Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin

Over the last 15 years Francesca Rudkin has been working in the media as a film and music reviewer (NZ Herald, Breakfast TV), a television presenter and producer, and voice over artist. Recently, Francesca joined Rialto Channel as their resident blogger, allowing her to indulge in her love of world cinema. Her next challenge is to convince her young children that being a “Cinephile” is a legitimate profession.

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Fantail - Sophie Henderson

Posted on Tuesday 12/30/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

As part of New Zealand Film Month, Rialto Channel is proud to present Fantail, screening on Wednesday 31st December, 8.30pm. 

Writer and actress Sophie Henderson’s low budget debut feature film exceeded all expectations, including her own. Recently, Henderson spoke to Francesca Rudkin about moving from theatre to film making for REMIX magazine. 

When actress and writer Sophie Henderson didn’t get the funding she needed to turn her drama school monologue into a theatre play, it was, she claims with a smile on her face, “the best thing that ever happened to me”.

Encouraged by her husband, director Curtis Vowell, Henderson then submitted her idea for the New Zealand Film Commission’s low budget Escalator scheme. After a lengthy process, they were granted funding to produce their debut feature film Fantail, the story of a young woman struggling to hold her family together as she works the graveyard shift at the local petrol station. 

It’s a beautiful tale about culture, identity and family, and is filled with fascinating characters that draw you into what is a humorous, melancholy and, at times, dark drama. 

The film debuted at the 2013 NZ International Film Festival, receiving eight NZ Film Award nominations, including Best Actress and Best Screenplay for Henderson. It was also accepted into the 2014 Rotterdam Film Festival and the Melbourne Film Festival, where it won a People’s Choice Award. “It went better than I could have ever imagined”, says Henderson about her first foray into filmmaking. 

That doesn't mean it wasn't without its challenges; the first being writing a film script. 

“It was so different”, says Henderson about writing for screen instead of stage. “I think the first draft I wrote was pretty much just putting the play into final draft, so it looked like a screenplay, but mainly it was about showing the story instead of telling it. In theatre all you’ve really got is dialogue and gesture and it’s all kind of in a wide shot, but in film you can tell the audience were to look, and reveal the character through action.” 

The Escalator scheme requires filmmakers to work fast and the talented duo ripped into a twenty-day shoot only five months after getting the green-light to go ahead. This was followed by a year of post production, and even though Henderson’s grateful she avoided the normal seven years it takes to make a film, she confesses a little more time would have been useful.

“We had to fix things in the edit that we could have fixed in the script. We totally re-wrote the film in the edit and did pick ups. It was great, it was a learning process, and I was welcomed into the edit room, which never happens - generally writers are banned.” 

With the encouragement of a mentor, Australian screenwriter Alice Bell (Suburban Mayhem) Henderson is working on her second feature film script. Manhunt is an adaptation of a short story written by her mother Katie Henderson, and will also be directed by Vowell. It tells the story of a woman who always falls for the wrong guy so makes a boyfriend out of crafty things. “She folds one, knits one. Its very whimsical”, says Henderson. 

Unlike Fantail though, when it comes to writing Manhunt Henderson is refusing to write to a budget. “I’ve gone wild”, claims Henderson gleefully. “It’s between the first and second draft and I’m not thinking about budget. I don’t care, someone else can tell me later.”

For all this bold talk, Henderson enjoys the nature of low budget filmmaking. “What’s great about making a low budget film is you know that no one is doing it for the money. You know that they believe in the creative team or they believe in the script and they want to tell a story.” 

Currently Henderson works as the general manager and programmer for the Basement Theatre, as well as taking roles on screen and on stage. Asked what she would do if she had a choice, Henderson answers without hesitation, “I’d be working full time as a writer and doing some acting on the side.” There may be very few screenwriters working full time in New Zealand compared to writer directors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this quietly determined young woman has a damn fine crack at it. 

Fantail screens on SKY TV’s Rialto Channel on Wednesday 31st December, 8.30pm

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 22nd December

Posted on Friday 12/19/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

Another year is almost over and what an incredible year it’s been for New Zealand film. Congratulations to all the finalists and winners at the recent Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards. Competition was fierce this year, and it was fantastic to see such a diverse range of films being honoured.

Rialto Channel’s celebration of New Zealand film continues this week with the poetic and moody coming of age story The Weight of Elephants. For the ballerina in the family, you can enjoy director Toa Fraser’s Giselle, featuring the Royal New Zealand Ballet. 

You’ll find plenty of other gems to enjoy over the coming week as you unwind with family and friends. Have a wonderful Christmas, and all the best wishes for the New Year. 

