Acting royalty arrives in New Zealand for new movie; Flak flies over fashion website move; The talkback caller with a familiar voice; Nine Questions With ... the Marketer of the Year; and One Good Text with Rachel Smalley
Two of Hollywood’s biggest names - including an Oscar best actor winner - will spend the next two months in New Zealand, shooting a new movie based on a Kiwi short story.
John Lithgow and Geoffrey Rush lead a cast alongside local acting royalty George Henare for The Rule of Jenny Pen, a horror movie based on a short story by New Zealand author Owen Marshall.
Cast and crew are understood to have already moved into the Taupō area, with filming set to take place over the next four weeks before shifting to Wellington.
The film is directed by James Ashcroft, who directed another horror film based on a Marshall short story, Coming Home in the Dark.
The movie is set in an aged-care facility.
Oscar-winner Rush plays a conceited judge who suffers a near-fatal stroke that has him placed in convalescence where he refuses to cooperate with the facility’s staff or communicate with his roommate.
Golden Globe-winner Lithgow plays an aging psychopath who uses a child’s puppet to indulge in a sadistic game, known as The Rule of Jenny Pen.
Rush, 72, won the best actor Oscar in 1997 for his role in the movie Shine, and has received widespread acclaim for performances in Shakespeare in Love, Quills, and The King’s Speech. He is also popular having appeared in more mainstream movies including Pirates of the Caribbean.
Lithgow, 78, has played a range of roles in dozens of movies and has been a notorious bad guy in films such as Cliffhanger. As well as winning six Emmy Awards, he received Oscar nominations for two of his film roles, in The World According to Garp and Terms of Endearment. He is perhaps best known to a generation for his television role on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Henare, 77, is famous for a portfolio of New Zealand movies over 50 years including Once Were Warriors and Crooked Earth.
“It’s been a true privilege welcoming into the fold three icons of stage and screen, Geoffrey Rush, John Lithgow and George Henare, all of whom have been inspirations since my formative years,” said Ashcroft.
“With the support of Film Bay of Plenty, we’ve discovered our perfect shooting location in Taupō and look forward to being a guest in the region over the coming weeks.”
He said the “terrifying project” had been a decade-long “labour of love”.
“I’m thrilled to be bringing so many of the incredible Coming Home in the Dark collaborators together again to revisit another suspenseful and disturbing Owen Marshall work.”
Coming Home in the Dark premiered at Sundance Film Festival and the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2021. It has since been picked up by Netflix.
Marshall told Media Insider: “I’ve been very lucky that James Ashcroft has taken a fancy to a couple of my darker stories.
“He doesn’t do them in a gross melodramatic way though. He has some subtlety and insights and I have a lot of respect and admiration for his work.”
Marshall said he was yet to meet Lithgow and Rush, but is due to visit the Wellington set next month.
The film is set to be released next year.
“We are beyond excited... the sensational filmmaking team and cast are absolute top drawer,” said Kelly Rogers, CEO of Galaxy Pictures and Rialto Distribution.
The Rule of Jenny Pen is produced by Catherine Fitzgerald (Bellbird, Coming Home in the Dark, Punch), and Orlando Stewart (Bellbird). The screenplay is written by Eli Kent (Coming Home in the Dark, Millie Lies Low) and Ashcroft.
Fashion flak: PR agency and media platform
It hasn’t exactly been the smoothest ride buying one of New Zealand fashion’s media platforms for PR guru Murray Bevan.
Bevan’s Showroom 22 PR and marketing agency bought the FashioNZ website in late June after its previous owner, Beauty Media Ltd, went into liquidation in May.
In September, in an oped piece on the website, Bevan took aim at a “very vocal group of detractors... coming after us online, saying we’d taken a huge dump on the ‘legacy’ of the brand”.
“What brand?” he wrote. “FashioNZ has been the last cab off the local media rank for years now, so it was a genuine surprise to me that anyone even cared.”
Now some within the industry are questioning how Showroom 22 - the PR agency Bevan established 21 years ago - can operate an independent media platform.
By way of a recent example, Allbirds, a Showroom client, featured on the site.
“I was prepared for this kind of chatter among the media and fashion industry when I acquired FashioNZ.co.nz and have created a structure around the website that has helped us separate the media platform from the PR agency,” Bevan told Media Insider.
While one senior industry editor had asked him directly how it would all work, “I know there would have been other tongues wagging who weren’t as forward with their thoughts.”
Bevan said maintaining his personal integrity - and Showroom’s - was “paramount”.
“I have built my business on deep connections with people and brands from Aotearoa and around the world who trust my opinion and advice, so it’s not in my best interests to devalue that.”
He says FashioNZ “must remain” a separate and independent entity. “As such, it is run by a totally different team to that who manage clients of Showroom 22.”
He has hired respected senior journalist and writer Phoebe Watt as editor, and she is supported by two other editorial staff.
Bevan said Watt was independent and had the final say on content.
