The Official Blog for David Whittet's Motion Picture Trilogy

Movie Magic, illusion and painstaking compositing!

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.

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.
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

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

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!

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

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

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.

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.
Edward Tipene and Ayden Malone play the gangsters who deliver Lamonge his reward.

Press Release - The Prestige Film Awards

Prestige Silver Black 2012

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

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

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

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.

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

Koriata rules the boardroom


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!

Assistant Director Mark Whittet rehearses a boardroom scene with John Stainton as Koriata.
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.

Amiri & Aroha wins a Prestige Film Award!


Amiri & Aroha has won an award in the Prestige Film Awards, a major film competition in California USA!

Whilst working late preparing tomorrow’s shoot for Rere’s Children, I received the following message from the organisers of the Prestige Film Awards:

“Congratulations! You have won a Prestige Film Award! You can be justifiably proud of winning a Prestige Film Award. The judging standards are high and winning means the technique and imagination exhibited by your entry is outstanding and stands above other productions. Your winning entry will be listed on The Prestige website within a few days.”

The continued success of the original Amiri & Aroha film on the international film festival circuit is fantastic news for us as we complete the trilogy. The Prestige award follows our success in the Best Shorts and Accolade competitions and we are confident that the forthcoming release of Amiri’s Child and Rere’s Children will continue to captivate film festival audiences.

Koriata's Abduction


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.

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.
Lisa Beech acting as Dialogue Coach on set today, helping to facilitate a tough shoot.
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

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!

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

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!

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


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.

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

Hayden Searle

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

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

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.

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

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

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!

David Whittet, Ebony Tuhaka and John Stainton

Final Preproduction for Rere's Children

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!

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

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.

Krystel Pokai and her cousin Geena Pokai read through a scene from Rere’s Children.
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

Ad-1 Ad-2

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


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!

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!


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!

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

Lamonge strikes again!

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!

Amiri & Aroha at the Regal Cinema in Twizel

Regal Twizel 2

Amiri & Aroha receives its premiere cinema run at the beautiful Regal Cinema in Twizel this month.

I am delighted that this auspicious event should occur at such an awesome location. The cinema is the vision of Phil and Nikki Newman. After relocating to Twizel last year, they thought Twizel "needed something else" and came up with the idea to start the Regal Cinema. Phil Newman, a builder, transformed the building at 1A Benmore Place into a cinema and an art gallery by himself. The result is a huge asset to the area.

Amiri & Aroha has been such an integral part of my life for so long, I look forward to sharing it with the world, staring right here in Twizel!

Click for the Regal Cinema August Flyer
Click for the Mackenzie Leisure, Activities & Services Newsletter

Regal Twizel
Regal Twizel 3
The Regal Cinema, Twizel, the venue for the premiere run of Amiri & Aroha.

Koriata's Dilemma

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.

Mediation? With that pōriro?

David Whittet directs Shane Luke as Arapeta, Deborah Vallois as the Mediator and John Stainton at Koriata.

When arch enemies Arapeta and Koriata are forced to meet each other for mediation, the sparks are bound to fly. This is the first time they have met face to face since they were children and their confrontation is destined to be explosive. Both are powerful businessmen, chief executives controlling rival power companies and used to getting their own way in a cut throat industry. But both also have a dark history which spills over in the scene.

We first shot this scene in October 2011 and an excerpt from this version survives on the IndieGoGo campaign video.

Shane Luke and Deborah Vallois reprise their roles from the original shoot, acting opposite our new Koriata, John Stainton. Today’s shoot was made special by the electric atmosphere between Shane and John as Arapeta and Koriata. John brought a superiority to Koriata, smugly mocking Arapeta and winding him up until he snaps.

Shane Luke and John Stainton read through the script prior to the shoot.

In a key revision of the scene, Koriata taunts Arapeta that he’s dressed up in his Sunday best for the meeting but can’t even get his tie right!

David Whittet directs Shane Luke and John Stainton in the explosive scene where the two arch enemies meet for the first time since childhood.

Amiri & Lamonge

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

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!

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

A Cinema Release for Amiri & Aroha

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!

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

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!

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!

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

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

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

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

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!

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

Amiri & Aroha on the Run


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.

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!”

