by Lindsay Shelton
Dave Gibson’s new feature film production – a comedy about cannibals in Churton Park – opens tomorrow, on the same day that he’s speaking to a Rotary forum about the future of Wellington.
Danny Mulheron directed the movie. He’s also director of a new play which has just opened at Circa. But he couldn’t attend the play’s opening night, because he was representing the film at its world premiere in the Hawaii Film Festival. (Yes, film festivals can find a place for cannibal comedies.)
Dave and Danny are two impressive representatives of the diversity of Wellington’s creative community who more and more drive the beating heart of the city (I’ve borrowed that expression from the city council, which wishes it could claim credit for the heartbeat.)
Dave Gibson has been producing television and film in Wellington for more than forty years. From its offices in Courtenay Place, his Gibson Group creates international co-productions as well as local shows. It has even extended its activities into interactive visitor attractions for museums and galleries.
Danny Mulheron’s brilliant career has included acting, directing and writing for theatre, film and television. He was one of the writers on Peter Jackson’s second feature Meet the Feebles at the end of the 1980s; he also played Heidi the Hippo. In the same year he began working on comedy shows with Dave Gibson – starting with Public Eye and Skitz.
Their new production is a comedy horror tale about a gang of criminals who take a Maori family hostage, only to discover that cannibalism runs in the family. The synopsis is irresistible:
When the Tan Gang’s prison breakout goes violently wrong, they need a hideout in a hurry. Picking the Churton Park McMansion of a middle-class Maori family probably seems like a safe bet. But how are the Tans to know that this particular family have introduced some very old-fashioned cuisine to their dining room table? Will the Tans escape the trap, or is there gangster in the casserole tonight?
It’s written by Paekakiki screenwriter, poet and short story writer Briar Grace-Smith, and it couldn’t be more different from her usual work, which includes The Strength of Water which was about ten-year-old twins, one of whom was dead. “I was able to channel my inner teenage boy,” says the award-winning writer. “It was fun embracing but also refining the stereotypes of Maori characters … We have a middle-class Maori family, we have Hemi Crane an associate professor and his wife a celebrity chef. They were a fun family to deal with the cannabilism issue through.”
Dave’s Gibson Group made its first horror film in 2000. It was titled The Irrefutable Truth About Demons. Glenn Standring was the director and the film was a success – I sold it to almost every country in the world. The casting was impeccable – with Karl Urban in his first leading role, as a sceptic who is attacked by a weird satanic cult. Twelve years later, he’s back on Wellington screens in the title role as Judge Dredd, a big-budget international action thriller in which his performance has won critical approval.
The leading man in Fresh Meat is Temuera Morrison, whose international fame was established in 1994 with the fierce character of Jake in Once Were Warriors. He says he’s always been looking for a comedy genre role, and he’s a sort of “mad professor” in the new film.
All of which couldn’t be further removed from the lofty ambitions of
The Rotary Forum which coincides with the release of the cannibal comedy. The forum is to be chaired by veteran broadcaster Hewitt Humphrey, who’s president of the Rotary Club of Wellington. Speakers range from the venerable (Sir Geoffrey Palmer is giving the keynote address and talking about his experience as chair of the Regional Council’s local government review panel) to the youthful (Brittany Trilford from Queen Margaret College, Ben Guerin from Scots, and Rangimarie Teautama from Wellington East Girls’ College.)
Dave Gibson is on a panel that will talk about Options for Wellington, what do we want? The other panellists are the former KiwiBank CEO Sam Knowles, the recently-appointed Wellington city missioner Susan Blaikie, and environmental activist Wayne Alexander.
But Dave is the sole representative of the creative community among the twenty speakers at the the Forum. There seems to be something of an imbalance, when Wellington is recognised for the achievements of its creative community. Will this skew the promised “call to action” which is to follow eight hours of talking?
The forum will be over by 5.30. Leaving time for all the delegates to attend opening night of the new cannibal comedy and to consider the diversity of Wellington creativity – a story set in a Churton Park house “where the beige exterior hides a blood-thirsty interior … the grey and white decor just perfect to offset the deep red of splattered blood.”
Or as Danny Mulheron puts it: “It’s a real privilege to make a film I would enjoy watching and I hope people will come away having had a lot of laughs, a few frights, and a nice date.”