The cool peeps at No Magazine have sent us their interview with Tom Hern and Gareth Reeves. It was featured in Issue 07 of the magazine.
Tom Hern starred in The Tribe series 4 and 5 as Ram, he produced the movie I’m Not Harry Jenson (written and directed by fellow Tribe star James Napier). Gareth Reeves starred in the movie I’m Not Harry Jenson, he also had a mini appearance in series 2 of The Tribe as the Demon Dog Hunga. Read on for their interview about Harry Jenson…
Interview by Melinda Williams. No Magazine. Issue 07.
Steve Boniface saw actor Gareth Reeves in the television programme ‘Insider’s Guide to Love’…
There must have been a few moments during the production of New Zealand feature film I’m Not Harry Jenson that it felt like the damn thing was never going to get made, but perhaps never more so than one particular shoot day in the Waitakare bush. “There was this little creek we had to go across that was really charming and lovely,” recounts actor Gareth Reeves, who plays the central character, Stanley. “Then the rain started, and the creek rose a little, but we thought it would be fine. After a while the rain was pissing down, but we were really involved with trying to get the scene to work, when all of a sudden someone turns around and yells, ‘Fuck! Look at the river!’”
The charming little creek had transformed into a raging torrent that was trying to suck away a crewmember. “There was no way were getting back across it with cameras and everything, so we just kept shooting.” As the weather grew progressively colder, the biggest problem became getting an actress who was playing a corpse to stop shivering long enough to look authentically dead. Eventually the director packed it in, and everyone loaded up and trudged 40 minutes in the opposite direction before they finally struck a road. “Everything was covered in mud and in one of the shots in the film there’s a green blur, which everyone thought was a tree, but I think it’s actually the DoP’s jacket,” Reeves says. “But that whole scene in the rain looks fantastic, really moody and dark.”
In New Zealand, we love that Kiwi ingenuity, and we love to be a part of it.
- Tom Hern on working in NZ with James Napier.
Truth be told, by the time the cast and crew were fighting the elements in the bush, the hard work of getting Harry Jenson to the screen had already been done. Back in 2007, producers Tom Hern and James Napier Robertson, both actors themselves, had been struggling to find roles that excited them. “We were both feeling a bit tired and worn down,” Hern admits. “We decided we wanted to do something low-budget and independent of the Film Commission funding process.” Putting their heads together, they developed a script in the psychological thriller mould, something they hoped would turn genre conventions on their head. Starting with a budget of $60,000, Hern and Robertson twisted arms among friends and family, and wined and dined potential investors until the money started flowing in. But as interest in the film grew, so did their vision and ambition.
Eventually, with $175,000 worth of cash backing and about another million dollars worth of donated talent and equipment, the actors-turned-producers were ready to start their 18-day shoot, mostly in the Waitakare Ranges near Auckland. “It was pretty challenging, but everyone knew the kind of film we were shooting right from the start,” says Reeves. “There were no egos involved. Everyone was there because they wanted to be there.” As well as Reeves, that included veteran actors Ian Mune, Ilona Rogers and Renato Bartolomei, and American actress Jinny Lee Story, whose next credit is in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
Hern says he was astounded that so many experienced actors were prepared to take a chance on a first-time writer/producer combo, and their contribution was what allowed the film to be made. “In New Zealand, we love that Kiwi ingenuity, and we love to be a part of it. It was that collective spirit that really made the film.” Although he admits that his sheer naivety was partially to thank for his determination to keep going at the beginning – “I had no real idea of what it would entail” – eventually he and Napier felt sure they were onto a winner with the script, cast and crew.
Reeves, whose credits stretch from the dark film A Song of Good to the television series Insider’s Guide to Love and the upcoming series The Cult, says writer/director Napier and actor/producer Hern were an inspiring combination. “[James] and Tom together… their energy just crackles. I loved working with James and I loved the character… I felt I could really get a handle on him. I’m really stoked with James’ work, the editing and how the story’s told. He’s so committed to what he wants out of it.”
The final film, which premiered at the New Zealand Film Festival in Auckland, is a punchy thriller about a true-crime writer suffering from writer’s block. Convinced by his agent to join a soul-searching hunting trip in the bush, Stanley, played by Reeves, soon finds himself in a nightmarish murder-mystery where he is confronted with one of the sociopathic killers he has spent his life writing about.
Even before the film’s sold-out premiere, Hern and Napier had strong interest in the movie from distributors in America. Napier, now based in Los Angeles, is already working on a second script with Luber-Roklin Entertainment and Reeves looks forward to visiting him there soon and checking out the possibilities of work in LA. From script to screen, I’m Not Harry Jenson is more proof of New Zealand’s astonishing pool of filmmaking talent. Forget New York – if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.
Image: Guy Coombes / Special thanks to DOC bar
Many thanks to No Magazine for providing the article.