Published in the NZ Techo Magazine, Winter, 2020.
1300hrs, 20/3/2020: “Everyone, pull over and read your email.” We all looked at each other, “Shit”.
We had spent the morning, out of reception, on the final location recce. It had been extraordinary. The weather was bright, the locations were spectacular, and the crew had started to connect in that way that only really happens on set. We had all been together, on the top of a mountain, in our own 150 person bubble for a week. The real world was about to pop it like bubblegum on a cheerleader.
Five days before THE email, the production company scrambled to get all cast and crew into the country before NZ closed its borders. It was incredible to watch the efforts of these people to make it all happen with 24 hours notice. As a driver, you are ancillary to a lot of proceedings and it does allow a singular perspective. There was a palpable anticipation and anxiety at the airport. The cast were enthused, chatting to each other over Patagonia coffee. The crew from far afield were happy to be in NZ, away from the escalating chaos, and us kiwis were ready for action. A bunch of familiar faces appeared and we were off. The chat was hyped. Colleagues caught up and swapped notes on the last job they had together. We chatted about the beauty in the land around us so I went into Tour Guide mode (my now defunct day job) and told the visitors the story of Matau – the giant beneath Lake Wakatipu.
We all continued that week watching the Art Department turn a shed into another world, tripped over Runners, dodged Catering and saw the show inevitably unfold. But a look of an impending something started to show on the faces of the Production team. There were huddled murmurings and some watery eyes. But that morning we set off. All the different departments came together with their own individual expertise, and tied everything up in expectation of the shoot. I was driving two of the Production Team. We were playing tunes, singing along and celebrating a job well done.
“With a heavy heart we inform you all that the show has been postponed.”
Grumblings of discontent came over the RTs from our convoy as we all began to realise the gravity of the Covid 19 situation unfolding. We were all now unemployed, and any non-Kiwis faced a huge dilemma to get home. The Production team then scrambled again to look after everyone, move all the equipment back around the country, pack down and get everyone home before the lockdown commenced. I made my way back to Queenstown, thankful to be a kiwi and close to home. But its a different place now. We were on pause for a month and the slow return to whatever is next is strange. From the queues at the supermarket for the welfare vouchers to tenants abandoning flats in the middle of the night, from the ‘redeployment’ of staff, to repatriation flights. It’s an interesting time and a great time to visit, a great time to film – no crowds, lots of crew available and there’s a sprinkling of hope with a certain enthusiasm of a new Queenstown coming through. Hope to see you all here soon.
If you want to see what Queenstown looked like during Level 4: https://youtu.be/DjRRV9NxkUQ