Darcy Gladwin on the struggle of making

Darcy Gladwin tells Steve Hart all about his movie Godplex and what it takes to get a movie made against all the odds…

Godplex, which had the working title Godspell, is a feature film written and directed by New Zealander Darcy Gladwin. Not to be confused with the sixties stage show, Darcy’s movie features Shane Hollands, a prominent Auckland performance poet.

Shane plays Clark Duke, a frustrated insurance agent searching for self-respect and a new way of life.

“In the movie Clark creates an internet religion called Virtology,” says Darcy. “A combination of work pressure, psychological unrest and fate cause him to take the bold step of leaving his small city roots and stepping out on to the road to spread his word.

“The absurdity of the premise lends itself to comedy and we are aiming to include a healthy blend of humour, emotional drama and issue-raising storytelling.

“The story of Clark is a common one – people who stay in the same place or situation too long and the resulting frustration of becoming stale and feeling insignificant.

“Godplex, which is our working title, raises questions about religion, freedom and when does free speech become dangerous and require censorship.”

So far Darcy has invested about $8000 of his own money in the movie which has been in production since 2008. The first half of Godplex has been completed and has been screened to positive reviews in New Zealand and Australia – where Darcy is currently based.

First published June 2010 in Viewfinder magazine

“I’m working six days a week on minimum wage to save the money to fund the film,” he says. “I live in a caravan with no power and when it rains there’s a waterfall. That’s me and Godplex 2010, this is the reality of my dream. To communicate, share stories, experiences and the stuff that makes us human.

“I am lucky to have supportive crew who are working on a deferred basis and we now have our own gear. I have no private or state funding and I continually look for avenues [of finance].

“The business of filmmaking scares me as I have no experience. I believe I will find the right way for my projects to get to audiences but I don’t want to have to learn the hard way. So it’s a matter of push/pull until the right combination locks into place.”

Darcy first picked up a video camera when he was at school as part of a class assignment.

“We had an old Hitachi vidcam with an outboard tape recorder,” he says. “Me and my writing buddy only just made the deadline when the works were screened to the entire year. Our film was loved by the students and equally frowned on by the teachers for its causal profanity and attempt at special effects. Poetry this was not.

“Aside from family snaps, this was the first time I had worked with a camera and it really opened my mind to the possibilities of expression.”

The former University of Auckland student has worked as a VJ (a DJ who plays music videos) and his performances have graced some of the largest festivals in New Zealand and Australia.

Currently based in Melbourne he has made “quite a few experimental films” which have been shown in France, Australia and New Zealand.

“I am also interested in documentary filmmaking where I’ve been editor and cinematographer,” he says. “I think a strong psychological aspect is important when it comes to movies.”

His first serious movie was The Electric Ocean – a visual montage of a man’s journey to death set to music.

“It could have been pure tack but ended up with two awards and a nomination at the annual Auckland University student film competition.

“This celebration of my movie totally baffled me and I wondered why other films which appeared more ‘artistic’ did not do as well.

“I think the process taught me to be resourceful with what I had around me and not create something that was outside of do-ability. For example, the two characters in the movie were work friends and the woman at the end was the girlfriend of one of the actors. There wasn’t going to be problems with chemistry on this shoot!”

Editing on a computer even then was revolutionary, says Darcy.

“I put a Miro video card in the computer for editing, this was almost a revelatory experience in the mid nineties, to have full spec PAL running on my PC. I learned to craft my ideas on the resources I had, not fantasise about ideas which would be very hard to produce. Work with the medium.”

Darcy says he was in heaven when he discovered he could digitise VHS footage, but prior to that he edited with two Sony VHS decks.

“The Sony VX1000 camera arrived with MiniDV, I rinsed and mangled the DV format for 10 years and finally moved to shooting on 16mm film just to know the difference intimately.

“The dSLR convergence is the truth and the light. I think like a photographer, studying light. I shoot cinematically, movement across frame. Getting moving pictures off a Hi Def stills chip is the crossover we’ve been waiting for and now it’s here there’s no going back.

“I set my sights on a 5DmkII but when the 550 dropped [in price] it was the perfect combination camera for me. We’re just at the start now so there’s going to be a lot of improvement in the coming years, also it is exciting to see more players in the field and new formats emerging.”

Darcy says the most compelling reason he has for making movies is the scope of expression.

“It’s really exciting to be thinking about all aspects of the process and at the beginning it’s >> a rapid flow of ideas all jumbled up in your mind,” he says.

“They need sifting, aggregating, refining and assembled into their places. I’m a rabid multi-tasker and love switching modes of thought to accommodate new ideas. Mostly I dislike the managerial aspect of filmmaking – it’s a logistics game and you need a very organised brain to run a shoot successfully.”

Darcy is clear when it comes to pinpointing the pitfalls of making movies.

“Bad acting is an easy one to fall into and that’s the responsibility of the director,” he says. “Film is a visual medium, find actors who symbolically portray the characters and don’t let them say anything. I don’t make soap opera.

“Allow more time than what you think you need because time is gnawed away in so many ways. You need to control the flow of time including eating times etc. You need to create an energy at shoot time which should be in harmony with what you’re producing.

“Put your main talent first. That probably means main actor and camera person. Plot the logistics around these people and everything else will fall into place.

“It’s a tough line between self-managing and delegating. Either way you’re going to have big frustration, it’s the nature of the game. Build a core crew that you know will perform consistently and expand from there.”

His advice to new movie makers is to follow your instincts, find your literary form – if there is one – and realise what stories interest you.

“Filmmaking has become open-source now, all the information you need is out there,” he says. “Plan and prepare meticulously. Make a fun and creative culture. Shoot with passion.

“Try not to get carried away with technical perfection. A standard definition film with heart and soul is going to blow away any full HD production.

“Don’t spend megabucks on that new computer. That five-year-old laptop will do the job. People always complain the computer is too slow, manage your material, make a workflow that works for your system. Backup, backup again.”


Steve Hart

Steve Hart

Steve Hart is a journalist and editor based in Melbourne.

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