Two minutes with: Toa Fraser

by Listener Archive / 13 October, 2012
The Kiwi playwright and film-maker is probably best known here for <em>No 2</em>, his story of a Fijian family living in Auckland. His latest project is a TV commercial for Breast Cancer Action Month.
Toa Fraser


What was Winston Peters like to deal with when you were making the breast cancer commercial?
I felt bad, actually, because we kept him waiting outside for ages. He was cool. He showed us his vulnerability, I think, which is what I was asking of everybody. He brought a picture of his daughter, Bree. It was very fulfilling to invite others I’d worked with before: Sam Neill, Graham Henry, my cousin Gareth.

Whose idea was it to remake Chris Knox’s Not Given Lightly as the soundtrack?
This is what I understand: the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation talked to Helena McAlpine, whom they had chosen as their spokesperson this year. Helena had the idea to do a song and a music clip; they talked to Colenso, who talked to Jonathan Hughes at Franklin Rd. Separately, within the space of a few minutes, Colenso and Jonathan each had the same thought: that Chris’s song would be perfect. This was in June.

Did you know anything about breast cancer before you got involved in this project?
Who doesn’t? I know a lot of people who have been affected by it. I like that through talking about breast cancer, we also talk more broadly about things I find deeply moving and personally important: the idea of taking kind, good care of ourselves and of each other; vulnerability; compassion.

Many of your projects seem to have a strong musical theme.
My parents love music. I grew up listening to Mahler, the Beatles, Roy Orbison, Beethoven, my dad singing Neapolitan and Pacific love songs. And yes, it’s very true, music plays a big part in most things I’ve done. Like most film-makers, I would actually prefer to be a rock star.

You did a previous commercial for Auckland City Mission. Shouldn’t you be courting Hollywood moguls rather than charities?
Ha! I do my fair share of courting Hollywood. It’s lots of fun. But I value my sanity.

Speaking of which, what do you think of John Key’s visit to LA?
I wish he’d wear cooler clothes. Why can’t he be more like John Kirwan?

Have you ever considered moving to LA yourself, like so many other Kiwi directors?
I absolutely love LA and I have some very good friends there. It’s a Pacific town, and I feel connected to Hawai‘i, Fiji and New Zealand when I’m there. But I love it here, too, and I like riding my bike around Auckland and shooting hoops with my daughters, going to Piha and working with talented New Zealanders.

Did Kim Dotcom ever take you up on your offer to direct him in a short film?
Actually, we asked him to be in the music clip. He sent a very gracious note saying no. He thought it would do the cause more harm than good, having him in it. I disagreed.

According to Wikipedia, your next movie is The Chancellor Manuscript?
That’s a rumour based on I don’t know what. I’d love to do it. But I don’t know anything about it, other than people keep asking me about it.

Any other projects in the pipeline?
I’m working with the Royal New Zealand Ballet to bring a version of its production of Giselle to the big screen. I’m also writing two new plays about Piha. And I’ve been working for the past couple of years on a movie adaptation of a Maurice Gee book. It’s about a big blingin’ shady dude from overseas who arrives in New Zealand, seduces the locals and rattles the authorities. Sound familiar? It’s called The Fat Man.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen this year?
It’s been a great year for big movies. I raved about Dark Knight Rises at the time, but it hasn’t stayed with me. I liked The Avengers, especially the line, “What is this, Shakespeare in the Park?” I liked Looper, and I’m really looking forward to The Master, Skyfall and Killing Them Softly.

To view the breast cancer commercial, see www.ourwomen.co.nz.

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