ArtSpeak: Rubbings from a Live Man

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The Old St Michaels Church at Corban Estate Arts Centre comes to life as the guests for the eveni

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By Cathy Aronson

The Old St Michaels Church at Corban Estate Arts Centre comes to life as the guests for the evening's ArtSpeak walk in the room. Rubbings from a Live Man director Florian Habicht appears with a familiar slim, tall frame but the cool reflective look seen in his media shots is replaced with a big friendly smile.

His companion and star of the documentary, Warwick Broadhead, lightens the room instantly, his rosy face beaming from beneath his trilby hat.

During the meet and greet the pair are already gushing with their love for one another. "We are like that couple in the wedding photo," Warwick points to a picture on the wall.

As the room warms up Warwick takes his place on a chair on the church stage and continues to engage with the audience, some who have seen the premiere at the International Film Festival.

Florian openly talks whilst setting up his new Canon HF10 camera, which he traded in his Panasonic HVX200 for. He's going to use it for getting around New York when he takes up the $80,000 New York Harriet Friedlander Residency.

A residency that has him excited because there are no restrictions, as his ideas for films can come from anywhere. He was originally talking with Warwick to do a NZ Film Commission funded documentary 'Land of the Long White Cloud.' But their conversation at a cafe turned into a two-hour talk and Warwick ended up sharing his life story.

"I've never heard someone that had lived such a full life, something so challenging and hard things that I could never imagine and begin to be able to deal with myself."

Florian was also enticed by the challenge of trying to capture on film the feeling of hanging out with such a free spirit.

"Warwick doesn't let people record his work, because he doesn't like the idea of things being captured or tied down."

When the filmmaker and his subject are introduced to the stage the pair reach their hands out to each other from across their chairs to invite each other to speak "Good luck bro," says Florian. They intuitively hold hands and Warwick offers, "Please go first."

The Filmmaker and the Star

Florian talked about his first 'more live' films made at art school, when he didn't know the conventions of filmmaking, like auditions and rehearsals. He would ask someone interesting on the street if they wanted to be in a movie, they'd turn up, he'd tell them what to do and then shoot.

Although he says his filmmaking is more evolved now, with both Woodenhead and Kaikohe Demolition under his belt, he still shoots on an intuitive level and then shapes it afterwards in the editing. This is the process he used for Rubbings of a Live Man.

The star of the film, Warwick Broadhead, introduces himself as a writer and director of live theatre, with a passion for community works. In more recent times he has been performing solo shows in homes and outside in unusual places, such as churches, railway stations and forests. "They're not unusual to me, but I'm told they are unusual."

His upcoming performance is called The Resting Show, inspired by his four heart attacks. At the end of the talk he gives the audience a sample and gets them to rest for a minute and a half while he and Florian stand on the stage.

Warwick first encountered Florian six years ago. Warwick went to his house to check out the Sony TRV900 video camera Florian was selling. "He was checking me out as well," says Florian.

The camera was used to create the visuals (played on a TV screen) for Warwick's solo show Selfish Giant, and Florian helped with the editing. Warwick also played Hugo the Dump Boss in Woodenhead. Over time they became friends.

"You really feel alive after hanging out with Warwick because he has this ability to flirt with life, break down the barriers between people and he is really aware of being in the moment and pointing things out."

Warwick said Florian was 'good looking and well dressed' but he also felt a kindred spirit with him.

"I enjoyed working with him and his creative process, how he is also a very spontaneous person and also lively to be around. So I felt very kindred towards Florian."

Testy Times

Just as the compliments are becoming overwhelming, the pair admit they decided to be nice to each other during the talk, after becoming testy during an earlier interview when talking about difficult parts of the film.

Warwick explains. "I've come to love Florian, our friendship has deepened but it's been testy and we've challenged each other and it's been unpleasant at times, which is how friendship can be, sometimes."

Warwick originally said no to the documentary, three times. He finally agreed because the film was about him, not a record of his work, and he was told it would be an honourable film, not a freak show.

Florian admits he had the film 'Grisly Man', sticking out of his bag during the first day of the shoot, which made Warwick nervous. Florian said he was studying the movie to explore how to shoot eye lines, as in his previous films the subjects were looking at the camera.

"Every time you make a documentary the big question is why are you telling this story. How important is it, what are the reasons. For me if I have a good hunch about something I'll just do it, otherwise nothing would be made because you can think of a hundred reasons not to do them. But I had a good feeling, I was really moved by Warwick's story."

