoot and involved her friends and whānau on both sides of the camera.

Amiri's Doctor

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We shot some breathtaking shots today of the crazed Amiri being incarcerated in the asylum for the criminally insane. Michael Hollis was in top form and onlookers on set were terrified by his maniacal performance!

Every director has their own personal trade mark which is stamped on each of their films. Alfred Hitchcock started the tradition with a personal cameo role in every film.

With Amiri & Aroha, I have developed my own personal stamp by playing the doctor in each part of the trilogy. It is a fitting touch for an Indy film maker whose day job is a medical practitioner.

In a moment of megalomania, whilst struggling for a title for the third film, I considered calling it Amiri’s Doctor and starring in it as an ace plastic surgeon who repairs Amiri’s face!

Instead, I reduced my role back to playing the psychiatrist who is brought in to determine Amiri’s fitness to stand trial for the explosion of the power station.

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Director David Whittet prepares for his cameo role as the psychiatrist assessing Amiri at the asylum for the criminally insane.

Koriata rules the boardroom

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Another full-on shoot today with the Jensen Industries boardroom scenes. As well as Koriata’s triumphant victory speech to his board which comes early in Rere’s Children, we re-shot the boardroom scenes for Amiri’s Child. With the casting of Lisa Beach as Koriata’s muse Alice, I was eager to have Lisa in Amiri’s Child. In the footage we shot back in August, I didn’t feel Koriata came across as sufficiently aggressive in the boardroom. Mark took on the role of dialogue coach and worked with John on getting some real anger into his performance.

At the end of the day’s shoot, there was no doubt whatever that Koriata ruled the boardroom!

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Assistant Director Mark Whittet rehearses a boardroom scene with John Stainton as Koriata.
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Lisa Beach as Alice and John Stainton as Koriata. Alice has secretly held a candle for Koriata over the years, and today we started developing this relationship which will have a surprising impact on the resolution of the story.

Koriata's Abduction

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Each film in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has featured the rite of passage of a principal character. In Rere’s Children, we share Koriata’s journey from a puppet of the gang to a brave leader who stands up to corruption and bullying and forces the gang into a new and more just direction.

This transformation comes at immense personal cost to Koriata. The old guard of the gang are determined to beat him into submission and today we shot dramatic scenes where Koriata is abducted and threatened with dire consequences if he does not toe the gang line.

The sequence needed to be harsh for Koriata’s redemption to have meaning. Our stellar cast brought professionalism to a challenging shoot and a dark, brutal reality to the scenes.


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These Productions Stills demonstrate how the atmospheric location adds to the darkness of the scene. We shot day for night and in the completed film will be at night as Koriata walks home through the deserted car wrecker’s yard.
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Lisa Beech acting as Dialogue Coach on set today, helping to facilitate a tough shoot.
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Perhaps this scene, more than any other, defines Koriata’s rite of passage, as he learns the cost of dissent from the gang and doing the right thing. The sequence marks a key turning point in Rere’s Children and it felt good to have such an important - and difficult - scene in the can today.

Amiri & Lamonge - The Final Conflict

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The final showdown as Amiri accuses his former lawyer of secretly coveting Aroha.

The volatile relationship between Amiri and Lamonge has been an ongoing highlight of the continuing story of Amiri & Aroha.

Amiri entrusted his lawyer Lamonge to manage his son Arapeta’s endowment, not realising that Lamonge had a shady past, which conflicted with Amiri’s instructions. Add to the mix Amiri’s increasing paranoia and manic behaviour as his enemies hunt him down, and we are in for a delightfully explosive climax!

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Lamonge goes to the dogs!

Amiri lives in fear that his enemies will catch up with him and guards his mansion with some aggressive dogs, as Lamonge discovers to his peril in this scene. Lamonge has been summoned to Amiri’s mansion, but only the guard dogs are there to greet him! Note the appropriate personalised plate on Amiri’s car!

Farewell to Ebony

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In this key scene, a confident Miriama (Ebony Tuhaka) delivers her first press conference as Chief Executive of South Pacific Power.

Today was our last day shooting with Ebony before her flight out of Gisborne this afternoon. Ebony delivered an outstanding performance as the supremely confident Miriama at her first press conference after taking over Arapeta’s job as Chief Executive of South Pacific Power.

We wrapped with a short but important scene where Miriama and her flatmate Annie are chatting and the advert for Arapeta’s old job catches Miriama’s eye in the newspaper.

