Stop/Go follows Bernie, a road worker who calls the rugged beauty of Central Otago his office. The documentary was made as part of Loading Docs.
DIRECTOR PROFILE: Greg Jennings
Greg Jennings, 23, the director of Stop/Go, has always been fascinated with road workers. “On road trips, whenever I got stopped by a stop/go worker in the countryside, I always found myself wondering what we’d been stopped for, what was going on ahead down the road, how big the crew was,” he tells me over the phone. “You wonder these things and when it goes to green you have a very short amount of time to rubberneck and figure out what’s going on. As a towny, I’d always wondered what it was like to work there.”
Born and raised in Sussex, he moved to New Zealand when he was 10; a few months after his parents had bought the family to the country on what the kids thought was a holiday. Even back then Jennings knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. “I just knew it was something I wanted to do,” he says.
After high school he took a gap year and spent a year in the English countryside, reading books about filmmaking and coming up with a plan for how to make it his career. Back in New Zealand he says that year of being on his own “cemented in my mind ‘yes, this is definitely what I want to do’”.
Jennings hopes that by offering audiences a glimpse into the life of someone who is not usually given much thought, drivers will be more conscious of who and what they pass on their travels.
Since graduating a design degree at Victoria University, Jennings has been shooting and directing digital videos, while working as an editor to pay the bills. He's often thought about satisfying his curiosity about road work by making a documentary following a team of road workers. When he heard about the Loading Docs fund for short online documentaries, he immediately recognised it as a potential platform for his film. But the three-minute restriction made him rethink the scope of the project. He didn’t think he would have time to follow a whole roadworks team, so instead decided to focus on the worker he was most curious about - the stop-go guy.
Not someone to do things by halves, Jennings enrolled in a traffic controller course in order to pick up some background knowledge and hopefully meet a suitable subject that he could follow into the workplace. While he did gain his Road Controller qualification, he didn’t find the subject he was looking for. Jennings and his producer Jack Nicol called all the major road construction companies, looking for an experienced stop-go worker working in a beautiful location. After much searching, they found Bernie, a veteran of the industry.
“If Bernie and I hadn’t got on, or if he hadn’t been as open and just likeable as he was, the film would not be anywhere near as strong,” says Jennings.
While he has experience creating internet orientated content, Jennings wanted to make Stop/Go feel cinematic, capturing the beauty and weight of the landscape. “I’ve tried to approach it very much the same way I would if this was not online content,” he says. “So if we were going to put this in the New Zealand Film Festival and it was going to be seen in a cinema, I think my film would still play very well in that setting. I think it was important to not worry too much about how it’s being watched.”
Jennings hopes that by offering audiences a glimpse into the life of someone who is not usually given much thought, drivers will be more conscious of who and what they pass on their travels. “The next time you’re stopped by a stop-go guy think about the guy that’s holding the sign but also look around you at the scenery and think about how lucky you are.”
This content is brought to you with funding support from New Zealand On Air.