Young Arapeta's Vision

Little touches that make a big difference: a linking shot of the young Miriama (Sophee Hills)

Mark was unhappy with his performance in the key Arepeta's Vision scene which we shot at Kurow last December. This is where the young Arapeta is out walking with Miriama and stops to look at a hydroelectric power station, foreshadowing his career in the power industry.

Our motel room was once again transformed into a green screen studio to reshoot a rewritten version of the scene with Sophee Hills reprising the role of Miriama.


Tautaru and his Gang


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.

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

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.

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

Broken Promises

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!

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

Star Crossed Lovers


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.


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

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!

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


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!


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!

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!

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!

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?


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.

Be the first virtual assistant director in cinema history!

Beam me up to the Amiri & Aroha set!

Central to our IndieGoGo campaign is providing all our supporters with the opportunity to experience the joys of independent film making.

For locals and those able to travel to our locations in New Zealand, we encourage you to get involved, in front or behind the camera, with one of our unique rewards.

The challenge has been to enable those unable to travel to New Zealand to take an active part in the film.

In the digital age, we are all familiar with videoconferencing. Our supporters will take this to the next level, joining us on set with an interactive video link.

I always say to assistant directors that they are the director's eyes and ears on location, keeping a sharp lookout for continuity errors that can so easily creep in on a busy shoot. Our virtual assistant directors will be able to view both the set and the video feed from the film camera remotely and alert us to potential issues.

Our groundbreaking new technology brings some industry first screen credits. Be the first virtual assistant director in cinema history!

A new music video with Tia Takarangi-Chan


Tia Takarangi-Chan composed and performed the haunting original music for Amiri & Aroha The iconic image of Tia singing at the Rere falls appears on our DVD and Blu-ray menus and is our logo for the current IndieGoGo campaign.

I am delighted that Tia is going to write the original music for Amiri’s Child and we will make a music video during our shoot in Gisborne in July. We intended to make a music video during the shooting of the original Amiri & Aroha but regrettably time constraints conspired against us and with festival deadlines looming, we had to be content with Tia’s music tracks on the DVD menus - a kid of mini music video!

We are giving the music video priority this time with a dedicated day set aside early in the forthcoming July shoot. The music video will be released simultaneously with Amiri’s Child, as our IndieGoGo campaign reaches its conclusion!

I am delighted to have a Tia on board again and really excited about the music she is writing for Amiri’s Child. Tia is an extreme talent and I hope that the Amiri & Aroha trilogy will prove to be her big break into the music industry!

A new look - and a new meaning

The childhood ceremony between Aroha and Hunapo from Amiri & Aroha gets a new look in Amiri’s Child with an atmospheric filter

It is important that the individual films in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy work as standalone productions that can be viewed independently. They are companion pieces with their own individuality, which confer wider meaning when they come together as a trilogy.

Enabling Amiri’s Child as a film in its own right requires retelling some of the background from the original film.

Creating a visual look for the backstory in Amiri's Child is proving both a challenge and an opportunity. My goal is to reprise aspects of Amiri & Aroha in a new and striking way, not by simply regurgitating footage from the original film.

I played around with a couple of sequences, editing a sixty-second précis of the story of Amiri & Aroha. I then experimented with some filters, giving the footage an old world feel, a slight sepia tint providing historical texture. With some refining, applying this technique to these flashback scenes looks very effective, giving the footage a completely new look.

The new look also confers new meaning. I have subtly changed perspectives in the retelling of the story. We have only Kōkā’a word that it was an enemy of Amiri who started the fire, what if it was really the gang? What if it was Hunapo and not an assassin that fired the shots at Aroha’s wedding?

Visual metaphors echo throughout Amiri’s Child!

Using the advanced features of Apple’s Final Cut X to create striking visual metaphors in Amiri’s Child

The camera never lies - or does it?

Editing a key scene in Amiri’s Child in Final Cut Pro X

Whoever coined the phrase the camera never lies was definitely not a film maker!

I am editing one of the key scenes in Amiri’s Child which is a case in point. I have been talking about digital compositing techniques in recent posts and this scene presents a specific challenge.

In this pivotal sequence, the young Arapeta confides his vision of the future with Miriama. As they walk past a hydroelectric power station, Arapeta is entranced by the force of the pounding water and eulogizes about energy, foreshadowing his turbulent career in the power industry.

I flew the cast to my home in Kurow to shoot this sequence with the magnificent hydroelectric dams of the Waitaki Valley as the backdrop. As fate would have it, water levels in the lakes were low and there was no surging water in the spillway of the dams during the week the cast were at Kurow!

