David Whittet Films Blog
Independent New Zealand Film Production

Juggling the Crystal Ball

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This enchanting scene adds a new dimension to the conclusion of Amiri’s Child.


Feedback from preview audiences and film festival judging panels is a vital part of honing the release version of a film. We have had a wealth of constructive criticism which has helped sharpen Amiri’s Child for its imminent release. The conclusion of the middle film of a trilogy is always difficult, finding an ending that is both satisfactory for the film as a stand alone entity but also leads the audience into the final part. Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children are really like two parts of the same film.

I was never entirely happy with the ending of Amiri’s Child we presented to preview audiences, but with the help of a juggling crystal ball I have at last achieved the denouement I was looking for.

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!

The World Charity Premiere of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy will support Children in Need in Cambodia

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Put a smile on these Children’s faces - support the Charity Premiere of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

Be a movie mogul and help some of the most disadvantaged children on our planet!

Amiri & Aroha is poised to become the next media sensation, dubbed by many as the next Sopranos. As one executive put it: “Amiri & Aroha is 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!”

With our IndieGoGo campaign, YOU have the opportunity to be part of this global cinematic phenomenon AND to help some of the World’s most disadvantaged people. We are planning a World Charity Premiere for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy early in the New Year, to support a project I am working on to develop family medicine in rural Cambodia, a region of extreme need.

Read about our project in Cambodia here.

These children need your help. We need finishing funds to complete Amiri & Aroha and to launch the charity premiere. Put a smile on these children’s faces!

Check out the fantastic rewards on offer at our IndieGoGo site, there are tremendous opportunities on both sides of the camera. Become a film star or a movie mogul!

BUT HURRY! Our IndieGoGo campaign only has another 7 days to run! These children need your help!

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 Way

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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!

Amiri's Baby

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Joanne McLean with baby Cleo on set for Amiri's Child in October 2011.

Thank you so much to all our early IndieGoGo supporters, we are really grateful to you for kick starting our campaign!

8% of our goal in the first 24 hours - that's an amazing start!

It is particularly fitting to have a donation made on behalf of Cleo Brenchley, who was the baby playing the baby Arapeta in Amiri's Child. A special thank you to Cleo's mother Joanne McLean for letting her baby take part in the film and her generous contribution to our campaign!

If you haven’t checked out our IndieGoGo site yet, please click here and share the link with your family and friends. Every contribution will help this project reach its full potential and enable us to achieve a film we can all be proud of!

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 Amiri & Aroha.

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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Acclaim for the Amiri's Child Trailer


The newly released trailer for Amiri’s Child is promoting lively discussion on the international film festival circuit.

Following the success of the teaser for Amiri & Aroha at last year’s International Movie Trailer Festival, I have again used the dramatic overture for the Amiri’s Child trailer. In a two-and-a-half minute roller coaster ride, we follow the ethereal Kōkā’s search for her crystal ball in the waters of Rere and a cauldron of explosive images of the story that is about to unfold…

The enthusiastic early reaction to this powerful trailer reinforces my hope that the Amiri & Aroha trilogy will demonstrate a potent new technique for audience engagement: a dynamic and captivating overture.

Celebrating our Cinematic Origins

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Walter Walsh as Tauraru with his henchmen at Smash Palace: note the Super 8 moviola on the shelf, underneath the blue fish.

Film makers are introspective souls, revelling in hidden inner meanings and often delighting in private in-jokes and homages discretely placed throughout their work. It is these idiosyncratic touches that add a unique and personal directorial style.

Whilst editing the material we shot at Gisborne's iconic Smash Palace, which stood in for Gang HQ, amongst all the paraphernalia which make smash palace so special, I spotted this Super 8 film editor in the corner of the frame.

In common with so many of today's film directors, I have fond memories of many hours spent at the kitchen table, agonising over editing decisions made on a Super 8 moviola!

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

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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!

An Exclusive preview of Amiri's Child for North End Health Centre

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Tonight was a very special occasion with the first screening of the complete Amiri’s Child. It was a great pleasure to share this auspicious moment with my colleagues and friends from the North End Health Centre in Oamaru.

This past week has been amongst the most stressful in the whole production. With a deadline to get a viewing copy of the film to a potential distributor and tonight’s screening on the horizon, an unwelcome Final Cut software update threatened everything. The update resulted in corruption of the project render files and prevented the film being exported from the Final Cut software. But Indy film makers are not easily beaten. With the help of the ever resourceful indy film community, a complex but ultimately successful work around saved the day!

