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Lonely Planet has recently declared Wellington one of the best top 10 cities in the world and “The Coolest little Capital in ther World.”

This has out done such iconic cities as New York, Paris and London. Naturally, a number of New Zealanders who like polling on Stuff’s polls have claimed that this is a silly assertion.

It has become a part of the NZ psyche of pragmatism that anything seen as a positive can’t possibly be that good and we shouldn’t get our hopes up. It’s an odd mentality given that this country actually has a lot to crow about, we just seem to have it ingrained into our national identity that we shouldn’t.

The reality is that because we live here, we tend to take what makes Wellington and this country for granted.

To me one of the key things is that NZers are often awed by the cacophony and civilisation of larger cities because we just don’t see it here. New York, to the NZer, is an exotic and monolithic monster of a city that is always moving and always bustling. There are sights we never see at home, and so much mad variety that it can astonish at any given moment.

So naturally its difference would make NZers rate it as an amazing city – and it is.

But Wellington has a different wonderment to it. When I first came to Wellington what impressed me is the blend of nature and urban. This is what inspired the Winding City for me. Wellington entwines itself into and around its environment. Where Paris, London and New York are examples of civilisation triumphing over their landscapes; Wellington’s Town Belt and coastlines still retain some of their primal geography. Houses peek out from behind green veils, roads precariously wind up the hillsides, hugging the natural shape of the hills. Tunnels drive through hillsides still covered in native foliage, and you can one minute be in the urban centre, then in a suburb with colonial style houses the suddenly be in the middle of a small natural valley with only one or two houses visible before turning a corner and suddenly plunging back into urban sprawl.

The restaurants are multiple and varied, full of interesting and often friendly people. Yet there is space to breath. Walking down Lambton Quay and having room to move and see the tall buildings which are almost a time capsule I themselves. One is an old building from the early 1900s, a 60s building next door and further along a new 00s style structure. Framing these is the looming greenery of the Town belt.

Maybe it’s NZ’s slow pace. While busier than its island neighbours, we still move at a laconic pace compared to the greater cities of the world. While there are those NZers who don’t find this pace appealing – and this slow pace does lead to people picking at smaller issues – it is partially this pace that makes us so appealing to people from the great cities NZers adore.

The wonder of our beaches and natural landscape that is always a short journey from our urban centres. Dramatic mountains, great oceans and primal forests.

I genuinely feel New Zealand is the greatest place to live as a landscape. I also feel that we, as a nation, need to forge a new identity that is better in line with the country we live in. An identity built on the harmony between our natural landscape and our cities. Our technological development and our agricultural development. We should embrace our many cultures and the shared pride in a country that should encourage calm and contemplation but also inspiration and adventure.

Our nation has been suffering recently from drinking problems, violent crimes, domestic abuse and suicides. Our pragmatic identity seems to be to just accept these things as inevitable. Yet we live in a landscape of beauty and serene yet awesome sites. We should be inspired by our landscape, be proud of our cities and return to the unity that this country once believed it was founded on. We have struggled with this, and will continue to do so – but we should not be wasting time trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We already have one of the best living conditions and have some of the best cities to live in worldwide. Screw the Joneses. Let’s forge our own destiny, our own identity that the Joneses will be racing to keep up with us.

We should embrace educational, social, technological and ecological development. A recent study showed that even with our problems, NZ has a better level of education per person than many western nations. We were once known as an inclusive secular nation that was one of the first to give women equal voting rights. We once were at the forefront of invention. And because of our close relationship to our natural landscape we are uniquely placed to combine those others strengths to produce new technologies that will help less ecologically responsible nations reduce and possibly reverse the damage to their countries.

But first, we need to stop thinking we can be like Australia or the US. We need to stop thinking we need to give foreign interests carte blanche to plunder our resources. We need to be different and think outside the box.

We will need foreign investment, but it needs to be wisely managed and pursued correctly. We need to embrace the skills of those who have them regardless of that person’s ethnicity, gender or preference.

I’m not proposing we become communists, but that we try new ideas.

I love New Zealand. I love Wellington. I also think that this country has a lot more to offer the world than we have allowed ourselves too. We need to stop being pragmatists and become optimists.