The force of water is crucial to the scene; the power of the dam precipitates Arapeta’s vision. This mirrors the scene in Amiri & Aroha where Aroha find solace with at the mighty Rere falls, connecting Arapeta with his mother’s fate.

With time constraints and a micro budget, I only had the one week available for these scenes. So I was forced to shoot with the empty spillway and add the water in post production.

When working of a key scene like this in post production, it is essential that every last detail is absolutely perfect if the audience are to believe that the scene is real. The slightest imperfection can loss the audience and make them aware that they are watching a film. I have spent many hours lining up the spillway on the camera original shot with a superimposed shot of cascading water, getting the shadows and currents created by the flowing water exactly right…

As I have said before, it’s art that conceals art!

The camera original shot with the dam spillway empty.

Work in progress: a digital intermediate showing pounding water composited into the dam spillway. The next task is to create the ripples and water flow in the lake below the dam, the details that make the scene look real!

An amazing start to our IndieGoGo campaign


We have had a fantastic response to the launch of our IndieGoGo campaign and have reached 10% of our funding goal in the first two days! Everyone on the Amiri & Aroha team sends a huge and heartfelt thank you to each of our early funders. We truly appreciate your support!

We've had some great feedback regarding our perks, especially the virtual rewards! We already have one contributor destined to be the first virtual assistant director in cinema history! I'll be covering how this technology will work in future updates, both on this blog and in the updates tab on our IndieGoGo campaign page. So stay tuned and see how you can get an industry first screen credit!

Kia ora to all our wonderful supporters! We are eternally grateful. Do please keep up the good work and spread the word to all your family and friends!

Our IndieGoGo Campaign goes live!

Please support our IndieGoGo campaign to fund completion of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy!

Amiri & Aroha has truly become a global sensation and we need your help to make the final film a stunning conclusion to the trilogy.

We’ve got some awesome rewards for our backers. Everyone who contributes to our campaign will be offered a role in the film, either in front or behind the camera, in person or via video link up. We are using the latest technology to allow those who cannot get to the film’s location to participate in the film. And this affords some absolutely unique, industry first screen credits. Be the very first virtual assistant director in cinema history!

Click on the cool widget to go to our campaign home page. Please support us if you possibly can and forward this blog to all your family and friends!

Thank you so much. Together we have the opportunity to create something really great!

Amiri's Child takes shape in Post Production

Editing an iconic scene in Final Cut Pro X: “I want to be a gentleman!”

Editing is perhaps my favourite part of the film making process, as it is in post production that the film takes shape and develops dramatic intensity. As the film comes together, shots cease to be clips of film but a very real part of the drama.

Film making is so often a compromise. The film maker has to create their art surrounded by a traveling circus of actors, technicians and equipment. It is only in the peace of the editing suite that the film maker be like other artists and create their art at their own pace without outside influence.

Amiri’s Child has been an integral part of my life for so long. I have lived and breathed the story and characters over the extended shoots. So it is magic to at last see Amiri’s Child coming together as a film. With each new cut, with each trim of the material, the story gains more momentum and is shaping up to be a powerful piece of cinema.

Today I edited a scene which has become a particular favourite. Arapeta is besotted with Kōkā’s haughty foster daughter and is determined to make an impression on her. In an homage to Charles Dickens and Great Expectations, Arapeta plucks up courage to ask his Aunt Hinemoa for advice: “Aunty, I want to be a gentleman and win Miriama’s heart!”

Teaser Trailer for Amiri & Aroha at the International Movie Trailer Festival

The Amiri & Aroha teaser trailer at the International Movie Trailer Festival

The atmospheric new overture afforded the opportunity to make a dazzling teaser trailer for Amiri & Aroha. The purpose of the new opening for Amiri & Aroha was to draw the audience into the film, using Tia’s music as a waiata (a Māori greeting), and a montage of dramatic images in the cauldron of Kōkā’s crystal ball.

What better way to grasp the attention of a potential audience with a unique and visual stunning teaser trailer?

I am delighted that the new teaser has been successful in its own right and has been accepted in the International Movie Trailer Festival.


You can view the new teaser trailer for Amiri & Aroha here

Art which conceals Art

Painstaking effects editing with Final Cut Pro

There’s an old saying in the Indy film making community that encapsulates the film makers’ dedication to their art: film making is not matter of life and death, it’s far more important than that!

