Former Bay woman Sarah Watson will this month start production on a short film based on James K Baxter's poem At Akitio.

She chats to Mark Story

Why Baxter, and why this poem?

I chose this to be based around Baxter because I feel he really was an interesting poet, and I feel his poetry is so important in that it strips back the niceties and really, in a sense, speaks for itself. I really am just a big fan and he was very prolific. But it is very simple - his poetry is interesting and moves me. Being a fellow poet myself, he is an inspiration to me.


The poem At Akitio sat nicely with my idea for a film and I pondered on how this project could really focus on both Baxter himself, and his poetry, and how they could entwine themselves in a visual delicacy, that is my vision. Many consider At Akitio to be one of his greatest poems. The poem is completely mesmerising, and dances upon the lips when spoken, almost as delectable as the crayfish he mentions in the poem.

Do you think Tararua's Akitio itself has changed much since Baxter wrote the piece in 1957? Or does the poem still neatly delineate this coast?
I think apart from some development, the coastline at Akitio retains its rugged, raw and inspiring feel. It feels like a special place.

Tell us a little about your cast.

Wolfgang Schmidt (Ngati Maniapoto) is directing and Harry Summerfield, who recently starred in Alien Addiction, plays Baxter. Both have an enthusiasm that is exceptional. They are passionate individuals who believe in the project. The other crew are amazing too.

What genre are you aiming for?

Our vision is art-house! I like films such as Florian Habicht's Woodenhead and Jane Campion's The Piano, so these really shaped my flavour in regards to this genre.

I absolutely love art-house films, and feel Akitio is a project that could really embrace this genre.

As a young filmmaker, does funding remain the vocation's biggest obstacle?


Funding! Yes, well this is the second project funded by Creative NZ and I sure hope some of our bigger projects can be funded. I have some great supporters who really believe in what I write and what I want to do. David Blyth has been an inspiration and good friend to me. I now have a Scottish producer on board a feature project. But I think it is about steps, you show what you can do, and then hope that some funders or backers take notice of your work.

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