Whanganui's Jason Ellis ready to release first feature film 'Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle'

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Independent filmmaker Jason Ellis was born and raised in Whanganui, shooting his first home made videos in Gonville with kids from the neighbourhood. Now Wellington-based, Ellis and his friend Eli Hill have self-funded and directed their first feature length film - a mockumentary entitled 'Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle'.

The story revolves around two warring recorder players, Giovani and Freddie, as they compete for a scholarship to a prestigious music academy. The pair, along with several other characters, are put through a boot camp, a performance at the local pub, and a final judged performance.

Ellis said he attended Gonville and Tawhero primary schools, but it wasn't until his first years at Whanganui High School that he developed an interest in filmmaking.

"I was in Whanganui until my mid-20s.

"It all kind of started with making short films with kids down the street, and a little bit of YouTube stuff. I was trying to film fight scenes and shootouts and things like that.

"From there I moved to Wellington, but I'm still completely self-taught. I've just learned from watching online videos and experience."

The idea for a mockumentary came from Hill, Ellis said.

"It was originally based around one character, Giovani, but the more we wrote him the more he turned into the villain of the piece, so we figured we'd have to have some characters that people would like as well.

"It became more of an ensemble from there."

Ellis said the film was shot in Porirua and Carterton using mostly Wellington-based actors, all of whom worked for free.

"We started writing the film in August 2019. A guy called Matt Hoyes wrote the music for it, and he's also a music teacher. We reached out to him to see if he wanted to do the music and he said we could use the school he works at, Porirua College, to film.

"Because of that we had to finish filming before the school went back for the year. We filmed in January 2020, and originally planned to have it ready to go by mid last year.

"As with everything last year, Covid-19 got in the way. The trailer actually went live today (January 11), which means it's almost exactly a year since we started filming. It's been stressful, but at the same time I wouldn't change anything. It's been great."

Ellis said he and Hill were lucky to find a cast and crew that were "more than happy to jump right in".

"Our main shoot was a week long and it was unpaid, we just provided food for everyone on set. People picking up extra roles as well, just to get it done.

"There's a very long list of things to do differently next time, but after completing this, you look at some of those Hollywood movies and the insane budgets they have and you wonder why they had to spend hundreds of millions of dollars.

"Half the time the movie isn't that good anyway."

Ellis said he and Hill's next project would be something completely different from a mockumentary.

"During the shooting we had all these ideas for really nice cinematic shots, but that doesn't really fit into the mockumentary type thing.

"We're quite keen to do something a bit more cinematic next time, and there are few things in the story stage at the moment. There's a feature film in there, and an idea for a TV series pilot."

'Two Idiots and a Tin Whistle' will be released online on February 5.

To watch it's trailer, go to www.vimeo.com/ondemand/twoidiotsandatinwhistle

Mike Tweed
Whanganui Chronicle 12/1/21

(*) Last Reviewed: January 12, 2021

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