The Southland Times
Mark Winter

The Southland Times
September 3, 2000

Winter Plans to Start on Victor Spence Movie
Cherie Sivignon

Invercargill film-maker Mark Winter plans to resign from his manager's job this month to work fulltime on his feature-length production.

"I have to be fully committed to the project now, especially when we are going for funding," the Movieland 5 boss said.

The film about the life of Bluff soldier Victor Spencer was a multi-million dollar project, due to begin shooting in Southland in October next year.

Discussions had been held with actors such as Ben Kingsley, John Hurt, Kenneth Branagh, Joan Allen and Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian Holm and Sir Ian McKellen.

Regular talks had also been held with Queenstown-born Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) graduate Ben Farry.

Mr Winter declined to confirm Farry was being considered for the lead role of Victor Spencer, the young soldier who was shot for desertion during World War 1.

"I can't say at this stage," Mr Winter said. "He (Farry) certainly will be involved with the project." Mr Winter hoped Tapanui-based Trishia Downie would produce the film. She had already agreed to put the budget together.

Along with Christchurch writer Grant McCrostie, Mr Winter hoped to finish the film script before Christmas.

It would be cast in July or August next year.

While some second unit shooting might take place abroad, 98 percent of the movie would be filmed in Southland, he said.

"It (the outdoor set) is mostly mud and broken houses with a few lunar-like landscapes, typical of the western front in 1916." Mr Winter had been working on the project for four years.

Film researcher Andrew Macdonald had discovered some new, controversial information which would be revealed in the film.

"I don't want to give too much of the plot away," Mr Winter said.

However, he did reveal Mr Spencer lived with a woman for more than four months in Morbeque, France, before his court martial.

Mr Winter said Mr Spencer was quiet but mischievious and the film would reflect this.

There would also be a few twists in the plot and a "Snowtex" final 20 minutes.

"It's a human interest story, a drama, a comedy," Mr Winter said. "We are taking a little bit of licence with it to both entertain and inform." The cast included about 50 speaking parts and there would be a major scene, replicating the battle at Armentieres where Mr Spencer was injured.

The film's working title was Blind Man's Bluff.

As well as coming from Bluff, Mr Spencer deserted from a place in France called The Bluff, and World War 1 was "the blind leading the blind really," Mr Winter said.