Watching the story unfold on the big screen tonight, with an appreciative audience sharing the experience, I knew all the hard work and stress have been worthwhile. Amiri’s Child has been a vision in my mind for so long, words cannot express the reward of seeing an audience enjoy the film.

Whilst it is wonderful to receive recognition from international film festivals, it is the opinions of those closest to you that mean the most.

Digital Restoration of Andante

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Warren Philp records the voice over track for Andante.

Digitalising and restoring my first films has been a long cherished project. Ageing of the film stock and anxiety about damage during projection has limited my ability to display my early work. I have been concerned to find copies of my award winning films in the British Film Institute and IAC film libraries showing significant signs of deterioration. Digital conversion is essential to preserve my early work for the future.

The May shoot for Amiri’s Child provided an opportunity to replace a lost voice over recording for one of my very early films, Andante. Warren Philp (Lamonge in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy) kindly agreed to record the lost voice over so that I can complete the digital restoration. Once Amiri’s Child wrapped, we got down to the recording with Warren.

I knew Warren would bring something very special to the project and he delivered a voice over full of feeling and emotional depth which will bring an added dimension to the film.

Andante was an important milestone in my film making career and proved my fist real success. Made when I was third year medical student, Andante has always held a special place in my affections. Reviewing Andante, BBC film editor Bernard Ashby wrote: “The film maker has talent and has used various film devices with genuine freedom and is to be congratulated on his attempts to express himself in the film medium. Here is an extreme talent waiting to burst through. I genuinely look forward to seeing more of David Whittet’s work.”

Those kind words of Bernard Ashby inspired me at a critical stage in my development as a film maker.

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The original stars of Andante: Gina Wilde and Bill Tomlinson.

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These production stills both have renowned connections for the film buff. Gina is photographed at our principal location of Pennan, on Scotland’s Moray Coast, a location subsequently made famous in the iconic film Local Hero, whilst Bill is pictured at Oakworth station on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway which featured in The Railway Children.

Bill Tomlinson plays a troubled writer who retreats to a remote coastal village to help overcome his writers block. He finds solace with the daughter of a local fisherman who turns his life upside down.

Once the digital restoration is complete, I will post a newly restored director’s cut of Andante on this site.

Amiri's Child wraps with some highly effective pick up shots

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After two years of intensive shooting, Amiri’s Child is at last in the can.

At the end of a shoot, I always aim to reserve time for pick up shots. It’s a great feeling when the shooting is complete and there is an opportunity to film those elusive extra scenes that can add depth and scope to the story.

Pick ups can make or break a film. Today’s work adds a new dimension to Miriama’s character, giving her a back story and insights into her relationship with the young Arapeta. These scenes will make Amiri’s Child a more powerful piece of cinema.

Amiri's Child: The Final Conflict

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The wrap photo for the battered and bruised team following an intense shoot!

We were back in Gisborne for a long weekend of retakes and pickups for Amiri’s Child.

The youth gang scene has certainly proved one of the most difficult sequences in Amiri’s Child. It is a dramatic turning point in the story and following feedback from preview audiences and industry colleagues, I have taken this opportunity to develop Miriama’s character with a back story and deepen the potent but ambivalent relationship between the young Arapeta and Miriama.

We had a brilliant cast this afternoon and created a powerful and compelling scene.

Interview on Radio Waatea

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I was a guest on veteran Māori broadcaster Dale Husband’s Te Wahanga Parakuihi show on Radio Waatea this morning, Auckland’s influential urban Māori station.

Te Wahanga Parakuihiā provides an early morning dose of bilingual news, views, Māori events and entertainment. It was a pleasure to discuss the interest in Māori culture that Amiri & Aroha has created on a world stage and the recognition it is bringing to a very talented group of Māori actors.

As the deadline approaches for the sale of shares in Mighty River Power, Amiri’s Child continues to make the headlines!

Press Release: Award Winning NZ Film hits the headlines!

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Miriama achieves celebrity status in a montage sequence at the conclusion of Amiri’s Child.

It is now almost a decade since I first started work on Amiri & Aroha. When I plotted the story and wrote the first drafts, in what seems a lifetime ago, I had no knowledge that my work would prove so topical and create a political stir.

Read our Press Release and watch the scene that has provoked such an unexpected reaction.


