Chelsie Preston Crayford made a movie about breaking up – with her ex

by Sarah Catherall / 29 July, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Chelsie Preston Crayford Falling Up

Chelsie Preston Crayford. Photo/Dean O'Gorman

It may be only 13 minutes long, but Chelsie Preston Crayford has poured a lot of herself into her latest movie. She wrote it. She directed it. She cast her daughter, Olive Crayford Edwards, in it – something her mother, esteemed director Gaylene Preston, did to her regularly over the years.

The film, Falling Up, charts a young mother’s break-up with her partner, something Preston Crayford did not too long ago. “The danger was that the film would become public therapy, and I never had any interest in that,” she says.

Still, the 31-year-old says it was a film she needed to make, and the theme – about holding on and letting go – is universal.

Her ex and Olive’s father, cinematographer Ray Edwards, shot the film. “To be honest, I couldn’t have made this film without Ray. It would feel wrong to make the film without him and without his blessing,” she says.

Edwards was her ex of two months when she told him about her idea. He surprised her by saying he wanted to shoot it.

“I was unsure,” she says, her bright eyes darkening. “But then I thought, ‘Who better to capture this intimacy between a mother and a daughter but her dad?’ It’s such a testament to him that he was willing to do that, and that he wanted to help make it happen. He wanted to be a part of the telling of it.

“Ray is a film-maker, so there is a level of creative respect. We were able to separate our personal and creative lives. It was also fun, which is a weird thing to say.”

A graduate of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, Preston has been acting professionally since her late teens. Her credits include an award-winning role in Aussie crime series Underbelly: Razor and parts in her mother’s Hope and Wire and Home for Christmas. She spent some of her childhood on sets while her mother made Bread & Roses, about unionist Sonja Davies, and comedy-drama Ruby and Rata.

Olive Crayford Edwards (Marama) and Chelsea Preston Crayford (Ra) in Falling Up.

Olive Crayford Edwards (Marama) and Chelsea Preston Crayford (Ra) in Falling Up.

Preston says her daughter is an intuitive actor and director. “Sometimes I really like what Chels does, and she says, ‘Oh, that’s just a mother talking.’ But how she comes at things is really interesting.

“With Falling Up – I’d think this whether she was my daughter or not – there is something elemental in that short film that sums up a whole experience that so many of us have been through. It expresses it clearly, emotionally and simply, and also presents a psychological and intellectual path to somewhere else.”

Falling Up is Preston Crayford’s second self-directed short, following 2013’s Here Now. This one had its challenges. She says she struggled as an actor to return to the pain that had inspired the story. “I don’t usually hold back as an actor, but I had to do pick-up shoots [extra filming] because I could see I was holding back. Normally, you have the barrier of a character or someone else’s writing, but I didn’t have that.”

There is little exposition in the poignant film as viewers watch mother Ra (Preston Crayford) caring for her daughter, Marama (Olive), in the aftermath of the relationship break-up with Sam (Anton Tennet).

Viewers watch scenes from everyday domestic life – Ra putting Marama to bed, feeding her and watching her playing, while her ex pops in and out of their lives.

Olive Crayford Edwards (Marama) and Chelsea Preston Crayford (Ra) in Falling Up.

Olive Crayford Edwards (Marama) and Chelsea Preston Crayford (Ra) in Falling Up.

Although a break-up forms the basis of the film, Preston Crayford says it is not the true story of hers, and could be anyone’s. “I wasn’t interested in going into details, but I was interested in the emotion of the time, and the tension of holding on and letting go.

“I wanted to show the complexity of the situation. Narratives about break-ups in the mainstream largely oversimplify things … We are conditioned to think that he is the baddie, but relationship break-ups are way more complex than that.

“It gives voice to an experience that I know is common but isn’t often depicted. There’s a break-up, and then spending days with a toddler, which can be a lot of things at the same time – it can be joyous, and it can be relentless. You have this as a mother when there’s very little room for yourself as a person … I was interested in exploring that.”

Preston Crayford’s future projects include appearing in The Bad Seed, a television adaptation of Charlotte Grimshaw’s novels The Night Book and Soon.

“I feel like I’m going to work when I’m working on other people’s projects. Writing is so hard, but you feel great when you get it right. Directing is such a lot of fun.”

Falling Up screens in the NZ International Film Festival’s NZ’s Best 2018 short film competition in Auckland, July 28 and 30; Wellington August 1-2.

Main photography by Dean O'Gorman.

This article was first published in the July 28, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

Fighting fast fashion: the rise of ethical consumerism
95853 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Business

Fighting fast fashion: the rise of ethical consume…

by Mina Phillips

In the era of fast fashion, what can consumers do to ensure what they're buying hasn't been made by exploited workers?

Read more
Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity for curling
96697 2018-09-25 00:00:00Z Sport

Naseby's chilliest night means a rare opportunity …

by Guy Frederick

Weather conditions have to be perfect for an outdoor curling match – last winter, for the first time in seven years, Naseby delivered.

Read more
Students walk out of Hamilton high school over principal's truancy comments
96723 2018-09-24 14:06:35Z Education

Students walk out of Hamilton high school over pri…

by RNZ

More than 100 students walked out of a Hamilton high school in protest after the principal said truants are more likely to wind up being a rape victim

Read more
Colin Craig drops damages claim against former press secretary
96717 2018-09-24 13:10:01Z Politics

Colin Craig drops damages claim against former pre…

by RNZ

Colin Craig has withdrawn his claims for damages against his former press secretary Rachel MacGregor but is still suing her for defamation.

Read more
PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on lifting children from poverty
96691 2018-09-24 07:54:36Z Politics

PM in New York: Ardern's first speech focuses on l…

by Chris Bramwell

Jacinda Ardern has used her first speech in the US to recommit the government to making New Zealand the best place in the world to be a child.

Read more
Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speeches to life
96352 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z History

Give Kate A Voice: Bringing Kate Sheppard's speech…

by Noted

Famous Kiwi women read the powerful words of Kate Sheppard, who fought for the right for women to vote.

Read more
Ladies in Black – movie review
96686 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Ladies in Black – movie review

by Russell Baillie

This nicely nostalgic female coming-of-age tale set in a Sydney department store almost sings.

Read more
A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing hops
95518 2018-09-24 00:00:00Z Small business

A Southern man goes for gold in Garston growing ho…

by Mike White

Nelson and Motueka are well known for their hops but Garston hops are starting to be noticed by brewers.

Read more