Stars come out to shine for premiere

Nelson-born film director Tony Simpson put his “baby” out there, and got ongoing applause and kudos in response.

Nelsonians and out-of-town celebrities, including children’s television veteran Jason Gunn, turned out in style for the much-anticipated Kiwi Flyer premiere.

A packed Theatre Royal was privy to the first screening of the feelgood family film inspired by the Nelson Trolley Derby.

Kiwi Flyer was shot in Nelson last year and features about 30 Nelson cast members alongside actors Vince Martin, Dai Henwood, Tandi Wright and Auckland youngsters Edward Hall and Tikirau Hathaway.

The invite-only premiere started just after 7.30pm, but Nelsonians came out in force from 6pm to see the actors and Mr Simpson arrive in cars from the World of WearableArt and Classic Cars Museum, as the City of Nelson Highland Pipe Band played.

Kiwi Flyer is about a 12-year-old boy, Ben, who sets out to win the local trolley derby in memory of his father.
He learns about life along the way, confronting cheating Australian opponents, dodgy loan sharks and a mother who has banned him from racing.

The film’s $1.1 million budget includes funding from the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand on Air, the Nelson City Council and a top-up from Nelson investor group Venture Accelerator Ltd.

The premiere received sponsorship from the city council-funded Nelson events marketing and development programme.

Mr Simpson announced before the screening the film had been bought by a United States company, which would distribute it worldwide.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said the exposure Nelson, or “the trolley derby capital of the universe”, would get from Kiwi Flyer would be similar to that of a “multimillion-dollar marketing campaign”.

Mr Miccio said Kiwi Flyer was “fantastic” and a film both children and their parents could enjoy.

‘‘It reminded me of the films we had when I was a kid, ” he said.

Mr Miccio’s 8-year-old daughter Claudia said Kiwi Flyer was “really funny” and “cool”, and she liked the different characters.

Mr Simpson said the film was “a collaborative beast’’, made possible only with its sponsors, his co-writer Andy Gunn, producer Tim Sanders, and the support from Nelson city.

“The only thing I did was come up with the idea. I always thought, ‘If I was a kid, what would I like to see?’ It’s really about entertaining. I love being entertained myself,” he said.

Mr Simpson said a film premiere was like “bringing out your child”, and he appreciated last night’s positive response.
The film featured Nelson landscapes in abundance, as well as some product placement – like a jar of Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter and a Hot Rock Gourmet Pizza Pasta Bar magnet on a fridge.

Liz Woodall, who played ‘‘a hippy information lady’’ at Nelson City Council, said: ‘‘I thought it was wonderful. I thought Dai Henwood’s character was great.’’

Jane Winter, of Soundstage, plays the trashy matriarch of the cheating Australian family that Ben comes up against in the derby.

Ms Winter said the movie was “beautiful” and “unpretentious”, and she was really proud of the young Nelson actors in it.

Hall, who plays Ben, said he had seen the film on a big screen before last night, but it was great to watch it with all the other cast members.

Nelson councillor Pete Rainey, who has one line in the film as a disgruntled van driver, said he “rehearsed it for weeks – and I think it took about 47 takes”.

Mr Rainey took his children to last night’s screening and said they loved it.

“We need more stuff like that, which is not full of special effects and people killing each other. It should be compulsory viewing for all Nelson school kids.’’

Nelson Trolley Club president Tim Bayley, who wore a trolley racing hat all night, said the film was “fabulous” and an amazing promotion of trolley derby. “There were all kinds of amazing characters in there ... and the best character was Nelson.”

Kiwi Flyer will be widely released by Rialto in cinemas throughout the country, including Nelson’s State Cinema, on September 27.