Below Academy Award nominee Taika Waititi shares a scene from his follow-up to “Eagle vs Shark,” “Boy.” The New Zealand coming-of-age comedy opens theatrically in America this Friday, after becoming the highest-grossing New Zealand film of all time overseas. The film premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.
I never wanted to be a filmmaker, I had other dreams, it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this. I had grown up wanting to be many things; a maverick fighter pilot (preferably named Maverick), a time-traveler, even a ghost who does pottery. To my parents’ delight I eventually settled on art. I concentrated on painting and experimented with other mediums; photography, music, acting, writing. In the end I found a medium that covered all of these interests – film.
My first film came about through a mild depression, resentment at being cast in a terrible television show where I played an exotic dancer named, something I can’t even remember. It wasn’t very fun and the only challenge was staying awake. But it was on that show that I had the realization that I wanted to tell my own stories about people who didn’t dance for money, stories about normal people who, through whatever it is they do, make this world seem like a more amazing place.
So I wrote a script, actually it was more like 15 pages of non-stop dialogue set in the voices and lingo of rural kids from remote part of New Zealand where I had grown up. These pages eventually became a short film called “Two Cars One Night,” which went on to be nominated for an Oscar. After that, I was encouraged by many people, to make more films and make writing/directing my job. So I agreed to have a job and started writing the script that would become my second feature, “Boy.”
The idea for “Boy” came from wanting to tell a truly New Zealand story, for, and about my countrymen. It was supposed to be a love letter to the remote and rural depths of Maori communities, and how growing up in these places is an incredibly rich and unique preparation for just about anything. The film is set in 1984 on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. I decided that in order to make something authentic I needed to take the production home. So we decided to shoot in the small town I grew up in, a place called Waihau Bay. It’s a small community, I’m related to most of the few hundred residents and life is simple. There’s only one store which doubles as the gas station and take-out joint and post-office, one pub, no cellphone coverage, and about two computers. I can’t remember which one has the internet. So to bring a film and crew to this remote location was not only hard work but was also a kind of culture shock to the community. It wasn’t a huge production but we had enough people to quadruple the pub’s nightly patronage.
There was something quite relaxing about shooting at home too. A lot of my family were employed in the production, we had huge community support, and throughout the entire 8 weeks we felt very looked after by whoever was floating about in the air around us. We never ran into major problems, apart from the night that a drunk uncle tried to shoot one of my actors, but it was late and people weren’t thinking straight – they made up in the morning.
In the end, the shoot-wrap and final exit of the crew seemed to leave a hole in the community, and not the kind you’d expect from a film production. Everyone had become close, bonds and friendships had been secured, the crew was considered family and now they were missed. A lot of the crew continue to visit the town and those original friendships still last. On most productions, people turn up to set just to get through the day – it’s work. I felt on Boy that we were like-minded collaborators, hanging out each day with some sort of common goal, that we happened to be getting paid for.
I don’t think I’ll ever have an experience like that again, which is a shame, because there’s no better way to create something than with people you love.
The scene you’re about to watch / are watching / have just watched, is from early in the film where the main character, Boy, meets his father Alamein, for the first time. Alamein has been in jail for the last 6 or so years and is trying to compensate for his absence with his own lame version of a fireworks celebration. He then goes on to show how adults can compete with kids because it’s an easy way to make yourself feel like a winner. This is an awkward scene between the three main characters who have along way to getting to know each other.