A huge thank you, Ebony, for your outstanding contribution to the film and we wish you every happiness in your new life in Australia!

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Miriama and her flatmate Annie (played by Lisa Le Compte) see the advert for the job at South Pacific Power in a scene shot minutes before Ebony’s departure.

Finale at Rere

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Film making is a compromise and it is often impossible to shoot a scene exactly as I visualised it when writing the script. This evening at Rere was one of those wonderful occasions when the scene exceeded my expectations.

I have been picturing this scene in my mind’s eye for so long, it was magic to see it materialise tonight and to capture such awesome footage.

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Ebony Tuhaka and Shane Luke as Miriama and Arapeta in a beautiful scene at the Rere falls.

Hayden Searle

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Bruce Burn plays Hayden Searle, the overseas executive brought is to rescue South Pacific Power following Amiri’s sabotage. The character is named after our generous IndieGoGo supporter.

Hayden Searle supported our IndieGoGo campaign and chose as his reward to have one of the characters named after him.

We have named a pivotal character in the script after Hayden. Bruce Burn plays a successful company director brought in to rebuild South Pacific Power after Arapeta is blamed for his father’s actions and is unceremoniously sacked. Searle is a strong character who’s saved a number of companies from collapse and he’s not about to take any nonsense at South Pacific Power. But Bruce brought a dry sense of humour to the part and we developed this to bring some welcome relief to the tense boardroom scenes!

Our sincere thanks to Hayden Searle for his contribution to our film. We hope you will enjoy seeing yourself portrayed on screen!

Watch our greeting to Hayden from the set of Rere’s Children.

Miriama's rise to power

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Miriama (Ebony Tuhaka) faces the board of South Pacific Power as she is interviewed for Arapeta’s old job. Questions are bound to be asked about her involvement in the explosion at the Aoraki Power Station.

With the deadline ever closer, we continued today with Miriama’s scenes, following her rise to the top of the corporate world.

One of the advantages of a tight schedule is that it definitely concentrates the mind! Shooting Miriama’s relationship with Koriata in one day yesterday, and her rise to power in one session today, certainly added dramatic intensity to the scenes.

Miriama & Koriata - A true Romeo & Juliet story

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A hand held tracking shot reflects the turbulent nature of Miriama and Koriata’s relationship.

Amiri & Aroha has always been described as a Māori take on Romeo & Juliet. But perhaps it is the story of Miriama and Koriata in Rere’s Children which most accurately mirrors the famous star-crossed lovers.

Today we shot the entire story of Miriama and Koriata’s ill fated relationship, from first meeting to their final parting. Koriata is a puppet of the gang, in search of his own destiny, Miriama is upwardly mobile and destined for the top. They face enormous barriers which threaten to keep them apart.

My choice of locations for today’s scenes reflects the transient nature of their relationship. They have nowhere to go, meeting in the botanical gardens, a gangland cafe and finally at some wasteland, all very public places where gangland spies can watch Koriata’s every move.

Despite all the obstacles, Miriama and Koriata share some precious moments together, reflected in the beautiful performances of both Ebony Tuhaka and John Stainton in today’s filming.

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David Whittet directs John Stainton and Ebony Tuhaka in a heart-wrenching scene in Rere’s Children.
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Ebony Tuhaka and John Stainton with assistant director Mark Whittet

Filming is underway for the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy

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David Whittet directs John Stainton as Koriata and Ebony Tuhaka as Miriama in Gisborne’s Botanical Gardens.

With just three days to shoot Miriama’s remaining scenes before actress Ebony Tuhaka leaves for Australia, the pressure was on for the final shoot of the trilogy. Starting with a tense encounter between Koriata and Miriama in a park, I was delighted to see the obvious on screen chemistry between John Stainton (who plays Koriata) and Ebony. This will make the next couple of days much easier!

Despite the pressure of our looming deadline and the intensity of today’s scenes, the shoot was a joy! Great performances and good fun in between takes. The very best of Indy film making!

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David Whittet, Ebony Tuhaka and John Stainton

Final Preproduction for Rere's Children

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Kristel Day working on the schedule for Rere’s Children.

Sometimes I ask the impossible of my team! Kristel Day is used to working miracles. Shooting films of the complexity of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy can be a scheduling nightmare at the best of times, but with the added complication of working around actors availabilities and limited shooting times, completing the trilogy is an amazing achievement in itself.

Kristel is currently working as a magician’s assistant in Hamilton and has thus had limited time to spend on the film. We have all worked hard to pull off this shoot with what can only be described as a miracle schedule!