Come on New Zealand! We earned the accolades, let’s enjoy them and be inspired by them!

Conan

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Tania's logo design

Tania's logo design

No I’m not talking about an old fashioned program what used a little icon that drew in straight lines, but the logo has been designed by Tanya! Yay! Hope you like it. We had considerable discussion about it.

 

Nick C. and I are slowly developing the storyline for the proposed second series already – as I have probably mentioned before, the goal here is to be ready in the event that The Winding City is popular enough that we can get some funding to make a second series.

Based on the notes so far, the second series is going to be considerably longer, and will involve some more elaborate scenes.

I’m quite excited about what we are discussing and hopefully we will be making a move towards script writing soon.

Key points are looking into the relationships between Bram and Tama as well as Alethea and Kaj. We will also be exploring the city more, showing more of what its denizens do on a daily basis.

We will also start uncovering more of the cosmology, mythology and major plot.

I think you will be surprised with where this series will head – let’s hope we get to show it… 🙂

Conan

 

Rowan is marked up for Visual Effects

Rowan is marked up for Visual Effects

I would have posted yesterday if I hadn’t been so tired. Yesterday was our final big shoot for series one of The Winding City, and what a day it was.

 

I had, as usual, an insanely ambitious schedule planned – in excess of 11 minutes of footage to be shot over the course of the day, outside, with no lighting.

Just like Saturday, the Fates seemed to shine on us and provided excellent sunlight all day long. Of course this is both a blessing and a curse – as it can cause the image to blow out from there being too much light.

But after having watched through the dailies with Nick, we’ve found the footage to look pretty good.

We were EXTREMELY fortunate to have Phil on location again and helping with the fight scene – which came across amazing. Rowan looks suitably kick ass in the sequence, and once we have added some sound effects and background music, it is going to look incredible.

It helped that Phil is a professional fight choreographer and trainer, and a world master martial artist. He also is a very cool guy who is both patient and friendly. He made a great effort to remember everyone’s names and always made the cast feel at ease.

 

Rowan fighting the Masques

Rowan fighting the Masques

We had a number of extras this time who all ran and dodged and fell down – they had to spend a couple of hours sitting on blankets in the sun, but when we needed them to be on film, they definitely put their all into it.

 

Our main cast were, as always, brilliant. Given that this was probably the last time they would be working together on this project for a while it was really cool to be able to get the group together for one last time until the planned launch party.

Yesterday was another day that left me feeling like I was becoming more than an amateur film-maker, thanks to the input from professionals like Bernice, Rowan, Norman, Elliot, Kerina, Phil… At no point did I feel that we were some small group of wannabes making a vanity film – the whole day felt like a genuine professional project. It’s moments like those that I feel humbled rather than full of myself – because I have managed to gather genuinely talented people together to make something that is not some little forgettable project. This really felt like the real deal.

We had a lot of hikers, families and bikers stopping to watch the filming as well – and a lot of positive comments were made about Jackie’s costuming of the Masques – our villains of the piece. She did a fantastic job of designing creepy costumes – and the claws look incredible. 

I even had to ring the police to advise them that we were shooting a fight sequence, which was kind of cool – at that moment I felt like a real producer.

Of course, I worried all day about how everyone felt – that they were annoyed at me for keeping them around rather than letting them go, that kind of thing. But I was constantly being reminded that everyone was happy to be part of the project. Bernice has asked me to help with a project she’s working on – which I am already getting excited about – and Kerina told me that she would be keen to work on anything I did in the future regardless of the future of The Winding City.

 

Bernice, Kerina, Jenni, Dayle, Lynn and Angeline look on as the fight breaks out...

Bernice, Kerina, Jenni, Dayle, Lynn and Angeline look on as the fight breaks out...

 

 

Coming from professional and experienced people in the industry, that is an incredible compliment. Not only of my work on the Winding City as a script, but on how I’ve managed to put together the shoot and the series. As I noted before, I worry a lot about the mistakes I make and it helps to know that I have the talent to grow in this industry and have others confident in my ability. It has been this positive and practical reinforcement that has kept me going thus far, and is driving me to see this show through to the end.

