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April Sun was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival and
was screened at the New York Independent Film Festival, picking
up an award there.
“We made the film on a shoestring budget with plans of
using it as a footprint in the New Zealand film industry. Prior
to writing April Sun, I was working with the New Zealand
Film Commission, which was giving healthy feedback towards
another film script. Sadly, inappropriate use of funding by
another film company saw the commission basically close its
financial doors to new boys on the block. As a result, that’s how
April Sun came about — an impulse reaction to write, direct
and produce a film for recognition in the industry. In a blood
rush to the head, I wrote the script in just over two weeks and
we adapted scenes as we went.”
Tavanna Van Rijnsoever played the part of Laura, a drug addict
and lesbian nurse who was the right-hand woman of the creepy
Dr Wilson, a character moulded perfectly by local breadman at the
time, Paul Cockfield.
Today, Paul Cockfield operates an asbestos removal company
and says he has fond memories of playing the Gestapo-looking
doctor in April Sun.
“I got a phone call which actually blew me away. I was asked
if I wanted to play a part in a movie which was to be filmed and
produced in Greymouth. I jumped at the chance for the experience
of doing a movie, as at the time I had been spotted playing a
policeman for the Greymouth Operatic, an enthusiastic but not too
bright constable. To be offered to play the part of Dr Wilson I was
actually over the moon,” Paul says.
“I struggled for a bit to get the character but when I did it
scared the c...p out of me when I saw myself,” he laughs. “The
scenes in Revington’s were great for my character, and while there
were a lot of hours and sitting around waiting for your piece, it was
good watching the other scenes come together. To see it finally put
together was really something.”
While a lot was left to the imagination, Tavanna played her
character Laura, and having a background in cosmetics she also
applied the makeup and special effects on set for the film.
“I was working at Olsen’s Pharmacy back then. I played Laura
and was applying the makeup for the skin tones of the various
characters, as well as applying cuts, bruises and blood to faces, as
Tavanna says there were numerous happenings and lasting
memories of the filming.
“Gosh, when I look back we had the field covered. Covering
the white and ginger rat from the pet shop in black eye shadow to
turn it into a grey rat, and how it smelled so bad and then walked
all over Scott till we got the scene right. The Fijian boys running
through the bush with their machetes and war paint on, and scaring
the living daylights out of a tourist who saw them while walking
the Marsden track!
“I think playing the part of Laura was quite challenging,
especially the closed set at the Hilton Hotel. The bedroom scene
when Logan (Moka) and I got our clothes off — that was certainly
a challenge,” she laughs.
“I loved being involved with the film, it was a good experience,
a good crew and a very steep learning curve for me.”
Greymouth jeweller and engraver Ian Tennent played a Peter
Cushing-styled character called Heindrick, who was the proprietor
of an outback hotel, with the Blackball Hilton and Danny Doolan’s
Bar at Revington’s providing the set.
“I had done a few operatic shows and was actually Jack the
Ripper in one, so playing Heindrick in April Sun was a pretty
enjoyable experience, a bit of a challenge but nothing too difficult,”
“It was good working with such a good crew but I am still
working, making jewellery and the lot — I never got the call to go
to Hollywood, but it was a great experience and I enjoyed being
part of it.”
Darren Sweeney (Ronnie), Scott Honey ( Jon), Tristan Wright
(Zippie) and Logan Moka (Angie) were the leading actors in the
Darren Sweeney was working as an advertising representative
when he began playing Ronnie in the film, and he now runs his
own electrical company.
“Being involved with the film was a neat experience. It was like
one big happy family, everyone got on so well. There were so many
different scenes and backdrops but most were around Greymouth,
which was quite amazing really. Playing my character was pretty
good and after reading the script I identified who he was and how
he reacted, and I put my slant on that as well.
“Once we were all together and travelling all over the place
in the bright yellow Kombi we just all moulded together, our
characters came together and it was just crazy and so good.”
Scott Honey was a baker when he was playing the part of Jon,
and while he says moulding the character came naturally, he is still
moulding dough today.
“I’m still a baker, no major film contracts for me, but what
an experience being part of the crew on April Sun. I wore
out three pairs of sandshoes running through the bush, on
the beach and up the creeks, and my jacket had faded by the
time we finished filming. I didn’t expect it to take as long as it
did but it was tough with everyone working, getting everyone
together. But it was enjoyable. I sort of knew the crew but got
to know them better during filming and made good friends as
Scott says being a local celebrity for a time was a real
experience and a time of nostalgia for him walking the imaginary
red carpet at the film’s premiere.
“The night of the premiere was awesome, to say the least.