The infamous teaser scene at the end of Amiri’s Child where Miriama holds a press conference to announce the takeover of a fictitious Mighty River Power. This scene was written and filmed long before asset sales became an issue in New Zealand and the sale of shares in Mighty River power was announced.

Amiri & Aroha to help children in Cambodia

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I am delighted to announce that we plan to have a gala charity premiere for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, the proceeds of which will go to support my project to develop family medicine in Cambodia.

I have highlighted the extreme need of the project community and the difficulty we have had in funding the project, despite the generous support of the World Organization of Family Doctors (Wonca). I mentioned in a previous post that we hope to use the experience I have gained with crowd funding for Amiri & Aroha to launch an IndieGoGo campaign for the Cambodia project. It is particularly rewarding to find a direct was for Amiri & Aroha to help the project through a gala premiere!

Film Collecting

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Film makers are compulsive collectors. Here is the latest addition to my collection, a mounted display of film cells from the Hobbit.

Film cells have long been a sought after by film enthusiasts. There is something magical about owning an actual piece of the celluloid of a favourite film. A section of the original 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia is amongst my most treasured pieces of movie memorabilia.

But there is an irony concerning my latest acquisition - the Hobbit was shot digitally and so celluloid has only been used in cinemas which have yet to convert to digital projection.

Music lovers often talk of the near religious experience of taking an LP out of its sleeve and putting the vinyl disk on the turntable of a gramophone. This experience can never be equalled by putting a CD in a player. There is a parallel with the dedicated film enthusiast, who has celluloid in their veins. To the film lover, the act of lacing up a projector is also akin to a religious experience, which can never be replaced by putting a memory card into a digital projector.

Digital cinema certainly provides huge opportunities for indy film makers, but perhaps we need to look for a new focal point for our memorabilia collections in the digital age!

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How Indy is Indy?

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Feedback from early preview audiences has provided invaluable in refining the final cut of Amiri’s Child

How truly independent can an independent film be?

The joy of independent film making is the creative freedom to follow one’s own ideas and inspiration, free from studio pressure and influence. But can one ever be completely free of commercial constraints?

On the eve of release, following discussion with potential distributors, I have been asked to make changes to Amiri’s Child.

The film maker is particularly vulnerable in the final stages of post production. As I have reported earlier in this blog, editing Amiri’s Child has proven particularly challenging, with critical rewrites and reshoots late into post. After months of work, cutting and recutting to get the structure and pacing right, in the last few days I have at last felt a sense of accomplishment, the film has achieved what I intended, my vision has been realised.

The pressure from exhibitors to make changes, particularly to the ending, was therefore not entirely welcome and my first real experience of commercial forces. After taking some time out to consider the suggested changes, I can see that the difference lies in my desire to make three companion films which are complete in their own right and the distributors requirement for a continuing series.

One suggestion is to follow the modern story telling trend of beginning with the dramatic crux the story, starting with the denouement as a teaser and then showing the audience how events come to reach this climax. It’s a technique we have become accustomed to in TV shows like Revenge, where it works very well. But in Amiri’s Child? I haven’t got my head round that yet!

Perhaps the biggest advantage of the digital age is the ability to make multiple cuts of the film for different audiences. When working on 16mm or 35mm film this proved prohibitively expensive. Now it is so easy to make different versions of the project and try out editing suggestions from preview audiences and distributors - however outlandish they may seem at first -without any additional cost. Other than time! All this does mean many more hours locked away in the editing suite!

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More long hours lie ahead in the editing suite to complete the theatrical release cuts of Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children.

Amiri's Child Hits the Headlines!

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A frame from a montage sequence dramatising Arapeta’s meteoric rise to the top in the power industry.

Amiri’s Child hits the headlines with a timely message for New Zealand!

The release of the first look videos of Amiri’s Child has provoked an extraordinary and totally unexpected response. Preview audiences in New Zealand have been fast to point out the parallels between the government’s sale of shares in the power industry and Amiri’s Child, a David and Goliath story of intense conflict between the directors of two rival power companies.

Does Amiri’s Child foreshadow the dangers of power generation becoming a political hot potato and falling into the wrong hands? Could the deadly rivalry between the two power companies in Amiri’s Child predict a similar confrontation here in New Zealand? Will life imitate art?