Watt herself sent an email to Media Insider, outlining her background - she has been the managing editor of Mindfood, editor of Remix and deputy editor of Fashion Quarterly - and reiterating the importance of maintaining editorial integrity.
“When I took on the role as editor at FNZ, I spent most of the first week reaching out to some 10 years’ worth of industry contacts, explaining the role, the necessary separation between Murray as publisher, and myself as editor, and underscoring that my approach would be to support everyone,” she said.
Bevan said in the first 10 weeks, there had been more than 50 stories on brands not associated with Showroom.
“Of the 150 most-read stories on the site since we relaunched on August 14, 93 of those stories have been written by Phoebe and her team. And of those 93 new stories, only nine have been based on clients of Showroom 22.”
He said buying the website was primarily a “charitable move” to save the website from being shut down.
“No one else wanted it. If the site had been left to close down, over 25 years of unique stories and content documenting NZ fashion would have been lost.”
He is claiming strong early success with a bigger, younger and more engaged audience.
“I also have a vested interest in seeing our local media thrive and survive, so as an agency we continue to prioritise coverage for our PR clients in the best media possible, even if that means not prioritising FashioNZ.co.nz.”
One Good Text
This week, we correspond with Rachel Smalley.
A furious undercover talkback caller
“It’s driving me crazy, Piney.”
Willie, the talkback caller who dialled into Newstalk ZB on Sunday afternoon - following the All Blacks’ one-point loss to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup final - sounded familiar.
He said he was “feeling terrible”.
“I’m getting sick of people saying the best team won. The best team didn’t win, the best team lost.
“In 52 years of watching test rugby and World Cup rugby, have you ever heard a referee admit he was wrong ... and then still let the guy kick the penalty?” bemoaned Willie, referring to the penalty awarded by Wayne Barnes against All Black Ardie Savea.
Willie said he could swallow Barnes’ error in 2007, when he missed a forward pass in the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup quarter-final loss to France.
“He didn’t know he made the mistake. [But this time] we had a referee who actually knew that he had done it.
“He had made a mistake and he still gave them the three points. They [South Africa] won the game on an illegal penalty.”
Willie even described Barnes as an “idiot” and a “bogeyman” for the All Blacks.
“It’s driving me crazy, Piney”
At the end of the call, Pine said to listeners, without articulating: “You might have recognised Willie’s voice.”
Yes indeed, it’s always nice when an (outgoing) Government Minister - in this case Broadcasting Minister Willie Jackson - supports local media.
9 Questions: NZ’s marketer of the year
It’s been a huge year for ANZ marketing executive Astrud Burgess.
Fresh off her promotion in July to the Australasian role of ANZ Group chief marketing officer, Burgess was last week named Effective Marketer of the Year at the annual Effie Awards.
Burgess’ big win and recent promotion - she had been GM marketing and data for the bank in New Zealand - is testament to the respect she is held in at the bank and throughout the marketing industry. Such is her skill set, the bank has agreed she can remain based in Auckland.
I spent last night in Christchurch, four days into the NZ Herald’s Great NZ Road Trip. As part of that series, we’ve been running a daily column, called Nine Questions With ...
This week, in a Road Trip/Media Insider colab, I asked Burgess to complete the same questions, a combination of our own and others unashamedly stolen from the famous Proust Questionnaire.
What’s the one word to sum up your mood right now?
What do you wish people knew about where you live?
Point Chevalier [Auckland] is the perfect place to bring up kids, beach, Western Springs Park, the Zoo
What are your passions?
Novels, poetry, marketing, live music, cocktails
Which New Zealander (alive or dead) do you most admire – and why?
Jacinda Ardern, she steered the country through some very tough times with a humanity that I wish was emulated by more leaders in NZ and around the world
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A sunny day, a great book, the sound of the ocean
What is your greatest fear?
What is it that you most dislike?
What is on your bucket list?
A 10-day silent retreat
What do you hope/think NZ will look like in 10 years?
I hope NZ will be a more equal society but I fear things will get worse
The Great NZ Road Trip
I’m coming to the end of the first week of my two-week road trip of New Zealand, and I have to say the mood in the South Island feels optimistic. There are no doubt economic challenges but the rural sector especially, and as expected, has made no secret about its excitement over the change of Government.
There will be much focus today, for the country, on the outcome of special votes. Results are expected about 2pm.
For a full rundown so far of the road trip main features, Nine Questions With ... columns, and trip diaries and videos please see here.
Today I take the all-electric VW ID.5 over the Southern Alps, heading from Christchurch to Greymouth and a Friday night on the Coast.
If you have any story tips or ideas for the project, please email email@example.com
- Editor-at-Large Shayne Currie is one of New Zealand’s most experienced senior journalists and media leaders. He has held executive and senior editorial roles at NZME including Managing Editor, NZ Herald Editor and Herald on Sunday Editor and has a small shareholding in NZME.