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David Whittet on a recce to find a menacing gangland alleyway for an encounter between Amiri & Lamonge

Talent in abundance at the auditions for Rere's Children

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David Whittet with Joelene Hohapata doing a read through at today’s auditions for Rere’s Children

Once again, there was an abundance of talent at our auditions for the remaining parts in Rere’s Children trilogy. Today’s auditions were the fourth that we have held over the past three years for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. It is so exciting - and immensely rewarding - to discover such raw talent and to bring it to the world. Everyone we auditioned today will have a significant part in Rere’s Children.

And the auditions were fun! With some really entertaining role-plays, it was an enjoyable experience for everyone.

Tonight I have the exciting task of matching the parts to the talent we have discovered and further refining the script to take full advantage of our new actors’ potential.

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Krystel Pokai and her cousin Geena Pokai read through a scene from Rere’s Children.
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David Whittet and Casting Director Walter Walsh (right) work through a scene with Bruce Burn, who we cast as the overseas executive brought in to oversea the resurgence of South Pacific Power following Arapeta’s dismissal.

Our Campaign hits the Gisborne Herald and Turanga FM

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We launched a campaign in the Gisborne Herald today for the final casting call of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. To reinforce the press adverts, which will run over the next couple of days, I gave a live radio interview this morning on Turanga FM. Radio interviews have been a strategic part of each of our casting calls and we are eternally grateful to Turanga FM for their support. Turanga FM’s coverage of Amiri & Aroha has been vital in promoting the film locally and stimulating interest in our project.

We are confident that our auditions on Sunday, on the eve of the final shoot of the trilogy, will discover yet more amazing local talent. Keep reading this blog to see the stars of tomorrow!

Honing the script for the final shoot

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With the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy fast approaching, I am working hard to perfect the script for Rere’s Children and to storyboard the key sequences. Alongside this, I am working with my production team in Gisborne on last minute preparations and finalisation of the shooting schedule.

Preproduction is always an exciting past of the film making process. Ideas that I have lived with for so long are at last coming to fruition and taking shape. I am confident that Rere’s Children is the best script that I have written and promises to be an outstanding film.

Yet excitement and confidence are always counter balanced by a sense of anxiety prior to the shoot. There are so many variables, so many things that could go wrong. Will we pull it off successfully? Will the footage live up to my expectations? Film making can often be a compromise between the director’s vision and what is achievable. The preproduction period is filled with anticipation and apprehension in equal measure!

Your last chance to be part of this global cinematic phenomonon!

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We have discovered amazing local talent at our auditions for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. This is positively your last opportunity to be part of this global cinematic phenomenon!
Stay tuned for details of the auditions for the October shoot which will be held in Gisborne at the beginning of October. Look out for our advertising campaign in the Gisborne Herald next week!

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As preparations for the final shoot of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy near completion, we will shortly be announcing our final casting call. So you have one last chance to join this cinematic adventure!

We have some significant roles still up for grabs. We are looking for a Māori lady aged 40 to 50 years to play the ageing Aunt Hinemoa, a lead character in Amiri’s Child. We need a Māori man aged around 50 years to play Maahanga, the father of Hunapo, a central character in the trilogy. Another meaty role is a business executive, brought in to rescue a company destroyed by the volatile Amiri. These are fantastic parts for budding actors who want to make their name and reach a worldwide audience!

There are also several roles for extras, from gang members to board members and well-wishers at a ceremony at the Rere falls which will close the trilogy.

The trilogy has already won major awards in both Hollywood and in Britain. This is your last chance to join this success story!

We have had a tremendous response to our previous casting calls and have nurtured some amazing new talent which is destined for the world stage. But perhaps the most moving response was from a lady who played a wedding guest in the original Amiri & Aroha film. She told me that being in a film was on her bucket list of things to do before she died. Her participation in the film fulfilled a lifelong ambition.

So if you’ve always dreamed of being in a film, here’s your chance!

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David Whittet and Kristel Day auditioning potential talent for Rere’s Children during the July 2012 shoot.
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Lamonge strikes again!

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Lamonge (Warren Philp) brings the young Arapeta (Mark Whittet) news of his change in fortune.

We first meet Andrew Lamonge midway through Amiri’s Child, as the lawyer who brings Arapeta news of his endowment. What’s not apparent at this time is that behind the smooth talking professional hides a troubled soul with a secret that will shatter lives in the dénouement of the trilogy.