It has also inspired me to start working on the second series of The Winding City now – just the initial treatments, no scripts just yet. I will have more than enough work to do with Post-production.

Something that I have learned that has been advised to me many times now is that you never can afford to be full of yourself. Film-making is  constant learning experience, and there is always something new to discover. I find it interesting to hear about those people in the industry who get cynical about their jobs and position – who kind of buy into their own self importance.

I hope that as I work on this project that I never get like that. While I may be one of the hardest working people on this project – that is solely because I have set that work for myself. Simply put, it takes everyones input to make a successful show. While some people may be the heart, others are the legs, the brains … you get where I’m going with this… 😉

Like I said, when I realise how professional this project has become since the early days when I was just going to do a small 7 minute piece with Gino, I feel humbled. Yes, I’m proud of what I have achieved, and how I have managed to bring it all together.

 

One of the Masques hangs out for a while

One of the Masques hangs out for a while

 

 

But that is because I have listened and learned from people like Dan, Norman, Phil – all the people who have patiently explained to me what needs to be done, how to do it. And also because of a little luck as well. Having a friend like Norman, with his contacts – managing to meet people like Bernice and Kerina who have been able to call on their contacts – Morgue, without whom I would never have met Dan who has been a major driving force behind my work and has been a constant source of positive energy, encouragement and professional advice…

That was what was going through my mind yesterday as we shot a lot of last scenes for many of our cast. The feeling and realisation that we are so close now to having the series in the can and now having a full FOUR EPISODES shot.  There is over four hours of footage on film. If we combine all four episodes is comes to almost over an hour of actual screen time once the show has been fully edited – maybe more!

It’s really exciting! Keep posted as I will be updating our progress now through the post-production and publicity phase. 🙂

Conan

Beware the attack of the Masques

Beware the attack of the Masques

Yet another day shot and wrapped. Today was an extra shoot that I was fortunate enough to have both Elliot and Nick agree to come in and shoot the majority of their remaining scenes. Our main goal was to get as much of their exterior’s shot as well as the scene that will hopefully be the “money shot” as Norman calls it.

 

This is our big reveal shot of the Winding City itself. We also had our first non-visual effect monster – a Masque – revealed. See the behind the scenes shot of Kent as a Masque… suitably creepy looking.

One of the worst things I found about planning exteriors is how much you are at the whims of the weather. All this week the forecast had been for rain, which had me worrying that we wouldn’t be able to get this crucial footage shot before Nick and Elliot became unavailable for the next three or so weekends.

As luck would have it, the day was beautiful with plenty of light. In fact, it was a bit too much light!

The next issue you face is sound. Let’s face it, when you are a small crew like ours, you can’t lock off entire streets for the shoot. Which means we must also deal with the public and other noisy intrusions. We had a number of occasions where a car, truck or motorcycle would drive by at the most inconvenient point imaginable. Fortunately the general public are less of a problem. We found most people to be remarkably considerate of our shooting, often patiently waiting for us to stop for the next shot before walking past.

Hopefully we weren’t too much of an inconvenience for people who were going about their daily activities.

Lee helps Kent adjust his mask

Lee helps Kent adjust his mask

 

 

My panic button did hit today though – with me panicking that Lynn and Kent weren’t going to show. Which meant poor Lynn was bugged by regular texts from me asking if she was still showing up!

Once Kent arrived, we had him dress up in the thick Masque costume – which took a little bit of fussing to get it looking right – but when we got there? It was fantastic.

After we finished our shoot – around 2pm – we then had Rowan, Kerina and Kent get some training from a fight instructor friend of Norman’s, Phil.

Phil was amazing, providing very helpful training for our actors and choreographing some very exciting looking fight scenes. I think people are going to be very surprised by the calibre of the fights for such a small project.

Kerina and Rowan practice for their big scene...

Kerina and Rowan practice for their big scene...

 

 

Tomorrow – we almost complete our principle photography!

Conan

I’ve talked before about the ever difficult balancing that is being a Producer on a volunteer project like The Winding City. While I don’t have a huge amount of experience in film-making, I have worked on television before, in a very minor capacity. Enough though to know how demanding an industry both TV and Film can be.

