A film's change of setting captured a priceless atmosphere.

It was a story about loss of innocence and it ended up capturing a lost world. The 2001 feature film Rain was based on a novel by Kirsty Gunn that was set in Taupo, but director Christine Jeffs transposed it to a bach community at Scandretts Bay, in Kawau Bay on the Mahurangi Peninsula -- now largely vanished.

Producer Philippa Campbell said Jeffs and John Toon, the director of photography and her partner, went to Lake Taupo during the development process but the location didn't click.

A scene from Rain, 2001.
A scene from Rain, 2001.

"I remember Christine coming back saying that she had taken her camera, expecting to take a lot of photographs, but didn't take one. It was as if the place resisted her gaze." Toon and Campbell were moving to Mahurangi at the time, and were drawn to set the film there instead.

"One of the key things about the choice of location in terms of the story was that, just as with a lake, the water is protected ... This was really important to us -- to retain the atmosphere of the book's setting, as well as bring to life its story. We discussed it all with Kirsty and she understood and agreed with our choice," Campbell says.

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At the time the movie was filmed, the bay was in a process of transition -- the land was being bought by the then Auckland Regional Council as bach-holders, many of whom had holidayed there all their lives, were facing the prospect of their loved baches being removed.

"People were worried about development, and also grieving and angry about the changes to come. We ... eventually hired some baches for the crew to stay in, as well as the hero bach, which was filled with the lives of summers past. That kind of atmosphere is priceless and the camera is very sensitive to it. It felt true and it was true," Campbell says.

"The film tells the story of the most important summer in the life of its protagonist, 12-year-old Janey, and somehow too, those real changes in Scandretts Bay that were afoot when we were shooting, seeped into the world on screen."

The farm at Scandretts also played a bit-part in an advertisement for UK telecommunications giant Orange in the 1990s, directed by legendary film-maker Ridley Scott. Don Scandrett, whose family farmed the land for more than 130 years, recalls dropping in on the set.

"Everyone referred to the director as 'the Guv'nor', and I'd met him a couple of times, but I hadn't clicked who he was. One day they were having a break and a coffee and we had a talk about the different commercials he'd done. I asked him if he did anything else, and he said he'd made a few movies -- had I heard of Thelma and Louise?"

On film

Where:

Scandretts Bay (now Scandrett Regional Park), Mahurangi East

As seen in:

Rain (2001)

Starring:

Alicia Fulford-Wierzbicki, Sarah Peirse, Marton Csokas

Director:

Christine Jeffs

Producer:

Philippa Campbell

Rain can be watched on demand through the New Zealand Film Commission at ondemand.nzfilm.co.nz. Ridley Scott's epic advertisement for Orange can be seen here.