Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin

Over the last 15 years Francesca Rudkin has been working in the media as a film and music reviewer (NZ Herald, Breakfast TV), a television presenter and producer, and voice over artist. Recently, Francesca joined Rialto Channel as their resident blogger, allowing her to indulge in her love of world cinema. Her next challenge is to convince her young children that being a “Cinephile” is a legitimate profession.

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Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

Posted on Monday 28/11/2016 November, 2016 by

Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

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Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

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Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

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Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

Posted on Monday 31/10/2016 October, 2016 by

Q & A with Anton Steel for THE Z-NAIL GANG

Posted on Wednesday 26/10/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

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?

Cliff Curtis

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

Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

Posted on Tuesday 25/10/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

Q & A with Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader for THE GREAT MAIDEN'S BLUSH

Posted on Wednesday 19/10/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

This week on Rialto Channel’s series of New Zealand films, screening on Wednesday evenings, comes the third film from filmmaking duo Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader. The Great Maiden’s Blush is a rich character-driven drama that revolves around two very different first-time mothers who meet in a hospital post- natal ward. Both are facing the possibility of losing their children, and together they’re forced to confront their pasts, face the men in their lives and admit to the truth of the paternity of their newborn babies. Co-writers and co-directors Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader kindly talked us through the experience of making this beautiful and moving film that was shot by Alun Bollinger and Waka Attewell and edited by Annie Collins.

Rialto: First tell us what to expect from your film?

We always set out to make films that we hope will touch audiences on an emotional level.

Rialto: What was the biggest challenge you faced making the film, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was trying to work with the New Zealand Film Commission and their obsession with the minutiae of script, constantly changing demands, and the protracted bureaucratic process. We overcame it by making the film without them.

Rialto: How did you fund your film, and was any crowd funding involved? If so, would you recommend it?  

The majority of funds were raised by directly asking individuals for donations of between $1000 and $5000. Some people contributed substantially more. It does take courage to be upfront and honest about what one needs. It also requires one to accept a ‘no’ answer, without taking it personally, or letting it affect relationships. But the great thing about raising funds this way, is that you do build ongoing relationships and trust, and many of these donors have contributed to our earlier features.

We also had a small private low-interest loan, which we have paid back from distribution revenue.

A huge contribution to the funding of the film came from the generosity of our cast and crew, who were willing to work for deferrals and a very small weekly upfront payment. Additionally, various organisations and film companies contributed equipment and services for token or no charge. As well, we engaged with our community, got them onside, and as a result we managed to get crucial locations for no cost. Certainly not an ideal way to work, but in order for independent filmmaking to have a life in New Zealand, this is the reality. Goodwill and honesty gets you a long way, sometimes a lot further than dollars do.

We did a small amount of crowdfunding in the early stages, but it was it not very successful. 

Rialto: How many roles did you juggle on this project? 

We do all sorts of roles in both production and post-production phases, and again this is the reality of independent filmmaking in New Zealand. While it can stretch one, it does build a respect for and knowledge of the challenges every role in filmmaking has. How do we juggle these roles? If you drop the ball, the game is over, so you have to be extremely well organised and have a realistic time frame. We managed this by shooting in three separate blocks over a period of six months.

Rialto: Can you tell us your best dinner party story about the making of your film? 

One incredibly generous woman who let us film in her very beautiful house, thought there would be five people involved, and realised on the day we began shooting there, that there were five people around the camera alone!  Needless to say, she took it in her stride.

Working with babies meant that when they were on set, everyone had to very quiet and calm, so shoes came off (not OSH compliant) and everyone communicated through elaborate sign language.

Rialto: If you were giving a talk to a group of filmmaking students, what would you tell them about their chosen career path?

It is possible to have a career as part of a film crew. This is a good reason to have a specialised skill. However, independent filmmaking is not a career, it’s a calling. It requires you to have 100% commitment to your idea, to be humble, tenacious and have the ability to enrol and genuinely get on with a lot of different people.