Warwick: "It was very challenging. I had to keep asking them for information, why are you doing this film."

Forensically Intimate

Florian said the film is not a fly on the wall documentary, but rather a forensically intimate and performance enhanced film.

"The film is incredibly intimate and Warwick's been incredibly open and brave with personal things and I've been pushing for that as a director and that's why those questions were really heightened because it was such a revealing film."

Warwick had performed theatre shows about holidays and angry experiences but never anything so personal and connected to his life.

"So that made me afraid," says Warwick. "I started to be afraid that I'd get beaten up on the street for things I'd said. I started to get fearful when I knew I was going to make the film and what Florian was going to focus on. Then the fears became very big."

Warwick was so fearful that he began sweating at night. During the four weeks filming at his house there was a smell, which was finally tracked down to his duvet. "I don't know if you've ever smelt fear, but it's pungent and acrid, it's a terrible, terrible smell. I was just sweating out the fear."

Two weeks into the filming, while Warwick was telling the most personal part his story, he stopped and realised for the first time that people were going to be watching it. Filming stopped for three days while Warwick consulted his family.

"There were a lot of intense moments where we didn't know if it was going to keep going," says Florian.

They got through the intense four week shoot with their friendships intact because Warwick insisted they sit down for a long lunch every day, which would begin with the cast and crew holding hands and saying prayers.

But it still required a lot of perseverance and determination from both performer and director to keep going.

This is captured during the film when a shirtless Warwick, positioned vulnerably infront of a blank green screen barely holding his head up, asks for the filming to stop. "How raw do you want to see a person, stripped back to their bones, what do you want? What sort of vulture are you?"

Florian, who occasionally appears in the film, is obviously silent and continues shooting. Florian admits it shows how far he could go but "Warwick has been so brave putting himself out there, the least I could do was show my strengths and flaws as a filmmaker."

Florian explains that all parties had agreed before the filming that in order to deliver an honest film they would keep rolling during the intense moments and then decide whether to keep it during the edit. He said Warwick didn't fully trust him until he saw the raw cuts and continued to be involved in the filmmaking.

Pushing the Boundaries

Florian said he pushes the boundaries in his filmmaking because in real life he has been held back by his own fears. He tells how he when he was younger he was too scared to try risky tricks on his skateboard, incase he hurt himself. "I do it because it's a way for me to be more risky."

Warwick said talking to a therapist and telling the story to Florian helped him overcome his fears, and he was determined to be honest and not hide anything. "There was nothing to be ashamed of, it might appear shameful, but it was just a story of all this stuff I've got, dark side, light side, and I've got all the bits that you've all got. So I was determined not to hide."

But when it came to the film's premiere at the International Film Festival in July this year, Warwick became fearful again.

A Tibetan monk, one of Warwick's teachers, was in town to watch the film and Warwick was concerned what he would think. But after the screening, during dinner, the monk said 'what are you doing sitting at the table, you should be sitting on the table, you should be proud, you can be proud, not arrogant, proud, you've done a wonderful thing.'

"Then it clicked with me, what I've done is good, it's nothing to be ashamed of. I still had traces of that fearfulness but when he said that to me it changed and now I'm very proud of what Florian has done, what we've worked to to get this to happen and it's as honest as I can be and as honest as he can be."

Performance Enhanced

Florian said much of the performance is an imagined world, and contrived with cameras and lighting "but despite all that we've made what we think is the most honest film and most honest representation of those four weeks together. Even when you were really performing there was an honesty in there."

"Because I am a performer," said Warwick. He goes on to admit that while he was telling the 'terrible story' of his sister's death, he had to stop and have a shower and he began crying.

"I started howling, howling for myself and my sister and howling for the world, one of those big howls you have, and in the midst of a howl I thought, they should be filming this."

And they were, the crew was outside the door filming, capturing a sound that was later removed from the film.

* * *

  • More information Rubbings from a Live Man is at the following cinemas for a strictly limited season. Auckland Christchurch & Dunedin at Rialto Wellington at Paramount. Distributed by Arkles Entertainment (NZ, 75 minutes, R13: Contains Adult Themes)
  • ArtSpeak with Florian Habicht & Warwick Broadhead was held in September 2008. ArtSpeak is held on the first Monday of every month at Corban Estate Arts Centre. The next ArtSpeak will be early 2009. Related story Rubbings from a Live Man release
  • 13/11/08
  • Written by

    Cathy Aronson

    14 Nov 2008

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