Hi everyone. This is a very special post one that has been a long time coming and something I have been very excited to share with you since I started on it. Today I present to you my interview with microbudget film maker who made a short film called "Mana Moana". I haven't done an interview on this blog since last year so I hope you guys enjoy this! I hope you enjoy it!
TWAD:For those who haven’t seen it could you explain what “Mana Moana” is about?
Linda McGuire: ‘Mana Moana’ is a sacred Maori term which means ‘Power of the Sea’. The film is essentially about how the entire Human Family and the World itself remain inextricably linked throughout history via the Mana or power and influence of the Oceans. The story centres around the adventures of young Maud McGarry from Scotland who has a special relationship with the Sea. Often she finds herself carried to parallel worlds and dimensions while focused on water. Raised by her Grandmother since her Parents death. Maud is also fascinated by her estranged, long lost Uncle Harry ‘the Sailor’ who many moons before jumped ship in New Zealand to marry his Maori sweetheart Eva. Maud pores over a scrapbook her Gran has created filled with cards and photos from Uncle Harrys’ global Odyssey, culminating in his assimilation to the Maori culture. Attending her Grandmothers’ funeral many years later, a grown up Maud re-discovers the Scrapbook. Her enthusiasm re-ignited, she sets off from Scotland to New Zealand on a quest to find her long lost Uncle Harry. The rest follows as we are carried along with her adventures.
What inspired you to write Mana Moana?
I was quite literally inspired by The Sea, Nature itself, and indeed my own Grandmother. I had embarked on my own Odyssey to New Zealand back in 2011. After my first year in the beautiful city of Auckland, I felt compelled to travel onward to rural Northland. Drawn to The Bay of Islands, I settled in the coastal town of Russell. I remember sitting alone on Long Beach in those first weeks humming a little tune to the Sea, then the words came, ‘I talk to the Sea and the Sea sings to me, Mana Moana, Mana Moana. Ma Moanamu’. That year, in between my bread and butter work I involved myself in a variety of community creative projects, always with a specific interest in working with the Maori community whom I felt inexorably drawn towards. The penultimate inspiration for ‘Mana Moana’ came when I was struggling to renew my work visa and was forced by impoverishment to move to into a little shack deep in fern & tea tree bush to wait out the many months for a decision on my visa case. Around that time I had been dithering over a musical project I had been asked to help with. Albeit an exciting concept, I finally decided to step aside since the project was simply too embryonic to justify spending my time and energy on. The moment I released myself from that, ‘Mana Moana’ the film sprang to life in my minds’ eye and literally took over my every thought of every waking hour of every single day. I would wake up in my glass shack surrounded by huge fern trees and birdsong, the sea lapping the shore at the end of a track and the story just poured itself out on me. All this mind you when I had swore blind a year earlier that there was no way I had any intention of getting myself involved in the complications of filmmaking, I felt I’d had enough of that lark for a long time to come. That said, when creative inspiration takes hold, it’s an unstoppable force, a wonderful, deliciously zany unstoppable thing.
Was Mana Moana challenging to make and would you say it was rewarding to see it all come together?
On the face of it, the Film was hugely challenging to make. Living in a remote area, I had no financial resources, no income, no experienced crew and very little in the way of support for the project, quite the reverse as it happens. It merits a pause to explain this once and for all. There is a ludicrous, provincial tradition in New Zealand called ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’, actually it is simply a form of jumped up bullying enacted by setting out, predominantly surreptitiously, to cut a person down to size so to speak. Being a non conformist maverick who bucks unfair systems, small and large, I was a tidy target for this behaviour and ran a daily gauntlet of smirks and knowing nudges across town in attempting to raise support in order to make the film. It has to be said that the all too real saboteur like resistance that I encountered came mainly from descendants of European and American settlers who would appear to suffer from ‘The Big I am’ syndrome. Cronyism abounds in New Zealand and until it shakes off those shackles, the post-Maori incomers have a long, long way to go before they achieve anything resembling an authentic cultural sophistication. So, at face value, it seemed almost impossible to get the film off the ground, however the combination of personal relish at facing a worthwhile challenge and more importantly, the undeniable Force Majeure which was at work literally evaporated all obstacles in our path. There are always a few good eggs around and between that handful of individuals I managed to raise $900, just about enough to cover petty expenses for the five months from onset of film development to actual shooting. Once it became clear that the project was still on the table, a few locals called to muster intrigued at the prospect of becoming crew members. This was however short lived. Once they realised the level of time, commitment and energy required to get a Film Crew credit on their CV’s, I was rapidly left with one trusty lady, Lesley Blundell who acted as production assistant. Meanwhile, fast approaching the actual filming schedule, there was still no Camera or camera operator. Three weeks to go, and just in the nick of time enter stage left local teacher and film enthusiast, Adam Hogg. Armed with his Canon DSLR kit, 1960’s tripod, bucket loads of enthusiasm and emerging talent, Adam was the perfect fit for the job at hand. Most importantly, Adam totally got my vision. In the end we were like creative Siamese twins. Making the film entirely on our own, the lack of crew ended up being a bonus in an odd way since it left us free to concentrate on the guerilla style job at hand unhindered. Fortunately the many years of experience on my part both in front of and behind the scenes in film, theatre and music production meant I was able to cover all bases from directing, costume, soundtrack, utilising natural light, casting etcetera. The cast, drawn from the local community, were quite simply herded in front of the lens while we worked like crazy to get the footage needed during down time from their work place or school. Once in the can, it was also left to Adam and I to face the challenge of editing the film, which turned out to be another brilliant bonus providing us both with a chance to hone our erstwhile limited skills in that arena. My only regret was not having the time to edit ‘Mana Moana’ down to a more Film Festival friendly 30 minutes or under. Faced with an immigration compliance deadline to leave the country meant we simply didn’t have that extra few days it would have taken to get a slicker edit. Was it rewarding to see it all coming together? Immeasurably!
