Lost & Found #31: Dead Letters, Wellington 2005
This is the third instalment of my Lost & Found series dedicated to Dead Letters, a beautiful short film I worked on nearly ten years ago now - but the more I dug into the files from this one six-day shoot, the more I liked what I saw (if I may say so myself)!
Day four of the shoot was another fantastic constructed location, in a large room at St Gerard's Church and Monastery in Mt Victoria, Wellington. I didn't see it before the art department got there, but I suspect it was basically empty - and they turned it into the kind of set every director dreams of, where you could photograph in just about any direction without fear of seeing where the production budget ran out. Paolo, Fraser & Gemma must have pulled in every favour they had - and a few they didn't - to get this production looking as good as it did!
Again, this was a big day for costumes, hair & makeup as well - as we needed a room full of the 'dead letter office' staff...
Gerald (Gareth Reeves) also got quite a bit of time in front of the camera - scenes with Ngaire, naturally, but also a bit that was cut into historical footage, explaining the process of photographing letters to make 'airgraphs', which were then sent overseas. (He was supposed to look a bit sheepish about demonstrating it for the cameras, hence his expression...)
I was extremely impressed with Gareth on set, which was the first time I'd seen his work. His Gerald was a study in small acting, to me - a character that needed to come across as slightly sheepish, a little shy, and easily embarrassed, especially about the fact that he wasn't at war like most of the other men his age.
His ability to be in complete control of his expression and emotions, without ever seeming like he was trying to restrain himself, amazed me - so it's been no surprise to me that his career in New Zealand, and more recently in Australia, has continued to grow. He really is one of those actors I'd see a show specifically for, just to see how he handles a role. I wish I'd been able to see him as Prior Walter in the Silo Theatre (Auckland) production of Angels In America - even though I saw the 8 hour show twice in 2012, in Sydney and Toronto!
I have to say, this image (above) is probably my favourite sort of production still - it's got everything. The cast rehearsing, the crew preparing, the cinematographer lining up the shot (which we can see, framed in the monitor on top of the camera) and the director looking in - we're looking over Paolo's shoulder, just as the camera is looking over Yvette's. It's the kind of controlled chaos in a tight corner that happens so often on a film, even when - as was the case - the set was quite spacious!
The last bit of filming we did (on day 6) was a blue screen shot for the historical footage, with a soldier on a donkey in front of the pyramids - which were added later. The wonderful Caroline Girdlestone from Hero Animals brought us a very well trained donkey, which Jimmy (Simon Vincent) was seated atop for the short scene...
...with predictable, but intentional, results. (Detail for the eagle-eyed - he's holding a package addressed to Pvt. P. Rotondo, the director...)
Finally, as we wrapped the shoot, we grabbed everyone for a quick crew photo - unfortunately a few important people weren't there, Gareth and Wickham included, but it was nice to have as a memento of the shoot, even with their absences. (Belated apologies to both of them!)