It is very rare for actors to get call sheets more than two days out from shooting, rehearsals often happen on the day of shooting, sometimes the cast haven’t even seen the episode’s script until the week before shooting.

Part of this is due to television’s tight turn around – episodes are often re-written after polls from the first episode, and even with a few months schedule advance on the screening episodes it is still a high pressure experience.

Film has some benefits – often actors get a read-through and some rehearsals in before shooting. But this can raise other scheduling issues, such as The Winding City is suffering.

I’m currently regretting the weekend shoot format I ended up with. I should have taken a full week out and shot the series in one hit like most other projects. Most other webshows do this – they shoot their episodes in one hit, then release them as they are edited.

This will definitely be my approach with the next project I do. Mostly because of the complexity of trying to schedule people. Already I need an actor to be available on Saturday to do some choreography training for a fight sequence, and he has only now advised me that he is unavailable – apparently having missed my e-mails for almost a week.

This puts me in a very difficult position now as I am now effectively short two trained actors.

I have had another actor advise that he can’t do an entire weekend because it is too much work to ask on top of everything else he has on his plate. Which I appreciate, I have been pushing the cast hard over the last two shoots – because I am aware of how much we need to get this into the can soon.

See, I have a lot on my plate at the moment too. There is something developing at work that I can’t really comment on yet, but it could see me under a LOT of pressure in about two months time and I want this show well into post by then. On top of this, I have to be looking for a new flat for Nick and I – which is a lot of work as it is – and now I have a possible medical condition to deal with too (most likely due to stress and dehydration.)

Sometimes it can get very frustrating trying to organise the show and feel that all I get is “I can’t/I wont/I didn’t…”

It’s not the reality, but the usual kind of sensation one gets when trying to organise large groups of people. I do often feel that many people don’t grasp how difficult it is to arrange these kinds of projects. As the director of the Nines said in an interview – being a showrunner is really a job that is logistically impossible for a single person to do. I know exactly what he means.

Essentially everything ends here with me. If we don’t have the right props. My fault. If an actor is not on set. That’s my responsibility. If we don’t have lights, catering, costumes, scripts – it all falls on my shoulders to organise. It is very easy to get frustrated, and I would be lying if after the last few days I have seriously contemplated just pulling the plug.

We are running out of days to shoot exteriors, and I am currently stressed about what to do if it rains next weekend as the two main actors are not available for over three weeks after. (And by time they are free, I really wont be in a position to manage such a large set of shots.)

But despite all this, when I watch projects like The Guild which started off not that much more than we have set out to do – and when I look over the footage we’ve shot… I know that I have see this project through to the end. Because when it is completed, it will be worth all the pain and hard work. But I also know that if I work on another season of The Winding City, it will be the last for a while. My next project is likely to be less visual effects heavy, or at least less complex a series.

One idea I’m working on should be still fairly visually challenging, but I will be aiming for shots all set in the real world rather than having to create an alternate reality as well. 🙂

I have included the behind the scenes video that I put together using iMovie ’09. (Which, by the way, is not as good as iMovie HD, which is a superior editing suite for a first timer. iMovie ’09 is a bit simplistic and lacks a lot of the useful tools for editing audio. (I found it very frustrating trying to get the audio balanced across the entire video as it was shot on two different cameras.)

In other news, I e-mailed The Guild crew for tips on developing a website for a webseries- hopefully they will come back with some good advice.

And here’s hoping that we have great weather next weekend and manage to get all the shots I need done. I just hope it works. I’m already having to look at ways to generate some more capital for next weekend as my medical bills will be cleaning me out tomorrow. As you can see, it never ends as Producer. There is always something else you need to worry about. 😉


 
Conan

So The Winding City is slowly moving forward as a project. I had a fantastic talk today with Stacey from Film Wellington, and arranged some permits for our next shoot. While I was talking to Stacey, a couple of things occurred to me.

Firstly, the next project I do will be a lot more organised. Don’t get me wrong, The Winding City Project has been organised and is far from the chaotic mess that some film projects have been. But I am making note of where I, personally, can improve my productivity. Permits and timelines. The next project – be it Winding City Series 2 or some other web production – will be a much tighter ship.

