Archive for the Releases Category

water is meaningless without ships (2011)

Posted in Releases on August 23, 2014 by uncontrollabledancing

“Water is meaningless without ships and that bespeaks harbours to haven them, and men and cargoes. What I have written does not pretend to poetry. It only says what it seemed could be said. … ” – ‘Wellington Harbour’, Denis Glover



the sound component to this film includes a re-reading of the poem Le Tempestaire, written in 2010 while I was living in Wellington, where I had a habit of walking along the waterfront. The title of the poem references Jean Epstein’s cinema, the title of the film the once-removed echo of that waterfront, which New Zealand writer Denis Glover also looked out onto, from his room in the hillside suburb of Mt. Victoria, while writing the 1974 book of poems, Wellington Harbour.

Le Tempestaire’s formal structure includes snatches of songs in between lines, like a song half-heard while walking past a café, which ghosts through memory but doesn’t stick around long enough to embed itself as a refrain, functioning more like a radio going off-frequency, the poem a porosity of listening-to-language which folds more recognisable texts into its universe.

water is meaningless without ships repeats this process again, with the (de-sequenced) poem itself acting as a ghost of a refrain within the transmitted sound. this sound also plays with the idea of natural sound within the cinematic space, both by literalising a disjuncture found within the radiophonic medium between voice and presence, and also by responding to the visual space’s depiction of a field-trip to Kinglake, originally intended as a foray to gather field-recordings, which became a confrontation with silence upon the realisation that the whole area had been burnt out by bushfires.

– Sally Ann McIntyre, 2014


For me, I was partly conceiving the work as an internal conversation around how cinema both responds to and generates both memory and narrative. Cinema always builds a kind of narrative, no matter whether it’s chosen or avoided as a strategy, and I’ve always been more interested in how cinema’s relationship to the recording apparatus meant films could be divided into two tracks in terms of narrative: The closed and the open, or the single meaning as opposed to the multiple.

The dominant forms are always assidiously concerned with providing only a single possible reading, and become readily obsessive about that precision – for instance in the way that scriptwriting for Hollywood has been captured for a long time by the post Syd Field et al camp that dictates which minute of a film certain structural devices should occur. This is a necrotising process, that kills the expressive possibilities of the form, and replaces it with both a failed attempt at the artificiality of forms that are not specifically linked to the ontologies of the form (literature, theatre), and a commodity that can be more readily exploited and controlled by its funders.

Of course – as Robert Bresson or Jean Eustache will testify in their very different ways – the form is more robust and more complicated than that. Indeed part of the problem with cinema is that even the most cynical operation of the industrialised form cannot completely dampen the extra-narrative qualities of cinema, so even work that does attempt to squash the life from the form will often fail to do so, as long as some recording element remains. (Whether this is something that occurs with purely digitally generated work is still a moot point, for this argument I’m talking about cinema within the context of the cinematic apparatus of camera, sound recording device and editing device).

However the more interesting films and the more interesting process for me has always been in terms of the cinematic open text. Because an audience viewing cinema will always relate to it as a potential narrative, this means there is less need to construct a narrative, unless your approach is to dictate what response you will get. I’ve never wanted to do that, it seems much more interesting to create work to whom every audience member can have a different response than when where you impose their response upon them. (Obviously there’s a politics to this perspective too). So part of the idea is to understand cinema as being a system for building work of essentially infinite potential meaning, because every audience member will have their own response.

So the idea of this kind of work is not to dictate in advance what the meaning is, but to allow the space for the meaning to permeate through the juxtapositions in the work. In this case, my images of travelling to the silence of a dead forest a couple of hours out of Melbourne gently settle into a kind of stability next to Sally’s field recordings and reworkings of poetry through the Radio Cegeste station transmitter.

– Campbell Walker, 2014




kipl gig

Made in Melbourne, June 2011

First screened as a live cinema piece at KIPL gallery, West Melbourne, June 22, 2011.


For a few leaves more, The Threave Cinematheque, Dunedin, November 29, 2012.

KIPL: Postmortemism #003, Westspace, Melbourne, February 14, 2013.

Dunedin Film Society, Dunedin, August 28, 2013.