Like his alter ego, Warren Philp (who plays Lamonge) has also been leading a double life! As well as acting and developing Lamonge’s character on screen, Warren has tirelessly campaigned to raise funds for our film, promoting the IndieGoGo campaign and meeting corporate sponsors. Warren has been successful in attracting major sponsors to the project.

Warren introduced Bronwyn Kay to Amiri & Aroha, which has proved so successful, both financially and artistically. Bronwyn’s scene plays a key role in the story.

We truly appreciate your efforts on our behalf, Warren. Keep up the good work!

Koriata's Dilemma

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A gang henchman (Ayden Malone) reminds Koriata (John Stainton) where his loyalties lie…

Reshooting all the material featuring Koriata from Amiri’s Child with our new actor, John Stainton was a bold decision. Our faith has been richly rewarded with compelling performances and a different take on Koriata’s personality, make him a deeper and more complex character.

One of the huge advantages of a reshoot is the ability to create new scenes that add dramatic impact at critical points in the film.

Amiri’s Child is midway through post production and I have been working on the pacing and structure of the mid section of the film. Today we shot a dark scene where a gang henchman makes it clear to Koriata that he is a puppet of the gang. Ayden Malone contributed yet another cameo performance to the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, a menacing performance which sent a shiver down the spine of everyone on set!

The scene is important as it emphasises Koriata’s dilemma, he is not a free man who can choose his own path. A theme which we explore further in Rere’s Children.

Amiri & Lamonge

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David Whittet with Warren Philp as Lamonge and Michael Hollis as Amiri

The conflict between the manic Amiri and his equally volatile lawyer Lamonge are potent drivers of the storyline in Rere’s Children.

Amiri blames Lamonge for allowing his son Arapeta to marry Miriama, the daughter of his enemy Kōkā. Little does he realise Lamonge has an ulterior motive.

The tense scene, which we filmed in an atmospheric alleyway in Gisborne today, turns the tables on Amiri. With his enemies closing in on him, Amiri realises that he needs Lamonge’s help. This doesn’t sit well with Amiri. We see a new side to the relationship as Amiri has to control his rage to persuade Lamonge to help him find a safe haven.

Aroha's Swan Song

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Farewell to Aroha: Kristel Day reprises the role of Aroha one last time as we shoot Aroha’s final scene.

There is always a tinge of sadness when an actor shoots their final scene in a production. For Kristel Day, playing Aroha has been a marathon over the last couple of years as the trilogy has unfolded and extended.

We have shared Aroha’s tumultuous journey and shared her pain and passion. We first met Aroha as an unhappy child, the daughter of a ruthless gang leader, her life dominated by an arranged marriage to her cousin Hunapo. We have lived through Aroha’s right of passage, shared her aspirations for a new life away from the gang with Amiri, felt her sorrow as she is imprisoned by the gang, cruelly separated form her son Arapeta.

So what is Aroha’s ultimate fate? Is she forever doomed to be a star crossed lover?

You will have to wait and see Rere’s Children to find out!

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Whilst Kristel Day completed her role as Aroha today, she continues as a producer for the trilogy.

A Cinema Release for Amiri & Aroha

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Finishing touches that can make all the difference: a new animated title graphic for the release prints of Amiri & Aroha

With the imminent cinema release of Amiri & Aroha, I have taken a break from production of Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children to perfect the release prints of Amiri & Aroha.

With sound and picture enhanced with the very latest post production finishing software, Amiri & Aroha looks better than ever. And I have amen taken the opportunity to tweak the film, incorporating the latest feedback from film festivals. Small refinements can make a huge impact. I am particularly pleased with enhancements to the sequence building up to the fire, adding to the dramatic tension.

The eve of a cinema release is always a very nervous time for the film maker. Amiri & Aroha has been an integral part of my life in recent years and I look forward to sharing the film with the world.

We've reached our funding target!



Our IndieGoGo funding campaign finishes this evening and we’ve achieved our funding goal!

Thank you so much to all our wonderful supporters, we are eternally grateful for your faith in our project!

We have some fantastic rewards for you! We are all excited about our industry first credits. Our ground breaking technology will enable the first virtual assistant director in cinema history! We are really looking forward to hosting one of our supporters on a Lord of the Rings themed holiday in New Zealand’s spectacular South Island.

I am personally delighted that an aspiring film maker has taken up our Indie Film Maker’s Package. We look forward to sharing our passion and kickstarting your career!

