|NOTES ABOUT THE LOCATION|
"This novel was set in Whangara and it would almost have been heresy to shoot anywhere else," says Producer John Barnett. "There are very physical things that are described in the book - the sweep of the bay, the island that looks like a whale, the meeting houses, the number of houses that are present and of course, the people whose legend we were telling. The very first time we went there, about nine or ten years ago, it was obvious that this was the place to make the film. If we'd gone somewhere else and tried to manufacture the surroundings and the ambience, then I think it would have been noticeable in the picture. I think in fact, what we've captured is the absolute spirit of the place."
"From the very beginning I was adamant that it should be shot entirely at Whangara, so that caused us to do a lot of thinking about the ramifications; the physical problems that would ensue," adds Witi Ihimaera. "I remember the very first time that we went down there, one of the very real problems according to the sound recordist was too much noise from the surf. So there were a lot of considerations and consultations with the local people."
One of Tim Sanders' first tasks was to re-instigate contact with the Maori community at Whangara, with the help of Ihimaera. "I drove down from Auckland and had a meeting with Hone Taumanu who's the kaumatua [elder] of this area to re-establish the town's support for the project," he recalls. "I knew at that stage that with the blessing of these people here, we'd have a very good chance at capturing the essence of this place. The story is set here, the film is set here, these are the people. It's an actual place and we absolutely needed to bond with them. I'm happy to say that that did occur."
"In many ways, because it was the real area where the story has come from, we weren't cheating in our depiction. We weren't pretending that the wharenui [meeting house] was there when it wasn't. The beach was there; the waka [canoe] was there; even Koro's house was there," explains cinematographer Leon Narbey.
"Working at Whangara has had a whole lot of benefits including the ability to use the local people in our background cast and extras," adds Sanders. "I think in many of the scenes everyone will notice that there is a feeling of genuineness about our cast. People will probably be surprised to learn that many of the people in smaller roles and our extras are actually locals - untrained, but of course very familiar with the Paikea legend and with their surroundings here. So in a genuine setting such as this, using the real local people has paid off for us in a big way."