An Evening with Mr Walker

An Evening with Mr Walker

(no relation)

When a man is able to make a feature-length film for $150, you know that there is a serious amount of enthusiasm involved. Critic sat down with now-Dunedin-based digital filmmaker Campbell Walker to get a quick lesson in passion.
Campbell Walker, whose first film Uncomfortable Comfortable premiered in the New Zealand Film Festival in 1999, is a man making movies on the cheap, seemingly simply for the love of it.

The Wellington-bred Walker describes Uncomfortable Comfortable, which will be screened this week by the Dunedin Film Society, as “being about what happens when a relationship is finishing.” He thought he was making a grim film but at the end of the first screening, he realised that he had inadvertently made a comedy. “Everybody laughed. At different points and in different ways; when people saw things they could relate to through their own experiences, they would break into laughter of recognition. In Kiwi culture, we have an awkwardness around relationships so people look to find it funny.”

Walker is fascinated by the way New Zealanders communicate, and by the things that don’t get said during our most intimate moments. “The quiet, intimate relationships we have aren’t talked about. The way we don’t articulate our emotions around these things. It’s about how it’s important we try to.”
The impact of Uncomfortable Comfortable has been influential on the lives of some (one woman, upon meeting Walker, informed him that she dumped her boyfriend after seeing the film) and on the Film Industry in New Zealand. “Some people saw it as a threat, and we were a threat to the Film Industry, as we were making these films very cheaply.”

Making a film that is not directed at a particular target audience allows the director’s interests to be portrayed. “I make the kinds of films that I would like to see, that I think other people I know would like to see.” He certainly isn’t targeting the same audience as the multi-million dollar productions of commercial films, such as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Walker cannot hide his contempt for the slave-driver fashion of Jackson’s directing technique, or for the egotism of James Cameron. Walker definitely does not need feel the need to reach large audiences or make a lot of money.

In Walker’s current project, where the total cost was $150, he admits, “about half of that was spent on booze.” Not being commercially-based means that Walker has the ability to get a basic camera, organise some actors and use his own home for most of his filming. “I would never make a $10m film, or $1m film. $100,000 would let me do everything I would want to do.”

After its initial success at its premier film festival, Uncomfortable Comfortable was given a $5000 grant to complete the post-production. “They didn’t think we’d get it finished with $5000, we didn’t think we could finish it with $5000 but we did.” Walker’s ability to complete films under such tight budgets reflects his enormous passion and knowledge for film.

As a Victoria University Graduate in Film and Film Theory in a theatre and film context, Walker has a penchant for reflecting the theory of film in his work. He is critical of the NZ film education system. “If you study filmmaking in New Zealand, you are learning how to make films for money in an industrial and commercial process.”

Even as a digital filmmaker, Walker believes that traditional techniques still have a place in developing a film. His scenes often run for 40 minutes or more without a break. He challenges the viewer to engage with the scene and realise for themselves what is important and where to pay attention.

Having lived in Dunedin for a year, Walker is still discovering what life is like in Dunedin, so his latest film should reflect this. “It’s an outsider’s view of Dunedin but kind of an insider’s view,” stated Walker, as confusing as that is. Hopefully it won’t take four years to produce like some of his other work, but it is sure to relate to many Dunedin-ites.

Uncomfortable Comfortable (1999) will be shown by the Dunedin Film Society, Wednesday 14 March at 7:30 pm in the Red Lecture Theatre, Great King Street, across the road from the emergency entrance of the Dunedin Public Hospital. Casual admission for a small donation.
Campbell Walker will attend the Dunedin Film Society’s exclusive local screening and be available for a question and answer session afterwards.
This article first appeared in Issue 3, 2012.
Posted 6:37pm Sunday 11th March 2012 by Staff Reporter.