Your faith in us will be rewarded! We are determined to deliver a stunning film. The Amiri & Aroha trilogy will be a compelling piece of contemporary cinema that we can all be proud of!

It's a wrap for the July Shoot!

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David Whittet directs Shayne Biddle as Hunapo and John Stainton as Koriata in the final session of the July shoot.

This morning was pure magic. Both Shayne and John were in top form, bringing depth and compassion to their roles. Shayne showed us a new side to Hunapo and John played Koriata to perfection.

What a brilliant scene to wrap the July shoot! We have shot some amazing footage in the last fortnight.

The October shoot will certainly be intense and there’s a huge amount of preparatory work to be done. But this afternoon I could relax. On the strength of the work we have done in this shoot, Rere’s Children promises to be an outstanding film and a stunning conclusion to the trilogy!

Hunapo & Koriata

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Shayne Biddle reprises his role as Hunapo with our new Koriata, John Stainton.

Tonight’s shoot is very exciting, a tense scene between Hunapo and Koriata and our first shoot with John Stainton.

Shayne provided us with an excellent location for Hunapo’s pad, beautifully atmospheric and everything looked promising for a great shoot.

However, Shayne’s make up took a considerable amount of time, subtly aging him so that he looked old enough to be John’s father. After a few rehearsals, which showed tremendous promise, everyone was tired and we decided to wrap for the night and reshoot in the morning.

This evening had given me a glimpse of what a powerful scene this could be. I worked late into the night fine tuning the script.

An exciting evening with our latest cast members!

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Introducing the new members of the Amiri & Aroha team to the art of film making.

Warren Philp (who plays Amiri’s lawyer Lamonge) and I had an exciting evening working with the new actors who have joined our team following Tuesday’s auditions.

After a brief orientation session, we got straight down to work, shooting a night scene, set in gangland, where Lamonge receives money for laundering from the gang in the back of a car. It was a technically difficult scene to shoot, with cables running everywhere in the dark to get that seedy gangland look from the lighting.

Then it was straight in at the deep end, shooting the difficult and intense scenes where Lamonge demands rewards from the gangland women…

Lisa Beach, Alex McMenamin and Edward Tipene slipped into their roles beautifully and as ever, Warren Philp played Lamonge to perfection.

I look forward to working with this team again in October!

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Alex McMenamin, Lisa Beach, Warren Philp and Edward Tipene act out a money laundering scene in front of the green screen at tonight’s shoot.

John Stainton joins the cast as Koriata

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John Stainton takes over the role of Koriata

The search for a new leading actor to play Koriata has been a priority since Chris Mills left for Australia.

Whilst we were sad to lose Chris, who brought a definite panache to Koriata’s character, as with Kōkā and Matakite last year, a casting change provides an opportunity to fine tune the character.

I wrote in yesterday’s post that preview audiences for Amiri’s Child have been universal in their praise of the dramatic intensity between Arapeta and Tamati. They were less impressed with the scenes between Arapeta and Koriata. As arch rivals (David & Goliath) all their lives, their first face-to-face meeting as adults (ironically at a mediator’s office), needs to be an almighty clash of the titans. At the time, I was very pleased with the hostile confrontation between Arapeta and Koriata that we shot last October. Indeed this scene is included in the IndieGoGo campaign video. However, after talking to preview audiences, I realize that I did not build up the adult Koriata sufficiently for the sequence to have maximum impact.

So I made the decision that we would reshoot all Koriata’s scenes with a new actor, for both Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children. This has the obvious advantage of continuity between the two films (I have had discussions with satellite television channels who are interested in broadcasting the trilogy as a mini series on consecutive nights, so having the same actor for Koriata throughout would be essential) and the opportunity to strengthen Amiri’s Child, developing the antagonism between Arapeta and Koriata, culminating in an explosive meeting.

I was disappointed not to find a new actor for Koriata at last night’s auditions. Half way this morning’s shoot (the electric scene between Arapeta and Tamati), our Casting Director Walter Walsh (living up to his nickname of The Wiz), gave me call to say he had found an actor keen to play Koriata. I met with John Stainton this afternoon and I knew straight away that we had found our Koriata. John is perfect for the part and will bring depth to Koriata.

I am hoping to shoot a scene between John and Shayne Biddle as Koriata’s father Hunapo in my last couple of days in Gisborne for this shooting session. This is a key scene in Rere’s Children where the aging lothario Hunapo implores hiss estranged son not to make the same mistakes that have ruined his life. This will be a great introduction to Koriata for John!

