Showbiz has always seemed like the pinnacle of glamour to a small-town girl like me.
So as I made the trip to a shoot for Cousins, a movie dubbed as the next big break in New Zealand film making, I had visions of glitz.
The feature film, mostly shot in Rotorua and surrounding areas, was set to rival top Kiwi flicks such as Boy and The Breaker Upperers, with many of the same crew.
I should have known I was in for an authentic Kiwi experience as my work car struggled down the long pot-hole-filled gravel road to geothermal hotspot Kerosene Creek.
Crew milled about with earpieces, a girl walked around with a tray of chips and Kiwi onion dip, and curious tourists were greeted with smiles and explanations as to what was going on.
I was quickly whisked up by a producer of the film, Georgina Conder, who explained that my leather mules would be due for a wash after we navigated the tight muddy track to the action.
The day before, the team had been filming horse-riding and four-wheel-driving scenes on a farm in Okere Falls.
The art of film-making was sounding more mud-filled than sparkly by the minute.
The film, 16 years in the making, follows three cousins whose lives take very different paths as their struggles offer insightful glimpses into the lives of contemporary Māori women.
It is based on the book by Patricia Grace with the same name, and the film is the vision of the late Merata Mita, a well-known local filmmaker that blazed the trail for Māori women in the industry.
The film is set over six decades and required the casting of children, teenagers, adults and elderly people who all needed to bear a slight resemblance - a task Conder admitted had been difficult.
The adult cast is filled with well-known Kiwi actors such as Rachel House, Kirk Torrance and Cohen Holloway.
As we arrived, four young children were standing in dressing gowns, chatting and preparing for a big water scene.
Now, these were not white fluffy robes you may imagine for up-and-coming stars, but more the type plastered with pink polka dots or Paw Patrol characters.
Three of the four vivacious 8-year-olds in front of me play the cousins at one stage in their life, while the fourth had a smaller role.
Conder, with film directors Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner, scoured Bay of Plenty schools that were "oozing with talent" to find the right fit for the roles, she said.
The trio wanted local children who knew the area well.
Sure enough, they found just that and, as the children walloped in Kerosene Creek, splashing at one another, it was clear the geothermal wonder was not new to them.
This idea was held strong throughout the planning stages.
The marae where the film was set was Te Waiiti in Rotomā, and many of the extras were from the area.
An 80-year-old man, who owned a small house where filming took place off State Highway 30 near Rotorua, even wrangled his children small roles in the movie.
He also requested to keep the furniture used in the scenes as he liked what the design team had done.
To director Gardiner, this authentic local touch was vital.
Born and bred in both the Rotomā and Whakatāne, she wanted the film to invest in local people and the community.
As she read the script crafted by Mita, she and Grace-Smith knew they had a responsibility to see it through.
The film aimed to highlight the "resilience of Māori women and how colonisation never robbed us of our values".
She said New Zealand and international audiences loved films that gave Māori culture to all and they would be treated to just that.
The film was as "funny as it is a tragedy", she said.
The filming took place over six weeks, and the final shoot was last Friday at Hongi's Track in Rotomā.
Cousins is set to be released next year, both nationally and internationally.