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  • Writer's pictureLakes Weekly Bulletin

Short film to be shot in Queenstown

Grant spending time with the ‘Sound Effects Department’ for his short film to be shot locally early next year.

Internationally published researcher and writer Grant McLachlan has adopted Queenstown as the location to produce several film projects he wrote based on true local stories.

With a background in law and town planning, McLachlan was admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor but opted to work at Parliament to focus on research. Certified as an environmental hearing commissioner, McLachlan took up writing as part of his rehabilitation after a mountain biking accident left him with serious and debilitating injuries. “You could say that becoming a writer was an ‘accident’,” he says.

Prior to his accident, his interest in World War II history saw him travelling extensively, documenting the life stories of World War II veterans who fought alongside his grandfathers, including some who fought alongside Sir Charles Upham VC. That led to interviewing veterans of the Cold War clandestine services.

Since his accident, his works have been themed around the empathy between humans and animals.

He wrote a children’s novella for his niece and nephews about his experiences with a Staffordshire puppy that befriended a white Kaimanawa colt while convalescing in Tolaga Bay. “A friend suggested that I show it to a literary agent,” he says. Instead of submitting it to a publisher, it was optioned by a film studio.

McLachlan then undertook research into the Auckland Island pigs, documenting the discovery of the pigs’ unique characteristics for use in the treatment of life-threatening human conditions. Pigs were first introduced to the islands by sealers in the 1800s as a food source for castaways, then shipping routes changed and the pigs lived in isolation. When they became a problem to protected native wildlife, the Rare Breeds Conservation Society, trailed by a Country Calendar crew, recovered some pigs. Sir Tim Shadbolt and the Invercargill City Council unwittingly ended up funding the quarantine.

“The story has all the elements of a Kafkaesque farce,” says McLachlan. “Just like my war veterans’ interviews, however, my Auckland Island pigs research was a race against time,” says McLachlan.

With an extensive library of interviews, he asked for advice.

“A local legend took a look at my catalogue of work and introduced me to people who offered to mentor me. They told me that to get anything done, I needed to learn how to direct,” he says.

As a result, what was meant to be a short stay in Queenstown has been extended while he hones those director skills.

The short film project will be shot over four nights in central Queenstown, with many local cast and crew involved, plus extras from more than 20 countries on set.

“The story is based on a hilarious situation while I was waiting for a friend at a Queenstown bar,” says McLachlan. He told local cinematographer John Cavill what happened and he offered to help make a short film. Brett Mills, of The Queenstown Camera Company, offered to provide the film making equipment.

The storyline details are being kept under wraps but it’s a hilarious heartwarming story focusing on how people from different cultures react to a very local situation. Cromwell-based dog wrangler Gary Wulff has been working with the animals cast for the project. A second unit began shooting earlier this year and principal filming is scheduled for early next year.

Production has already been disrupted twice by the availability of crew following Cyclone Gabrielle and film industry strikes taking place in the US. However, McLachlan remains optimistic.

“If there is one thing people in the industry learn it’s patience.”

The disruption has produced an unexpected silver lining.

“A comedian mate looked at the script and suggested that it had the formula for a TV series,” he says.

The short film will be submitted to international film festivals in 2024.


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