The only way to get good at anything, is to practice, to simply do it. It means being prolific, giving oneself permission to make mistakes and giving up on the notion of perfection. So short and very short films are a good start, but even these take a lot longer than you can imagine. The Great Maiden’s Blush took eighteen years to realise.

Because filmmaking is, compared to the other arts, such an expensive medium, there is an unwritten expectation that from one’s very first film, it must be a success (however that is defined).  As a result, filmmaking is one of the most conservative of the arts; filmmakers tend not to push boundaries or take risks narratively and aesthetically, as they and funders alike, seek the ‘success formula’. And so the same old stories, the same old way of telling stories, and the same old way of making films continues, as filmmakers orient their work to what they see being funded.

Be courageous – make what you want to make, NOT what you think the funders will like.

Under the current model, distributors and exhibitors take the lion’s share of the box office. It is a perverse but universally accepted investment/recoupment system, which is explained as ‘last in, first out’. With a feature film, to make any return whatsoever, you must be prepared to self-distribute.

Rialto: If you could pick one New Zealand actor or actress to work with, who would it be and why? 

There are many highly skilled actors whom we have loved working with, and would do so again. The challenge that actors and directors face in the New Zealand industry is lack of investment in rehearsal and character development prior to shooting.  In our feature Hook, Line & Sinker, we spent five weeks working with the actors prior to shooting, and with The Great Maiden’s Blush, three weeks.  And we are NOT rehearsing the script, but simply developing character.

As a result of this intensive work, we are able to shoot rapidly and economically because the hard task of developing character and performance has largely been done during the rehearsal period. 

Rialto: If you had to describe in three words the current state of the NZ film industry, what would they be? 

Stylistically conservative, Hollywood-obsessed, and dominated by bureaucracy

Rialto: What’s the last film that moved you? 

The Band’s Visit is one of our favourite films. We’ve watched it five times and it never fails to move us.

The Great Maiden’s Blush premieres  29th October on Rialto Channel

Q & A with Finola Dwyer for BROOKLYN

Posted on Wednesday 19/10/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin

BROOKLYN is a coming-of-age love story set in New York City in the 1950s. Based on Colm Tóibín's novel of the same name, adapted for the screen by author Nick Hornby and directed by John Crowley. Brooklyn stars the luminescent Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, a young woman who immigrates from her small hometown in Ireland to Brooklyn to build a new life. This charming and moving film was one of the darlings of the past awards season, and was produced by New Zealand born filmmaker Fiona Dwyer (An Education, Quartet). She kindly took the time to have a chat about Brooklyn, and life as a film producer. 


RC: Congratulations on the success you’ve had with Brooklyn, what are you proudest of about the film?

FD: It was a very personal story for me. It was my mother’s story to an extent; she came from Ireland to NZ in 1951 and missed Ireland terribly really all her life I would say. And then when I moved to London in the 90s I could understand what it was like for her. It was a very personal story, but I always thought it was very universal, so to option the book, get it made with such a great filmmaker as John [Crowley], and the fact it took us a few years from when I optioned the novel to when we were ready to make it.  Saoirse went from 15 to 20 so she became old enough to play the role. So there was a lot of stars aligning, and I just think we had very little money to make it, and I was extremely proud of the fact that we kept the bar high and it was really the film that I saw in my head from the get go. And then the fact it was commercial successful and audiences around the world related to it. That universality of how we all need to leave home and how you can never go back, and it’s different in every situation, but the fact it reached so many people. We make movies, tell stories and we want those films to connect with audiences.

RC: I can’t think of an immigration film that has a female protagonist, and the female perspective gives this film a beautiful intimacy and it felt like it was about the inner turmoil rather than the journey of just trying to make it.

