I was fortunate enough to hear that Taika Waititi was going to be on the panel at the Take 100: The Future of Film book launch last night. Book Soup (a really awesome independent book store that I have not yet been to) co-presented it but it was hosted by The Cinefamily @ The Silent Movie Theatre (a really awesome film community that I have been to). I didn’t have a chance to browse through the book but Taika has a section in it. It’s $75.
Maybe someday, when I’m a rich woman, I’ll own it.
I went with three girls from another fan forum. Chrissy, Sara, and Caitlin. Some of you may know them. Our motto is…I.E. (Inland Empire) REPRE$ENT!!!!!!!!! We may have to change it though as Caitlin no longer lives in the I.E. Nonetheless, it’s nice to have fellow fans that live literally up the street from you. We arrived 30 min. early and while we waited for the doors to open, Taika walked up and started talking to some guy. I tried to casually bring this to the attention of the other girls. Sara noticed and looked at me with eager eyes and joined me in my mission. Eventually, we just had to come out and say, “Taika is here,” because the girls didn’t pick up on our hints. We failed.
The event was moderated by Trevor Groth (Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival) and I’m now kicking myself for not introducing myself to him. It’s kind of a dream of mine that I might attend Sundance as one of the featured filmmakers when I actually have work to show. Maybe if I had introduced myself, he would remember me as I’m sure he remembers the thousands of names and faces he meets throughout the year. Ah well. The members of the panel included Jay Duplass (Cyrus, Baghead, The Puffy Chair), Jodi Hill (Observe and Report, Eastbound and Down), Nash Edgerton, and of course, Taika.
Taika stood off to the side with the other panel members until it was time to start.
We found seats right up front and joked that we should place name cards on all the chairs and place Taika’s in the seat closest to our couch. When Trevor introduced Taika he mentioned the Academy Award nomination and Taika smiled and added, “I lost!” before taking his seat. His seat was the third closest to us, which was still very close. You know, just in case you were wondering the position of his seat to our couch.
Trevor began by openly asking all the forum members about how they got started in film. When it was Taika’s turn, he joked about how behind New Zealand is with technology. He said that before the 90s, they only had two TV channels. Channel 1 and Channel 2, he elaborated. *(audience laughs)* When they added a new channel (TV3), it was a really big deal. He became interested in film by watching everything and anything he could get his hands on. He used to work at a fruit shop that also sold videos and he would give out pornos and cigarettes to all the neighborhood kids. Before he had access to a video camera, his friends and he created an audio project featuring mummies having sex. He talked about how he dabbled in painting, visual arts, and theatre before deciding to go into filmmaking.
Here are some interesting bits I remember:
Taika said that the inspiration for Two Cars, One Night came about while working on the strip. He mentioned how degrading it was to have to sport a g-string and be fully waxed for his role as a stripper. Yow!
Taika seemed to be more lenient about file sharing sites last night than from what I’ve read. Of course, he prefers you to see his films in theatres or by purchasing the DVD legally if you could but he also said if it could reach some kid in Kenya who doesn’t have access to it otherwise, then that’s great.
At some point during the panel, Taika became fixed on peeling a sticker off of his microphone and this caused some scratching noises from him while someone else was talking. When he took notice, he turned off his microphone and continued his task. For some reason, I find this really funny.
He was asked about working with Flight of the Conchords and Taika referred to Bret and Jemaine as “those two idiots.”
He said that he and Jemaine have been pitching a new project that they might work on next year. But he says Jemaine has been busy and so far, the meetings have gone horribly. It goes a little something like this:
Taika: And my character…
Jemaine: And then my character…
Taika: And then this happens…
Jemaine: And a werewolf comes in…
Taika: And then the werewolf gets kicked down the street
Jemaine: And we’ll need a special effect to make it look like the werewolf got kicked down the street
The way Taika described it was funnier. Taika was definitely the funniest and most charismatic person on the panel.
When the panel members were asked about bad experiences with film festivals and screenings, Taika mentioned 2 in particular. He said Boy screened in Hawaii on Father’s Day and a lot of fathers took their sons to go see it and weren’t happy. He even did an impression of one of the dad’s using an American accent and it was hilarious. He also talked about an Eagle vs. Shark screening in Russia where the film was subtitled in “Korean or something.” The theatre hired some guy to read off lines from the script during the whole movie. Taika had met him before the screening started and this guy was assuring Taika that he was the best voice actor in Russia but then during the movie, he was watching the audience take a comedic break-up scene completely seriously.
They showed a clip from Boy.
When Trevor started taking questions from the audience, I noticed that most questions were directed at Jay and Nash. I decided to muster up the courage and ask Taika a question.
"I know Boy has been screened in select cities across the U.S. and obviously, I haven’t seen it yet (LIE!!!). When will it be released here?"
Taika’s answer: “I dunno.”
He then said, maybe next year but then he repeated, “I dunno.” He said that Boy still doesn’t have a distributor yet and struggling Americans aren’t interested in watching a film about poor people. They want to be in space for 3 hours. So, he said, maybe, when America is rich again, we’ll get to see Boy.
Some of the girls said they saw Jemaine in the audience, sitting toward the center. I can’t testify to that because I didn’t see him. But they said he had his bushy beard and he was wearing a green t-shirt. He took off immediately after the panel but I was probably too fixated on trying to meet Taika to notice. I suppose it’ll remain a mystery.
Taika was talking to a few folks so we met with Jodi Hill in the meantime. I don’t know much about Eastbound and Down but Jodi seems like a nice fellow. We said hi to Taika and I shook his hand and he gave me direct eye contact and smiled and everything. Oooh, be jealous! He’s very handsome and now I can say that I know what Sherry has been talking about all these years. I think he might have apologized for not having a real answer to my question and/or for being low energy. He said he was practicing some form of martial arts earlier and it took a lot out of him. He asked us where we were from. Chrissy asked him if the movie pitch he and Jemaine are working on is the same project as the vampire movie. Taika said it was more of just a fantasy movie. We got some pictures with him. Most of you have probably already seen them because they’re on my Facebook but if you haven’t and would like to see them, just PM me. I don’t want to post them on here out of the respect of The Flighties privacy. He needed to find his phone (they used it to show a clip of Boy) so he left to go find it.
I’m really glad we had the chance to meet him. He’s a really cool guy and I didn’t get that arrogant vibe that I sometimes see from him during interviews. In person, he’s just nice and humble. He may have been “low energy” but he still seemed engaging. I wonder what he’s like when he’s high energy.
Even though the moderator called him “The James Cameron of NZ,” Taika is still an unknown around here and most audience members probably don’t know his work. Because of that, he was easy to talk to. It was different than meeting Bret and Jemaine. B & J are way more known here so they have to keep their guards up. I appreciate getting to meet Taika before that happens. He didn’t talk to us like fans the way Bret and Jemaine do. He just talked to us like...people. It was nice. I hope Taika gets to visit a city near you soon and I hope you all have the chance to meet him.