Three Nights (1997)

Posted in Releases on October 11, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

Courtesy of fellow Aro Valley filmmaker Elric Kane, online now is the first film I directed, Three Nights, made in 1997…

[Sadly I’ve had to take this link down for the time being]

When we made it, I had this idea about making a long film about the end of a relationship, and I wanted to develop it with actors, using a lot of improvisation, and a minimal, long take approach. I’d met Colin Hodson in the Victoria University of Wellington film classes we were both taking – he’d recently come back from a period in New York where he’d been working with people like the Wooster Group and Richard Foreman, and I think he was open to something a little more engaged with something new than he was seeing in Wellington’s fairly conservative theatre scene of the time – let alone the even more reserved film scene.  We’d talked about music more than anything, and he was into doing something improvised.

The actress Zoe had been in my then partner Diane McAllen’s experimental short Spirit Level (1996), so we knew her a bit, and she seemed interested then too – although not so much of an extremist in perspective, I think she liked the idea of working within improvisation as well.

So, part of my notion was to create a fictional failing relationship by workshopping and documenting different parts of how the relationship progressed. We had a couple of sessions at Zoe’s house in Newtown – the first time I just filmed them talking to each other, interacting as themselves, the second time, we decided to have a go at pulling together the way they “started out”, or “first got together”.

I really can’t remember if we’d written anything down at all about it, I think there was some plan discussed, but not too much of one. We shot the bedroom scene – there was some action before that, that I didn’t keep, but once it got to the scene that’s intact now, I knew that, firstly I should just keep rolling, and see how long it took Zoe and Colin to exhaust the possibilities… and then soon after, that these weren’t necessarily possibilities they were going to exhaust in a hurry, as long as they were free to respond in the ways they did.

So – this moment seems critical to my early practice now – the idea that the best way to get a good performance from an actor, was to allow them to be as close to a person as possible…

And the best way to do that was often to provide an environment where they could do that… and to trust the actor you chose to come up with a lot of the details of their character on their own. At this stage the easiest way to do that seemed to be to allow them to be as close to themselves as possible… And of all the films I made, Three Nights is probably the one that contains the least constructed performances – but they are still performances too, full of choices and variations, happening all the time – as always occurs in an improvised and open environment.

We all felt a bit excited after the night’s shoot – it felt like we were onto something! There was a student video awards at Vic coming up, so we decided to try and turn our night’s work into a short about the start of a relationship. After Diane and I did a paper edit, we went into Zoe’s partner Jake’s office and edited it from camera onto the S-VHS deck sitting there in about 2 or 3 hours. And, film made – I don’t think we spent much money at all on it, beyond an S-VHS tape for the master to complete on.

When we showed it at the student video things, it was pretty much ignored in favour of the usual hack-in-training dreck that works at such events… But hey we liked it, and as was the style of the times, showed it at the 1998 Fringe Film Fest [a phenomenon of the 90s,  that used to be a serious place you could show and talk to people engaged in making films before it got ruined by middlebrow industry producers who hated to hide their scorn for people making work they couldn’t understand and about which I can get really steamed up if you want to hear it]. We got a good evening slot, and a big crowd for our session… and here, people liked it! People laughed and responded, people liked the performances, the tone, the directness of it.

However one person who’d not found it a completely positive experience was actress Zoe. After seeing it, she decided she wasn’t up for doing a whole big film in this way… So we Diane, Colin and I regrouped, rethought, showed a few people this little short – one of them was Vic film lecturer/ historian Russell Campbell, who earlier that year had not let me into his Film Production course, which had been running at the same time as we were shooting. Russell later coined the notion of the Aro Valley group, and has been one of the main commentators on it.

In fact I insisted Russell let me show the film after class one day, and also watching was a filmmaker who had gotten into the course, Robyn Venables. She expressed a keenness for the film and in “working with Colin”, so she became our new lead actor… And remained an increasingly confident lead actor for the 3 first features I made, the second two as Nia Robyn. As she recalls:

“I freaking love this film. I remember the day I saw it. It was at the end of film crit class and it was the first day i really liked you CW. Before that you were that slightly annoying guy with the encyclopaedic knowledge of film that always dominated the class…”

Watching the film now… I notice a couple things I find interesting. One is the intrinsically New Zealand nature of these characters – All the films I’ve made have been about the way relationships function in NZ culture, and this is quite aggressively so… In ways that I’ve always been somewhat uncomfortable about. I would then have feel very uncertain writing a character who says the things that Zoe does in the film about sexual politics, but they do seem very much in line with women I have known, and the way in which they are awkwardly articulated is even more so…

