Eltham eases into movie madness

BY RICHARD WOODD
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2009
BRADLEY AMBROSE/Taranaki Daily News
ANVIL ARTISTRY OWNER ROB HARTWELL: "I didn't talk to them today but they were all over the place."

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Moviemakers are wasting no time preparing to shoot a feature length film of Ronald Hugh Morrieson's novel Predicament in South Taranaki.

Director Jason Stutter and producer Susan Rogers from Midnight Productions are already in the area.

They were in Eltham yesterday studying and photographing buildings and street scapes and talking to building owners in the Bridge and Stanners Sts heritage area.

Predicament publicist Sue May said they were "looking around, doing early planning for the film".

The town is buzzing with the news, revealed in yesterday's Taranaki Daily News, that the filming is scheduled for seven weeks in July-August, in and around Eltham and Hawera.

It will be Eltham's second involvement in a Morrieson movie. A fairly large amount of Came A Hot Friday was shot here in 1984. Locals enjoyed that experience and they're keen for a repeat.

But heritage building owners aren't counting the dollars yet, particularly as they were made all sorts of false promises two years ago by now bankrupt film company Fat and Thin Productions about the Charles Upham story that went down the gurgler.

Mark Bellringer, who owns The Bank (former BNZ) with his partner retro retailer Barbara Valintine, says he is still feeling "a little jaded" from the last one.

"A couple of guys came late last year and said they were doing a movie. We didn't take a lot of notice at the time because we've heard it all before. But it looks like this one is going to happen because the director and producer were here all morning today.

"However, I'm wondering why are they only just checking the place out when they're starting to film in a month? They told us they might want to use The Bank, but this is a thriving business, how long could we afford to be closed? I guess we'd be available if the price was right. Maybe we'll get a new coat of paint out of it."

He and others said owners of buildings used in Hot Friday were suckered-in by promises of new paint jobs after the filming ended, "but it was a slap dash job that soon peeled off and I'm sure we won't let that happen again."

The Coronation Hotel was a key building in that movie and was painted red and green for it. The hotel has since been beautifully repainted in Speights brand livery. Co-owner Steffy Mackay has heard the stories from 1984 and she says it will be staying that way, unless the movie company allows her to choose her own painters.

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Johnny Schneller, 77, was a regular at the bar in 1984 for Hot Friday and he's still a regular, though no longer working at Riverlands.

He vividly remembers buying a beer for Friday star Peter Bland and how the producers built a mock billiard saloon across the street and then set it on fire.

"It was all done with flames coming out of gas pipes but it looked so real," he said. "If they want me in this movie I'm available."

Rob Hartwell, of Anvil Artistry, said movie company representatives came to see him last year and said they might want to paint the building.

"I said that was okay as long as it didn't cost me. I didn't talk to them today but they were all over the place."

Heather Fyfe who owns Decodence, says Eltham will welcome and embrace the film project. She's a costume designer and supplier with a lot of theatre and a little movie experience and is looking forward to extra business.

"I wasn't here this morning but someone told me people from the production company were saying which buildings would be painted and one would be a saloon and we'd be compensated if the street had to be closed for three days," she said.

"It's good they've been doing some public relations work, putting us in the picture as it were."

- Taranaki Daily News

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