After 5 1/2 long and sometimes exciting years, Song of the Kauri was laid to rest tonight. NHNZ, Natural History New Zealand, is a bastion of film production and it is here that SOTK came to rest during it’s last days an aspiring film. It was here that the now demented director chose to finish once and for all this behemoth of film making. It the hallowed halls of NHNZ was the memory of so many amazing film journeys, so many successes and possible disasters, SOTK was to take it’s place among it’s peers. Only a quick grading job, an on-line / conform, a very simple audio layback and a print to HD Cam SR for posterity was all that separated SOTK from a life in the fast lane of screenings, cocktail parties and notoriety not to mention the elusive Oscar looming.
I arrived all fresh face and innocent with my boxes and bags of tapes and hard drives and notes and intentions. I was greeted courteously and cautiously. Did they know something I did not? The first day was just like the brochure, smooth, efficient and successful. I arrived the next morning to find that the film had ingested in a lovely array of film speeds. This translates to a complete hash up of the edit that took months to complete. Nice. Wayne the technical guru dug around until he found the cause and presented me with a reason for the debacle. In brief it was my fault. I attempted to blame the universe but no one came to be the martyr so I shuffled back into Wayne’s office and asked for redemption. Could he please find a miracle that could re-assemble my film in some cohesive way? Well, yes he could. Then began a storm of technical wizardry more impressive than Avatar. 2 days later SOTK was once again a film with a beginning a middle and an end. The film had now moved into the isolation ward of Quantel’s EQ, a dark room full of tempting buttons and dials that lead to the portals of filmic desire. It was here that Ulf would arrive wearing a white cloak to fiddle with some very groovy looking domes and levers to manipulate the colours and tones of the pictures to make them all one big happy and flowing family. It was here that Stu would masterfully stabilize, rasterize and lay titles and lower thirds into their resting place for all to see.
Meanwhile up in Wellington, hidden from view in the calm of Island Bay, lived Nic the sound dude. Here in his recycled church, just before his major earthquake reconstruction, Nic and Mathurin were busy shaping the sonic landscapes of SOTK. From a far too early dawn until the next, 3 days in a row, the bleary eyed friends mixed and re-mixed sounds and recorded midnight foley while dining on gummy snakes. Finally it became clear that the turning of the earth was too fast and Mathurin had to leave for Dunedin to assault the visual part of the film (last paragraphs’ little journey..). Of course Nic was left to print down the mix, another moon filled night of gummy snakes and Island Bay coffee. A groggy phone call to Mathurin at 7:30 in the morning to say that all was well and that the FTP upload had begun. Mathurin rushed to NHNZ to announce to Wayne and the very patient Errol, the sound man, that all was well and the 1.67gb sound file would be there in minutes to layback. And now the film was finished. Or was it? Mathurin paced the hallways of NHNZ as the clock ticked and the FTP slugged along. 6 ½ hours later the file arrived. Errol calmly loaded the file and within seconds SOTK had soaring, lilting sounds emanating from within.
The moment of truth had arrived. Perched on a cliff top with chute in hand Mathurin watched helplessly as the film and sound crawled across the network to join together in the printing room as one happy family. After all those hours, sleepless nights, cold and windy days in the forest, exhausted credit cards, broken equipment, laughter, songs, friendships, favours and thank you so much, it took about 60 seconds and it looked and sounded better than I could have imagined. I felt like I should celebrate, dance or scream or smash something but I just got in the car and drove home to my family to see if they remembered me. Almost. It was a dark and stormy night, Dunedin was full of sin and danger. I crept to the car and got in quickly, locking the doors behind me for I did not know who, from the dark world, wanted the master print of SOTK.
I drove into the night, beach raging out of my stereo at deafening decibels and a great relief printed on my brow. Life was easy. Hours went by and the tension regarding the finishing of the film dissipated like the rain on my window. In the wee hours of the morning I was careening around a corner along the river just past Clyde when all of a sudden an avalanche of rocks descended in front of me. There I was, more or less off the road in the ditch in the middle of the night in the middle of a rain storm with finished film.
Documentary film making is good for the character.