I found myself musing over this quotation today as I worked on perfecting a particularly tricky effect in Amiri & Aroha. I am preparing viewing copies of the film for competition entry, taking on board recent feedback, including that from the British festival, and making some key enhancements for the next round of international film festivals.

I recently commented on the endless list of Digital Compositors on the titles in the commercial cinema and the satisfaction I feel as an independent film maker from making ever last edit and effect myself.

This scene is a case in point. Kōkā, the soothsayer, strokes her crystal ball and conjures up visions of events yet to happen in the film. To bring the scene to life, I decided to put fire and lightening into the crystal ball. I achieved this by overlaying an image of the lightening into the shot of the crystal ball (a technique we call compositing). My task was made all the more difficult as in the original camera shot, the actresses’s right index finger protrudes in front of the ball (see the screenshots below). Overlaying the fire and lightening onto the shot resulted in Kōkā’s finger being cut off behind the lightening! It took some very complex compositing work to restore the finger in front of the crystal ball and make it look real, complete with a shadow of the crystal ball on Kōkā’s finger.

If I have succeeded, and the audience are engrossed in the story, they will be totally unaware of the mountain of work behind this shot. Art which conceals art.

The camera original shot with the actress’s right index finger in front of the crystal ball

The intermediate composite, with the actress’s finger cut off by the overlay of the lightening in the crystal ball

The final composite shot with the lightening within the crystal ball and the actress’s finger in front of the crystal ball with a subtle reflection of the electrical energy on her finger!

Drawing the audience into Amiri's Child

Kōkā’s curse sets the tone for Amiri’s Child

Early feedback from film festival judges on the final cut of Amiri & Aroha is proving overwhelmingly positive, particularly for the powerful new opening sequence, which sees Kōkā appear like a mirage out of the Rere falls, with a montage of images in the fiery cauldron of her crystal ball.

Amiri’s Child needs an equally compelling opening to draw audiences back into the story. As I want the films to be stand alone works in their own right, my challenge now is to create a compelling sequence that will both recapture audiences who have seen Amiri & Aroha and engage film goers new to the trilogy.

The dramatic beginning of Amiri’s Child sees a disheveled Kōkā emerge from the mists of Rere, desperately searching for her crystal ball, which has escaped her clutches in its quest to return to the waters of Rere and break Kōkā’s mystic curse.

Kōkā is reunited with her precious crystal ball: “My soul, my conscience, my heart!”

Amiri & Aroha wins 4 Star Award at the British International Amateur Film Festival


Amiri & Aroha has won a 4 Star Award at the 2012 British International Amateur Film Festival.

The festival organizers describe criteria for the 4 Star Award winning films as: “exceptionally well-made, entertains, makes us care / learn / think.”

The British International Amateur Film Festival (BIAFF) is particularly valuable as written feedback is provided for all entrants. It is especially pleasing for me to receive this recognition as I was a regular participant in this festival throughout the eighties and early nineties, and won the trophy for the Best Video of the festival with For Grandma in 1985.

Amiri & Aroha - The Final Cut

The new artwork for Amiri & Aroha

Five months after the official world premiere, I have at last made the final cut on Amiri & Aroha. Since completing the original short in December 2010, I have re-written and expanded the story, we have had a cast change in a key role and two major reshoots during 2011, back to back with the shooting of Amiri’s Child.

Now the final cut of Amiri & Aroha is complete, we are relaunching on the international film festival circuit. Making viewing copies for film festivals entry proved an opportunity to reflect on the last few year’s film making, where Amiri & Aroha has become a way of life. From the first germ of an idea in mid 2009, through countless re-writes and two years of shooting, it has been a constantly challenging and demanding journey. I have made so many wonderful friends working on this film and it has been a privilege to work with such an awesome and talented cast and crew.

With Amiri & Aroha finished I can concentrate on editing Amiri’s Child and the promotional video for our forthcoming IndieGoGo campaign to fund the final film in the trilogy. Exciting times lie ahead!

In the commercial cinema, we are used to endless credit titles which can add an extra ten minutes or more to the film’s running time. There is often a huge list of “digital compositors”. As an independent film maker, I have made very last cut in Amiri & Aroha myself and as this Final Cut Pro screenshot shows, for some of the montage sequences, the compositing was extremely complex.

