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Matthew Mawkes Interview


Tell us a bit about your background.


I grew up in Tauranga and studied filmmaking at Avalon Film & TV School in Wellington way back in 2000. I’ve since made various short films but always wanted to work toward making a feature, and 16 years on this is finally coming to fruition with ‘Blind Panic’ (a big part of filmmaking is staying power!).


Though I lend my time to various other film productions, I do have a day job, for DCM (Downtown Community Ministry) in Wellington. We work with homeless and vulnerable Wellingtonians, to assist them however we can, but primarily to try and get a roof over their heads. Behind the scenes I help with DCM’s events and fundraising, such as the annual DCM Book Fair. It’s very demanding and very rewarding, much like filmmaking itself.


Did you always have the desire to be a filmmaker growing up?


When I was a kid (we’re talking the 1980s here) I used to love going to the cinema, and back then theatres still had curtains covering the screen. I loved watching the lights go down, and the curtain sweep back to reveal another world. When the first multiplex came to Tauranga in the 1990s we lost some of the glamour, but suddenly there were so many more films to choose from, and as a teenager I would skip school and go to watch everything I could. I became obsessed with movies. It probably helped that there wasn’t much else to do in Tauranga at the time!


Who are some directors that you admire?


My favourite director is Alfred Hitchcock, and that’s because I saw Psycho at an impressionable age. It was the first time I realised there was someone behind the camera controlling the audience. He was truly a master filmmaker, and when you watch all his classics, you realise that there’s really nothing in cinema that hasn’t been done before. Hitchcock has probably given it a go.


I love so many other directors it’s hard to narrow them down, but some include adult animator Ralph Bakshi, the Coen Brothers, Samuel Fuller who made some of the world’s best B-movies, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Billy Wilder. I also think John Carpenter and Steven Speilberg are highly underrated.


What is your upcoming film Blind Panic about?


‘Blind Panic’ is a thriller about a woman named Madeleine who was blinded in an attack and is still trying to come to terms with her disability. She feels trapped in suburbia. She meets her new neighbour Louis, who unbeknownst to her is on home detention, and also trapped in his own way. They become friends, as a dark figure from Louis’ past starts closing in on him. He’s truly a sitting duck, and soon Madeleine is caught in the middle, and must find a way out of a seemingly impossible predicament.


Who are some of the noted cast and crew members?


Our cast features two young and talented actors in Erroll Shand (Louis) and Jodie Hillock (Madeleine). Erroll is going from strength to strength and you’ll recognise him from various TV shows and movies. He’s been in everything from Outrageous Fortune to Underbelly: Land of the Long Green Cloud. He’s been in New Zealand movies like Deathgasm and Alison Maclean’s The Rehearsal. He has an amazing screen presence and is fast becoming an acting force to be reckoned with.


Jodie Hillock (Madeleine) started out as a child actor – she was a double in Willow and also appeared in the TV series White Fang. More recently she won the Wellington Chapman Tripp Theatre Award for her performance in Homeland. Some of her screen credits include Tracker, Jake and Jackie van Beek’s upcoming The Inland Road. She nailed playing a blind character in the promo material we shot with her in 2015. We think her performance in the feature film will be up there with Mia Farrow in Blind Terror, and Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. She’s that good.


Rounding out the cast is Ralph Johnson (Roman). Ralph is an accomplished New Zealand actor, with vast experience on stage and screen. He has appeared on TV in Legend of the Seeker, and in features films as diverse as Gaylene Preston’s Bread and Roses, and Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Ralph is adept at playing a bad guy – he’ll terrify you on screen!


What do you enjoy about filmmaking?


The fun part is when you’re actually shooting, on set with the cast and crew, who are always so much fun to be around. And everyone is there to do their best. Filmmaking brings out the best in people – and I have found myself going way beyond the call of duty to help get a film made. Some of the most bizarre and crazy experiences in my life have been on film productions!


As a producer, I always expect something to go catastrophically wrong each day on set – and my job is to find a way out. That sounds stressful, but when you have a great team you always seem to get through. The part that isn’t so much fun is the fundraising – that work you need to do to get to make your movie. But that’s how it is nowadays, especially with your first feature film. You have to get out there, put your heart and soul on the line, and tell people you’re making a movie and that you need their support to make it happen.


Why are movies important?


Movies speak to people in ways other art forms can’t, even television – in an hour and a half you can be inspired or infuriated; you may find yourself developing a sense of adventure; you might be depressed but by the end of the film find yourself laughing silly. Movies can frighten you – I think The Exorcist and all horror films are in themselves a form of exorcism. Movies can change society – A Short Film About Killing was so powerful it led to the repeal of the death penalty in Poland!


I also have a theory about cinema-going. Though times are tough, and people have so many platforms to choose from to watch their movies, I think cinemas will continue as long as sport does. There is something about the communal experience of going to the theatre to see the same film together. It’s like watching a comedy on your own – sure, you’ll probably laugh, but watching it with an audience somehow takes it to the next level.


How can our readers find out more about Blind Panic?


We have launched a Kickstarter campaign for ‘Blind Panic’ here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1237207933/blind-panic – we would so appreciate it if people could pledge to help make our film a reality and share the news that we’re making a movie with everyone they think may be interested. Each and every donation counts – if 800 people were to pledge the average Kickstarter donation of $50, we’d reach our goal of $40,000, which is the bare minimum we need to pay our cast and crew.


On our website – www.blindpanicthemovie.com – we have a bit more info about who we are and what we’re going for.

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