27 Jun 2014

Loading Docs: Today

7:29 am on 27 June 2014

Made as part of the Loading Docs initiative,  Today is a short observational portrait of an average day in a South Auckland rest home.

DIRECTOR PROFILE: Prisca Bouchet and Nick Mayow

Bouchet was born in Annecy, France, and studied communications in Lyon with the hopes of becoming a photojournalist. A temporary job researching for a documentary-maker turned Bouchet’s eye away from the still to the moving image. She came to New Zealand on a one-year exchange and took a practical documentary course at University of Auckland. She was hooked immediately. “I got a cracked copy of editing software and just started,” Bouchet says in her heavy French accent.

Mayow was born and raised in Auckland and came to filmmaking through an unexpected employment opportunity. After completing a BA at University in Auckland and a Communications degree at AUT, Mayow took a job as a production assistant at Eyeworks (then Touchtown Television), an Auckland-based television production company. On the second week of the job, an editor of channel promos unexpectedly resigned and recommended Mayow for the job. “It was pure chance,” Mayow says.

When you’re in the editing suite, you’re just ‘That’s wrong! Why did you do that?’ You can bitch and moan as much as you want. But when you’re on the ground you have to be calm and collected.

Bouchet and Mayow met on the job and while working as editors, they found themselves wanting to produce their own work, rather than just work on other people’s projects. “The more you do it, the more you’re like, ‘Maybe we could do that’,” says Bouchet. “And because Nick is also an editor, we were like ‘Maybe we should make our own films. Yeah, we should make our own films! We’re going to buy a camera! We’re going to make our own films!’.”

“You reach this point in editing where you just want to be making your own things,” continues Mayow. “You want to be working with your own voice, and you start to expand beyond being someone else’s ...” “Conscious,” Bouchet interrupts in an easy, couplish way.

 “When you’re in the editing suite, you’re just ‘That’s wrong! Why did you do that?’ You can bitch and moan as much as you want. But when you’re on the ground you have to be calm and collected and always be aware that you don’t have the hindsight that you have in the editing suite.”

The pair’s first film as co-directors was the 30-minute documentary La Taxidermiste, a contemplative portrait of a French taxidermist which won Best Self-Funded Short at the New Zealand Film Awards 2013. La Taxidermiste has played at festivals around the world, including the Berlin Film Festival and the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana. The success of La Taxidermiste confirmed that the couple worked well together. “Each of us has skills that the other person doesn’t have,” says Mayow. “I can imagine that if you had the same skills, if you were both focussed on the same areas, I don’t think it would work. You have to be balancing off each other.”

Funded under the Loading Docs initiative, Today was shot over four days at a South Auckland rest home. “It’s very quiet and it’s very private - residents spend a lot of time with their doors closed,” says Mayow. “It’s like a little town. Their bedrooms are like their house and the corridor is like the street, so even though people are living in common, they’re not really living in common.”

For Bouchet and Mayow, who both have grandparents in rest homes, Today was a chance to show people the reality of life in a rest home, which is at odds with many people’s perceptions. “Very often, rest homes in popular culture are bingo and funny people,” says Bouchet. “The other side of it, is people being there for years not being able to move because they’ve had a stroke.”

“New Zealand idealises rest homes and idealises the life of the elderly,” Mayow continues. “A lot of people are very uncomfortable with facing up to the grim reality of things. So I thought it was important for us to show the situation truthfully.”

With a 30-minute film on the festival circuit, Bouchet and Mayow jumped at the chance to make a shorter film, made primarily for online viewing. “With the three minute duration [set by Loading Docs], we felt that we had to plan really carefully because it’s such a short amount of time that you want it to be absolutely concentrated. You don’t want there to be a wasted second,” says Mayow. “It’s difficult, but restriction is the artist's friend.”

Almost in unison,  Bouchet and Mayow repeat an old filmmaking mantra - a film needs to be two of the following: fast, cheap, or good. As for Today? “It’s cheap and it’s good.”

This content is brought to you with funding assistance from New Zealand On Air.