Economic boost from movie seen

The filming of a DreamWorks Studios movie in Marlborough could have great benefits for the region, says Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman.

A-list actor and X-Men star Michael Fassbender, actress Alicia Vikander and Oscar winner Rachel Weisz have leading roles in the movie adaptation of The Light Between Oceans, a novel by M L Stedman.

Filming is to begin at an undisclosed location in the region in September.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said having a Dreamworks movie filmed in Marlborough was “pretty exciting”.

“We didn’t think of Marlborough as a location for films, but it’s something we might consider going forward, especially after the success of the Hobbit.

If the film was a success, it could attract fans to the region. “People go to locations where films are being made – it would definitely put us on the international map.”

He could not reveal where the movie was being filmed, but said it was a “stunning location”.

DreamWorks Studios has been working with Marlborough District Council’s Smart Business Marlborough group since early July, Sowman said.

Destination Marlborough and Marlborough Roads were also involved, he said.

“We are just helping to facilitate things . . . we don’t want any hiccups.”

He understood DreamWorks was looking at setting up office in Blenheim while the movie was being filmed.

Council strategic policy and economic development manager Neil Henry, who heads Smart Business Marlborough, said they would help where needed on matters such as building consents, resource consents, roading closures, water and infrasture.

“We just want to make it as easy as possible for them.”

When the crew were scoping the area for locations, he helped arrange permission for a helicopter to land at the site, he said.

“We had 24 hours notice to get the permission to land on the edge of the road . . . But I think it’s very exciting to suddenly get something like this come to the region.”

The main actors and some crew members would be staying on site, others would be staying in the wider Marlborough region, he said.

“They bring their kitchen, their accommodation – everything – with them. It’s like their own little industry out there.”

Speaking from Wellington, DreamWorks Studios’ line producer Tom Karnowski, who was the executive producer of 10,000 BC and The Illusionist, said about 50 of the 70 crew members were New Zealanders.

“We have not brought many people in from outside the country at all, maybe about 10 or 15. It’s mainly New Zealanders.

“It’s a studio film but it’s not a huge one – it’s not huge in terms of budget.

“Everyone is going to be staying in and around the Blenheim area. We are madly working on finding accommodation for everybody.”

Karnowski said casting for smaller parts was taking place in New Zealand and Australia, but no decisions had been made yet.

The small number of extras needed for the film would be New Zealanders, he said.

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Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said they were looking at opportunities for the region when the movie was released.

“We are looking at how we can leverage that.

“It would be great to see more of Marlborough on the big screen.”

Destination Marlborough had had a couple of meetings with the production team and would be providing the cast and crew with welcome packs, she said.

“If there is down time or if the opportunity pops up we will facilitate an arrangement so they can see more of the region. We want to help them get out and about.”

Film New Zealand chief executive Gisella Carr said they were “delighted to see a prestigious production like The Light Between Oceans come to New Zealand”. “It is great news for New Zealand’s screen industry and speaks to our international reputation for excellence in screen production as well as stunning and unique locations.”

– The Marlborough Express


Robin Williams’ daughter driven off Twitter by trolls

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Robin Williams mourned by his gorilla friend

The world’s most intelligent gorilla came close to tears after hearing of Robin Williams’ death.

The 63-year-old had been battling depression and took his life on Tuesday.

The famed gorilla, Koko, who can communicate in sign language, met Williams 13 years ago when he visited The Gorilla Foundation in California.

The pair became “very special friends”, according to staff at the foundation.


Justin Bieber pleads guilty

Pop star Justin Bieber has pleaded guilty to lesser charges to resolve a criminal case brought by Miami Beach police who initially said he was caught drag racing in a Lamborghini under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The agreement with prosecutors requires the Canadian singer, who was not in court, to attend a 12-hour anger management class, watch online videos about tragic drunken driving cases and donate US$50,000 (NZ$59,100) to a children’s charity.

As part of the deal, Bieber pleaded guilty to careless driving, a civil infraction, and resisting an officer without violence, a misdemeanour. In return, the state dropped a charge of driving under the influence.

In approving the plea deal, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Altfield said he hoped Bieber, 20, was aware that his actions had consequences due to his status as a celebrity and a role model for young people.

“While this is a case that involved driving under the influence, he (Bieber) needs to be cognizant of the fact that there are many young persons who are living under the influence, and he is the influence,” Altfield said.

“Here is someone who is young, his whole life is ahead of him. He just hopefully will get the message, he will grow up, he will use all of his talents positively for younger persons,” he added.

Bieber’s attorneys said they would deliver the judge’s message to their client. “We’ll turn this into a positive experience … and we’ll make sure this becomes a positive experience for everyone,” said one of his lawyers, Howard Srebnick.

Calling Bieber’s actions “rash juvenile-type conduct”, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said “the intervention and counselling parts of the plea should provide a pathway toward adult responsibility”.

Bieber, who frequently makes headlines due to his party-intense lifestyle, initially was charged with driving under the influence, resisting arrest and using an expired license after police stopped and arrested him while he was driving a rented yellow Lamborghini the morning of January 23.

The singer, whose hit songs include Boyfriend, was not given any special treatment by being allowed to plead in absentia, the judge said.

Police said at the time of Bieber’s arrest that two SUVs had blocked off the road so the singer could race a friend. Bieber cursed at police officers and later told them he had consumed alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, according to the arrest report.

A drug test found marijuana and prescription anti-anxiety medication in his system at the time of the arrest, according to a toxicology report

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– Reuters


Louise Nicholas story brought to the screen

When Wellington film-maker Robert Sarkies auditioned actors for Consent – The Louise Nicholas Story, he didn’t ask them to simply read lines from the script.

