Hollywood bigwigs back shoot


Cameras start rolling this Sunday on a Queenstown-based feature film – with links to Hollywood heavyweights Sam Neill and Sir Peter Jackson.

Featuring wintry Otago landscapes, the low-budget production’s been hugely supported by Queenstown’s film community, including movie actor Neill.

He’s among 470 donors who contributed to a record-breaking $125,000 crowdfunding campaign on Boosted.

It met its initial $75,000 target in only 13 days.

The balance of the film’s been funded by art patrons, along with in-kind support from the likes of director Sir Peter Jackson’s post-production facility, Park Road Post.

The arthouse film, called Stray, is being shot over five weeks at a purpose-built cabin on the Tucker Beach side of Queenstown Hill, as well as Luggate, Alexandra, Twizel and the ‘hero town’ of Otematata.

The writer/director and co-producer is award-winning filmmaker Dustin Feneley; co-producer Desray Armstrong has also produced three award-winning short films, and the cinematographer is the highly-rated Ari Wegner.

Armstrong says: “It will be finished to an incredible standard.

“Combined with Ari’s pictures and the visuals that we get, it will defy its budget visually.

“I’ve not seen a NZ film that sets off the landscape in this way.”

Stray is an unconventional love story involving a young man, Jack, and a woman, Grace.

The strangers find comfort in each other as they struggle to repair their broken pasts.

Jack’s played by rising Kiwi actor Kieran Charnock and Grace by Kosovar actress Arta Doboshi, who won acclaim for playing the title role in the film Lorna’s Silence.

With a running time of 90 to 100 minutes, Stray is due to be released late next year.

But it’s already gained international credits.

In its early stages, the project was shortlisted for the Cannes Film Festival’s screen-writing residence programme, chosen for a director’s artist-in-residence in Amsterdam and presented at the Rotterdam International Film Festival’s CineMart.

A-list film festivals are being targeted before it’s released both in NZ and internationally.

Armstrong, a Kiwi, stresses that the shoot couldn’t have happened without the support of the local film industry, like Brett Mills, Pete Bradshaw and Film Otago Southland boss Kevin ‘KJ’ Jennings.

The cast and crew of about 25 have believed in the project, she says – “they’re not doing it to pay the mortgage, that’s for sure”.

Support’s also come from local hotels Nugget Point and The Sherwood who are putting up some of the cast and crew, respectively.

Armstrong says she and Feneley have called their production company Long Road Films Ltd “as it has been a bloody long road”.

“It hasn’t been an easy one, either, but it’s pretty overwhelming to think we’re just days away from shooting.”

Mills, who’s supplying camera and lighting gear, says: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Queenstown to be showcased in a totally different way, aiming at the likes of Cannes and places like that.

“It adds to the depth of the filmmaking out of Queenstown.”

Jennings concurs: “It shows the broad range of the types of productions we can attract here.

“This one’s definitely got a lower budget, but they’ve got a great team behind it so hopefully they’ll be putting out a product that the region can be proud of.”