'Comedic eco-drama' The Catch hopes to reel in the laughs

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The Catch's director Simon Mark-Brown describes it as a "comedic eco-drama".

An Englishman, a Scotsman, and a Maori man enter a fishing competition.

It sounds like the start of one of your uncle's jokes, but in fact it's the plot of a low-budget Kiwi film out this summer.

The Catch tells the story of Scotsman Brian (Nicol Munroe) and his best mate Wiremu (Tainui Tukiwaho) who get caught up in a cheating scandal at a local fishing competition.

Nicol Munroe plays a down-on-his-luck Scotsman in The Catch.

Nicol Munroe plays a down-on-his-luck Scotsman in The Catch.

Director Simon Mark-Brown, 56, based the plot on a newspaper story he heard at a dinner party ten years ago. A Northland man had been caught cheating in a fishing competition – he'd won $50,000 with a snapper that was three days old.

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"I just saw the comic potential of this guy trying to keep a fish alive for three days, that's the first image that I got," Mark-Brown says.

The Kaipara Harbour was the perfect location for The Catch.

The Kaipara Harbour was the perfect location for The Catch.

The Catch isn't just a film made for laughs, however – embedded in it is a message about overfishing.

Mark-Brown describes the film as a "comedic eco-drama".

He has been making commercials and documentaries with his production company, Republic Films, for more than 20 years, but this is his first dramatic feature-length film.

And there's a lot riding on it; the project is completely self-funded. In fact, if it wasn't for the help of a community in Kaipara Harbour in Northland, it might not have been made at all.

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Mark-Brown didn't always intend for the film to be set on the Kaipara, but when he visited a friend at Pahi, he realised he might have the perfect location. 

"I went up there on a recce and I had to find 'The Man' to make it all happen, and I found Gravy, the local fishing guide. 

"I got him on board and he was just brilliant, and it just escalated from then.

"So the moment I decided to make the film to actually making it was very quick – in two months, we just got it all ready and we shot it in ten days, which was kind of a miracle.

"It was full on, but I was paying for it myself, so I didn't want it to take too long."

Locals from Pahi and Paparoa were extras in the film. They loaned the crew their boats to shoot from, and even got behind the camera at times.

Mark-Brown held a screening of the film up there to thank the community.

The venue was a theatre that seated 140, but half an hour before the show was due to start, over 220 people had turned up. They had to screen the film twice to accommodate everyone.

"They've owned it, completely," Mark-Brown says. "I think that's the thing, is that New Zealanders want to see themselves on the screen, I think there's a sort of backlash to this Marvel big blockbuster s... all the time."

Kaipara Harbour will be fresh in the minds of many New Zealanders as the place where eight fishermen drowned trying to cross the sandbar at the harbour's mouth. In the wake of the tragedy, Mark-Brown is donating a portion of whatever the film makes to the Kaipara Coastguard.

He's set to tour the country with The Catch, attending premieres in theatres from Auckland to Dunedin from the 4th to the 14th of January.

"I'm hoping that the timing's good, people on holiday might want to take a break from the sun and the fishing and go and see the movie. It's a bit of a risky time of year to do it," he says.

Catch The Catch in select cinemas from January 5. 

 - Stuff

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