I have spent more time editing Amiri & Aroha over the past couple of years than I care to remember, but there is a huge satisfaction in having done all the post production work myself!

An "overture" for Amiri & Aroha

The new main title for Amiri & Aroha

The reshoot of Amiri & Aroha has given me an opportunity for a new and dramatic opening for the film.

The opening moments of a film are critical. The lights go down and the first images set the mood and atmosphere for the rest of the film.

I always saw Tia’s music as a waiata, a Māori greeting, drawing the audience into the film. And I wanted to give the film an overture, a montage sequence giving the audience a taste of what is to come. Kōkā’s crystal ball provided me with the ideal opening to the film as we see visions come to life inside the mystic crystal ball, which emerges from the depths of the Rere falls…


An interview with Chris Mills


Today we caught up with Chris Mills, who plays Koriata, Arapeta’s arch rival.

Chris gave Koriata a powerful presence in Amiri’s Child in a David and Goliath setting with Arapeta. The name Koriata is Māori for Goliath and had immense significance in the film. If Amiri & Aroha was a Maori take on Romeo & Juliet, then Amiri’s Child is a Maori David & Goliath.

I have developed Koriata into the lead character in the third film of the trilogy, which has the working title of Koriata’s Way. Koriata is chief executive of Jensen Industries, a leader in hydro electric power, but he has been put there by the gang as their puppet. When Koriata wants to start a new life away from the gang, then there’s trouble. Add in a romance with Miriama, Arapeta’s estranged wife, and the scene is set for some explosive drama!

We did a short interview with Chris today for our forthcoming IndieGoGO campaign for the third film.

I am really looking forward to working with Chris again on Koriata’s Way.

Arapeta and Miriama face the fallout from Amiri's return


Today we shot some tense scenes between Arapeta (Shane Luke) and Miriama (Ebony Tuhaka) in the aftermath of the wedding and Amiri’s return. Arapeta has been disgraced by the revelations and suspicion of his involvement with his father’s increasingly bizarre behaviour. Both Shane and Ebony delivered powerful performances with palpable friction between the characters.

Ebony Tuhaka in a green screen shot for the teaser at the end of Amiri’s Child.

Arapeta is shocked to learn that Miriama has replaced him as chief executive of South Pacific Power and in this teaser scene she informs the board that she will be leading the company in a very different direction.

Shooting the perfect end to the trilogy

Shooting the perfect happy ending for Amiri & Aroha at the Rere Falls. Not quite the ending we filmed a couple of days ago with Aroha’s Revenge!

Insurance is an important consideration for a film maker. Shooting films with the complexity of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, I can understand why the studios pay such huge sums of money for completion bonds. So much can go wrong and sabotage the production!

Today I did a little bit of insurance of my own. Just in case we are unable to complete the third film in the trilogy, I shot the perfect ending that I could use to conclude an extended version of Amiri’s Child and release the two films as companion pieces.

We all know that nothing is quite as it seems in the Amiri & Aroha Trilogy. How will the trilogy end? I promise you a thrilling climax!

A Road Movie

Amiri and Aroha on the run.

A key objective of this fortnight’s shoot in Gisborne is to make an extended trailer for the final film in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, with will hopefully prove a valuable asset as we seek funding to complete the trilogy. In this scene, Aroha is sitting on a suitcase that holds all they're remaining worldly goods and reflects on her cruel fate.

I want to give the trailer something of the feel of a road movie. My screenplay for trailer had the scarred Amiri and Aroha on the run as its framework. Amiri is a wanted man with a price on his head and they have to flee from one makeshift hideout to the next to escape detection. Aroha has moved from one kind of prison to another, escaping imprisonment by the gang for a worse fate.

Amiri & Aroha escape to a motel and Aroha covers Amiri’s burns with bandages, making him look like the Invisible Man.

Shooting in a new style is always exciting and I really enjoyed the challenge of filming a road movie.

The dramatic opening scene for the final film in the trilogy


Today we shot the dramatic opening scene for the final film in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

A sad and lonely man is wandering at the Rere falls. It is the aged Amiri, his face badly scarred both by the burns and by the toll the passing years have taken on him. His eyes have lost their drive and passion; he is a shadow of his former self. Amiri reflects that Rere falls should have been the site of his greatest triumph, with the opening of his water bottling empire; instead they became the scene of his greatest humiliation, where he lost Aroha to Hunapo.

