Sundance 2010: New Zealand Filmmaker Taika Waititi on His Movie Boy

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We came across this interview by Eric Kohn for the Wall Street Journal Blog and wanted to share it with you. Mean stuff Taika!

Taika Waititi has a memorable name even if American audiences dontknow it yet. The New Zealand filmmaker was nominated for an Oscar in2005 for his short film, Two Cars, One Night, then made hisfeature-length directorial debut in 2007 with Eagle vs. Shark. Thatmovie, which introduced future Flight of the Conchords star JemaineClement to the world, showcased Waititis unique comic tendencies andled to production on his sophomore effort, Boy. Set in1982, that movie, whichpremiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, has been steadilygathering positive notices for its bittersweet portrayal of the titular young kiwi child whose absent father (portrayedby Waititi himself) initially comes to life in the adolescentcharacters active imagination. When Boys dad eventually does showup, the kid learns to accept that real life cant live up to hisimpossible ideals. Waititi met with Speakeasy in between screenings ofthe movie to discuss his latest accomplishment.

The Wall Street Journal: Eagle vs. Shark had a very basic deadpan sense of humor, whereas theemotion in this movie feels very real.

The script was written in 2005 and workshopped at the writers lab atthe Sundance resort. Back then, it was pretty dramatic; there wasntmuch comedy in it, but it was the same basic story. I didnt reallyknow what I was doing back then. I hadnt made a feature before. Ididnt want to make the transition into feature filmmaking by making aterrible film. I wanted to make something small, clumsy and not asimportant, so I could handle the bumps something that I couldhandle, and that was Eagle vs. Shark. I filled it with charactersthat were stumbling around, so the entire film was like this cutebaby. Because the story in Boy was kind of personal and set where Igrew up, I felt a real duty to do a good job and wanted to leave it
until later.

A lot of people compared Eagle vs. Shark and, by extension, yourstorytelling style to Napoleon Dynamite.

I was a bit annoyed about that, because I really dont think theyresimilar. I mean, some of the comedy style is similar, but Eagle vs.Shark goes a bit deeper into what its like not knowing what yourplace is in the world.

Do U.S. and New Zealand audiences respond to your humor in different ways?

New Zealanders, in general, have a darker sense of humor. We do findthings like family dysfunction quite hilarious. Not child abuse orgratuitous violence, though. In the States, audiences seem to betouched more by the sentimental stuff. I think thats becauseAmericans wear their emotions on their sleeves. Nobody in New Zealandwould give a rousing speech like they do at the ends of Americanmovies. Thats something I tried to avoid. Its not that I avoided theemotion of it, but we New Zealanders cringe a lot. There was somethingset to the tune of Amazing Grace in the film, but then we decided itwas too cheesy. People would have thought this was an American film.

But do you think this film has the same appeal for American audiences?

I think its universal. Everyone whos a kid has made up stories abouttheir parents around other kids, or wondered what their parents do.Kids think their parents have this weird connection to the outerworld, with all these secrets. Other than that, I still have no ideaabout what my mother and father were like before I was born, so Ithink its really personal. Its not culturally specific. That kind ofstory happens everywhere. Audiences will be astounded by the beauty ofthe area and the culture, but the concept is a pretty relatable
experience.

The movie has a lot of positive buzz going for it. Is there a lot ofinterest from American distributors?

I think its just a hard time to sell a film. The industry doesnthave any money. People are little more wary about what theyregetting. Its so weird, at this festival, how people come here lookingfor a bidding war. Thats been gone for awhile. Whoever distributesthe film doesnt have to have a lot of money, they just have to careabout the film. Some people buy a film and dont really care about it.We want somebody who really fits it.

Is it hard to make movies in New Zealand?

There arent many of us. Im lucky that I was able to make asuccessful short film that opened a lot of doors. Im now the flavorof the month down there, but that can change. For the time being, Ivehad a lot of support from the film commission, but that only lastsuntil you make a mistake. My goal is to keep making New Zealand films. Then it reflects positively on the industry.

Did you enjoy directing episodes of Flight of the Conchords?

Yeah, theyre not going to do another season, but I do a lot ofwriting with Jemaine [Clement]. Working with HBO was great, because itwas like working in a semi-studio environment, but at the end of theday, it was just me working with my two old friends. Its just twomuch work for them. They dont want to keep going with that. To maketwelve episodes is hard, but to make twelve episodes with two songsper episode is even harder. Thats not to say they wont do aChristmas special down the line, but for the time being, theyre goingto take a break.

What do you want to do next?

Im trying to develop a couple of scripts over here. Theyre morecharacter-based comedies with darker stuff dotted throughout. Ihavent got a definite project next. Maybe Ill steal some ideas.Maybe Ill make the New Zealand Avatar.

|Source: Wall Street Journal (blog)Eric Kohn?Jan 28, 2010?|

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