The Dominion
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The Dominion
July 31, 2000

Trilogy Helps Boost Short Film Industry
Alan Samson

It is not only New Zealand's feature film industry that is being given a fillip with the local production of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Two Weta Digital staff members who are helping produce the digital effects footage of Lord of the Rings have found the time to produce two of the seven New Zealand films that were selected for the 15-minute "shorts" category of the New Zealand Film Festival.

Weta Effects producer and first-time filmmaker Charlie McClellan wrote Room Tone, a black comedy about an obsessive-compulsive interior decorator who discovers a strange telephone-calling option, enabling him to dial home and, through the answerphone, hear what is going on in the house in his absence. The decorator (Jed Brophy) hears more than he bargains for.

The other film is Infection, a short film by veteran filmmaker James Cunningham. This surreal, animated film imaginatively delves into the workings of an attempt to cheat a student loan.

McLellan said he made Room Tone last year while Jackson went to England and the States to do casting. "I thought `it's now or never' and took a few days leave."

McLellan's work exemplifies the difficulties facing many people making short films. His film was fully self-funded, even to the extent of hiring a top-of-the-line camera and paying for actors.

His cast included Brophy and Jeffrey Thomas. The film's total cost was $40,000.

McLellan, an American, has been with Jackson for more than five years, working on The Frighteners, the spoof documentary Forgotten Silver, and other projects.

Both short films have been acclaimed on the New Zealand festival tour. And both have been selected for overseas showings.

Room Tone has been accepted at festivals in Sao Paulo and Brazil, and Infection at the Cannes festival.