Highwic's life in films

19:40, Dec 19 2011
SPOOKY SET: The Naked and Famous lead singer Alisa Xayalith in the ballroom at Highwic where scenes for the music video for their song Punching in a Dream were filmed.

What do Rhys Darby, The Naked and Famous and a period drama about Katherine Mansfield have in common?

They have all used a historic house in Newmarket as a filming location.

Even if you haven't heard of Highwic House, chances are you have driven past it or seen it on TV.

PICTURE PERFECT: Highwic historic house visitor services co-ordinator Christiane Pracht.

It is hidden down a long driveway off Mortimer Pass and has proved a popular spot for filming.

Bliss, a period drama about Katherine Mansfield, was partially filmed at Highwic. The house was turned into the author's home for the shoot.

Filming for the New Zealand documentary series Frontier of Dreams also took place on the property.


Visitor services co-ordinator Christiane Pracht says even if you are not a history fan you will recognise the building.

"We do a whole lot of other things you wouldn't really associate an historic place with," Ms Pracht says. "We might be old but we're not stuffy."

The award-winning music video for Punching in a Dream by Auckland band The Naked and Famous was partially shot there last year.

The video shows lead singer Alisa Xayalith walking down the hallway, sitting by the ballroom window and lying in Highwic's bathtub.

However, the house was built in 1862 and has no hot water – so filming a bath scene in the middle of winter proved a challenge.

"We actually had to heat up water in urns so the poor woman wouldn't freeze," Ms Pracht says.

"Afterwards she was huddled next to one of the little heaters in the ballroom. I think she suffered for her art quite a bit."

If you're a Rhys Darby fan you may know the TV commercial where he is sitting next to a fireplace in a robe.

That scene was also filmed in the ballroom at Highwic.

Ms Pracht even managed to get an autograph from the comedian which reads "Keeping it old school" on a Highwic tea towel.

"He was in that very same dressing gown having lunch and I marched up with the tea towel," Ms Pracht says.

The building was also used for a ghost hunt in a recent episode of The Jono Project.

The ghost investigators took presenter Guy Williams along as they searched for ghouls in the house late at night.

While The Jono Project could not confirm the existence of ghosts in the house, they are not alone in wondering if the house is haunted.

"That is the most-asked question of our visitors when they have a walk through," Ms Pracht says.

"Personally I don't know. If we have ghosts they are really friendly – they haven't bothered me yet."

Highwic has also been used as a filming location by The Spacifics, Bic Runga, Goldenhorse, Burger King and Hell's Pizza over the years. Filming for a major international film featuring Hugh Laurie is also scheduled to take place at Highwic.

The property is open to the public from 10.30am to 4.30pm Wednesday to Sunday.

East And Bays Courier