Kiwi Space Patrol yet to lift off

Last updated 05:00 20/05/2010
Super Awesome Mega Battle Tank

CULT MISS: Actors Bill O'Byrne, playing sous chef Bill, Cormac Cossar (Gunner Gossamer) and Alex Tashkoff (Uber Commander) prepare for the filming of the next episode in their Boulcott St studio.

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The Wellingtonian

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A microscopic-budget science fiction film shot in a Wellington basement has yet to set the internet on fire.

Writer and director Bill O'Byrne said he and fellow amateur actor Cormac Cossar conceived the idea for the Super Awesome Mega Battle Tank serial film over lunch about a year ago.

It is a 13-episode movie about the inept three-man team from the Kiwi Space Patrol on a mission to recover a stolen New Zealand battle tank.

The crew – cooks and cleaners mistakenly rostered on for the mission – are played by O'Byrne, a journalist, Cossar and Alex Tashkoff, both information technology people.

The comedy is shot mainly on weekends in a disused part of the pre-press department of The Dominion Post.

A new scene is posted every Monday on the website with content warning for the "occasional use of the f-word and general puerility".

O'Byrne took some misplaced inspiration from American musician Jonathon Coulton, who has carved a career on the internet. Simply by posting quality material regularly on the internet over a period of time, he has built a substantial following.

"I was listening to an interview with him," said O'Byrne. "They were talking with him about how he had developed a career.

"One of the people made an observation that the internet is a real meritocracy, that if you put something on it and it's good enough, and you do it for long enough, you will build an audience."

Kiwi Space Patrol was the opposite side of the equation and the internet was the litmus test, he said.

Analysis of the web hits has shown a 38 per cent decline in viewership per week from a peak of "barely 300" as the eight episodes to date have gone on line.

"Learning your craft in public is not very helpful and I do hesitate to call it a craft," he said.

Although Super Awesome Mega Battle Tank was "a relatively cheap pile of crap", he thought there would be at least 500 people in the world who would be so bored every Monday morning at work they would take four minutes to get a cheap laugh or two.

"Sadly, I underestimated the threshold of boredom for almost everyone on the entire planet."

A bigger audience "would have been nice", said O'Byrne. "But, when we look back, it is terrible crap. I am proud of it, but we realise our limitations."

It took a year for O'Byrne and Cossar to build the set, and accumulate the props – used gaming controllers and car seats from Trade Me. The best part of the whole production was the uniforms made by Toi Whakaari costume design graduate Gemma Crouch-Gatehouse, O'Byrne said.

"It was always designed to be shot with three people and one crew member. It was just something to do," he said.

"We were going to do it so we could set the camera up and there would be as little movement as possible.

"We didn't even know how to do green-screen or computer modelling work, or anything else."

Check out the super awesome mega battle tank at

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- The Wellingtonian


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