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A Touch of Timelessness in Cambridge: The Filming of 'Worthy of Thee'

Written by Richard Swainson

Worthy of Thee is a 1940s wartime drama directed by Dulith Anthony. It's an award-winning finalist of this year's Misty Flicks Short Film Festival, featuring short film and digital stories created in the Waikato.

We had the chance to chat to Producer Lance Loughlin, Director Dulith Anthony and Writer Sasha Morgan about Worthy of Thee and the experience of filming in small town communities in The Waikato.

Photo credit: Michael Jeans

Photo credit: Michael Jeans

Within the first minute you will be captivated by the landscapes and music for the opening of Worthy of Thee. The film captures a strong essence of the 1940s with its quintessential rural New Zealand farm lands and farm house, which was renovated by the production crew and is the main location throughout the film. The film shoot was based in Cambridge, Tokoroa, Waikato, although the heads of department were Auckland based.

Director Dulith first discovered Cambridge as a film location for Worthy of Thee while working on a local feature film set there. Dulith built new connections on this film that would soon work on Worthy of Thee in Cambridge also. Dulith said when they were doing their location scouting in the pre-production phase, “I was like woah is this New Zealand, is This Waikato? This is one hour away from Auckland - and there’s this massive, beautiful landscape. I want to show the beauty of Waikato.”

Most of the actors and half of the crew are Waikato based. The local film community brought everyone together through word of mouth and always someone knowing someone. “Seeing all the talent on the feature film I was like oh yeah this is so cool, it has potential, it has the landscape, it has the talent," says Dulith.

Producer Lance said he was feeling hesitant about filming away from Auckland and was looking for options closer to home. “The process took me by surprise completely. We found our hero location just outside of Cambridge, with a tight film community surrounding. The process of getting everyone together - I started feeling everyone was really excited about us coming to their community. In Auckland, it's a completely different mentality, everyone is busy, more rejection than anything. Polar opposite community and just an hour drive out of Auckland it’s very different.

”It's clear community and support is what brought Worthy of Thee to life. "People lending us some of their 1940s period furniture for production - I was nervous to rely on a community. I didn't know, but they proved me wrong,” said Lance. Even the farm owner of the hero location allowed the crew to set up a production office in the cowshed.

Writer Sasha says, “It was an awesome experience getting to talk to the landowner of the property we were using. He was held up in the cow shed just down the driveway from us, and he was just always ready to talk to. You could sit with him for hours, the stories he was telling of the property itself. It was not only his family he was telling us about; there were hand prints and writing in the concrete of the stairs. He knew who the people were, who had put their hands in the concrete, probably 60 years earlier."

"There was a moment where I needed to come up with an address for the property, and I had no idea how to approach an address for 1940s New Zealand. Especially a rural address. But he had the answers for me and he was just so ready to help and share his knowledge.” said Sasha.

Dulith and Sasha said they are already planning a new film to shoot again in the Waikato “both the community and scenery for me - has just got a flavour of its own - Waikato has a bit of a timelessness to it that other regions don't have.” says Sasha.

Talking to the heads of departments of Worthy of Thee was truly inspiring and was great hearing about their journey with filming such a powerful and picturesque short film.

I asked Lance what advice he would give to other filmmakers thinking of filming in the Waikato. “From my experience it is a no-brainer. You have to create those relationships early. What I would recommend to other filmmakers, do your research, give yourself time to rationalise whether your shoot should take place locally and that could come down to if you can depend on a crew that is local, we did and that worked out. Give as much time to research, quantify whether your budget is going to be reliable enough. Don't be afraid to ask for people's time. - And that is whether you got all the money in the world or no money at all. That is the value that I know is within our film that is going to be premiering at Misty Flicks. That all reflects hard work and people's time, not the amount of money we had to make it.”

Misty Flicks Short Film Festival will be the premiere for Worthy of Thee. A production that was filmed over a year ago and over two years from inception, idea to a finished film ready to premiere. “I want a physical premiere to celebrate work with the team.” says Lance. "To give back to the community and celebrate with all the people involved. Prove to people that coming together as a short film, you need a solid backing from communities to get it done. That's what made Worthy of Thee happen. Made possible from people's shared passion for film.”

The script, cinematography, art direction, and actors making Worthy of Thee is of a high calibre. You will be taken on an emotional journey with the tension and conflict created between characters. A personal favourite line “Did you ever think it was luck, not discipline, that brought you home” to which Sasha explains “Nobody that ended up on that beach and creek lacked courage or discipline. They were going in there under extreme circumstances. It's not an act of their own that kept them safe - bullets flying - Mr Walker he had to see it as his own doing as it was a sort of armor for him -
Mrs Walker she is really embodying the lack of control - she knows that no amount of discipline
or courage or skill even is going to be what hopefully brings her son home.”

Director Dulith says “It's all about how war can change a person entirely. I want to show to my audience that this is how rough it was. Mr Walker fought in WW1 and it changed him for the rest of his lifetime. Also, all the repercussions from Mrs Walker as well, she sees this, she experiences this everyday.”

Huge congratulations to all the crew, cast and community supporters for bringing Worthy of Thee to life. The power of unity has resulted in one incredible piece of art that is not to be missed.

The 2021 Misty Flicks Film Festival will take place on Saturday 12 February 2022 at 6:30 pm at Metro by Hoyts in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.

Photo credit: Michael Jeans

Photo credit: Michael Jeans