Asset sales are a hot issue right now in New Zealand. The Amiri & Aroha trilogy has taken on some important contemporary issues and now Amiri’s Child is at the centre of current debate!

A Powerful Overture for Amiri's Child

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Kōkā sees a vision of the unborn Arapeta in the “overture” to Amiri’s Child.

Perhaps the most ground breaking aspect of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy will prove to be the striking overture that draws the audience into each of the films.

In Amiri & Aroha the overture featured the mysterious Kōkā discovering the crystal ball in the waters of Rere and a cauldron of images in the crystal ball. With Amiri's Child we follow the crystal ball's journey back to Rere and Kōkā’s infamous curse which exerts a powerful influence on the course of the trilogy.

In an age where we are bombarded with fast and furious images in the media, on television and the internet, it can be hard for the film maker to seize the audience's attention. Gone forever are the days when cinemas had overtures and intermissions. The overture played to the expectant cinema goers in a darkened auditorium.

Film makers in the digital age must find new ways to create atmosphere and captivate their audience. I hope that Amiri & Aroha will lead the way, demonstrating a powerful approach to achieving audience engagement!

Detonation Films

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When I wrote the script for Amiri’s Child, I set myself some pretty difficult tasks. None more impossible than exploding a hydroelectric power station!

As post production on Amiri’s Child progresses, I have been forced to confront this challenge!

Thanks to the good people at Detonation Films, who blow up anything that takes their fancy, the task that has been weighing so heavily on my mind has become both achievable and fun, as demonstrated by these dramatic screen shots.

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Thanks so much for your contribution to our project, guys! Keep blowing stuff up for the good of independent film makers!

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.

First Look Amiri's Child



Amiri's Child is now close to completion and we are pleased to present a first look at a key sequence from the film.

This excerpt starts right where Amiri & Aroha left off with the long awaited confrontation between Kōkā and Aroha following the post titles teaser at the end of the original Amiri & Aroha.

The clip will reveal the direction we have taken with the story and you will see Kōkā’s notorious curse!

As post production of the trilogy continues, we will be posting more first look videos as a curtain raiser to release of the complete Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

A critical rewrite for Amiri's Child

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Shooting the original youth gang scene in Gisborne in October 2011.

Success in Film Making, as in so many artistic endeavours, relies on being prepared to go back to the drawing board when a scene is not working and chiseling away at a production until it is as good as you can possibly get it.

In my last post on the January 2013 shoot, I indicated that there were still problems with a critical scene in Amiri's Child. Whilst continuing post production, I have been trying to determine why the scene isn't working after two reshoots.

As is so often the case, I am convinced that the answer lies with the concept of the scene. The young Arapeta saves Miriama from an attack by a youth gang and wins her heart, a crucial plot point. Where the problem lies is the motivation for the fight. The original story was a score to settle with Miriama's foster mother, Kōkā. For the scene to work, the youth gang’s hostility must be specifically directed at Miriama, a vendetta because she thinks she’s better than the gang. Miriama thinks she's a cut above everyone else, having been to finishing school in Switzerland.

As well as being a better fit with the rest of the story, the change will give much more meaning to Arapeta and Miriama’s subsequent relationship. Miriama is humbled by the experience and is forced to face reality. In doing so, she comes to understand Arapeta’s strengths.

So it's back to the script for another rewrite of the screenplay. I have been working on pre-viz  for a restructured sequence. Now I have to arrange yet another shoot to complete Amiri's Child!

Digital Anarchy

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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.

A special screening of Amiri & Aroha for the Waitaki Multicultural Group

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The Waitaki Multicultural Women’s Group attended a special screening of Amiri & Aroha today.

It was a pleasure to host the meeting and it is always valuable to experience the film with a new audience and receive their feedback. Insights from a multicultural group are especially important.

The Waitaki Multicultural Group are the first audience to see the enhanced Amiri & Aroha with the additional scene described in the last post.

The group has requested another meeting in the near future to see Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children as soon as they are complete! They will certainly amongst the first to see the entire trilogy!

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The Waitaki Multicultural Women’s Group have a question and answer session with the director following the screening of Amiri & Aroha

Feedback from the international film festival circuit enhances Amiri & Aroha

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Fringe benefits from success on the international film festival circuit: an effective new scene for Amiri & Aroha.

One of the most exciting aspects of the success of Amiri & Aroha on the international film festival circuit has been the feedback from festival adjudicators and audiences. It is invaluable to use these insights to enhance the film.