The other thing I notice is how aggressively unpolished it is! Obviously shot in one night, obviously artificial in structure,  there is no effort to disguise the minimal nature of it, you can hear me snickering, hear the power cable banging on the floor, the reframings are rough as hell and not cut out, they’re  wearing the same clothes for every night of it – But it partly works because of that – I’m in hindsight, really pleased to think this is the first film I made. It feels like  all the attention was put into getting the right things right, and none whatsoever to anything else – and more, for the angry young “enfant terrible of NZ filmmaking” I started getting lazily tagged as later on – all the choices were the opposite of  the ones people were making in the NZ films around us at the time, all so concerned with physical craft, process invisibility and script structure…

Drones for Marina 1

Posted in Releases on August 25, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

Brand new experimental film, made last night…. Not necessarily on the surface similar to other works, but I would say its about related themes. Full name: Drones for Marina 1: Not towards an external signal, duly misinterpreted.

Made on the night after Kathy Dudding’s funeral.

or, lower resolution

West Coast Beach

Posted in Releases on August 7, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

Also on Vimeo – Significantly higher resolution…

This is a short originally intended as part of Little Bits of Light (2005). For the first time, I’ve enough funding to shoot for a decent period of time -We spent a month in the country, mostly in Douglas, inland Taranaki. It was a fantastic time – for the director at least, everyone else had things happening that I was often cheerfully oblivious of, because I was so happy to be able to make things properly at last.

It was a gruelling shoot – an ultra-realistic and detailed film about depression was always going to bleed into our lives while we were making it, and we had some interesting weather and power cuts… But we were able to shoot a lot of scenes, a lot more than we would be able to fit into the two hour film me and producer Mhairead Connor had agreed we were making. The first assembly, with most of the scenes cut into some form, was 4 or 5 hours long – but this isn’t a von Stroheim thing, the idea wasn’t to make a really long film this time out. Rather I wanted to be able to edit a shorter film from the events we’d written and filmed, and find the structure of the film, rather than the events, in the editing room.

What now makes up West Coast Beach was one of the scenes cut from the film. It had been one of my favourite scenes within the film – but it was a logical (if not easy) one to cut, as stylistically it’s really different.

I shot most of the film closely, intimately, getting in next to the performers, surrounding them with the quiet and isolation of the country, and we’d written a scene of them going to the beach and basically not having much fun.

But when we got to the beach  – on NZ’s West Coast, on the Tasman Sea, a much rougher and greyer sea than the Pacific that washes onto the East Coast, hence the name – it was windy, noisy, the sea was rolling in a little… there was no way we were going to get to record decent dialogue, and I really didn’t want to post-sync anything, I just hate the idea for a film based on intimate realism and performance in the moment.

But the scene looked great, and, well, we’d come a long way and apparently I’d directed us along a road to the beach that was longer and more uncomfortable than it should have been… Besides, this kind of film making is really about responding to different challenges with lateral solutions.

The solution I found – I was DP as well as director on this one – was to treat it as a silent film, essentially… Step back some, watch the interactions from a distance, relatively locked off (I say relatively,because I had deliberately not taken a tripod on the shoot, I shot all of it with a small, lightweight monopod, for reasons of speed and compactness – and because I liked the idea of the restriction). I really liked the scene in the film – we all had favourite scenes that are now gone –  but the very different feel and texture made it an obvious choice to come out.

Similarly, I always felt this made it a strong candidate to be a film in it’s own right. I pulled it together as one to screen at an experimental shorts screening at the NZ Film Archive sometime in 2004, while I was still editing the feature. That was the only time it’s screened.

I really like this film, actually, I’m really pleased to pull it back into the world.

Also, I now finally have the internet at home, so there will hopefully be a little more activity here in future.

Remain the Same

Posted in Downloads, Releases on June 15, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

This is a bizarre and bloody minimal melodrama we released in 2004 to benefit the Te Aro Independent Artist’s Collective, of which I was a member. It was released in a DVD-r edition of 2, and screened once at the Gallery.