Amiri climbs to the top of the falls and looks down, dangerously close to the edge, cursing his bad fortune and everyone who has got in his way.

His curse provokes an unexpected reaction. A crystal ball rises up from the falls. Inside the ball is Kōkā, come back from beyond the grave to haunt Amiri; she taunts him that he will never know peace until he makes reparation to all those he has destroyed and damaged…

Mike Hollis as the crazed Amiri

Aroha's Revenge

Kristel Day as Aroha with a very frightened Cory Garrett as Troy

The relationship between an actor and their character is fascinating, especially on an extended shoot like the Amiri & Aroha trilogy.

When I first cast Kristel Day as Aroha, I was aware that she would bring a darker side to the part than the other actresses which I had considered. I saw Aroha very much as a troubled gangland girl, haunted by her harsh childhood and desperate to escape the gang; a rough kid determined to make good. Kristel saw Aroha as a more naive character, someone who never belonged in the gang.

Yet over the couple of years we have worked on Amiri & Aroha, I have seen more and more of Kristel come out in the character of Aroha.

We shot a dramatic scene today where Aroha threatens Troy with a knife. Kristel declared: “At last I get to play myself!”


Kristel in her element shooting Aroha’s revenge. As an added treat we shot a scene with blood on the knife. Not the ending for the trilogy I had planned, but perhaps we can use it somewhere in a teaser!


Old scores and a new romance

Working with Mike Hollis as Amiri and Warren Philp as his embattled lawyer, Andrew Lamonge

Our motel room became a green screen studio again today for a series of interesting scenes which both conclude Amiri’s Child and launch the final part of the trilogy, which currently has the working title of Koriata’s Way.

First up were scenes between Amiri and his sleazy lawyer, Andrew Lamonge, for the teaser scene in Kōkā’s crystal ball at the end of Amiri’s Child. This powerful little scene, where Amiri unceremoniously sacks Lamonge and in turn Lamonge vows revenge, sets up a key plot thread for Koriata’s Way. And Andrew Lamonge has a dark secret of his own which shatters everything and everyone in the gripping conclusion to the trilogy…


As one relationship comes to an end, another begins…

Amiri has replaced Lamonge with his old business partner Errol Troy. Acting as his minder, Troy advises Amiri to leave the country until his troubles blow over. Little does Amiri realize that this is because Troy has designs on Aroha…

But then Aroha has reasons of her own for leading Troy along…

Like everything else in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy, nothing is ever quite what it seems!

Kristel Day as Aroha and Cory Garrett as Troy when the romance turns sour…

Film Making - A Family Affair


Each of the films in the Amiri & Aroha trilogy have involved my entire family. Mark has been assistant director throughout the trilogy and played the lead part of the young Arapeta in Amiri’s Child. Rebecca played the young Aroha. And today, Ooy took part again as an extra, stealing the scene with a horrified look at the scarred Amiri.

Ooy in a scene stealing moment in Amiri’s Child

I am your father!


Today we shot the dramatic conclusion to Amiri’s Child, a father and son confrontation in a church. This seems to be set to become the iconic scene in Amiri’s Child, in the same way as Hunapo’s “Get off our land, before I throw you and your caravan over the waterfall” became the defining scene in Amiri & Aroha.

We shot the scenes at St Luke’s Church at Waerenga-a-hika by kind permission of the vicar, Joan Edmondson. It was especially significant for me to be filming at this beautiful church as I used to drive past the church every day of life taking my children to school when we lived at Te Karaka.

Mike Hollis and Shane Luke were in cracking form as the deranged father and dumfounded son and we achieved some very powerful footage in this atmospheric setting.


Preparing for a dramatic return!

Assistant director Mark Whittet applying the burns make up to Michael Hollis as Amiri

Being coated in many layers of latex and blood is not fun, as Mark discovered earlier in the week when he was the guinea pig for practicing the burns make up for today’s big shoot. Today Mark had the opportunity to experience the process from the other side as he helped apply the make up. We are shooting the climactic scenes in Amiri’s Child today and giving Mike exactly the right look is absolutely critical!

Mike Hollis, fully made up and ready for his dramatic entrance at the church!

Converting a motel room into a green screen studio!