Tristan and I hired a limousine and pulled up outside the Regent
Theatre dressed in white suits, and we were greeted by a hell of a
crowd of people gathered outside and in the foyer. We were stars
for the night, and there were tv cameras all over the place and
flashes going off — for a moment I thought I was in Hollywood,”
“Having the tv crew turn up at work and interview me in the
bakery for the evening news was a buzz as well, not to mention the
premiere celebrations at Revington’s afterwards.”
Before April Sun, Scott had acted in some school productions
when he was young, but never in a movie.
“Playing Jon did come pretty natural I suppose, but it came
natural as we all bounced off each other. We had an off-the-cuff
banter which went with the script and we all played our parts as
naturally as we could — I think the end result says it all.”
Tristan Wright (Zippie) was working in a supermarket produce
department at the time of filming and now works at International
Panel and Lumber plywood factory.
“It was a long process but it was enjoyable as we hadn’t done
anything like that before,” Tristan says. “It was meeting new people
and it was made easy as everyone gelled. You didn’t have to try, it
just happened, and there was great camaraderie among everyone
involved. We filmed on weekends and only when people could be
together, but I enjoyed it and looking back I’m pleased I was part of
the film — a great experience.”
Logan Moka lives in Rotorua now but says she also has
fond memories playing the part of Angie, a character she enjoyed
“The only acting I had done prior to being in April Sun was
doing a bit of drama at school. When I read the script I knew who
Angie was and basically playing her in the film came naturally.
and was with good people. It created hype in a small town when
the premiere screened, and then to see April Sun on the national
news was pretty special.”
The West Coast provided the perfect backdrop for the movie,
“I liked the beach scenes, I just loved the script and filming at
the beach, and I also enjoyed running through the creeks, getting
soaking wet and muddy while chased by a bunch of madmen with
machetes. The whole thing was great, the film and the people — it
was something special,” Logan says.
Every film production relies on roadies working behind the
scenes and for April Sun, Mason Martin wore the roadie hat firmly
on his head, while also playing a cameo role in the film.
“I’ve always been into movies and having a West Coast film
production was something else. I wanted to have a go and be part
of it. I was behind the scenes helping out wherever I could —
setting up, the lights, monitors, carting gear and just being involved
where I could assist. I enjoyed being part of the crew and filming,
and seeing places I’d never been to before on the West Coast —
filming in the old nurses’ hostel, for one.
“We made use of the terrain and local environment and I really
enjoyed it. I played the part of a petrol attendant outside what was
the Blackball Store. The whole concept was a break from reality and
the general mundane way of life — making a movie.”
To mark the 10-year anniversary, April Sun will screen at
the Regent Theatre on Saturday, June 27, at 7pm.
The old hut where filming took place at White Horse Hill, on the Coast Road.
Logan Moka and Darren Sweeney relax between scenes at Punakaiki.
The production crew gets
ready to film outside the
Blackball Hilton Hotel.
April Sun was an all-West Coast
production. The entire cast was local,
every scene was filmed on the West
Coast, and the script was penned in suburban
Greymouth, the brainchild of father and son,
Paul and Patrick McBride, working under the
banner of McBride Productions.
“ We had the advantage of knowing
first-hand, the lay of the land and the
natural settings the West Coast offered,
but above all we had so much support from
our local people,” cinematographer Patrick
“ We learned a hell of a lot, filming with
just one camera, to what we know now. An
awesome bunch of people, great times and
strong friendships formed. It was exhausting
when I think about it. The hardest thing
for me was the bar scenes and filming after
working Friday and Saturday night after
closing Revington’s bar down at 4am in the
morning. The team would then all rock up
after closing time and next minute it was
lights, camera and action at Danny Doolan’s
Bar — a pretty big shift.”
Filming took place at various locations
including the Coast Road, Shantytown,
Revington’s Hotel and the Blackball Hilton
Hotel, all providing the perfect blend for the
April Sun script.
The storyline followed the fortunes of
four young backpackers travelling in a Kombi
van, the tangled web they got caught up in
and the strange characters and places they
encountered during their travels.
Digital technology was at its infancy
in 2004–05 and the large 35mm film reels
were still the main method of film but April
Sun focused on pushing the boundaries, says
producer and scriptwriter Paul McBride.
“ We used a Sony PD150 digital camera,
shooting on a widescreen 16.9 format. The
camera was near bursting at the seams
and was certainly given a true baptism of
fire during filming. In reality, I think what
Patrick and I captured is quite remarkable,
very effective, and our local actors who
played the characters in the film were simply
outstanding,” Paul McBride says.
In 2005, Greymouth got
a rare taste of Hollywood,
West Coast-style, as a pair
of local amateur film-makers
embarked on their own
version of movie magic. Ten
years after the cast of April
Sun walked the virtual red
carpet for the packed house
premier at the Regent Theatre,
we catch up with the key
players as they reflect on
the Coast ’s first homegrown
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