Which leads me to my second realisation today. I want to do this on a regular basis. I love the entire process, and if The Winding City can generate enough capital, I would like to leave my job and work on web shows or the like full time. Of course that is wishful thinking, but I will definitely be doing another project once The Winding City has hit the net. I have two series in mind, both are less ambitious in some ways and more ambitious in others.

Talking with Stacey has been very educational. It is interesting to hear how various film crews approach on location shooting. Many are professional and organised, others are film school students who seem to not realise that complexity of organising exterior shoots.

I have to admit, there is this desire to just get out there and shoot the piece – but due to the potential inconvenience and trouble to the public, you need to make sure your ass is covered. That’s kind of what permits are about – it’s about letting the council and public services know what you intend to be doing. Film Wellington does a great job of making sure you get suitable locations and support to ensure both a successful shoot and minimum hassle to the public.

It would appear that some crews believe that 25 people for a shot on a footpath is a small crew. But there are logistics that need to be considered – where are these 25 people going to be standing? What about public wanting to use a public walkway? How many cars? Are there going to be trucks? Who will be making sure nobody gets hit by a car?

We’re going to be facing these issues, and I have  a potential cast and crew of eight people at last count.

And I still haven’t finished organising exteriors… so much work and so little time. 🙂

Conan

Bram (Nick P) makes a point

Bram (Nick P) makes a point

Hooray! Another day of shooting completed. We have shot a large portion of episodes 1,2 and 3 now.

It is always an interesting feeling post shoot – there’s a sense of “I can’t believe it’s over” combined with “THANK GOD, it’s over.” Everyone once again put 200% into the shoot, and we got close to about 13 minutes of footage shot in one day.

I’m looking forward to checking the dailies to make sure that we got everything – and to ensure that we’re set for the next shoot. If one thing is important for next shoot, it will be a monitor.

 

Setting up the hallway scenes

Setting up the hallway scenes

 

I’ve included some behind the scene’s photos of the shoot – so feel excited, these are the first photos released to general public of the cast and crew working on the show.

Today’s shoot was primarily in the hall, kitchen and bedroom of our two main leads Tama and Bram. Whereas last shoot was all lounge party with fairly standard sitcom set ups, this shoot was much more a farcical style with several one take scenes with characters walking in and out of camera frame. One particular scene is nearly 3 minutes long and a single take – it was a grueling shoot and a huge demand on our actors. But I’m hoping we pulled it off – it felt like it on set, the dailies will show how well we made it work.

Special props have to go to Jenni and Kerina for their eccentric characters, Elliot for being up to his usual high standard despite suffering from sleep depravation (AGAIN!), Nick for keeping up with the crazier cast and managing to provide some great humour as well, Bernice for some great “Mary” moments – she pinches Nick’s cheek so hard he winces – and Norman for not only being our last minute Kaellos – but actually giving an excellent performance to boot.

 

Nick meets his biggest fan...

Nick meets his biggest fan...

 

 

Finally I have to thank Adam for showing up to be filmed being carried out with a shirt over his head! It’s a great thing to have someone willing to show up and sit around for such a shot – especially when you get dropped multiple times by your cast mates.

The great thing about doing these shoots is how much I am learning about making films – learning to plan out shots, discuss lighting issues, do walk-throughs, set up lights, handle boom operation…

For me, at least, this project is definitely fulfilling it’s intended goal to date – to help teach me about movie-making, get some quality experience and produce something that all of the people working on it can be proud of.

Now this is going to sound a bit full of myself, but the dialogue we shot today has definitely convinced me that I am on par with many professionally made NZ shows. I am lucky to have a cast who have made the dialogue pop and zing along – with many wonderfully funny moments that I am proud to have been the author of.

 

Read-through

Read-through

 

 

I am tired, drained and I feel GREAT! At this rate, we are going to have a truly awesome show and I am full of confidence that this is going to be a much talked about series when it goes to “air.”

Conan

 

Sarah (Jenni) and Tama (Elliot) take a break before the next scene

Sarah (Jenni) and Tama (Elliot) take a break before the next scene

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