Andrea Bosshard and Shane Loader’s The Great Maiden’s Blush has its premiere at Wellington’s Embassy on 2 May and releases from 5 May. It’ll roll out to 50 cinemas nationwide over the following weeks.
Ahead of the release SCREENZ caught up with producer Jeremy Macey, who also produced Bosshard and Loader’s feature Hook, Line and Sinker.
The genesis of Blush (also titled Labour of Love, and Thigh of the Passionate Nymph after the French name for the Great Maiden’s Blush rose) lies in the last millennium, before Macey was working with the directors. Early in its life the project picked up some NZFC development support, but then went on the back burner as other projects moved closer to production. Bosshard and Loader released Taking the Waewae Express in 2008 and Hook, Line and Sinker in 2011.
Macey came on board Blush after the release of Hook, Line and Sinker. The NZFC gave Blush more development support and gave Bosshard and Macey support to take the project to Melbourne’s 37° South market. It raised interest from the market and private investment plus broadcaster commitments locally, but didn’t succeed in attracting NZFC production funding.
As they’d done with Waewae Express and Hook, Line & Sinker, the team decided to produce the film independently.
Shot in blocks during 2014 and 2015, it’s been making its way through post since. On the day Macey spoke to SCREENZ he and the directors were at Park Road Post to sign off on the DCP. As with most projects, lower budget ones especially, Blush needed to work around other people’s commitments once principal photography was complete. Macey was quick to praise Park Road Post for their help, not only at the final hurdle but earlier during the grade and sound mix.
Without offering spoilers, the story of Blush moves back and forth in time. It was shot in three main blocks, two for the past, one for the present, which – owing to other circumstances – turned out to be a good plan for unexpected reasons.
Cinematographer Alun Bollinger’s willingness to come on board was a gesture of faith the production appreciated tremendously.
“One of the great things about making film in New Zealand,” Macey said, “is that you get the chance to work with and learn from iconic veterans as well as giving opportunities to newcomers.”
Bollinger suffered an Achilles tendon injury prior to shooting, partially recovered and then aggravated it further, leading to him having to step down at the end of shooting the past sequences. After quite a bit of deliberation about who could replace Bollinger, Waka Attewell stepped in to shoot the contemporary sequences. The change of personnel worked well for everybody, Bollinger included as he was able to recover.
Blush also received the benefit of a number of interns, some of them students, some of them recent arrivals from overseas with a fair amount of experience. Among those were AD Elisa Pascarel, recently arrived from France when Blush was heading into production. After firsting Blush, Pascarel went on to Jackie van Beek’s Inland Road.
During the post-production of Blush, Macey’s also been working on ads and has been able to offer work to some of those who contributed their time and skills to Blush.
Moving backwards and forwards in time, unfolding the separate stories of the two main characters as it goes, Macey called Blush “a real editor’s film”. Annie Collins did that job, teasing out the information that supports understanding and the twists that keep it interesting.
While the actions that drive both women to the maternity ward where they meet involved men, the story and storytelling is very focused on the women, their characters and actions. Macey is proud that they team has been able to tell a fairly complex story about a couple of fairly complex women, and hopes that (as well as being enjoyed in its own right) the film will encourages more female filmmakers to tell the stories that are important to them.
Worldwide, there’s been plenty of discussion about diversity and opportunities for women over the last year or two. Earlier this week the NZFC announced the Gaylene Preston Director’s Scholarship.
Macey noted that there haven’t been many NZ features with more than one female lead. Dana Rotberg’s White Lies is a recent examples, and one might also make a case for Gerard Johnstone’s Housebound.
The May release date chosen for Blushwas one that worked well for Hook, Line and Sinker. It’s after the school holidays, before the NZIFF, the weather’s cooling down, although this year there’s an unusually large number of local titles also on release in May.
The NZIFF-premiered Orphans & Kingdoms and notes to eternity are both returning to cinemas, the former now under way and the latter opening a week after The Great Maiden’s Blush. 25 April has just opened and, given its performance to date, Hunt for the Wilderpeople won’t be closing any time soon.
Blush isn’t only playing public performances. As with Hook, Line & Sinker, the team has been able to arrange screenings for Blush in partnership with other organisations with an interest in the subject matter. Mostly, given Blush’s subject-matter, those are organisations with a focus on women’s issues.
There’ll be a screening next week at a conference in Wellington on maternal mental health. Organisers of that conference have drawn the attention of their colleagues in Canada to the film, which might give it its first overseas trip. There are also screenings to fundraise for breast cancer survivors dragon boat teams.