Late one night at 2am, a tired Max Currie was walking home. Out of the blue the idea popped into his head that he could write and direct movies. “And straight away I was so excited about it. And I had no idea. For some reason it came much later all of a sudden.” Being a filmmaker was never something which Currie imagined would be his future calling. “It didn’t even occur to me Stuart. The idea of writing and directing movies was so far removed from my idea of what I thought was possible.”
About fifteen years later and here he is, discussing his debut feature film with me at a cafe in central Auckland.
He is the writer and director of Everything We Loved. The premiere is today (July 28th) at the New Zealand film festival. “Everything We Loved is a psychological drama about a travelling magician who creates a very beautiful but dangerous illusion to try and get his family back; and that illusion is a little boy.” Of course not everything is at is appears, as audiences will find out. “This one act is at the core of this film. And I love the juxtaposition between someone that has a good heart but does something most parents would find unthinkable. So that’s exciting to me.”
The film was made under the Escalator Scheme, run by the New Zealand Film Commission to identify and nurture talented Kiwi filmmakers. People who were shortlisted needed to submit three one page ideas about possible movie storylines. Currie submitted two stories but it was the third story which got the seal of approval.
A native of Palmerston North, he spent most of his childhood in the quiet North Island city. He enjoyed hanging out at the Manawatu River with mates and spent many times travelling in jam packed cars up to Foxton. Despite John Cleese’s infamous Palmy quote, the city was all that Max knew growing up. There were more than enough activities to keep him busy. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who are down on Palmy but I had a real happy childhood down there and my memories are of wide open spaces and a lot of parks and that river; that Manawatu River. I just remember tubing down it and going to Ashurst kind of winding up in Palmerston North and going up the Gorge.”
His parents had contrasting careers but similar attitudes towards the importance of literature and learning. “Mom is a kindy teacher by profession. She naturally has a very deep interest in childhood development. She would sing songs where we’d feature in them. There was a lot of storytelling. She worked really hard to fire and stimulate our imagination. Dad was the scientist of the family. He was a microbiologist. I remember going to the hospital with him and looking through microscopes. But Dad quoted Shakespeare to us when we were young.” I’m told that Stephen King’s books were the ‘do not touch’ books, making the idea of reading them all the more attractive to Max when he was tall enough to sneak one of the books away.
Being his debut feature film, there was always going to be challenges, particularly the planning involved with such a young cast member. “Well I’d be lying if I didn’t say everything and for the first time everything was challenging,” Currie says with a grin. “However I think film is the only thing which lets me engage more of myself than any other pursuit.” Working on a micro-budget also provided many timing challenges too. There was no time to experiment or try too many new things. It was a go-go-go situation.
Promoting the film has been a series of lessons. “We’ve managed to be in three festivals; Palm Springs, Transylvania and Munich. Then there have been other festivals where we’ve been an official selection; Scarborough , Washington and Seattle. They are quite high pace and high pressure. You kind of have to go with it and still keep your marbles about you. In some ways it’s really good training for bringing it home.”
As the work on Everything We Loved draws to a close, Currie is already looking ahead. “There’s two projects I’m keeping very close to my chest. It’ll be such a fantastic result after we move forward to the next one. I’d also love to make a horror one day set in Palmerston North. You know how we were talking about Stephen King and like how Dairy, Maine is the little town which he sets everything in? I often wonder what Palmerston North’s dark underbelly would look like.”
It was rather nice getting to spend some time talking with Max Currie. He’s a busy man, especially now that the New Zealand Film Festival is in full swing. Although I wasn’t too impressed with the rather bizarre cafe music playing in the background throughout the interview, we settled in nicely. Keep an eye out for Everything We Loved. It is the must see New Zealand movie playing at this year’s Film Festival.