Here are my picks for the week; 

Starring: Royal New Zealand Ballet
Directed by: Toa Fraser  
Screening: Rialto Documentary, Thursday 25th December, 8.30pm 

Swapping dialogue for dance, two art forms collide in this film from Dean Spanley director Toa Fraser (The Dead Lands). Along with cinematographer Leon Narbey, Fraser captured the New Zealand Royal Ballet’s 2012 performance of Giselle, and the result is remarkable. Not only do you get to enjoy this acclaimed ballet, but also the close-up and aerial shots let you see the facial expressions and gestures of the ballet dancers, and the choreography from a fresh perspective. The wonderful American Ballet Theatre star Gillian Murphy performs the lead role of a young villager who finds her loved one already betrothed, but budding ballerinas get the opportunity to see all their NZRB idols close up and in stunning detail.  

The Weight of Elephants
Starring: Demos Murphy, Angelina Cottrell & Matthew Sunderland
Directed by: Daniel Joseph Borgman
Screening: Rialto New Wave, Wednesday 24th December, 8.30pm 

The adaptation of Sonya Hartnett’s coming of age novel Of A Boy, is the feature debut of Denmark-based Dunedin-born director Daniel Joseph Borgman. Moody, poetic and beautifully shot in New Zealand’s deep south by Swedish director of photography, Sophia Olsson, The Weight of Elephants tells the story of Adrian, a sensitive eleven year old who has been abandoned by his mother to live with his weary grandmother (Catherine Wilkin) and bipolar uncle Rory (Matthew Sunderland). When new kids move into the neighbourhood Adrian is convinced they’re abducted kids he’s heard about on the news. The Weight of Elephants debuted at the Berlin Film Festival in 2013, and at the New Zealand International Film Festival; Borgman is a definitely a director to keep an eye on. 

Mood Indigo
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Romain Duris, Omar Sy and Gad Elmaleh
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Screening: Rialto World, Monday 22nd December, 8.30pm 

Another kooky, romantic, weird and wonderful film from quirky genius and French filmmaker Michel Gondry (The Science of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), Mood Indigo almost needs to be seen twice. Once to appreciate the art direction and man-made inventiveness of Gondry’s vision, such as the Pianocktail - literally, a piano that makes cocktails. And a second time to appreciate how it contributes to the story. Mood Indigo is adapted from cult French novel L'écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream) by Boris Vian and stars Audrey Tautou, as a woman suffering from an unusual illness caused by a flower growing in her lungs. The work of music video turned feature film director Michel Gondry is an acquired taste, and in this particular outing his surreal style overwhelms the story, but those with a strong appreciation for creativity and invention will just love what he cooks up in Mood Indigo.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 15th December

Posted on Monday 12/15/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

Throughout December, Rialto World is celebrating French cinema by serving up a double feature every Monday evening. This week, enjoy Pascal Bonitzer’s (Va Savoir, Encore) dramedy Looking for Hortense followed by the drama All Our Desires directed by Philippe Lioret. Next week, keep an eye out for Michel Gondry’s wonderfully whimsical Mood Indigo.

Here are my picks for the week;

Gardening With Soul
Directed by: Jess Feast
Screening: Rialto Documentary, Thursday 18th December, 8.30pm 

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 2013 Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards, Gardening with Soul is a heartwarming and amusing documentary that follows 90-year-old Sister Loyola Galvin for a year as she works in the garden she oversees at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington. As well as sharing advice on composting and gardening, Sister Loyola Galvin, who has dedicated herself to helping others, also shares her refreshingly simple observations on spirituality, parenting, aging and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. She’s quite a lady, and her belief that we should live our lives with compassion and love, and treasure our children, is a quiet reminder to us all. 

Looking for Hortense  (2013)

Starring: Jean-Pierre Bacri, Kristin Scott Thomas & Isabelle Carré
Directed by: Pascal Bonitzer
Screening: Rialto World, Monday 15th December, 8.30pm

A gentle comedy from the prolific French screenwriter and director Pascal Bonitzer, Looking for Hortense stars Jean-Pierre Bacri and Kristin Scott Thomas star as two long-term lovers at a cross road in their relationship and lives. Bonitzer’s drama-comedy, is a pleasant but largely underwhelming film about the separation of a middle aged couple. The script, written with co-writer Agnès de Sacy, is well crafted and for the most part authentic, and as usual its hard to take your eyes off Kristen Scott Thomas, who does her best to make chain-smoking look cool. Unfortunately though, fans of Scott Thomas will be disappointed to learn her character Iva isn’t the main character, rather the film focuses on the unraveling of her long-term partner Damien Hauer (Bacri). This might not be the most original relationship drama, but the acting is superb and Paris looks divine. 

