The Kiwi film out now you probably haven't seen
Thu, 24 May 2012 7:37a.m.
By Dylan Moran
There is a New Zealand movie out right now you probably won’t see - but you should.
The Most Fun You Can Have Dying is the culmination of seven years' work by director Kirstin Marcon, but after finally finishing the project unfortunate timing, at the box office competing against Hollywood blockbusters such as The Avengers and Battleship, has left the film in limbo - unable to be promoted, unable to compete.
“To generate the amount of attention you need to get people to actually go and see a film, is kind of difficult," she says. "Usually it involves TV advertising, radio advertising and we didn’t do any of that,” citing a lack of budget and struggles to attract a broadcaster who was willing to advertise a film based on such a subject.
TMFYCHD deals with a sensitive topic, telling the story of Michael (Matt Whelan), a young male from Hamilton with terminal cancer.
Michael is given a choice: he can die, or undergo a procedure with a 10 percent chance of helping him survive the cancer. The catch is the procedure costs $200,000.
With the help of his town, Michael gets the money – then takes off to Europe to live out the little time he has left, leaving behind his father and best friend David (Pana Hema Taylor), and finding love at his lowest point.
The film has polarised reviewers, averaging around three out of five stars among the main news outlets.
One problem reviewers raised was the lack of development of the character Sylvie, played by French actress Roxanne Mesquida (Rubber), the main romantic interest for Michael.
“A lot of reviewers found her really frustrating… it’s quite heartbreaking, but I think sometimes women are looking for a love story," says Marcon. "The real love story is between David and Michael, and it’s intended to be – but of course it’s never going to be sold in that way. It’s not a bromance, I think it’s a bit more subtle than that.”
The failure to attract positive reviews has also contributed to its struggles, as the project relies on word-of-mouth to get audiences. A lack of buzz is a catch-22 in the business world in which movie theatres operate - a lack of crowds means a film won't be shown for long. A film not being screened will not be seen to generate hype to get crowds. So Marcon has put a lot of personal importance on needing good reviews.
“A film that’s got a lot of marketing money behind it, like a Hollywood film, reviews don’t really make much difference because people get pulled in by the marketing,” she says.
“For a film like us it does make a difference. Because we’ve got no real marketing, reviews do count as marketing and that’s one of the only ways you poke through the noise.”
The bulk of the film is set in Europe, so Marcon’s crew had to employ the number-eight wire mentality New Zealanders are famous for over the 10 days they spent shooting exterior shots on location.
“We shot on five trains and one aeroplane, all illegally,” she says. “What we’d do with the trains is we’d just wait until nobody was looking, we’d put sentries at the end of carriages to make sure none of the official people were coming, and then we’d just quickly shoot.
“It was really hard on the crew and everything, but quite fun.”
Some of the location shoots also required a lot of creative thinking.
“There’s a scene in the Milan train station, right at the end of the film. Michael’s very close to dying, and he walks into this beautiful sunlight… we did that shot probably 10 times to do it right, and we weren’t allowed to shoot there. There were all these security guards patrolling the perimeter of the train station, so we just had to wait til they were down one end and quickly do the scene,” she says.
Another pivotal scene involves Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, a location Marcon had not originally planned to film.
“I just assumed to even consider shooting a scene there would just be so completely inappropriate, but we were actually 200m up the road shooting… and our German gaffer said to us [we should shoot there],” she says.
“The German people are very proud of the monument because it’s a symbol of their apology... They’re really proud of it because it means something to them.”
There were some complications shooting the scene however.
The memorial is situated right next to the American Embassy, which jams radio signals - leading to complications with the crew’s microphones, but those problems paled in comparison to the armed guards just meters away.
“The German police said we were allowed to film in there, but the Americans were patrolling with machine guns and really suspicious of us. We had these people waiting to shoot us if we even put a foot wrong.”
Marcon was originally inspired to make a film while working as an advertiser after “a really bad day”.
“I just thought, ‘Damnit, I’m going to make a film come hell or high water.’”
After struggling to write several scripts, Marcon stumbled across Steven Gannaway’s novel Seraphim Blues.
“He actually worked in Tracs in Hamilton for nine years, so we recognised each other… I realised that I’d bought music off him several times when I was young. He was like this surly record store guy who despised everyone for their taste in music,” she says.
She was unafraid to alter several plot points of Gannaway’s novel, some minor, some major, so even those who read the book will experience something new.
One of her minor changes sees a shift away from cellphones and laptops.
“The whole novel is a computer diary he’s writing. He goes on this big trip and the whole time he’s keeping a computer diary. So right at the end of the novel he goes ‘send’ and he sends it and then dies. But I just thought you don’t run away to the other side of the world and take technology with you.”
Marcon is hopeful of an international film festival release, where it may find a more appreciating crowd. Until then, she is working on a new project – which she is keeping close to her chest, other than revealing it is a horror/comedy.
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