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Home schoolers’ movie with ambition

By WENDY SHAILER-KNIGHT – Manawatu Standard | Thursday, 06 December 2007

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FILM STARS: Daniel Palfreyman, 16, plays Romeo and Emily Good, 13, is Juliet, in a scene from Romeo and Juliet.

An Oscar-style premiere of a movie made by Palmerston North school children is being held on Saturday at 7pm.

Romeo and Juliet will be shown at a special “red carpet” formal function at Christian Community Church in Pascal Street, Palmerston North.

The film was made by and stars local children and teenagers aged between 5 and 16.

All the action is filmed at Manawatu landmarks like Highden Country Estate, Terrace End Cemetery and The Regent Theatre.

A Manawatu home-schooled family is behind it all.

Palmerston North mother Gina Hamilton started home schooling her four boys this year. She says the boys decided they wanted to give movie making a go after studying Shakespeare.

The production then needed a cast and Mrs Hamilton put the word out on the Manawatu home schoolers’ email. She didn’t expect much interest, but was inundated with replies. “Most of these children had never acted before.”

With experience of dancing, stage work and the odd church production under her belt, Mrs Hamilton decided to give the movie a go. Son Ray, 12, directed and filmed it and and Timothy, 13, did the editing and sound work. Her other two boys Dylan, 7, and Joash, 9, are among the cast of 35.

The cast produced all the props and costuming, too, fitting the work around their home schooling studies. Sewing bees were held every Friday for all of the third term to make the costumes.

“We’ve learnt heaps about editing, sound and microphone . . . lighting,” Mrs Hamilton says, noting that the production has been helped with advice and assistance from lots of people. One of these, Zac Lucas, has worked with film director Peter Jackson.

The children also learnt a lot about Shakespeare, the way the works were written and what the language meant. They were given the option of saying the words Elizabethan style or in their own fashion, but most decided to be authentic.

“Some of these kids have never acted before and they just shone. You put a bit of make-up on and a costume and they transform.”

Mrs Hamilton says she thinks the kids’ abilities were helped by the knowledge that they could just do another take if they made a mistake.

“We do have some lovely bloopers.”

The final edited version of Romeo and Juliet runs for 70 minutes and the film was assisted technically by specialist film editors and at children’s show producers Wellington’s Capital E.

Mrs Hamilton says a few hundred people are expected at the premiere, where Miss World New Zealand Claire Kirby will present children with their awards at the end of the Academy Awards-styled evening. Miss Kirby’s horse also features in a scene. The production was assisted by funding from the Palmerston North Arts Council.

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