Twelve questions

Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions: Max Currie

Max Currie, 35, is a film-maker whose debut feature is at this month’s International Film Festival. The former host of Queer Nation and Shortland Street scriptwriter was once a diplomat’s partner in New York.

After a day's shooting on Queer Nation at 21, Max Currie  realised writing and directing was something he could pursue. Photo / Chris Gorman
After a day's shooting on Queer Nation at 21, Max Currie realised writing and directing was something he could pursue. Photo / Chris Gorman

1.Your first movie Everything We Loved has had a review in the Hollywood Reporter: How did that happen?
We dogged them. The writer was sitting at the same table as us at the Palm Springs Film Festival dinner and Tom, my producer, kept in touch 'til we finally got the film in front of him. Palm Springs was amazing it's the last chance before the Academy Awards for the nominees to stump for the Oscars so they're all there. Sandra Bullock, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell. He's really short. There were two red carpets at Palm Springs: we turned up and got ushered to the second one. Of course.

2.Did you always know you had a film in you?
I was 21 and walking down Howe St at 2am after shooting a segment for Queer Nation and it just occurred to me that I could write and direct movies. I don't know why. It seemed so far removed from my life growing up in Palmerston North and it had never entered my head before. What excited me was just that I could do it, not whether I would be any good at it or not.

3.What did you plan to do after university?
I spent a year in Berlin. I fell for a German guy who had no idea of my crush and when he left New Zealand to head back to Bonn I decided to learn German and nab a scholarship to pursue him - but by the time I'd got it I realised it wasn't going to work so I went to Berlin instead. When my Goethe scholarship ran out, I found work as a solo chef at an Australian-themed restaurant. Crocodile steak, ostrich and kangaroo steak. I learned to cook from a bunch of Polaroids on the wall.

4.Have you had other interesting jobs?
I was a diplomatic spouse for two years in New York. I was the only same-sex partner listed in the Blue Book - the UN guide for party planning and a who's-who for invitations. At nights I worked in a gay go-go bar on the Lower East Side. It was called The Urge. I was strictly a bartender doing happy hour. The debauchery started after I finished.

5.Did you miss all the partying?
Yeah, I'd just ride my bike back home when I'd finished. Parties and partying has never really fired my imagination. I'd rather be at home working on my ideas or writing and I'm a morning person. You can waste a lot of time partying. I find them claustrophobic and you can't hear people properly. Freedom for me is hiking or expansive nature. The party scene for a lot of men is a way for them to feel comfortable about their sexuality but just after I came out I was hosting a gay TV show and had two years of exploring sexuality as a topic. It was almost like an accelerator programme.

6.Did you always know you were gay?
There wasn't a word for it but yeah, since a very young age I felt different. I'd write a lot of stories about sensitive boys who couldn't hang with the gang. I remember one I wrote about a boy whose mates went hunting and he went to protect the fawn from the arrows and was shot. I told my parents when I was 19 and Mum cried and Dad laughed. Mum said later that she could see I was suffering with this and it was this big release that we could finally get there as a family.

7.What did your parents teach you?
Mum was a kindy teacher and Dad was head of microbiology at Palmerston North Hospital. He taught me lots like how to bait a hook. They had a great way of teaching us to wash our hands - they took samples before and after we washed them, labelled the petri dishes then put them in the hot water cupboard. A week later we were presented with the dishes and the washed ones were clean and clear and the others had these fungal growths practically forcing the tops off. It worked.

8.Your first feature film is about a heterosexual relationship: is that what people expected?
It's a heterosexual relationship and a family relationship and a father-son relationship which is really core to the film. I think if you ask a gay person to take a photograph of a cake, the photograph will be gay in some way. How can I see the world through any other lens but my own experience? It's not a gay film. There's no gay theme but maybe in terms of perspective of this family and its conflicts and struggles it's a gay perspective.

9.Do you worry about failure?
I've failed so many times now that it doesn't carry as much weight as it used to. When you're first pitching stories and go on a limb to share of yourself and you get slapped down, that's hard. But the more you change your focus ... it gets better.

10.What is important to you?
I got a free therapist as part of the diplomatic package in New York and what I learned from him was authenticity. It's not something we do naturally - it was great to have someone reminding you that it's always worth striving for real authenticity, especially in the way that you treat people.

11.You say you like stories about "good people doing bad things": are you a good person?
I practice Buddhism which does not automatically make me a good person but you're trying to put your attention on authenticity and being open and the consequences of actions.

12.And do you do bad things?
I try never to do bad things intentionally. But when I was 15 I dropped a trampoline on my Dad - pretty much on purpose. He asked me to hold it up on its side while he mowed underneath. I got bored and started testing how long I could let it go and it fell on him. Dad was so angry. I hid down by the river the whole day, then eventually came home. But I could have broken his neck.

Everything We Loved premieres at the New Zealand International Film Festival on July 28.

Watch the trailer for Everything We Loved here.

- NZ Herald

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