With the recent outcry of women (such as Jennifer Lawrence,Rose McGowan, Patricia Arquette) in the industry over lack of equal pay and sexism do you think the industry will change for the better or stay the same?
The way the Industry treats Women is a joke, sadly I can’t see that changing for the better in the near future. It has to change and eventually will....but when? While women of power and influence in the Industry continue to be vocal about the lack of equal rights there is always a glimmer of hope. Sickened with the feeling of being in a creative straight jacket, I sidelined the mainstream Industry several years ago. Albeit financially poorer, my creative experiences have been far richer that any of those while involved as a cog the big Industry wheel. As a woman, apart from repeatedly being offered dull & predictable roles, there were a plethora of pay check insults. Let me give you an example of how draconian and ludicrous the lack of equal pay is. My first guest leading role in TV was around 1996 in ‘Silent Witness’ for the BBC. The director Ian Knox had been to see me in an Actors showcase after I wrapped up my Theatre Company in London and offered me the part based on that. It was hugely enjoyable working with Ian and as we became friends he also got to know my brother and subsequently offered him a small role as one of the ‘Men in Black’. Naturally, both my brother and I were excited to receive our pay checks. Remember, I had been running an independent Theatre Company for several years, was professionally represented, and dedicated myself 24/7 to my craft, my brother, albeit talented, just got lucky getting a bit part from thin air. My brothers’ pay check from the BBC was about four times the amount which I received....go figure!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by freedom, being close to nature, the talent of others, simply absorbing what is around me.
Do you have a favourite film and if so what is it?
Too many to mention here, and favourites always feel like they are favourites depending on the time, the place and the mood. I have to say I hadn’t watched ‘Rain Man’ for years and feel I only truly appreciated it fully when I watched it again in 2014. Off the top of my head, ‘The Fifth Element’ gets me every time as does ‘Twelve Monkeys’.
If you could collaborate with anyone (dead or alive) who would It be?
Another big question, I’ll also answer this off the top of my head, and in three parts. Part 1. Bette Davies, one of the most unique, talented, ballsy individuals I can think of. Part 2. Present day Industry successes George Clooney, Sandra Bullock & The Coen Brothers. I admire Clooneys’ versatility and intelligence as an Actor, producer and director, same goes for Bullock. Clooney is also canny at manipulating the mainsteam Industry machine to create funding in order to make films that matter. More than anything, I think Clooney and Bullock would be a hoot to work with. Fun is a big part of the creative process and I can imagine having great laughs with both. People able to hold an interesting discussion and also having me laughing my pants off over a pint are my kind of people. That means a lot to me. The Coen Brothers, just because they’re so damned talented. Part Three, and the most relevant, since I work in a maverick fashion and locate myself in remote places beyond the mainstream Industry reach, it’s vital that I collaborate with local talent. I have my eye for the future on a stills photographer called Giorgos Stat, if the stars align and inspiration calls I can envisage working with him at some point. More than anything, I have to rely on my own experience and skills. That combined with emerging talent is a winning formula.
Do you have a next project lined up?
This winter as well as ongoing Artwork, I am once again teaming up with colleague & cameraman, Adam Hogg to make a short film in Crete, Greece. I wrote the 15 minute comedy narrative 'Heavenly Time' when Adam confirmed that he wanted to travel all the way from New Zealand to reprise our maverick filmmaking adventures. Once again we will be working on a zero budget and with cast drawn from the local community, although this time around the film will include dialogue as opposed to the 'visual' only style of 'Mana Moana'.
And finally what would you say to young women that want to make their own films?
What’s stopping you? The world of filmmaking has opened up so much with the development of Digital as a format, even with basic, limited equipment, just get out there and get on with it. If you can tell an interesting story, that’s what holds an audience, regardless. What I would say to women that want to make films is, gain experience, more experience and more experience. Get involved with as many projects as you can on whichever level possible, throw ego to the wind. Use the filmmaking environment as your laboratory, watch and learn from as many aspects and departments as you can. Ask questions, explore. Watch, listen and learn. The more experience you gain along the way, the more you’ll be able to overcome future challenges, because you have gained vital knowledge. That experience and knowledge will act as your creative toolbox in the future. I repeat, nothing beats experience.
'Could my work be improved with dinosaurs?'
Certainly, after all it's the dinosaurs who continue to inspire. In any case, we all become dinosaurs eventually :-)
So there we have it guys! I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed interviewing Linda.
You can watch Mana Moana on youtube HERE
and follow her on twitter HERE