An electric scene between Arapeta & Tamati

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David Whittet directs Shane Luke as Arapeta and Brent Forge as Tamati in this dramatic scene for Rere’s Children.

Preview audiences for the work in progress rough cut of Amiri’s Child are universal in their praise of the electric atmosphere in the scenes between Arapera (played by Shane Luke) and Tamati (Brent Forge). Arapeta and Tamati have been friends and business colleagues for years. They thought they knew everything about each other until Tamati discovers a bitter secret which is forcing Arapeta on a path of self destruction.

Shane and Brent played the parts to perfection in Amiri’s Child, creating chemistry between the two characters which galvanized the screen whenever they were both present. Determined to capture this in Rere’s Children, I wrote a scene where Tamati visits his friend after Miriama has left and Arapeta has lost his job following the revelations about his father Amiri. Arapeta is now living in a modest flat, which we recreated this morning in our motel room.

The atmosphere was every bit as charged as Shane and Brent played out the scene this morning. As a director, it is a delight to work with two actors on the top of their form, bringing such intensity and meaning to the scene.

Today’s scene reaches a heart-rending conclusion which is a defining moment in the final film and will be a definite highlight of Rere’s Children.

Our IndieGoGo funding campaign reaches $2,000

Fantastic news! Our IndieGoGo campaign has reached $2,000 and we are two-thirds of the way towards our goal with 21 days left!

Thank you so much to all our supporters. We truly appreciate your faith in our project and I believe we are making a truly compelling piece of cinema.

Please keep up the good work and spread the word in the last three weeks of our campaign. Help us reach our goal and beyond! Every dollar helps us to create the film we visualize! Like us on Facebook! Tweet us! Tell all your family and friends about us! Even if you are unable to pledge, you can still help us by getting the message out to everyone you can! Thank you all a million times!

Auditions for Rere's Children

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Lisa Beach, whom we cast as Amrira, plays a scene through with Kristel Day at today’s auditions.

Following our successful auditions for Amiri’s Child last year, tonight we auditioned for the remaining parts in Rere’s Children. We still have a number of significant parts to cast for Rere’s Children, particularly the younger generation of gangsters who plot to overthrow Tautarau and end his tyrannical rule (the prodigal generation, which was our working title).

Other significant parts include a new character, Amiria a gangland girl and the mother of Miriama.

Our greatest challenge is to find a new Koriata. Chris Mills has moved back to Australia and therefore we have to recast. Koriata is a lead part in Rere’s Children so finding the right actor is our current priority.

The joy of auditioning is discovering new talent and providing these actors the opportunity to teach a worldwide audience. Whilst we didn’t find our Koriata this evening, we made some amazing discoveries who will greatly enhance our film!

Shooting Bronwyn Kay's Scene

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Warren Philp (playing Lamonge), Bronwyn Kay, David Whittet and Assistant Director Mark Whittet

Today we filmed the scene specially written for our principal IndieGoGo supporter, Bronwyn Kay. The scene plays a pivotal role in the plot development. Amiri is on the run and has instructed his lawyer Lamonge to find a remote mansion where he can live with Aroha in secret, away from the prying eyes of his enemies. Lamonge has arranged to meet Bronwyn Kay to look for a suitably isolated property.

Bronwyn proved a natural in front of the camera. Unfazed by the bright lights, Bronwyn gave a beautiful performance, expertly handling a tense moment where she discovers the true identity of Lamonge’s client. Bronwyn has a definite screen presence worthy of a seasoned actor.

We really enjoyed working with you, Bronwyn, and we are eternally grateful to you for your contribution to the film, both on and off camera!

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Bronwyn Kay with the nervous lawyer Andrew Lamonge (played by Warren Philp) in a tense scene shot today.

Amiri & Aroha on the Run

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We braved inclement weather today to shoot Amiri and Aroha struggling across the swing bridge at Marie Lepper's place. In a short break from the rain, we managed to get some footage of the fugitive Amiri hustling a terrified Aroha, together with a large suitcase, across the precarious bridge. The huge suitcase on the narrow swing bridge seemed to symbolise Aroha’s plight perfectly.

Regrettably we had to abandon shooting after these shots. The heavy rain had made the river swell and the ford to Marie’s house was impassible.

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The most rewarding aspect of today’s work came after we had abandoned shooting. We went in to Morere Hot Springs for coffee and the owner took one look at Amiri and recoiled in horror saying: “how did you get those awful burns!”

