Article Title:Communication: it's never easy
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:25th May 2010 - 09:40 pm
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Story ID:8841
Text:Rudi Vodanovich and Alexander Campbell as Jacob and Andrew The New Zealand production company behind the gay short film Communication has the name Number 8 Films. This seems fitting when you unravel the pieces of luck, ingenuity and mateship that went into its creation. Communication is a product of director Christopher Banks and producer Andy Jalfon, who made the widely-lauded short Teddy, and opens at the Out Takes Reel Queer Film Festival in Auckland on Sunday, before playing in Wellington on 7 June. Its New Zealand showings come on the back of selection at film festivals across the globe and its scoop of the Outstanding Short Film prize in the 2010 QBliss Awards in the US, which recognise the promotion of inclusion and tolerance. Communication came about when Number 8 Films was scrambling for a new script after funding fell through for the short it was planning to make - just six weeks before shooting was to start. Director Christopher Banks was trawling through the news section of, where he read about a play called Communication, which was showing that very night at a theatre in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie. Banks and his partner decided to have a night out - and went along to the play. "It was a really interesting story. And I directly thought that we'd be able to do something with it. So we got in touch with the playwright David Blakey and purchased the rights to make a film from it – and away we went." The story Communication is a retrospective look at a relationship between a university tutor, Andrew, and a much younger man, Jacob. The relationship is unveiled when Jacob unexpectedly inherits the estate of his estranged mentor and is greeted by a flood of memories as he returns to the house looking for answers. Banks says it was a complex story to fit into just over 19 minutes. "I think what it really boils down to is what happens when we fail to communicate our true feelings and what happens when we let fear hold us back from communicating how we really feel." Banks says Jacob finds this level of communication difficult, as he comes from a conservative Jewish background which is uncompromising in its views about homosexuality. "So it's a real trial for him to have these emerging feelings for men which are directly in conflict with what his religion says is right." Banks says the other major factor for Jacob is that the man he is developing feelings for is his university tutor who is more than twice his age. "There are all sorts of taboos about relationships between people where there's a great age gap. I think particularly when it's two men – because I think we don't think about relationships between older men and younger women in the same way. I think that older men are almost admired for younger conquests. Whereas in relationships between two men where there's a big age gap, there are automatic assumptions of predatory behaviour that goes on." Acting the part Rudi Vodanovich Banks says all three of the actors were fantastic and he never fails to be amazed at how actors can bring something that's on a page to life. Banks says lead actor Rudi Vodanovich, who played Jacob, had a lot to carry on his shoulders - as it is Jacob's story. "There's a lot of conflict going on in the character's head. He's very vulnerable and coming of age really, coming into his sexuality, learning what it means to be a man. And being a role that's around the difficulty of communication – you can see all that's going on in his face. These aren't things that are spoken – and yet it really comes across." Banks thinks it's a performance people will enjoy watching and he Vodanovich an actor who has a great future. Vodanovich himself says he was fascinated by the role of Jacob because of the character's vulnerability. "His story and his background are completely different to mine. But that was part of the attraction – the intensity and the vulnerability and the rollercoaster ride he went through in such a short time – and the challenge of cramming all that into a short film." Number 8 ethic Communication was shot at producer Andy Jalfon's parents' large house in Whangaparaoa, a picturesque peninsula just north of Auckland. Banks says because of the size of the house the crew were able to use it as three locations; the professor's house, Jacob's bedsit and an outdoor cafe. Jalfon says he had to bribe his parents with lunch, but he managed to secure not only the location – but also his folks as BBQ-cooking caterers. Andy Jalfon as DP The kind couple's involvement didn't end there – Jalfon's dad also filled in as a ute driver in a climatic tracking shot where Jacob runs along the beach, while Jalfon filmed from the back. Jalfon wasn't initially supposed to be filming, but having a background in camerawork he put his hand up to be director of photography and borrowed a rig from a friend when the original DP had to pull out at the last minute. He says it's a pure example of why the production company chose the name Number 8 Films. "That was to mirror the Number 8 wire mentality – to make films with not very much money, but be able to get films out into the community and to entertain audiences." Jalfon says having just six weeks of pre-production was a huge challenge, pointing out they had six months to prepare for filming Teddy. "We had to really ask a lot of favours from people to come out and help us on set." They managed to shoot the 19 minute film in just three days, filming six and a half minutes of 'finished footage' a day, which Jalfon says was a massive effort, from everybody involved. Banks agrees they are lucky that their friends are all 'film people', who have commercial jobs but jump at the rare chance to work on a locally-made narrative story. Andy Jalfon and Christopher Banks The road ahead The DVD of Communication will be released in November. Meanwhile Number 8 Films is already planning its next film, The Colonel's Outing, which is about two older men who attempt to find love in a rest home, despite the matron's objections. The company's already raised about half of the total budget it needs and plans to start filming in October if the rest of the required funding comes through. Banks has expressed thanks to all those in the community who have supported him through both Teddy and Communication, either in helping make them or watching them. "The reason we do this is because we want to see the stories about our people up on screen for us all to enjoy. And we couldn't do it unless we had an audience there that was enthusiastic." Jalfon is hugely proud of the film and the festivals it has been selected in, as well as the QBliss Award win. "We've really enjoyed the process of making this film and we're really looking forward to the screening this Sunday." Communication screens in Auckland on Sunday 30 May at 4.10pm at Rialto Cinema, and in Wellington on Monday 7 June at 4.30 at the Paramount. An after event will be held at K' Rd bear bar Urge following the Auckland screening. Jacqui Stanford - 25th May 2010    
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