First-time feature director Anton Steel knows he couldn’t have made The Z-Nail Gang, an independently funded feature film, without the help of an entire community. Luckily for him, the locals in Bay of Plenty town of Te Puke were more than willing to help pull off this eco-action comedy that NZ On Screen describes as “Greenies meet The Castle”. The film was nominated at the 2014 NZ Film Awards for Best Self-Funded Film, and Best Supporting Actress (Vanessa Rare), and to celebrate its screening on Rialto Channel (Wednesday 26th October, 8.30pm), Anton kindly spoke to me about his experience of making The Z-Nail Gang.
Rialto: First tell us what to expect from your film?
The Z-Nail Gang is an eco- action Comedy based on incredibly true events that took place in the Coromandel Peninsula. It tells the story of a disparate community that comes together to defeat a multi-national mining corporation. I have attended a lot of community screenings for this film and had a lot of people come up to me afterwards, amazed at the story and what we pulled off, and telling me that it stands up there with Kiwi classics like Goodbye Pork Pie.
Rialto: What was the biggest challenge you faced making the film, and how did you overcome it?
Since this film is about a community coming together we made this film as a community project in our home of Te Puke / Pukehina. The idea was huge, the shoot window short, money was extremely tight and 80% of the crew were amateurs. When people are working for free you have to be respectful of the time and energy they are giving, be thankful for anything they bring to the table and also be understanding when they get it wrong. Our kaupapa was Connect, Create, Celebrate - Connect with people, encourage them to Create and Celebrate in everyone’s achievement! Having a different community group help with the catering every day, the wardrobe provided by the local opshops, and trucks provided by the local kiwifruit pack houses were some of the ways we made this shoot happen.
Rialto: How did you fund your film, and was any crowd funding involved? If so, would you recommend it?
Originally this film was budgeted at around $6 million dollars, but utilising the Asset Based Community Development model we employed it only cost around $40,000. $10,000 of that was crowd funding. Crowdfunding is a way to raise money, but you have to realise that a lot of energy and effort is going to go into raising that money that could also be spent creatively driving your project forward.
Rialto: How many roles did you juggle on this project?
Where do you start? Researcher / Writer / Location Scout / Runner / Director / Editor / Distributor / Carpenter / Foley artist
Rialto: Can you tell us your best dinner party story about the making of your film?
I started this film by doing letter drop down Pukehina Parade with my then 3-year-old son. At our first community meeting we had 12 people, half of whom were children who wanted a starring role, but by the time we had our “World Premiere” in Te Puke there were over 400 people and organisations who had become part of this journey. We’ve changed people with the way we approached this project, given people a glimpse at the crazy energy of a film shoot and launched multiple people onto or back into careers in the industry. Being awarded the Trustpower Supreme Community Award for The Z-Nail Gang was a real pleasant surprise when it happened, and something we never expected when we set out to make a film.
Rialto: If you were giving a talk to a group of filmmaking students, what would you tell them about their chosen career path?
Make conscious media that informs, inspires and changes the world. So much effort goes into making a film whether its a short, a documentary or feature that you should make sure that all work is for something that truly counts in making the world a better place. And be extremely respectful and thankful to everyone person that helps you to achieve your vision.
Rialto: If you could pick one New Zealand actor or actress to work with, who would it be and why?
Rialto: If you had to describe in three words the current state of the NZ film industry, what would they be?
Not enough funding! In Austria they have 8 million people and they make 45 films per year!
Rialto: What’s the last film that moved you?
Deadpool. I just watched it on a flight back from the AFCI Cineposium in Atlanta and everybody surrounding me on the plane heard me laugh out loud multiple times. I really like it when filmmakers are able to subvert and parody a genre and pull it off with such style. The film genuinely surprised me...especially in the super hero genre which is so boring and over the top these days. It always comes back to script and story and the creative team behind this were geniuses.
The Z-Nail Gang premieres Wednesday 26 October at 8.30pm on Rialto Channel