When I was young I spent nearly every holiday in New Zealand’s Central Otago region – for me this is a unique and special part of the country. I spent many summers wandering around in the heat of the Central Otago sun dreaming I was a cowboy and that it was the wild West. I felt a connection between the arid land there and that of the Westerns I was seeing on the screen.
Sergio Leone took the clean cut Hollywood Westerns of the 1950s and made them in his home country using Italy and Spain as the backdrop for the Wild West. He made visually stunning Westerns with heroes that played on both sides of the line of right and wrong. He redefined the genre and these movies were dubbed the Spaghetti Westerns. This led to subgenres like the Noodle western (China) and the Curry western (India) and so forth.
The Italians really showed that the Western belongs to all makers and lovers of movies from all countries. Using New Zealand as the backdrop for the wild West, Good for Nothing delivers the world’s first Pavlova Western – a Kiwi contribution to this fantastic international tradition (hence the reference to the famous New Zealand dessert).
The idea for the story really came out of a “wouldn’t it be interesting” kind of moment I had which involved the iconic hero figure of a cowboy – but a badass one – an outlaw – ‘The Man’ and give him something as perplexing as erectile dysfunction and see how he copes with it. The situation forces him to try to understand where he is at emotionally which leads him to change. In the end ‘The Man’ does a good act for nothing in return. It is a journey of discovery about love, lust and what it means to be a man.
I think the culture of the ‘Southern Man’ in New Zealand is very similar to that of the Western Cowboy. It’s a tradition of a man of the land with few words or expressed emotions, his journey is full of conflict in a new world where he must embrace and communicate a more complex side of himself in order to be understood and move forward.
The stoic nature and determined willpower of the female character in the film ‘Isabella’ makes her the rock in which The Man breaks apart on. She is determined to have a life in her own right and has forged her chance for a new life through a dark period that has resolved her to keep going and give herself a chance for happiness.
Part of the reason I love the Western genre is that it is traditionally a very black and white world and I think that contributes to its long running appeal. The idea of a simplified life that seems free – riding a horse in any direction and not being confined to roads. As a writer it’s a wonderful place to be in as your characters have immense freedom. What I have attempted in Good for Nothing is to take characters from that world and put them in very ‘grey and confusing’ circumstances. We have created a world that I am really proud of and enjoy spending time in.
It takes an incredible person to risk everything in order to pursue a dream and to Inge I will be eternally grateful in her courage and belief in me as director and her endless tenacity to continue day after day challenge after challenge to get the job done.
Jamie Selkirk (Executive Producer) has been so generous with his time and knowledge. His help and support for another generation of filmmakers reveals a depth of dedication to the industry that is extraordinary. There’s no one quite like him.
Mathew Knight (Director of Photography) has also been incredible – so supportive and his cinematography is breathtaking. Mathew had a great saying as we progressed through the Sahara of post-production: “If someone comes on at this stage they need to lift the project to a place that you can’t reach”.
This was the case and then some with John Psathas and his incredible score. His dedication and epic passion inspires me. He is a force of nature as is his music. I learnt early on at Weta Digital that movie making is a team sport and we have been incredibly lucky with our team on Good for Nothing.