Like many independent film makers, my training has been from getting out there and making films. I have posted several blogs extolling the virtues of my unofficial film school of competition judges comments.

There has been a consensus amongst early audiences that the fire sequence in Amiri & Aroha requires a slightly longer build up and I have gone back to the rushes - the camera original footage - and added a new scene of Amiri and Aroha struggling to escape before the fire becomes established. I have gained so much experience with digital compositing and have put all this expertise into crafting the scene.

A small enhancement perhaps, but a major  impact on the film.

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Peter Jackson has been explaining his decision to shoot The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 3d High Frame Rate.

Sir Peter writes:

We live in a rapidly advancing digital age. Technology is being continually developed that can enhance and enrich the cinema-going experience. High Frame Rate shooting for a mainstream feature film has only become viable in the last year or two, and yet we live in an age of increasing home entertainment. I started shooting The Hobbit films in HFR because I wanted film audiences to experience just how remarkably immersive the theatrical cinema experience can be.

I think HFR is terrific. As a filmmaker, I try to make my movies immersive. I want to draw the audience out of their seats, and pull them into the adventure. That is the experience I hope to offer moviegoers no matter which format they choose at the theatre. While I personally prefer watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in HFR 3D, I can assure you that every format will provide you with an incredible and immersive experience.

Peter’s last sentence says it all. I have seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in all three formats - 3D High Frame Rate, 3D and 2D. What is so spacial about seeing a film likeThe Hobbit in the cinema is not the format but the shared experience that only a cinema can provide. From the intensely electric atmosphere that captivates the entire audience when Gollum appears, to the communal joy when Thorin Oakenshield finally accepts Bilbo Baggins into the company - this can only be experienced as part of a larger audience. This is the real magic of the cinema.

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!

Lessons from an unofficial Film School

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Director David Whittet views the footage shot this morning over lunch at the Flying Pig Cafe in Duntroon.

Of all the lessons I have learnt over the years at my unofficial film school of competition judge’s comments, festival adjudicators and DVD director’s commentary tracks, perhaps this is the most important: during production planning, always make contingency plans to reshoot those inevitable scenes that disappoint in post production.

Peter Jackson discusses the value of this in his director’s commentary on the extended DVD of King Kong. He always contracts his actors and crew to be available for pick up shots after the completion of principal photography, so those scenes which just haven’t worked out - for whatever reason - can be put right.

The value of this week’s shoot is proving immeasurable. With the hindsight and knowledge of the entire trilogy production, I have been able to get my young actors to really understand their roles and for those few moments that the camera is rolling, to believe that the are the characters in the film.

Refinements at the Elephant Rocks

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Director David Whittet setting up for today’s shoot at the Elephant Rocks in the Waitaki Valley, North Otago.

Each shoot in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy has proved a mission, there are always a huge number of scenes to film in a short space of time. We were all tired today after yesterday’s filming marathon and it proved another swelteringly hot day, making concentration difficult for cast and crew alike.

I had deliberately set a whole day aside for the work at Elephant Rocks. It is an important and emotional scene for the young actors and I was determined to allow myself sufficient time to draw the very best out of Mark and Sophee.

Both Mark and Sophee exceeded expectations and brought a charming innocence to the scene. I can’t wait to edit this footage!

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Sophee Hills - still smiling after a week of intense shooting!

Trains and Transitions

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Frame enlargement from this evening’s footage: the passing train adds the perfect atmosphere as Arapeta and Miriama walk back from their frightening experience at the castle, only to be apprehended by a youth gang.

Trains have always fascinated me. Indeed trains have proved significant characters in a number of my films. Trains were a symbol of departure and loss in one of my earliest films Andante and the dramatic climax of Phaedra’s Friend took place on the London Underground.

Back in Gisborne, I had shot some very atmospheric scenes of Shane Luke as the adult Arapeta wandering along a disused railway track when his life falls to pieces at the end of Amiri’s Child. Tonight’s scene will add unity to the locations as well as a dramatic transition between the scenes at Campbell Park and the youth gang sequence.

David Lean always maintained that: “good films can only be made by dedicated maniacs”. After a long and punishing day on location, camping out by the train track to get this elusive shot was definitely dedicated and, in the view of the cast, quite maniacal!

Introducing Miriama

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Sophee Hills and David Whittet discussing her opening scene in the Oamaru Public Gardens.

