The 48-hour film festival is back, self-isolation style. While the judging panel is deciding the winners, The Spinoff is showcasing seven films from the competition. We’re sharing one a day in the lead-up to the one-hour awards special, airing on TVNZ2. Today we’ve got Containment from team Corner Shop.
Containment follows a daughter’s relationship with her mother over an extended period of time, as she pays regular visits to a shipping container.
Corner Shop consists of siblings Kenneth and Madeleine Chapman, currently living in Porirua with their parents. Kenneth is a film-maker and private tutor. Madeleine is an author and journalist, who used to work for The Spinoff and whose book, Jacinda Ardern: A New Kind of Leader, was released last month.
We talked to Madeleine Chapman about making the film, collaborating with her brother, and what it was like to film with their mother.
What’s the story behind your team?
Despite being a director and writer respectively, as well as siblings, we’d never properly collaborated on a film before. Not unless you count a truly terrible music video we made in 2012 (which we don’t). Until the lockdown, we’d lived in different cities for almost a decade so this was the perfect excuse to work together on something while also knowing that no matter how well or terribly it went, it would be done in two days.
What were the big difficulties of working in lockdown, and on the flip-side, what opportunities did this provide you?
We actually entered because of the lockdown rules. We both find that having a completely blank canvas can be overwhelming and can lead to trying to do too much at once. Because of so many restrictions, we felt like a lot of the usual stressors of filming were taken away. Making decisions is always the hardest part of creative projects and in lockdown there were far fewer decisions to make.
I complicated things by wanting to show time passing with hair growth. I had a bit of hair (which i was about to shave) so thought we could shoot everything in reverse order while cutting my hair each time so that in the film my hair would get longer with each visit. I spent about half an hour on Friday trying to figure out a shoot schedule that would work with both my hair idea and the lighting (sun). In the end we agreed that since my head was onscreen for only a few seconds at a time, the pay-off wouldn’t be worth the logistical nightmare. Sometimes the best way to jump over a hurdle is to move it off the track.
What’s your favourite aspect of this entire experience?
My favourite part was shooting scenes with Mum. Even though you can’t see us and the camera is going back and forth as we speak, we filmed everything with live sound. Mum was in there, sitting in a plastic lawn chair in her dressing gown (it was cold that day) and surrounded by tools. I entered for each scene and we performed our dialogue as if there was a camera inside the container. Which meant that before every scene we’d have to lock poor Mum in the pitch black while I ran back to my mark.
Incredibly, we only flubbed our lines once and she was able to wrap by lunch.
The whole process really hammered home the importance of a tight script, clear vision and simple execution. I have never been known as a planner but Kenneth is fastidious. He knew the shots he wanted and what that would mean with regards to time. So then it was just up to me to make sure I got that story across efficiently in the script.
What is the usual purpose of the container, and did you guys know it would always play a part in your film?
The container is our parents’ garage. We grew up in a big house where Dad did a lot of DIY. When our parents sold it, they moved into a three-bedroom house without a garage and didn’t have anywhere to put all of his tools and random pieces of wood. So, being normal, they bought a shipping container and now use that as a garage (meaning somewhere to put all their crap) while Dad builds a proper one.
We always knew that the container would be our centrepiece. On an ordinary day it’s just an eyesore for our neighbours but with lockdown filming restrictions, everyone was forced to use largely the same settings. We wanted something unique, and how many people have a shipping container in their backyard?
This interview was edited for length and clarity. You can find the other films that The Spinoff has selected to showcase here.
Corner Shop is just one of a record-breaking 2,111 teams that created three-minute masterpieces from their bubbles. The Vista Foundation 48Hours judging panel, including Sir Peter Jackson, will select finalists to be screened on TVNZ2 in a one-hour awards special on Friday, May 8, at 9.30pm.
VF48HOURS: LOCKDOWN is made with the support of NZ On Air, New Zealand Film Commission and The Vista Foundation.