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A new film is born

Film premieres are pretty nerve-wracking – we’re a tiny little production company and until this point only a handful of people had had input into this film’s creation; even fewer had seen the final cut. We thought it was good, those few people said they thought it was good. What would a room mostly full of strangers think? Had we done our subject justice?
While it’s nerve-wracking it’s also incredibly exciting. Fools & Dreamers was 12 months in the making, from idea to premiere. It had been the main focus in our lives for the final six months; we were fully immersed in it – that point where you can’t see the wood for the trees (as it were!). We loved this story we were so privileged to be telling and we were excited to be sharing it at last.
Antoinette and Jordan at the premiere of Fools & Dreamers
Not knowing what numbers to expect, but keen to premiere in a cinema to see the film at its best, we booked a small local theatre that charged within our budget.
The 180-seat cinema sold out within three days! Many people asked us to hold another screening, but our star, Hugh Wilson, was travelling 94km by bike-bus-bike – the only way he’ll travel – and we didn’t want to ask him to repeat that. Plus, what a special occasion a one-off premiere would be.
The film would be free to view on YouTube for all who’d missed out, so, although a second screening made financial sense (if that’s your thing) we decided to stick with just the one event prior to our short screening tour.
On June 28th we held our premiere. The film was awesomely well received! A testament to many things: how loved Hinewai Reserve and Hugh Wilson are; the timeliness of this film, given the fast-growing global understanding of how very important reforestation will be – must be  – in our response to the world’s environmental crises. And we think testament to our developing skills as filmmakers.

In the post-film Q&A Hugh Wilson answered questions as wide ranging as the particularities of his forest management philosophy to how he does his shopping. Hugh makes a fabulous film star for someone who was a very reluctant star-to-be. His answers were engaging and often funny and the audience was enchanted, just as we had been in every interview we shot with Hugh.

Fools & Dreamers premiere screening in Christchurch

A month on the road

Following the premiere and a back-to-back screening at Hugh’s local Akaroa Cinema two days later, we hit the road with the film, heading north with a schedule of 14 screenings, in a hastily bought, too-small (it turned out!) little Toyota Townace camper-van. We were nervous because we’d put a bit of money on the line for the tour – cinemas require advance payment – and we were leaving the territory of Hinewai Reserve and Hugh Wilson. Would people in other parts of the country be equally enthusiastic?

Starting out from our Little River home we headed to Picton, at the top of the South Island, for a first screening before making it safely over the Cook Strait in 4m swells that turned us a little green. Our road trip took us in a circle around New Zealand’s North Island, from cinemas to community halls and once a 350-seat theatre filled to capacity. Our little van proved to be utterly uncomfortable to cook and sleep in(!) so we were grateful to friends offering beds and, once we felt more financially secure, the occasional b&b – not every time entirely comfortable themselves, but definitely a whole lot better.

Audiences at the screenings of Fools & Dreamers

Here’s the best bit in this story: every single one of our 14 screenings sold out. And what’s more, within a week of setting out on the tour, we were receiving requests from cinemas and community organisations wanting to hold their own screening events in places we wouldn’t be visiting, and even following up with repeat screenings in places we’d already been. Demand was high! And feedback was beautiful!

We loved the trip – YouTube is great but getting to meet our audience and take part in the discussion our films generate is the best. We also caught up with family and friends and spent some time with the folk behind two awesome projects we’re planning to head back north to film later this year (perhaps in a different van…).

The story behind making the film

This has been a relief and a delight, because Fools & Dreamers feels like an important film to have made. It’s a story we’d had on our long list of ‘potential films’ for some time when, by beautiful coincidence, we were approached by a philanthropic family based here in New Zealand who have been long-time contributors to Hinewai Reserve, helping to fund land purchases that have seen the reserve reach its current 1500 hectares.

As he was reading the latest of Hugh’s wonderful biannual handwritten newsletter, Pipipi, it occurred to one of the family members that he would love to see the story of Hinewai told in a way that would reach more people – perhaps inspiring others to donate to the reserve.

Knowing Hugh’s dream that Hinewai would one day extend “from summit to sea” he wanted to be part of something that might help that dream come true. He asked us what the budget for a half-hour documentary would be – the first time we’ve been approached with a question like that, and the first time we’ve created a production budget at all!

After much discussion about the story we might tell, after a Skype interview with Hugh’s oldest friend to ensure we were the right folk to endow with this privileged role, and after some long evening phone calls with Hugh that turned out to be the start of a delightful friendship, production got underway and we planned for our 10-day shoot on the reserve, in October last year, when all that controversial gorse would be in flower and the weather was most likely to be gentle on us. It was a special experience for our awesome little four-person crew!

Online release

With our funders we reached the decision that the film would ultimately be released for free on our YouTube channel. This was our suggestion because DVDs are terribly wasteful plastic productions and a 30-minute doco would be hard to sell for much, while a free film would reach so many more people. Our vision is to inspire people all over the world to take part in, create, or donate to projects like Hinewai, because we need many many many more Hinewai-like forests in the world!

So it was that close to the end of our tour, we came up to the scheduled online release date of 28 July. Online release day is always super exciting for us. Watching the view numbers climb and reading the comments from viewers never ceases to entertain us! Fools & Dreamers views took off like a rocket and have barely slowed since.

“This is my new go to film if ever I start believing that we cannot make change on a personal level. Hugh Wilson speaks with words of wisdom!”

“What a beautiful, inspiring film about a truly remarkable man”

Comments were beautiful – they continue to be – and before he knew it, Hugh Wilson, who does not have a computer or mobile phone and hand writes all his correspondence, was receiving mail from the world over. Sometimes handwritten, sometimes delivered as printouts from the manager of Hinewai Reserve’s email address.

Letters from Indonesia, the Americas and Europe and everywhere in between have not stopped arriving. What’s more, generous donations, small and large, have begun to arrive – more letter writing required, as Hugh likes to respond in writing to all donations, no matter the amount. It’s a delight to see all that love flowing across the world to Hugh’s desk, although we kind of hope it will slow soon, knowing as we do how much Hugh would rather be in the forest than at his desk!

To sum it all up…

This has been an amazing opportunity for us as filmmakers – a chance to develop our skills within a budget that allowed for new experiences: more crew to manage; more money to manage; more contractors to work with; more complexities as a result of all that; a more professional production as a result of all that.

It’s also created an opportunity for us to reach a fuller understanding of just how important forests are in our approach to climate change and biodiversity loss. And lastly, we’ve made a very special new friend in Hugh Wilson, a humble, passionate, inspired and inspiring fellow who is doing his best to save his corner of the world. This is why we make films – to share the stories of incredible people like Hugh!

If you’d like to hold a screening of Fools & Dreamers in your little corner of the world, please visit our Store to find information on public screening licences. Our dream is for this film to go far and wide and inspire the regeneration of forests around the world!

Thanks for reading and following along on the journey with us.

Antoinette and Jordan

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  • Peter and Carole says:

    Very good. You two have come a long way in a short time, keep the passion, you will only get more demand for such a good product. It’s a shame we are so far away. Well done and keep healthy and safe. Love from the two of us. Xx

  • hilary wilson says:

    oooh. that all made me weep. well done all of you 👍👍🌻🤗🎶Hilly

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