Apocalypse Picton: Our Next Booming Film Industry?

Following a failed invasion by an unspecified superpower, dangerous opportunists roam the brushy back roads around Picton and Nelson. There is limited food, scarce medicine, a pandemic that can turn the slightest injury into a deadly infection.

It’s a place where paddocks and shacks hide deadly traps and firing a warning shot only wastes dwindling ammo. But there is good here too. “A world without love? says a resident between two refills. “What’s the point in that?”.

Welcome to Northspur, a low-budget, high-impact action feature that spanned five years. Stacked with fine acting from Aotearoa and Australia, it’s taut, snappy and beautifully shot, and has just been picked up for distribution in the US. Grant Smithies chats with writer/co-producer Justin Eade.

* Disused highway near Nelson, the perfect location for an apocalyptic film
* Aaron Falvey makes films on weekends, annual holidays. Just like Peter Jackson once
* Look Who’s Talking: Phil McKinnon, Director of Top of the South Film Festival

Where did it all start for you?

I worked at Sky TV and left 14 years ago to return to Nelson. Since then, I’ve been writing plays and making short films locally, and me and (Northspur director) Aaron Falvey finally managed to make a feature film. There’s a collective of Top of the South filmmakers here and we’re having our own film festival, and that seemed like the next logical step. You spend years sending out scripts, hoping other people could do them, and then you think, “Wait, we can do that here!”

Were you surprised by the depth of filmmaking expertise that existed in Nelson and Marlborough?

Absolutely. There’s a lot of serious acting talent here and experienced crews, and loads of people with gear, making short films. With Northspur, we secured money from local investors and used it to hire outside cast and crew to work alongside local talent.

It was a community project, ultimately, but it also involved actors who had done a lot of work in Australia, like the late Marshall Napier, a New Zealander who acted for years in things like McLeod’s Daughters and the movie Babe, and rising star Josh McKenzie, who is currently working in Australia on an American NBC television series called La Brea.

Northspur will be in select theaters on September 1, followed by a US streaming release later in the year.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

Northspur will be in select theaters on September 1, followed by a US streaming release later in the year.

Why this particular style of film?

Aaron and I decided to start with a genre project like an action thriller because it’s the most likely to sell and get distributed so that it reaches an audience. Aaron came up with the idea for New Zealand after an apocalyptic event where everything got a little wild, and I fleshed that out into a screenplay.

With many action movies, you walk away feeling nothing but a kind of exhausted excitement, but when you don’t have a huge budget for car chases and explosions, you spend more money. energy on character development and introducing themes that make people think. You still need rhythm, danger, and tension, but you can also give the thing more emotional heart.

Northspur has plenty of echoes of real-life events – a pandemic, heightened global tensions, the social contract collapsing under the strain – but all take place on grim rural back roads.

If people cannot get medicine, food or supplies for a few days, society quickly collapses. We saw this with Covid where people couldn’t get toilet paper and started fighting in supermarkets. The polished society veneer is pretty thin, and the best place to be when it all falls apart is probably a self-sufficient lifestyle property in the sticks.

This is where the film takes place. But of course people are just going to come to your land and take what you have, so you have a decision to make on how to protect your family.

Tell me about the emotional heart of the film – an interaction between a peaceful young couple and a grumpy old coot with a shotgun.

Yeah, the young man doesn’t want all the activists and hurting people, but his wife realizes that they have to make some tough decisions. This conflicted pacifist has to step out into an increasingly harsh world, and he meets an old man with the opposite personality – no compassion, shoot first and ask questions later. They are forced to work together, and some of these qualities intertwine.

There are heartbreaking action scenes and spectacular photos of the landscape around Picton and Nelson’s Whangamoa Ranges.

We put all the money we had into acting and gear, to make it look good and be driven by great performances. Many people have worked for free to help Northspur succeed, as they support our vision to create an organic film industry here at the top of the South Island.

Eades wants his films to culturally enrich the region, provide jobs and create a career path for local filmmakers.

Braden Fastier / Stuff

Eades wants his films to culturally enrich the region, provide jobs and create a career path for local filmmakers.

What’s next for you?

We want to get to the point where people get paid to work on feature films here and then we can sell them around the world. We’ve got the scenery, the skills, the ideas, and if you have good writing you can attract great actors to your projects without them having to be made in Auckland or Wellington.

We want these films to culturally enrich the region, give people jobs and create a career path for people who come and want to stay and make films here. Really, I feel like Aaron and I are just getting started.

Northspur will be in select theaters on September 1, followed by a US streaming release later in the year.