Tautaru and his Gang

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The kitchen is central to life in a gangland whānau. It is here that decisions are made, deals made and broken. All life is seen in the gangland kitchen.

For Tautaru, the kitchen is his boardroom. Determined the gang will take charge of the power industry, Tautaru summons his board of henchmen to make a statement to assert the authority of the gang.

In today's filming Walter Walsh (the Wiz) again reprises the role of Tautaru, the menacing gang leader and father of Aroha. Wiz was once more in fine form, with Tautaru becoming increasingly sinister as he senses the passing of an era in the gang.

Much of the power of Amiri & Aroha comes from the sharp contrast between the expansive shots at Rere falls, juxtaposed with the claustrophobia of the gangland homes. Tautaru's kitchen is one of our most atmospheric sets.

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Seasoned actor Walter Walsh (the Wiz), who was Peter Jackson’s runner as well as a Gondorian soldier on Lord of the Rings, gives Tautaru an even more sinister twist in Rere’s Children.

Bike Culture

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Shooting a dramatic scene where Tautaru (Walter Walsh reprising his role) sends his minions to force Koriata to toe the gang line.

Bike culture in gangland has been central to the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Gang leaders arriving from far and wide on their Harley-Davidsons was a key feature of the tattooing ceremony on the marae in the original Amiri & Aroha film.

Basil Huhu, who plays Tautaru’s henchman Kane in Rere’s Children, brought his Harley Davidson to the set this afternoon. We shot some powerful scenes where Tautaru rules his gang with an iron fist, through fear and intimidation. Tautaru issues his orders mounted on his bike, visually emphasizing his authority and superiority.

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These short scenes add immensely to the authenticity of the film, bringing a gritty realism to the gangland sequences.

Broken Promises

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Gifted local musician Alyssha Maynard performs her original composition Broken Promises for the Amiri & Aroha music video.

I am delighted that the awesome Alyssha Maynard has joined the Amiri & Aroha team, performing her original song Broken Promises for the soundtrack of Rere’s Children and for a music video to promote the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Alyssha’s evocative song perfectly matches the tone and mood of Rere’s Children and adds an extra dimension to the film.

We are very grateful that Alyssha was able to dedicate the time to our production in her busy schedule. Watch out for Alyssha, she is star of the future!

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Filming Alyssha Maynard’s performance for the music video in our makeshift green screen studio at the Teal Motor Lodge.

Star Crossed Lovers

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Amiri and Aroha are truly star crossed lovers. Despite everything that has happened to them they ultimately cannot live without each other. Today we filmed their final reconciliation at Rere falls.

This is the first time I have photographed the falls in winter and a beautiful stark evening light added a unique visual texture.

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The trilogy reaches a dramatic climax at the Gypsy Rose Caravan!

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Ebony Tuhaka, David Whittet and Shane Luke on location at the Gypsy Rose caravan.

Like Kōkā’s crystal ball, the Gypsy Rose caravan has become a central character in the film, exerting an influence far beyond its role in the story, even determining fate of the protagonists. The caravan has featured in each shoot during the extended filming of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

As we drove out to Morere this morning, Ebony commented that I hard given her and Shane all the emotionally demanding scenes in these first two days of shooting! Certainly today’s climactic scenes at the caravan were intense and powerful, these scenes forming the penultimate sequence of the trilogy.

Shane and Ebony were again on top form, even eclipsing yesterday’s exceptional performances. It is testament to Shane and Ebony’s consummate skills that they could pull off such an achievement working out of sequence and in the cramped conditions of the caravan.

I can’t wait to edit this gripping scene and see these performances come to life!

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Shane and Ebony do a run through of the scene in the barn next to the caravan at Marie Lepper’s farm.

Life imitates art - The road to the Gypsy Rose Caravan

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Life sometimes really does seem to imitate art. Or is it just that Amiri & Aroha has taken on a life of its own and threatening to become master of our destiny?

In the dramatic conclusion to the trilogy, Arapeta goes back to Kōkā’s caravan one last time, hoping to find answers to the turmoil his life has become. Years have passed, so the caravan needs to look run down and following Kōkā’s death, abandoned at a remote location.

Whilst trying to work out how to achieve this look, I spoke to Marie Lepper, the owner of the Gypsy Rose caravan. Marie told me how the caravan was deteriorating in the harsh conditions out at Morere Hot Springs and how since our last shoot, she has moved the caravan to her home, retire in a sheltered corner of her property. Perfect for our final caravan scene!

