Peter Butler’s (mostly) Golden Bay-set doco Finding Boomer has been selling out its screenings at Nelson’s State Cinemas since opening there a couple of weeks ago.
The film is Butler’s first, although his partner Anna Hickman is a longtime filmmaker, with a solid body of documentary work for charities and not-for-profit organisations, examples of which are on her vimeo channel.Finding Boomer is a journey to try to discover the whereabouts of a Golden Bay character, Boomer Daily, known in the 1980s for “his success in the bedroom with a succession of local (mostly married) women”.
Butler’s an author so he’s familiar with constructing a narrative thread, if not necessarily a persuasive argument. When Butler pitched the idea of making a film about Boomer to Hickman, her response was a pretty flat no.
Butler set off down the road to find Boomer about three years ago and bringing on board Dunedin-based friend and filmmaker John Irwin.
Putting together the story by interviewing people who’d lived in the area at the time, they found plenty of people who remembered Boomer and had tales to tell. Most of the men interviewed were interested in recounting the subject’s more macho exploits “like what he had tattooed on his cock”. By contrast, the women’s perspectives were more layered and interesting.
“The folk who lived in Golden Bay (in the 1980s) were a very open bunch,” Butler explained. There were, he suggested, a lot of people living in country areas who were “not well suited to city life”. His 2011 collection of short stories Gravel Roads features a number of such characters in tales Butler describes as “rural noir”. Some of the characters of Finding Boomercertainly fit that description.
Without spoiling too much, Boomer left something of himself behind when he quit Golden Bay over 25 years ago, which helps give the story shape.
About 18 months ago, Butler had his first rough assembly. Since then, he’s been sharing it with friends and family, refining, sharing it some more and – as is often the way – completed it only a few days before the premiere. There’s nothing’s as a good as a screening date to stop filmmakers from tinkering.
The film has been selling out its daily screenings, and is about to enter its third week at Nelson’s State Cinemas. Butler was concerned that some of his interviewees, people he’s known for many years, wouldn’t be happy with the finished film but the response has been very positive.
So, has Butler got the filmmaking bug? Down the phone you can hear him writhing. “Weeeeeeellll…
“Some of it was awful when we were doing it,” he said, “and it goes on and on.” Those were all the discoveries a first time filmmaker makes – how long everything takes, how many goes around editing takes, that a grade isn’t only an exam result, and that it all costs money even at mate’s rates.
But yes, he’d do it again. His partner Hickman reckons a couple of the Gravel Roads stories have screen potential, so Butler’s looking at adapting those. For now, though, the positive responses to Finding Boomer have encouraged Butler to seek opportunities to screen the film beyond Golden Bay.
For those within striking distance of Nelson, Finding Boomer is screening twice daily until (at least) 30 September at State Cinemas.