Apocalypse Picton: Our next thriving film industry?


Following a failed invasion by some unspecified superpower, dangerous opportunists roam the bushy backroads around Picton and Nelson. There’s limited food, scarce medication, a pandemic that can turn the tiniest wound into a fatal infection.

It’s a place where the paddocks and shacks conceal deadly booby traps and firing a warning shot just wastes dwindling ammunition. But there’s good here, too. “A world without love?” says one resident between reloads. “What’s the point in that?”.

Welcome to Northspur, a low-budget, high-impact action feature five years in the making. Stacked with fine actors from Aotearoa and Australia, it’s tense, vivid and beautifully shot, and has just been picked up for distribution in the US. Grant Smithie talks to writer/co-producer Justin Eade.

READ MORE:
* Disused highway near Nelson the perfect location for apocalyptic film
* Aaron Falvey makes movies on weekends, annual leave. So did Peter Jackson once
* Look Who’s Talking: Top of the South Film festival director Phil McKinnon

Where did it all start for you?

I was working at Sky TV and left 14 years ago to move back to Nelson. I’ve been writing plays and making short films locally ever since, and me and (Northspur director) Aaron Falvey finally worked our way up to a feature film. There’s a Top of the South film-makers’ collective here and we run our own film festival, and this seemed like the logical next step. You spend years sending scripts away, hoping other people might make them, then you think, “Hang on, we can make it right here!”

Were you surprised by the depth of film-making expertise that existed in Nelson and Marlborough?

definately. There’s a lot of serious acting talent here and experienced crews, and heaps of people with gear, making short films. With Northspur, we got money from local investors and used that to hire outside actors and crew to work alongside local talent.

It was a community project, ultimately, but also involved some actors that had done a lot of work in Australia, such as the late Marshall Napier, a New Zealander who’s been acting for years in things such as McLeod’s Daughters and the movie Babe, and rising star Josh McKenzie, who’s currently in Australia working on a US NBC TV series called La Brea.

Northspur will be in selected cinemas on September 1, followed by a streaming release in the US later in the year.

Roast Fastier/Stuff

Northspur will be in selected cinemas on September 1, followed by a streaming release in the US later in the year.

Why this particular style of movie?

Aaron and I decided to start with a genre project like an action-thriller because that has the greatest chance of selling and getting distribution so it reaches an audience. Aaron had the idea of ​​New Zealand after an apocalyptic event where everything had gone a bit feral, and I fleshed that out into a script.

With many action movies you walk away feeling nothing but a sort of exhausted excitement, but when you don’t have a huge budget for car chases and explosions, you spend more energy on character development and introducing themes that make people think. You still need pace and danger and tension, but you can give the thing more emotional heart, too.

Northspur has many echoes of real-life events – a pandemic, increased global tensions, the social contract breaking down under pressure – but all playing out down some sinister rural backroads.

If people can’t get medicine or food or supplies for a couple of days, society quickly breaks down. We saw that with Covid where people couldn’t get toilet paper and started fighting in supermarkets. The veneer of polite society is pretty thin, and the best place to be when it all falls apart is probably a self-sufficient lifestyle property out in the sticks.

So that’s where the movie takes place. But then of course, people are just going to come onto your land and take what you have, so you have a decision to make about how to protect your family.

Tell me about the emotional heart of the movie – an interaction between a young pacifist couple and a grumpy old coot with a shotgun.

Yeah, the young guy doesn’t want to get all militant and hurt people, but his wife realizes they have to make some tough calls. This conflicted pacifist has to go out into an increasingly harsh world, and he meets an old guy with the opposite personality – no compassion, shoot first and ask questions later. They’re forced to work together, and some of those qualities rub off on one another.

There are some ripping action set-pieces, and spectacular shots of the landscape around Picton and Nelson’s Whangamoa Ranges.

We put all the money we had into the acting and the equipment, so it would look good and be driven by great performances. A lot of people worked for free to help Northspur succeed, because they support our vision to create an organic film industry here at the top of the South Island.

Eades wants his films to culturally enrich the region, provide employment and create a career path for local filmmakers.

Roast Fastier/Stuff

Eades wants his films to culturally enrich the region, provide employment and create a career path for local filmmakers.

What’s next for you?

We want to get to the point where people get paid to work on feature films here and we can then sell them around the world. We have the scenery, the skills, the ideas, and if you’ve got good writing, you can attract great actors to your projects without them having to be made in Auckland or Wellington.

We want these films to culturally enrich the region, give people employment and create a career path for people coming through who want to stay and make films here. Really, I feel like Aaron and I are just getting started.

Northspur will be in selected cinemas on September 1, followed by a streaming release in the US later in the year.

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