Q & A with This Is Not My Life director Peter Salmon
1) Tell us a little about how you got involved in this
Gavin and Rachel gave me the script to the first episode of 'This Is Not My Life' while I was directing series 1 of Go Girls back in 2008. I sat down and read the script that night and absolutely loved it. The story and world is so intriguing to me, and what a challenge! When I saw the writers the next day the first thing I said to them was, "This is awesome! A futuristic world filled with action and suspense! But wait! How on earth can we make this for such a low budget?!"
2)What was it about this show which attracted you to get involved?
To be honest, I was completely drawn to ALL aspects of this show. The story, the themes, the characters, the mystery, the action. The intrigue of the simple domestic scenes, the paranoia - who can be trusted? Who can help our hero? I also instantly fell in love with the world of Waimoana, a 'perfect' town of 'happy' people and in the middle of this perfection a man who doesn't belong. For a director, to have all these elements in a show like this, is a dream come true. I couldn't wait to help bring this incredibly well-thought-out world to life.
3) What was the shooting of this show like?
It was pretty grueling actually, especially as there were only two directors (most TV dramas have 4 or 5!) But Rob and I were lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing crew that every day went above and beyond the call of duty to really make something special.
4) What were the challenges of this show?
Creating and keeping the integrity of the world of Waimoana was probably the biggest challenge. It meant we couldn't shoot anywhere we liked. For example, under the guidance of Tracy Collins, our awesome designer, we were working under a precise colour palette for the show, certain colours were not allowed. And there was always a specific look we needed with all the buildings, landscaping and sets we shot at. It would often mean there was a really great angle to shoot in one direction only, but if you turned around, you'd instantly be on the North Shore! This went for all aspects of the design - cars, costumes, technology, etc
5)With a production like this and the filming schedule, was there any room for fun?
You always have to have fun!! The shoot was very hard and very serious, but there were moments we definitely found time to joke around and keep things light. You have to laugh, otherwise you go crazy!
6) How did This Is Not My Life differ from other projects youve been involved in?
Often as a TV director I would be brought on to a project (i.e. Go Girls, Outrageous Fortune, Power Rangers etc) and the look and feel of the show would be already established, so it would be an exercise to fit into that mould. But because 'This is not my life' was the first series and both Rob and I were there from the beginning of production, we were really able to put our own stamp on it. From the way the camera moved (or in some cases didn't) to what the PeCs (futuristic phones) would look like and how they would operate. Working on this show was very creative and inspiring.
7) What was it like filming with the next generation of cameras RED cameras?
Really fantastic, and at times - infuriating! The RED camera has such a wonderful unique look which really suits this show, but because they are relatively new technology they weren't without their quirks! I remember one day, first thing in the morning we were shooting quite a emotional scene, so I decided to rehearse very briefly to save the actors energy, and we started shooting straight away. On the first take Charles and Tandi gave stellar performances but half way through the scene both cameras (we mostly shot with two cameras) decided to crash at the same time and turn themselves off!
8) What were the cast like to work with?
The cast was a total dream team. Charles is one of the most well prepared actors I have ever worked with, he's amazing. It was also great working with Tandi again (last time was years ago on Being Eve), Miriama and Steve were super, and all the guest cast are such strong performers. We were really lucky getting the cast we did. They were all behind the project 100%.
9) Is there any part of Waimoana that you would like to have as part of your own life?
I really like the cars! In fact, to save money for the shoot, Rob Sarkies and I traded in the director's car and shared one of the tiny Waimoana eco cars during filming, so we were scooting about town in our very own Waimoana mobile! Very nerdy, but very, very cool!
10) Was there anything from the Waimoana world that you tried (or succeeded) to take home from the set?
I have my very own PeC! It was the prototype phone for what was used in the show. It's really just a piece of perspex but it holds lots of fun memories for me.
11) Whats next for you?
I've just finished a book of illustrations called the New York Snippets (available from my website www.floatingboy.co.nz - what a plug!) Also a new short film ('The Box') that was part of the NZ film festival, and very soon I start directing a few episodes on the US TV show Power Rangers.