FD: Totally, and I think that’s probably one of the reasons why it was hard to get it made and raise enough money - I didn’t just want to make a film, I wanted to make a really good film - and because people would read the script and go, ‘oh, you know, an immigration story’. And we’d say, ‘it’s never been told from the female perspective, we never had this story’, and [they’d say] ‘nothing really happens.’ But plenty was happening. It’s an intimate story in an epic landscape if you like; the world was epic around her what she walked into in Brooklyn. I think that’s why it did connect with audiences; on the page it wasn’t the easiest sell in the world.

RC: What was the biggest challenge – does it always come down to money?

FD: Well, it can be finding the right cast as well, and finding the right director. It’s not always money actually. There can be a lot of different factors, we didn’t have a lot to make it and it took me a while to figure out how I could make it and raise enough money, and where would we shoot as we wouldn’t be shooting at all in Brooklyn. Finding Emory Cohen who plays Tony took us quite some months actually. We cast Saoirse in February and didn’t really find Emory until September and we were looking at a lot of young guys and, because we cast her and she was on the younger side, we couldn’t have a guy like 30. We needed someone closer to her age. So, it took us a while to find someone who had all the qualities and the abilities as an actor to play that role.

RC: Does timing play a large part in pulling a film together?

FD: I think you need a lot of luck for sure, you can never take no for an answer and you keep pushing through. There are always a gazillion reasons why something can’t happen, but you keep going really and you have to have a lot of belief and perseverance that it’s going to come together when many people think it never will. It’s like, if I don’t believe in it, then I can’t persuade everybody else to believe in it and get in behind it. So belief is very important. And I never try and overthink it either, just keeping focused and keeping going is the most important thing, and try and pull something together.

RC: It feels like it came together so perfectly. I can’t imagine anyone other than Saoirse playing Eilis.

FD: Neither can we. And it was luck in a way because Nick Hornby who did the screenplay and is brilliant, we’d worked with him on An Education and we’re working with him again, he was like ‘you guys are taking so long’, but it was finding the right director. Then Saoirse’s agent rang me not long after John had come on board and he was like, ‘I know there’s someone else in the frame but you need to know Saoirse loves this book’, and I was like, ‘How old is she now?’ And then she was 18 coming up to 19 and when we filmed it was probably another year on from when he called me, a year and a half when we started filming, so looking back so yeah, she was 15 when I optioned the book. I remember looking it up and thinking, oh OK, she’s far too young and that’s never going to work. So when the day Chris rang me and said she’s nearly 19 I thought really? Has that much time passed? It was just perfect.  

RC: Do you have young actresses lining up asking you to get Nick Hornby to write them a part? He’s really good at it isn’t he – writing female roles.

FD: We don’t, but we should! They should be queuing up and knocking on our door for sure. He also wrote Oscar nominated Wild between An Education and Brooklyn, and we’re working on something else with him with another female in the lead – which is early days so I can’t say what it is  - but he can capture the female voice really well and it’s like an underserviced market. He’s like, there are all these fabulous actresses and people aren’t creating these great roles, so he thinks it’s just a win-win.

RC: My young hairdresser this morning was telling me she thought Julie Walters was one of the funniest people on earth – was she fun to work with?

FD: Oh she’s wonderful – she’s really, really wonderful, Julie. She such a pro, she is so funny and she’s doesn’t miss a trick. She’s a delight. She made Mrs Kehoe everything that was on the page and more. She’s just tremendous and she’s greatly loved.

RC: Out of all the Festivals and award shows this film has taken you to, which one was the most fun?

FD: Well the Oscars was the last and the Oscars is the pinnacle, and that was our second time there - we’d been there for An Education, and I don’t think we ever thought we’d be back again, and back again so soon. It was a real thrill. It was a great time the first time around, but ever more fun the second time around. I had George Miller and all the Mad Max: Fury Road guys sitting in front of me and that was really fun because I know him from a long time ago, and we were joking we were the antipodean corner in the room. It was the end of the journey as well. We’d been at Sundance the year before and has started shooting nearly two years before that, and we were all there together; John, Nick, Amanda (my producing partner), me and Saoirse. It was a great few days. Searchlight had done a tremendous job releasing it in the US and done a great campaign. And we’d won the BAFTA probably 2 weeks before. Each one was great fun and the BAFTA was very special because we weren’t expecting that – you never expect them, so that was fantastic. But the Oscar is like the ultimate and to be back there again… and lots of friends were nominated, and the Americans know how to do those shows like no one else somehow.