A character’s first appearance on screen is all important and a striking first scene can create an indelible impression on an audience, which will resonate throughout the film.

When we shot Miriama’s opening scene in Gisborne, we were hampered by some poor weather and the scene never created the impact I was looking for. The audience must empathise with Arapeta’s need to win Miriama’s heart. The beautiful evening sun in the Oamaru Public Gardens added the perfect visual texture for this scene.

Filming at the Campbell Park Estate

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David Whittet directs Sophee Hills as Miriama and Mark Whittet as Arapeta at the Campbell Park Estate in the Waitaki Valley.

In today’s scenes, we see a different side of the young Miriama. Previous iterations of the script have concentrated on Kōkā’s grooming her to be a lady, with the legacy of an exclusive Swiss finishing school and a disdain for Arapeta’s gangland origins. But as Miriama begins to escape from Kōkā’s control, we see a more wistful side to her personality. Sick of their nomadic existence, Miriama fantasises about a life away from the claustrophobic gypsy caravan.

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Young Miriama (Sophee Hills) and the castle of her dreams.

Young Arapeta's Vision at the Waitaki Dam

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David Whittet directs Sophee Hills as the young Miriama at the Waitaki Dam in North Otago.

Today’s shooting provided an ideal opportunity to deepen the audience’s insight into the relationship between the young Arapeta and Miriama and in particular to develop Miriama’s character.

The Young Arapeta’s Vision sequence is all important to the story but has proved very difficult to get exactly right. I have re-written the scene may times and today marks the third time we have filmed the scene.

Coming midway through Amiri’s Child, whilst out walking with Miriama, the young Arapeta sees a hydroelectric dam and knows instantly that he wants to be in charge of the power station. Whilst Arapeta eulogises about clean raw energy, Miriama takes a more pragmatic approach, she’s learnt about harnessing energy at finishing school. And we get a glimpse of Miriama’s playfulness as she teases Arapeta that she might beat him to it, a hint of plot twists ahead.

Today’s shoot was made special by the pounding water on the spillway at the Waitaki dam. On our previous shoots, the cascading water had to be added digitally in post production. Recent heavy rain in the Waitaki Valley has filed the lakes and the roar of the water from the dam today truly equalled the might of the Rere falls!

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Shooting at the mighty Waitaki dam today, with the intensity of the pounding water and the beauty of the Waitaki lakes, I could empathise with the young Arapeta’s fascination with “clean, raw energy”.

The January shoot is underway with a confrontation in gangland!

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Ryan Esselink, Chris van der Salm, Caitlin Kearney, Georgia Tangney, Brittany Mare and Eilee Robinson as the youth gang with a score to settle with Miriama.

The first day of shooting is always a mixture of excitement and blind pain and today was no exception!

Despite weeks of planning, for this shoot we have been scouring second hand clothes shops for young Arapeta’s distinctive costume and working with knives, razor blades and matches to make the your gang costumes look suitably live in.

Yet there is always so much to do at the last minute. No sooner had we picked up Sophee Hills, who plays the young Miriama, from Timaru airport than we were on the road to shoot the youth gang scenes by the railway track in the industrial area of Oamaru.

Mark and I had worked on the choreography for the fight in which Arapeta defends Miriama and at last wins her heart. The scenes needed to by gritty and ugly for Miriama’s transformation to have meaning. Despite all the preparation and a great new cast of gangsters, the shoot was difficult and radix cutting in post production will be needed to give the footage the edginess required for the story.

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!

Preparing Another Shoot for Amiri's Child

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Mark Whittet and Sophee Hills will reprise their roles of the young Arapeta and Miriama.

With shooting set to commence on 21 January, preparations are once again in full swing for yet another major shoot for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.It is always an exciting time, honing the script, location scouting, storyboarding the sequences. Creativity is at a peak!

My main aim for this shoot is to more fully develop the relationship between the young Arapeta and Miriama. They start out like Pip and Estella in Great Expectations with Miriama, just back from an exclusive finishing school in Switzerland, decrying Arapeta for his gangland origins. Miriama’s journey as a child is a vital precursor to developments in Rere’s Children, as the trilogy reaches its conclusion.

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Sophee Hills is flying down from Gisborne to Oamaru next week for the filming which will expand the role of the young Miriama. The new footage will give Miriama more back story and make her initial hostility to Arapeta and her subsequent transformation more understandable.

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.