A Kiwi film-maker's knack with common people has caught Jarvis Cocker's eye, says Scott Kara

Florian Habicht is a big fan of eccentric Britpop band Pulp, so he thought he'd invite frontman Jarvis Cocker along to a London screening of his film Love Story.

The Kiwi film-maker had never met Cocker before, but emailed him anyway to offer the band tickets to the film during its season at last year's London Film Festival.

Good thing he did, too, because not only did Cocker accept, but Habicht is now making a documentary-cum-concert film about the band and has become good friends with his music idol.

"They're one of my favourite bands. I love Pulp," he says on the phone from London, ahead of Love Story, which was first released in New Zealand in 2011, making its television debut as part of Rialto Channel's NZ Film Month throughout June.


"And so, to cut a long story short, after the band saw Love Story we just started talking about making a film about Pulp that hadn't been done yet. They were playing a concert in Sheffield [in December last year] and it was a big huge celebration of Pulp. That show is part of the film, but we had this idea where we'd make a film where it's not celebrities and entertainment people talking about how great the band are - that's the usual 'rockumentary' format. But make the film with real people, common people," he says, alluding to arguably Pulp's most famous song.

Pulp picked the perfect man for the job because getting on a level with the common people is something he has made his name on, most notably in 2004's Kaikohe Demolition, where he immersed himself in the demolition derby-loving community of the Far North town, and in his 2009 fishing documentary, Land of the Long White Cloud, about the Snapper Classic fishing competition at Ninety Mile Beach. Both films also screen on Rialto this month.

"From Kaikohe Demolition to Pulp is quite classic, eh," he says.

In terms of showcasing his filmmaking talents, the Pulp film will expose Habicht to a whole new audience, given the group's popularity in Britain and Europe. The film is already slated for a British cinema release, even though it's not going to be finished until the end of the year.

"What has been really amazing about this project is that Pulp have just completely trusted me with it. I only met them a few times at the beginning, and sure, they'd seen Love Story so got a good taste for what I'm about, but they have given all their trust, given me what I want from them, and fully supported the project. It's not like they auditioned 20 directors, it was pretty much we hit it off and a few days later the film started happening."

The thing he likes about Cocker (apart from his dance moves) and Pulp's songs, is the storytelling and how they create strong visual images in his head when he listens to them. "Like the song Live Bed Show [off 1995's Different Class], it's a song where Jarvis bought a bed when he moved to London from the Salvation Army and then, when he got a new place, he lent the bed to a friend and got it back four years later when he needed it again and he imagined all the different scenarios that happened on the bed and wrote a song about it. When I hear that song, it's like watching a little film.

"And," he continues, "a lot of their songs are about sex, too, but in a real kind of way."

Which is something Habicht relates to and brings to life in the unusual yet quite beautiful romance that unfolds throughout Love Story, in which the director plays himself, a Kiwi filmmaker in New York, who falls in love with a Russian woman (played by Masha Yakovenko) and persuades her to make a movie about their love affair.

The movie, which won best film and best director at the 2011 New Zealand Television and Film Awards, is dear to his heart.

"It's my favourite film I've made, I think," he says. "It's the most true to what I like about film-making - dancing with life and capturing that on camera to share with others."

Who: Filmmaker Florian Habicht, who is currently in Britain directing a film about Britpop heroes Pulp

Where & when: On Rialto Channel, Land of the Long White Cloud, Thursday, June 20, 8.30pm; Love Story, Friday, June 21, 8.30pm; Kaikohe Demolition, Thursday, June 20, 9.50pm, Friday, June 21, 8.40am, Sunday, June 23, 5.20pm

See also: Love Story, out now on DVD

- TimeOut