It wasn't just a drag show, it was art, and there was nothing else like it in New Zealand. With no restrictions on what they could do, it was outrageous - with themes of death and sex.
"You can come here and be whoever you want to be," says the girl with the white bob on Karangahape "K" Rd, with the tiara on her head, and stick-on rhinestones around her eyes.
It's 2015, and the documentary Disco Bloodbath - premiering online today in virtual cinemas as part of the Doc Edge international film festival - begins in a packed club before cutting to a naked drag queen, Drew Blood, getting body-painted.
Filmed across two years in Auckland and directed by former Whakatāne resident Marcus Palmer, it follows the cast and managers of Auckland's underground cabaret drag show Disco Bloodbath, which ran for 15 months before self-destructing in glittery fashion.
Created out of frustration with the Auckland drag scene and its limitations on performers, founder Francesa "Frankie" Tocker began it as a no-holds-barred event where society's rules didn't apply.
It was picked up as a monthly gig where "club kids, punks and outsiders" could redefine themselves without the limits of subversive clubs and binary sexuality.
It wasn't just a drag show, it was art, and there was nothing else like it in New Zealand.
With no restrictions on what they could do, it was outrageous - with themes of death and sex.
The film is one of 113 global documentaries and short films in the Doc Edge festival, which offers both in-theatre and online screenings - including live-watch parties and Q&As - until July 10.
Disco Bloodbath had its on-screen premiere yesterday at The Civic and The Capitol, and tickets are now available to watch it online from the Doc Edge website.
In the film, Tocker explains she wanted to make the queer community more accessible.
"There are so many closeted punk kids that feel like they're going to get judged if they come out.
"I didn't want the segregation - if you're gay you have to go to (K Road's) Family Bar, if you're punk, you have to stay with your underground shows that people don't really know.
"There were no societal norms that you had to stick to," Palmer says of what Tocker created before going overseas and having others take over.
"It was this underground fantasy world.
"That's something I wanted to follow to the end of the line because I knew eventually there were going to be limits - from without or within."
The 90-minute film took five years for Palmer to finish among other projects like TV shows MasterChef and Lego Masters - due to it being self-financed and independently produced.
It observes the integral members of the show over a key 18-month period as it launches and gains popularity and gradually morphs into something beyond what its original performers wanted it to be.
When the group eventually hits the limit of what an audience will tolerate, tea is spilt among the group and the new friendships disintegrate.
Disco Bloodbath, exhausted by its own inescapability, comes to an end, but not before a surprising finale at New Zealand Fashion Week.
Palmer, 44, went to South Seas Film School with Drew Blood - aka actor Dan Veint - in the mid-2000s and followed him on his first drag show, making a nine-minute movie out of it.
Teased for his babyish voice at school, Drew, who's "perpetually sad" with a painted downcast Joker-like frown, always wanted to be an actor. "I liked the idea of being somebody else for a while," he says.
A couple of months later Palmer, who was "never without a camcorder" as a kid, videoing sponsor-seeking skateboarders in his stomping grounds of Ōtākiri, Ōhope and Whakatāne, went along to his first Disco Bloodbath.
"I had no idea what I was filming. I just kept going, and that happened a lot with this documentary. I committed to turning up with a camera and a soundie, and every time something would present itself.
"It was certainly a voyage of discovery for me because I'm a heterosexual male.
"It wasn't just men dressing up, it was females. It was a non-binary experience where you could look around the room and gender was irrelevant."
Palmer is a known fixture in New Zealand film and television as a director and producer.
His work includes Dragon, the behind-the-music-style documentary television show, and The Exponents, a musical journey into the iconic New Zealand band.
The former owner of Deck Head skate shop in Whakatāne in the 1990s, this is the 44-year-old's first festival feature documentary, which he finished with the help of editor Samantha Sperlich.
Despite the film featuring the queer community, Palmer, who lived in England before coming home to study filmmaking, says it was never going to be a movie about sexuality.
"I wanted to make a film that wasn't about men dressing up as women and women dressing up as men - that's in it, but more importantly, a group of people trying to express themselves. I made a decision pretty early that [sexuality] wasn't going to be the main focus."
The doco is both light and dark - a visual feast, before the heart of the story emerges about the complexities of self-expression and artistic and political representation of "controversial matters with no concept".
The film structure presented a challenge.
"It's almost like it's in two parts, but it had to be that way," Palmer says.
"Let it play out so you understand how important Disco Bloodbath is to the people in it. So, in the second half when it's destroyed, you understand what the value is.
"Traditionally, one main character will lead the story, but in the early cuts, I realised that the main character needed to be Disco Bloodbath. So building up the event as a character was important."
As a forum for self-expression, cast members tell the camera that Disco Bloodbath became their safe place.
Drag queen Medulla Oblongata was born in the Maldives and got politically active there, including organising protests for freedom of choice.
"The first one went really well and the next year we were met immediately [by opposers] just as we were gathering ... attacked with stones and people got hurt. People's throats were slashed. So, I moved to New Zealand and sought asylum and was recognised as a refugee.
"I'm just trying to live my life," he says, still receiving hate mail and death threats.
Other drag queens share they've come from "horrendous" backgrounds, including rape and not being accepted.
One hasn't yet come out to his Christian family. "I don't want to be disowned. I feel like there's a chance of that. I'm still trying to search for who I am and Bloodbath is helping me ... [They're] people who love me for who I am."
Medulla Oblongata says: "Bloodbath came at such a time where all of us felt like misfits and didn't feel like we had a space in Auckland to perform and we created that environment for ourselves."
At the fourth-to-last Disco Bloodbath, in February 2016, drag queen Busty Springfield tells the camera: "Most people grow up, leave high school, go to uni, find their crowd. But for us, it was really hard to find our family. As far as choosing a family, this is it. It's not just Disco Bloodbath, it's people's lives."
Palmer hopes the main message people take away from his film is that if you want to express yourself - fight.
He hopes his film will be internationally distributed with its universal story.
When Disco Bloodbath was born in 2015, it was ahead of culture.
"I believe the film is culturally significant," he says.
"I didn't make the film just for the queer community. I wanted it to be for a broad audience. To show a heterosexual male in middle New Zealand, not a typical, cliche drag show, but to show them something else. The box is blown wide open."
The Doc Edge Festival is an Oscar-qualifying international documentary festival now in its 17th year. It features film screenings across 40 days.
Of the 113 films - eight of which are Kiwi made - genres range from music, culture, politics, and climate, to adventure. There is also a special school festival programme.
Download the programme or individual cities' film schedules onto a device. Selected premieres are happening in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with the rest of New Zealand able to watch online on the Doc Edge Virtual Cinema.