It was initially intended as a part of a feature to be called Come on through with a smile/ Tell me who you are, a sort of dark twin to Little Bits of Light, which was in post production at the time. Where Little Bits… was at least partly about the notion of managing to stop a depressed partner killing themselves, this one was about failing to do so.

I wanted it to be an exceedingly dark, minimal film I could make very quickly and cheaply, with Andy Chappell shooting, and me and probably Grace acting in it, playing fictionalised versions of people we’d been ourselves, in both more and less direct ways than the characters we’d written for Little Bits of Light.

The idea was 8 scenes, each a single sustained shot – 4 before and 4 after the suicide, alternating. The together scenes were to show the descent of the women who kills herself, the after ones, a blank failure to cope afterwards.

The last scene/shot was me walking home from work all the way up Ohiro Rd to find my partner dead in a pool of blood on the bed.

The first one was me pacing back and forth across a very small room alone listening to 2 Jandek songs, ‘Come on through with a smile’ and ‘Tell me who you are’, off the Somebody n the Snow album, hence the projected title. The scene that makes up the short was another extended failure to do everyday things…

I decided to use Jandek songs in this one – with permission from Corwood – as an explicit counterpoint to the use of the Mountain Goats in Little Bits… Where the characters there are appropriately earnest, romantic and hopeful, in this film, there’s much more of the blankness and despair you find in a Jandek album. So when I made this scene into Remain the Same, it seemed appropriate to use another Jandek song as the underpinning and title.

It’s pretty much the only extant version on film of my personal interest in a weird kind of performance art. There’s been a few intentions beyond this  – and an aggressive, personal feature called After The Fact shot and cut in 2000, that should be considered lost now, although there’s a possibilityof rescuing a fragment of it perhaps. But this is the only time I’ve actually completed a film in which I’m the main performer, and which does have a singular element to the performance.

Also, for those interested in the personal side of it – this film came from a very dark and difficult time. Some scenes were based on real events, others on my fears, flashes of possibility and nightmares. The story ended both happily and sadly. Grace is now much healthier and happier than she was in those days- and the national response to Little Bits made a major difference to her self-belief – but we aren’t together any more, which makes this film’s dedication much sadder, to me.

Broken Black Lines part 4

Posted in News, Releases on March 29, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

So this is the last part of Broken Black Lines online now…

SO this was a film we made for about NZ$500… or something like that. Of course, that’s not what it “cost”, just what money was spent on it. It also took about 3 years to make during a period I wasn’t getting almost anything done whatsoever, including working… so there was never any money to spend on it anyway. After shooting the first two parts in 2007 – and another part that I abandoned – I settled down for an extended period of being depressed and not feeling up to completing the film, which was half shot, or replacing my old G4, which was also half shot.

In 2009, with the assistance of Cathy Blakely, I got a new Mac to edit on again. I watched the footage again, and looked at what I’d written way back years earlier… Since then, I’d moved back to Wellington, separated from my wife, found myself unable to continue with the call centre job I’d stupidly taken… Spent most of my time at home listening to Japanese psych music, really.

So I rewrote the stuff we’d done, in many ways to reflect a slightly more pessimistic worldview that was suddenly appropriate to my life, and with the help of DP Andy Chappell, friends Cathy, Rob Hurley (who bought my bass and amp on v short notice so I could shoot) , Colin and Rob playing their previous characters and Grace Russell and Gabrielle Anwen (who came down  almost overnight to perform in it after a couple other people I lined up pulled out), we shot parts 3 and 4 over 2 days.

Part 4 – the first night – went very nicely until about 1am, when we were lining up one last unnecessary shot, and the sky opened and didn’t close again. Before that had been fun – this is the first time I’d made something where I’d written a script, and we’d lit and framed it in a very conventional way. I wanted to finish with a quietly bleak melodrama kind of piece – all the parts are intended as very different in tone – that tied up the film into a puzzling, increasingly dark circle, and a weird, oblique story about  half buried events of the past suited my current preoccupations with guilt, responsibility and loss.

Part 3 – the next day – was a harder shoot, since I’d developed a  cold from being rained on and sleeping on my lounge floor the night before – I gave Gabrielle my bedroom. I literally spent the day sneezing. This is obviously not an ideal way to direct – worse, I was supposed to be recording sound as well, as the person I’d tried to line up didn’t get back to me. Eventually, Andy whacked the mic on the camera after my 5th (or something) sneeze-blown take for the daytime parts with Colin, and after we’d left him half-naked in the house, Colin was somehow dignified enough to record sound for the evening parts. And drive us all round too.