Greetings From Tim Buckley
Starring: Penn Badgley & Imogen Poots
Directed by: Dan Algrant
Screening: Rialto Selection, Saturday 20th December, 8.30pm 

Singer songwriter Tim Buckley died of a heroine overdose at the age of 28. His estranged son Jeff Buckley, also a promising and talented musician, drowned while swimming in the Mississippi River at the age of 30. In this film, director and co-writer Dan Algrant attempts to bring the two artists together through their music, as Jeff Buckley prepares to perform live for the first time, at a tribute concert to his father. Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl fame is surprisingly good as Jeff Buckley, so to is Ben Rosenfield as a young Tim Buckley. This is not your normal straightforward biography. Instead Algrant’s film meanders along, hinting and gesturing at the affect father and son had on each other. There is also plenty of music from both Buckley’s that will please fans of the artists.


Posted on Thursday 12/11/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

For the third year running Ant Timpson and Hugh Sundae are bringing the New Zealand film industry together to celebrate the diverse collection of local films released in the last year.

On Friday, 12th December, over 700 industry types will fill Shed 10 on Auckland’s waterfront; some will stagger into their taxi with a prestigious Moa award in their hand and applause ringing in their ears. There are 29 categories at the Rialto Channel New Zealand Film Awards this year, covering feature films, short film and documentaries. The competition is tough; there are no sure bets ... OK, maybe one or two.  

I gave awards producer Ant Timpson (whose film Housebound has received 11 nominations) a quick call to talk about what the awards team has in store for us this year.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 8th December

Posted on Monday 12/8/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

New Zealand Film Month continues on Rialto Channel this week with the incredibly beautiful and fascinating documentary, Antarctica:A Year On Ice. This award winning documentary was filmed over 15 years and gives you a close-up and personal look at what it’s like for those who chose to spend 12 months on the ice. It also presents us with some stunning scenery and wildlife. This is a film the whole family can enjoy and is my first pick of the week.

Here are my picks for the week;

Interview with Michelle Joy Lloyd for Sunday.

Posted on Friday 12/5/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

Sunday is the directorial feature film from New Zealand filmmaker and digital producer Michelle Joy Lloyd. A romantic drama telling the story of an estranged couple who reunite for 24 hours to see if they can sort out their relationship, Sunday is set in Christchurch one year after the devastating earthquakes.

New Zealand born, Australian based actress Camille Keenan and Aussie Dustin Clare, who co-wrote the screenplay, star in what is a naturalistic and honest portrayal of a couple at a turning point. An independent and fully self-funded film, Michelle Joy Lloyd and her team decided to release the film across different mediums at the same time - television, DVD, cinema, online and on airlines. It’s a first for a feature film, and I recently caught up with Michelle, who explained the reasoning behind the approach. 

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 1st December

Posted on Monday 12/1/2014 December, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

Throughout December, Rialto Channel is celebrating New Zealand film by screening a collection of award winning and nominated feature films and documentaries. You’ll be stunned by the incredible images in Antarctica: A Year on Ice, be moved by Gardening with Soul, and amused by The Deadly Ponies Gang. On Wednesday’s New Wave series, you’ll be able to catch the hypnotic feature The Weight of Elephants, as well as Sophie Henderson’s stunning screen-writing debut, Fantail. This week however, you can enjoy the offbeat, ambitious, and unique Kiwi take on a Shakespeare classic, Romeo and Juliet: A Love Story.

Here are my picks for the week;

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 24th November

Posted on Monday 11/24/2014 November, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

Jim Jarmusch’s meditative and moody offbeat vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last year. It was a fitting place for the American director to unleash his latest film; he’s been a festival favourite for years. Nominated for the Palm d’Or six times, Jarmsch has won the Grand Jury Prize as well as a variety of other awards over the years. Only Lovers Left Alive screened in competition, and since then has been wooing festival audiences around the world. It’s my first pick of the week.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 17th November

Posted on Monday 11/17/2014 November, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

During WWII, the highest percentage of Jews destroyed anywhere in the world — including Poland — was in Macedonia, and in 2011, a world-class museum in Skopje was opened to remember the near-extinction of Macedonian Jews in the Holocaust. The museum features briefly in The Third Half, a warm and moving historical tale of love, football, historical and cultural burdens and one Jewish woman’s survival thanks to her marriage to an Orthodox Christian. The film is inspired by the true story of Neta Koen who recorded her Holocaust experience for the Shoah Visual History Foundation at University of California, a library of survivor’s stories set up by director Steven Spielberg, and adapted for the big screen by script writers Darko Mitrevski and Grgur Strujic. The Third Half is my first pick this week.

Francesca’s Picks for the Week 10th November

Posted on Monday 11/10/2014 November, 2014 by Francesca Rudkin

This month, Rialto Documentary offers up a series of films that closely examine the legal complications and ramifications that Internet users and abusers regular face. Catch Downloaded, a film about the rise and fall of Napster, and We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists about the workings and beliefs of the self-described "hacktivist" collective, Anonymous. This week, you can find out exactly what you’re signing up to every time you hit that ‘Accept’ button in the documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply.

Here are my picks for the week.

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