Waititi's next film will be 'funny and fun'

Taika Waititi on the set of his new movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Taika Waititi on the set of his new movie, Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Taika Waititi has been studying the classic 1980s films of Kiwi directors Roger Donaldson and Geoff Murphy and says he wants to rediscover the classic New Zealand cinematic style for his latest film.

Waititi, who is midway through shooting Hunt for the Wilderpeople, a dramatisation of Barry Crump's 1986 novel Wild Pork and Watercress, says New Zealand cinema has gone too dark and he's aiming to deliver something "funny as well as fun".

Films like Came A Hot Friday and Goodbye Pork Pie were his inspiration when he began work on Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which tracks the relationship between an old-and-young couple of runaways, played by Sam Neill and rising star Julian Dennison (who most recently shone in family movie Paper Planes).  "I grew up with those films and to me, that is the quintessential New Zealand style of film-making," says Waititi, who says he's adopted what he calls a "very old style" as homage to Donaldson and Murphy.

"We're trying to do something accessible to everyone: we want this to be a film that families can go to and there's something for everyone," says Waititi.

"We want to spin a good yarn and have an adventure – and start a resurgence of entertaining New Zealand films, those adventure films like Came a Hot Friday and Goodbye Pork Pie – films where people are fighting against the system but in a fun way. We've lost a bit of that in our filmmaking, we've been really dark and trying to be quite arty, and go to Cannes [Film Festival]."

After three weeks in Ohakune, shooting scenes in the Kaimanawas and the Central Plateau, filming will finish with a spell in West Auckland before a potential release date in the first half of next year.

While it's a brief shoot, to save budget, it's a project that's been long in the gestation.

Waititi thinks he wrote his first draft in 2005, as a "writer for hire" before he went off to make other films (most notably, of course, Boy and What we do in the Shadows) before buying the rights when the previous producer's deal expired.

He'd never read the book before being handed the original gig (he re-read it two weeks ago to refresh his memory), but says: "It's a quick read and really engaging and I recommend it to everyone. It's so entertaining, quite beautifully written and profound.

"Everyone thinks Barry Crump was just a hunting man but his writing is actually very good. It's simple, and I don't mean simple as in not having any substance, but a minimalist style, straight to the point.Hemingway also had a minimalist style and that's the kind of writing I like: not flowery and over the top, but straight up. There's something for everyone there."

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