Perhaps one of the reasons that there are so many successful independent film makers in New Zealand is that good old kiwi ingenuity. With the Amiri & Aroha trilogy we are used to working miracles and making a low (no) budget film look like a million dollars! Tonight our motel room became a green screen studio as we shot the special effects shots of the young Aroha to match the material we had shot at Rere falls this afternoon.

Another shoot at Rere falls


A shooting session for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy would not be complete without at least a couple of shooting sessions at Rere falls. As well as the filming, our trips to the Rere falls are enjoyable days out and like today, often involve a family picnic.

The Rere falls are the principal location for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy and have become a character in the films, imbuing the films with a mystic element and a distinctive visual feel.

On today’s shoot, we filmed the teaser scene for the end of Amiri’s Child, where the young Aroha finds the magic crystal ball, with Kōkā, the mysterious soothsayer trapped inside it.


Perfecting burns makeup


Fire is a key element in all three films of the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Without giving away too many spoilers, it follows that burns make up is a vital skill for us to develop!

Whilst the burns in Amiri & Aroha were all fresh burns from a dramatic house fire, in the two subsequent films we are faced with the challenge of creating the scars resulting from old burns. This is difficult to achieve consistently on numerous different shoots under the unforgiving eye of the camera’s lens!

Assistant Director Mark was excited to be the guinea pig for our make up practices, but after several hours of being coated in latex, he began to think it wasn’t so much fun after all and felt sympathy for the actors who have to go through this before every shoot!


Completing the digital restoration of my very first film

Jane Clements in a frame enlargement from my very first film, Thursday’s Child

Thursday’s Child was my very first film, made during my last year at school, in June and July 1971. It had been my dream to make a film from my very first visit to the cinema when I saw Lawrence of Arabia as an impressionable fourteen year old.

Thursday’s Child was shot on Super 8 film with a camera I had bought at a flea market and edited with a magnifying glass as I couldn’t afford a moviola!

The story was about two people who return to the same place for very different reasons and the profound impact of their meeting. A girl, who was born on a Thursday, makes a weekly pilgrimage to a ruined building, which she believes had once belonged to her family. But this Thursday feels different; she believes someone else is there... The film was an anecdote about moving on and fresh beginnings. After this experience, the girl resolves never to go back to the old ruins again.

Of all my films, Thursday’s Child holds a very special place in my affections. I have been systematically digitally restoring my old films, but regrettably the original voice over track has deteriorated over the years and is not salvageable. I have been looking for the right voice over artist to re-record the girl’s track. Kristel Day has added the role of dialogue coach to her portfolio of roles on The Amiri & Aroha Trilogy, in particular coaching Mariel Ceballos in the role of Kōkā. Watching Kristel coach the girls playing Arapeta’s cousins in Amiri’s Child, I knew I had found the “voice” for Thursday’s Child.

Today we recorded the voice over for Thursday’s Child, together with some revised recordings for the re-edit of Amiri & Aroha.

Kristel studying the script for Thursday’s Child prior to recording the voice over

Looking back at Thursday’s Child, and comparing it with the complexity of The Amiri & Aroha Trilogy, I guess I have come a long way since that modest introduction to film making!

Amiri & Aroha has taken over my life - again!

newspaper-6 newspaper-5s
Mockup newspaper headlines for use in the protest march montage sequence

I have been working around the clock again! These last few weeks have been a race against time to get the re-edit of Amiri & Aroha completed before we leave for Gisborne next week for the next big shooting session for the Amiri & Aroha trilogy. Competition and festival deadlines are looming and I am eager to get as much exposure as possible on the international festival circuit. The new edit is a much stronger film and I believe we can eclipse the success we enjoyed in last year’s festivals!

The re-edit has given me the opportunity to experiment with new graphics and to refresh the montage sequences. With multiple layers of digital compositing, these sequences can be extremely time consuming to create, but immensely rewarding when they finally reach the screen!

Recording voice overs for Koriata's gang


As the editing of both the reshoot of Amiri & Aroha and of Amiri’s Child continues, so an increasing number of issues with the footage materialize, especially with location sound.

Today, Mark and his friend Finn Simpson helped me with their voice over talents, providing the voices for multiple members of Koriata’s gang.

Tekapo Shoot


Our first film making activity of the year: pick up shots of the Church of the Good Shepherd at Takapo for Amiri’s Child. A beautiful lakeside church in an idyllic setting, this ideally compliments the setting of Amiri’s child in the world of hydroelectric power, lakes and dams.