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The Rehearsal

As The Rehearsal opened here following its NZIFF screenings, SCREENZ was lucky enough to get an interview with producers Bridget Ikin and Trevor Haysom in Canada, where the film was playing at the Toronto International Film Festival.

SCREENZ: How did the project get started?
Bridget Ikin: Alison (Maclean) sent me a copy of Eleannor’s book to read early in 2011. We’d been looking for an NZ novel to work on together for a while, so we were happy to find this book.

We both thought it had a lot of potential so my company, Hibiscus Films, optioned the rights in 2011.

S: What was it about the story that originally appealed?
BI: The fertile material of kids at that time of their lives when identity is fluid, and when power relationships are still potent.

Alison Maclean and Eleannor Catton

Alison Maclean and Eleannor Catton

S:Who joined the creative team at what stage?
BI: Initially it was Alison and I. Then Emily (Perkins) joined as Alison’s co-writer, as Alison wasn’t keen to write solely. Then Trevor came on as the NZ producer. We had at one time thought the film could be an Australia-NZ co-production, but in the end it made more sense to conceive the film as a wholly NZ film.

It’s an instinctive process, seeking out the flesh for the bones of the project. It’s like cooking. Each person increases the flavour of the developing brew. You feel your way, talk to people, try to be attentive to where the gaps are, and fill them with appropriate people.

Trevor Haysom: Bridget, Alison and I go way back. I was the associate producer on Alison’s Crush, which Bridget produced. I was able to secure the initial NZFC development money for The Rehearsal. As we progressed with development it become more apparent that there were not enough Australian elements to structure the film as a co-production.

S:At what point in the process were lead cast confirmed?
BI: Kerry Fox was the first – then James Rolleston, and Alice Englert, then all the rest. We were very lucky to work with Tina Cleary and Miranda Rivers as the casting directors.

S:How did you find a path between lampooning the very low-hanging fruit of drama schools and making that world credible for a broader audience?
BI: That’s Alison for you. A commitment to the authenticity of that world and a distinct vision for how to present it; and also Emily’s experience, having been to drama school herself.

Michelle Ny and Kerry Fox

Michelle Ny and Kerry Fox

S: How did you take the decisions about how to present the relationship between Victoria (Rachel Roberts) and tennis coach (Erroll Shand)?

BI: The Intention was to imply that the sexual impropriety may have started when Victoria was 15, which is why it’s being investigated. She’s 16 in the story now.

We were keen not to make too much of that story but, in as simple a way as we could, to chart the passage of the legal process as it affected our primary story – that of the drama students ‘using’ that story.

S: How has the accident involving James Rolleston impacted on your plans to promote the film?
BI: It’s been so terrible for James. We had hoped to involve him hugely in the publicity for the NZ release, but that’s not to be. Instead, Alison, Emily and key cast members are doing more to promote the film.

Alison Maclean’s The Rehearsal

S: How are sales/discussions going in Toronto?
BI: It’s early days, and too early to share anything, but responses have been very encouraging. But we all know it’s a very tough market these days.

S:Are any of you doing any non-Rehearsal business in Toronto?
BI: Trevor is.
TH: I have two projects at various stages of development. It was a good opportunity to catch up with a few sales agents and executives for various government funding bodies – NZ is such a long way from the major markets.

S:Are any of you collaborating on other projects going forward?
BI: Not yet, but who knows …
TH: Making films is a very intense process and challenging for relationships. Fortunately we have come out the other side with friendships intact.

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