RC: How do you find projects – do you mostly source material yourself and then bring a team together, or do directors and screenwriters approach you with material?

FD: It’s a bit of a mix. I would say, with Brooklyn it was a friend of Colm Tóibín who recommended I read it. It was at dinner at my house, and he said ‘I think you’d like it’. And someone else was there and said, ‘I don’t think you’ll like Colm’s writing!’ And I read it and I did very much like it, but I thought about it for a long time because it is a very internal voice and how do you dramatise that?… I met Colm by chance and we just hit it off and he said, ‘other people are in negotiation but it’s yours if you want it’. Because it was such a personal piece for me it just kept happening right through the process on Brooklyn, things falling into place. They didn’t fall into place quickly but they fell into place, which helped us make the best version of the movie I think.

We tend to acquire rights, or come up with ideas, or Nick brings us things as well, and then with the film I am currently doing I was asked if I would like to produce it, which is rarer for me. But it’s an adaptation of a novel called Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf and it’s really beautiful and it’s a great love story and about loneliness, and it’s got Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, so it was really hard to say no to that. I found the director, and Robert’s a producer on it as well and we’re in our second week of shooting

After the long journey of Brooklyn, it was just great to go, there’s a window for these actors availability, you’ve got to find a director – is it possible? And 12 weeks later we’re shooting. Which is refreshing after the long drawn out journeys we go on. It’s energising to mix it up.


RC: How do you normally feel on the first day of a film shoot?

FD: Oh I hate the first day. Not that I hate it, but I’m always glad when it’s over. A lot of the crew feel the same, but I didn’t really realise that until this shoot, even though I’ve done so many. A lot of people saying, ‘How did you sleep last night?’ and you realise that most of the crew didn’t really sleep well as you think you’re going to sleep in or be late. It’s like first day at school - first day nerves. It usually takes a few days for everyone to settle in and get their groove. So the first day I am always glad when it’s over and you have it behind you. You have a sense of how it’s going to be after the first day.

RC: What’s the one aspect of producing you’re not so keen on, and which parts of the job give you a thrill?

FD: I probably don’t dwell on that stuff. Every stage you’re at is the most important stage is what I always say, whether it’s getting the script rights, pre-production, how you put it together, finding your director. I love post-production as I started in editing, and I still love post-production, it’s a great time. I’m sure there are plenty of parts of it I don’t always enjoy. But it surprises me, I think with experience you can keep on bringing more and more to the process, which I love, and Ritesh Batra who’s directing this [Our Souls at Night], who did this beautifully Indian film called The Lunchbox, and is superbly talented and it’s only his 3rd film and it’s great having that collaboration. But I also enjoy working with much more experience directors too, so you kind of bring different things to each film.

RC Which is what keeps it interesting isn’t it?

FD: Totally, and every story is different. They’ve all got different challenges and it’s never the same twice. Your cast is obviously going to be different from one film to another and they have quirks, foibles and demands. It’s different every time - it’s never predictable. Things come at you from left field and you go, I would never have seen that coming. So yeah, it’s good. I love it. I certainly can’t imagine producing if I didn’t enjoy it, if I lost it or thought I’m done with this you wouldn’t do it because it’s really, really hard work and it’s hard to make a good film. You have to be very focused and dedicated, but it’s good. 

BROOKLYN premieres on Rialto Channel on Saturday 22 October at 8.30pm

Francesca's Weekly Wrap Up

Posted on Monday 17/10/2016 October, 2016 by Francesca Rudkin
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