“I wanted the truth of the story to resonate with the actors who came in. So in the waiting room, instead of having copies of Woman’s Weekly as they usually do, with Louise’s permission I made up a scrapbook of actual pictures from her life.

“We asked them to look for anything in the pictures [and photographs] that resonated with them. They weren’t pictures of rape. They were pictures of a normal kid growing up in a small town in the 80s.

“When the actors came into the audition room we put them on camera and asked them what resonated in the pictures they had just seen – and the answers were phenomenal. We had everything from just the pictures of the horses . . . to people who told us, on camera, very personal stories of abuse. It was always a reminder to us that it’s not just a story about ‘that woman over there, who [claimed she] was raped by those cops’. For many people throughout New Zealand it’s a story that relates to their own experiences.”

Consent, which airs on television on Sunday, begins with Nicholas’ childhood and early teen years in the Bay of Plenty town of Murupara, where, at age 13, she said she was first raped by a policeman. It then moves, several years later, to the investigation by The Dominion Post reporter Phil Kitchin, which led to the trial of three police officers whom Nicholas alleged raped her when she was a teenager.

It’s not the first time Sarkies has adapted a significant and controversial story from the headlines. In 2006 he made the acclaimed Out of the Blue, based on the Aramoana massacre in which 13 people were killed by gunman David Gray in 1990.

The Dominion Post first reported Nicholas’ story in January 2004 when Sarkies was busy developing Out of the Blue with co-writer Graeme Tetley, and both of them followed the Nicholas story as it unfolded. Even before some of the trials they could see the potential for a film.

Tetley, one of the New Zealand’s leading scriptwriters, died in 2011, but not before he and Sarkies visited Nicholas and her family and interviewed them with the aim of adapting her story.

They also interviewed others involved, including Kitchin.

“For a while there it was just this big cloud of confusion because it just seemed that there’s so many cops involved, so many trials and a 20-year timeframe with all sorts of shifts and turns within that. It was quite a process of just getting a very solid understanding of the basic story before we could even start to sit down and figure out how we might structure the film.”

The final script was written by screenwriter and playwright Fiona Samuel. Sarkies says, as with Tetley, their touchstone in adapting Nicholas’ story was to “reflect the truth”.

“Actually the truth in this case is not something you can ever say is an absolute because there are at least four people who will deny, and have denied publicly and in court, enormous aspects of this story, but we were looking for what felt like the truth to us, what resonated as the truth to us and what felt like a human truth.”

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The former policemen whom Nicholas accused of raping her when she was a teenager – Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton, and then-assistant police commissioner Clint Rickards – were acquitted by a jury.

Sarkies has met Nicholas several times and she was consulted about components of the film. Nicholas’ family photographs, some used in the actors’ audition book, were also important references for the art direction and costumes – which numbered 500 – so that the film’s depiction of Nicholas and New Zealand in the 80s and 90s was accurate and convincing.

Nicholas visited once during the six-week shoot – almost all the scenes in Murupara and Rotorua were recreated in Wellington and the Hutt Valley, including sets at Avalon Studios.

But Sarkies says Consent wasn’t about getting Nicholas’ approval. “I certainly didn’t enter this wanting to be a flag-waver for Louise Nicholas. I suppose I was a little bit like the cautious journalist – going in, interested in the story but also questioning where they seemed to be cracks in the story. And there are little cracks in the story which are constantly used to undermine this woman.”

Sarkies says he was also keenly aware of not only accuracy but the legal issues surrounding how the story could be told in Consent – known for much of its development and shooting as “Project L” before the title was unveiled.

“The nature of the story meant that we had to be very factual, while of course making drama and wanting it to be emotionally involving. But we knew where there were any facts we stick to the letter.

“One of the unique things for me was while Fiona was working on the shooting draft [of the script] this time last year and providing me with scenes from the film, I was making up a massive 1200 page legal documentation of every single fact and line in the film.”

Sarkies has directed television episodes, but Consent is his first television movie. But he says based on the experience of adapting Nicholas’ story he is open to making film for television again.

The scale of Consent – which cost about $2.6 million – is also similar to a small budget Kiwi film released in the cinema. Aside from numerous locations, including 20 houses, the film-makers sourced the original plans of the Rotorua house where Nicholas alleged the rapes took place. A replica of the house was then built at Avalon.

When Sarkies discovered that the Rotorua police station, complete with large wall mural, had been demolished, he improvised by using a Porirua station – and had the mural recreated.

Sarkies says the fact his film has its debut on the small screen may also mean it will have a bigger impact.

“I don’t usually make stuff for TV but it actually excites me that for 105 minutes on Sunday the whole country, or whoever in the country chooses to, will all be experiencing this woman’s story at the same time and feeling similar emotions.

“They’ll be talking about it the next day over the water cooler and maybe getting angry or disagreeing with our take on it. In a way we’re doing what Louise’s been doing for the last 20 years – we’re actually telling her secrets now to an even wider audience.”


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Robin William’s death a tragedy: John Key

She can hip-hop, be-bop, dance till ya drop, and yo yo, make a wicked cup of cocoa.

She’s Mrs Doubtfire, the star of the prime minister’s favourite Robin Williams movie.

The death of the entertainer and actor yesterday aged 63 was a “tragedy,” Prime Minister John Key said.

“If you were to list the great actors of my lifetime, I would rank Robin Williams right up there.”

Williams was “hugely gifted and talented [and] he obviously had a deep affection for New Zealand,” Key said.