TBI Q&A: Ainsley Gardiner

Producer Ainsley Gardiner.
Boy producer Ainsley Gardiner answers The Big Idea community questions about filming in


Boy is producer Ainsley Gardiner’s latest film with writer/director Taika Waititi and follows their successful pairing on short films Tama Tu and Oscar-nominated Two Cars, One Night and the feature film Eagle vs Shark.

Read Ainsley Gardiner’s answers to The Big Idea community questions about producing Boy.

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Set in a rural Maori community in the Bay of Plenty (shot in Waititi’s childhood home town of Waihau Bay), Boy is about 11 year-old Boy’s journey to knowing and understanding the adult world of which he will one day become a part.

Boy recently won best feature film in the Generation Kplus International Jury category at the Berlin International Film Festival and screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Boy is playing in NZ cinemas from 25 March.

With every project there comes a time when you start to lose enthusiasm. What was yours and how did you overcome it? - Clare Scott

I tend to lose enthusiasm at each stage of the project when I’m on my own.  Development is fine because there is a lot of creative energy and momentum driving forward.  Right after production when the team thins out is a tough time and once the film is finished, particularly when Taika moves on to something else, and there are a lot of loose ends to tie up, that’s another time.  I’m still learning about the best ways through those periods. 

The two strategies that I have experimented with and that seem to work most successfully (and that I will definitely budget and plan for on the next project!) are: regular breaks, Taika needs them so he can get some space and distance from the project, I need them just to recharge, and secondly, being able to maintain a small core team from start to finish, on the next project I would include the Line Producer for longer, a production person so I don’t end up on my own in the office (boring and not very conducive to good work for me!), our post super and our accountant, plus on the next job I would seriously consider having a full time marketing person, the success of the new technologies like social networking etc need a lot of work and if we could do that from whoa to go I think we’d be able to maximize the film’s exposure. 

For all of the useful purposes in having a team on for the duration of the film, the main reason is to keep me company, to keep each buoyed and happy and to make it more fun!

Kia ora Ainsley, How was it shooting in Waihau Bay? Did you get lots of support and involvement in the feature from locals? - Nolan Hodgson

Kia ora, Waihau Bay, Raukokore in particular was amazing.  It’s Taika’s home so it meant there was no political negotiating, they accepted us immediately and we acted with the same sort of manners and respect for them as we would when visiting our friends homes. 

Everybody did something, the marae housed and fed us so the kitchen staff were working over time, we had extras from the community, stayed in their homes, they kept us company, likewise, we kept them company, it’s scary to think of making a film that didn’t involve Taika’s whanau and the Waihau Bay community as they feel like an integral part of our team!

How does Boy compare with Eagle Vs Shark? - Possum

BOY was far better resourced and way more relaxed.  But having said that, the love and respect on that set was the same as on BOY and I loved the movie as much as I love BOY.  Taika and I were still learning a lot on Eagle and our relationship has certainly strengthened since then, I can be a better decision maker on his behalf and so can he.  I’m a better Producer now and it made BOY less stressful for sure.

Clearly, producing Boy is your most satisfying project to date.  What has helped to make yours and Taika's relationship as writer and producer a continuing collaborative success? - Lucia Ablett

Similar sense of humour, good friendship, plenty of distance in between projects, both being good at what we do.  Him knowing that deep down my priority is to provide him with the best environment to work his magic.  Me trusting that even if we don’t see eye to eye, my job is to create that environment for him.  Both knowing that neither of us is even close to knowing everything there is to know (and him knowing that I know a little bit more than he does…)

When you're reading a script, is there a consistent element that makes you say "I want to make this movie?" - Courtney

I laugh, I cry. Easy.

Where did you get all of those ideas for comedy and humour throughout the movie? - Ricque Tanner

Comedy comes from reality, all Taika did was remember what it was like to be a kid and the humour just flowed, besides he’s a pretty funny guy.

