Ainsley Gardiner casting for film. Kawerau South School Pic: Troy Folder: 19/5/2019

YOUNG movie star hopefuls are doing their best this week to impress casting agents looking for female talent to feature in an upcoming movie to be filmed in the Bay of Plenty.

The same casting agents who were involved in the Kiwi hit film Boy visited primary schools in Kawerau yesterday and are in Whakatane today where they are on the lookout for three young girls aged between six and 12 to play the lead child roles in the film Cousins, which is expected to be shot in and around Rotorua and Wellington in September and October.

The movie is being shot by film company Miss Conception Films, run by Whakatane movie-maker Ainsley Gardiner and Georgina Conder.

Ms Gardiner is producing the film and co-directing it with Briar Grace-Smith, who is also the writer.

She said the movie, a story about three Maori girls, all cousins, was an adaptation of a Patricia Grace novel and spanned five decades.

“We have cast the adult characters, although I can’t tell you who yet as we have to go through a formal process before we announce that part, but what we are doing is trying to find the young version of the three adult actors,” Ms Gardiner said.

“So, it will be three young girls to play the cousins as their younger selves.

“It is story of three cousins who are separated by certain factors but connected by blood and spend a lifetime in search of each other,’ Ms Gardiner said of the storyline.

“Each of these cousins lives very different lives, one is sent to be raised in an orphanage, one is raised to be the princess of her tribe and one is the cousin who is often overlooked but ends up being the glue that binds them all.”

The filmmaker said she was drawn to the project because her mentor, Merata Mita, had been involved in it just before she died.

“It is a film that she very much wanted to make and, initially I got involved because it hadn’t been made and I wanted to see the process through, and for the novelist too, I wanted to see the film made. It is also a great story, a story that is almost entirely populated by Maori women and girls It is about Maori women stepping into their own power and that really resonates with me.’

Although they are casting in Rotorua, they decided to also look in the Eastern Bay because of Ms Gardiner’s strong connections to the area and the wealth of natural talent in the region.

“Because the film is set in the 1950s, it is important the kids don’t feel too modern or too urban as they are from a particular time.”

The producer said they were not looking particularly for students who had acting or drama training.

“What makes a good actor in a child is kids who can focus and listen and who are able to think about feelings. So, the secret to casting kids is not getting them to act. They are just going to be themselves saying the lines that your give them, but what they need to be able to do is bring in emotion to the performance. That is not about acting sad or acting angry, it is about bringing up their own memories of those feelings and using those.

“So, it really is a process of just meeting the kids and talking to them and getting them to play some games and the kids who are going to work well on screen usually have a presence about them. Sometimes it’s the super-shy ones sometimes it is the super-confident ones, but it always comes down to the kids who can focus and listen and access their own emotional database.”

Ms Gardiner said they expected to be spoilt for choice on their talent scout in the Eastern Bay.

“It is not always the kids who do drama or music who make the best actors, you never know, which is why you have to go through a casting process.

“We are also looking for particular looks, they need to match up with the adult actors. It is also, hopefully, just a fun experience for the kids, just something different, and to be involved in the process I often think is equally as valuable to a kid as it inspires them to further possibilities.’