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The journey to Marie Lepper’s home to shoot the final caravan scenes proved equally momentous. The property is only accessible via a deep ford (and with the heavy rain in the Gisborne region of late, getting through was touch and go!) and a precarious swing bridge. We shot some atmospheric shots of Arapeta reflecting on his life as he walks across the swing bridge on his way to the caravan. Whilst the shots were very effective, whilst filming it occurred to me that this would be the perfect location for Amiri’s hideaway whilst on the run from the authorities and his enemies. Such an isolated and inaccessible property would be the perfect fortress for Amiri! And I could see a wonderful shot with Amiri hustling a terrified Aroha across the swing bridge...

Yes, truly life does imitate art!

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Our precarious journey to the Gypsy Rose caravan for today’s shoot proved far reaching, inspiring a dramatic sequence of Amiri’s flight from his enemies.

Powerful scenes for the first Day of the July 2012 Shoot - and two rising stars!

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David Whittet directs Ebony Tuhaka as Miriama and Shane Luke as Arapeta in a tense scene at Gisborne’s Botanical Gardens.

The first day of a new shoot is always exciting and nerve wracking in equal measure. It is also great to catch up with old friends; the Amiri & Aroha cast and crew have become an extended whānau.

Today and tomorrow I am working with Shane Luke as Arapeta and Ebony Tuhaka as Miriama, tidying up some voice overs and lip sync work from Amiri’s Child, and filming some tense and highly emotional scenes for both Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children.

Shane and Ebony were both in fantastic form for the two park bench scenes which we shot in the botanical gardens at Gisborne today. Our first scene was a reworking of the scene in Amiri’s Child where Arapeta meets Miriama in the park after his explosive meeting with Koriata at the mediator’s office. The second scene was a particularly demanding scene as Arapeta and Miriama’s relationship is destroyed by the return of Amiri.

There was tremendous chemistry between Shane and Ebony in both these emotionally charged scenes. I believe the Amiri & Aroha trilogy will prove a big break for these two very talented actors. Discovering new and raw talent is one of the great joys on Indie film making and Shane and Ebony are definitely stars of the future.

Bronwyn Kay joins the Amiri & Aroha team!

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Bronwyn Kay

I am delighted to announce that Bronwyn Kay has joined our team, generously sponsoring us through our IndieGoGo campaign’s Executive Package.

All of us on the Amiri & Aroha team are eternally grateful to you, Bronwyn. We truly appreciate your faith in our project.

Bronwyn will feature in the final film of the trilogy Rere’s Children. I have written a special scene for Bronwyn. Amiri is on the run as both his enemies and the authorities catch up with him. He instructs his lawyer Andrew Lamonge, played by Warren Philp, to find him a remote mansion where he can assume a new identity and live in secret.

Lamonge visits Bronwyn at her office to find a property for Amiri. In a tense and dramatic scene, Bronwyn guesses the identity of Lamonge’s client…

Welcome to the team, Bronwyn. I sincerely look forward to working with you!

What's in a name?

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Choosing the title for the final part of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has proved something of a marathon, with as many twists and turns as there are in the story!

My first draft went under the working title Love and the East Wind, a translation of Amiri & Aroha (in Māori Aroha is love and Amiri east wind).

Love and the East Wind was popular with potential sponsors and I visualized a beautiful animated title sequence with the words Amiri & Aroha changing into their English translation. But as I developed the story, the title seemed less relevant and didn’t really fit with the other titles in the trilogy.

My next choice was Koriata’s Way. Central to the final film is Koriata’s rise following Arapeta’s fall at the end of Amiri’s Child. Koriata must decide if he is to remain a puppet of the gang or seek his own destiny and face the consequences.

Yet the final chapter must bring together all the elements of Amiri & Aroha and the final film is much more than just Koriata’s journey. My next working title, The Prodigal Generation, reflects the central message of the trilogy, that the young generation of the gang challenge the prejudice and corruption of the old guard and promise a new beginning with just leadership.

Whilst The Prodigal Generation encapsulates the moral of the story, it doesn’t roll of the tongue and again is not a good match for the titles of the first two films.

After much soul searching, I have finally decided on Rere’s Children. Rere has been so much more than our principal location; the falls are steeped in Māori legend, the lifeblood of our story. Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children have a certain connecting rhythm. And it is the children of Rere who ultimately bring about the change which is at the core of our story.