He was dressed again by then of course.

We actually shot scenes of Colin being interrupted by me “coming home” to where he’d been left, sneezing and all, and then running off down the street in his underwear, shoes and sunglasses. He was fantastic – it was probably the funniest thing we shot, but I took it out as detracting from the tone of the scene as i later found it in editing.

The bar and toilet stuff was all shot at Good Luck in Wellington – another scene that’s gone now was shot at Bodega, People came in and out of the bar, and we waved them away from the womens’ toilets when we were shooting takes. One guy kept trying to talk Gabe and Grace, and me as well, asking what we were shooting. I am not sure if he was drunkenly unaware that he was rendering the sound problematic – but weren’t going to use it anyway – or whether he was actually trying to ruin it anyway. Within the bar, the scene was always intended to be shot silent, since we’d had another (closed) bar I’d organised fall over, and we were improvising wildly.

This sequence is the one that people find the oddest. It’s also away from my previous work – it has jumps between time and space, and is intended to be blurry, story-wise. I’m quite fond of it, but i know people who can’t handle it. Think of it as a Wong Kar Wai moment….

The music in part 3 is Les Rallizes Denudes’ The Last One. Which is pretty much my idea of romantic date music, and no I didn’t get permission for it. It’s from the 1975 Electric Pure Land bootleg, and is one of their more peaked moments even by their standards, for me.

In part 4 Gabrielle is listening to a really great Maryrose Crook and the Renderers track called the Outgoing Queen. I did get permission for this. Thanks Maryrose and Brian!

Broken Black Lines

Posted in News, Releases on March 21, 2010 by uncontrollabledancing

OK, this is part 1 (of 4) of the internet premiere of our new film Broken Black Lines. When it’s all on youtube – which will happen over the next few weeks – it will available from here as a medium resolution free download, then as a DVD.

The film was made in Wellington over small bursts between 2007 and now. The budget is in the “negligible” category, probably around NZ$500. It’s directed by Campbell Walker, produced by Elric Kane, shot by Andrew Chappell and features Tania Nolan, Rob Jerram, Colin Hodson, Gabrielle Anwen and Grace C. Russell.

We designed it to be a no-budget film that we could make quickly in 2007 when I returned from Auckland to Wellington on holiday. Half of it was shot then, half of it two years later, after what could be described as some fairly dramatic changes in the director’s life.

I’d been living in Auckland, married, and working an office job, which was making me more and more angry and depressed – this is very present in Part 1. We’d been planning a bigger project, working towards looking for funding that didn’t arrive. My friends Elric Kane and Andy Chappell,  who were still in Wellington, basically told me I had to come down and make a film with them, so I adapted an idea for a TV series into a La Ronde-style piece that I figured could be made  quickly and easily.

Characteristically, when I came down to Wellington to make it, I hadn’t really given anyone a lot of warning of what was going to happen – a quick emailed treatment, a notion for just a couple of the actors, an extreme level of enthusiasm for making a film again, and a parallel level of complete instability on the director’s part…

Part 1, with Rob and Tania in a lift was the last thing we shot in 2007. Nearly all I’d written in advance was that they were shut in a lift after work and ended up fucking. As with all the sequences, part of the notion was to take a generic film event and show it in a realistically dramatic way – this was obviously a kind of porn film event. We planned the events of the sequence outside the building on Victoria St as I paced back and forth between Tania and Rob, while Andy and Elric – doing sound as well as production for this sequence – prepared the lift. We had to keep stopping to let the people who lived on the top floor get in and out of their house – I’m sure they thought we actually were making a porn film. At one point, the noise of the lift shuddering on its cable is beautifully overwhelming.

Within 4 or 5  hours we’ve shot what becomes a 25 minutes scene. The last ten minutes are one single shot, and I’m standing behind Andy, tapping above or below the camera to indicate movement up or down, as the actors nail it without any false notes. It’s a kind of high point of existing when the variables of a scene all fit so perfectly together. Nothing in the two years since shooting it seem to have gone quite so well, or felt quite so good…

(to be continued)


27/3 updated links to resolve sync issue