Was it difficult to achieve a satisfaction that the feeling of the 80's had been consistent throughout? - James

Each department owned their part in that, Art Department, Wardrobe, makeup, they pride themselves on their research and skills and choiceness.  It wasn’t difficult to be satisfied, because if you know the 80’s you don’t need much of it to feel completely overwhelmed by it, it was an overwhelming decade!  But also, you’ve also got creative license as a back up, it doesn’t really matter if not everything is authentic as long as it feels as if it fits in the film.  Trainspotters will easily have a field day with some of the anomalies and inaccuracies in the film!

They say you should never work with children or animals, so given that, what was it like working with James Rolleston or Taikia Waititi? - Sam

I have 3 children a dog and a cat of my own, I say they’re easier to work with because you’re allowed to train them using treats, and you’re allowed to punish them with a whack on the nose with rolled up newspaper.  Taika on the other hand was a nightmare…  Seriously, you write the story you want to write, if it has children and animals you just gotta go with that, generally speaking children are more reliable, but our goats were cool too.

Could you moonwalk prior to Boy? Can you now? Don't stop 'till you get enough... - Caleb

I have never been able to moonwalk although I have practiced a lot in the last year, Taika on the other hand has been moonwalking since the day he first saw it.

Enjoy the film.

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Between 10 and 12 and 10 and 12, after surviving the morning madness and drinking that first coffee and taking a minute, it just feels like anything’s possible, and on my way to sleep when the day is done and all the analyzing and revisiting is finished and I know that amazing stuff is going to happen in my dreams, it feels like anything is possible.

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style? 

I just asked and she said, generous, supportive and fun.  Then she said Glamorously casual.  I said Scruffy Chic.  She agreed.

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill? 

Problem solving I think.  Hitting a wall and finding a way around it, thrilling!

How does your environment affect your work? 

Need people around me to be motivated.  I love beautiful spaces but mostly I love beautiful peeps around me.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details? 

I am big picture, but I can see all the tiny details in the big picture.  I just need someone else to deal with the tiny details!

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries? 

Collaborate.  Work to your strength and have the right team to fill in the gaps.

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction? 

BOY without a doubt.  Every project before hand has given generously to the cause but in terms of my own self satisfaction, I have done the best job on BOY.

Who or what has inspired you recently? 

Kathryn Bigelow yeah!!  And the mothers at my daughter’s kura who have full time jobs, full time families and still do shit loads of volunteering at the school, and happily, they have got the best attitude (I don’t have it, I want it!)

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be? 


What place is always with you, wherever you go? 

Whakatane.  Ohope Beach.  The summer of 1987, the year I started school in Whakatane and discovered myself and lost myself all at the same time.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why? 

Drunk, loud, late, in a head banging circle with old friends at a party you should never have gotten into that’s playing bad hits of the 80’s.  Because it happens very rarely and when you can sing every word of a song you feel like you own the world.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

A gymnastics ribbon, then run around flapping it pretending to be at the Olympics.

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given? 


What's great about today?

My kids.

What’s your big idea for 2010? 

Balance!  Breathe!  Make some movies!

More information

Ainsley is of Te Whanau-a-Apanui, Whakatohea, Ngati Awa, and Ngati Pikiao descent and is part of Te Paepae Ataata.  In 2007 Gardiner began co-presenting Iti Pounamu, a Maori Television series showcasing New Zealand short films.

She began her involvement in film in 1995 with the Avalon Film and TV production course that included work placement with Kahukura Productions.  Her 6 year experience with Larry Parr saw her emerge as one of New Zealand's most promising young producers. Ainsley was appropriately acknowledged by WIFT as The Emerging Producer of the Year 2004 and again in 2007 for Achievement in Film.

As well as producing two features before she was 28, she also produced a 26-episode comedy for television and various short films, and worked on commercials, shorts and corporate videos in production and as an Assistant Director for other companies. Notably Ainsley produced the short films Two Cars One Night and Tama Tu written and directed by Taika Waititi.

She has also written and directed her first short film, Mokopuna, funded by Creative New Zealand and the NZ Film Commission. 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

25 Mar 2010

The Big Idea Editor

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