Magik & Rose

A film by Vanessa Alexander.

The cast

You wanna see the merchandise? – Leonard the sperm donor, scene 92

Alison Bruce (Magik), Nicola Murphy (Rose), Oliver Driver (Jackson), Simon Ferry (Stuart) and Florence Hartigan (Girl) together paint a vivid picture of small town New Zealand in their roles as a con artist fortune teller, a small town wife and her husband, a square dancing mathematician and a 15 year old adopted daughter.

Alison Bruce — Magik

Alison Bruce as Magik

I gave her up when I was twenty. How stupid is that? – Magik, scene 55

Alison Bruce felt an immediate bond with her character Magik. Being separated from her own son during the shooting of the film was difficult for Alison, yet it helped her understand her character's overpowering desire to see the face of the daughter she gave up at birth.

I loved the character at first sight says Alison Bruce of her character after first reading Magik and Rose. Any woman who can say, ‘There's no mood you can't eat your way out of’ and then attempts to do so, has my vote! Magik is a free spirit and that was a joy to play.

Perhaps it was the character's unusual freeness that attracted a large number of actors to the role of Magik. I think it's because there's a pile of talented, sexy woman actors, in their late 30s, who most of the time only ever get offered supporting roles as frumpy mothers, says Vanessa.

Alison Bruce is no newcomer to film with credits that include User Friendly, Angel at My Table, Old Scores, End of the golden Weather and Alex. Starting out at Theatre Corporate in the 1980s, Alison has led a packed professional career which has taken in well remembered roles like Roxanne, in Theatre at Large's Cyrano de Bergerac, and Ophelia, in Michael Hurst's Hamlet. She has also appeared in numerous New Zealand television programmes including Marlin Bay, Shark in the Park, Coverstory, Shortland Street, Xena and Jackson's Wharf.

Nicola Murphy — Rose

Nicola Murphy as Rose

What's wrong with me that 80 million of them can swim around my body during ovulation and none of them find a single thing to do. – Rose, scene 7

Rose is unlike any character Nicola has ever played before. For Rose, life has always been about being a good wife and mother. When she realises that she will never have the possibility of fulfilling that, she just can't accept it. She becomes chewed up and embittered and blind to everything but her desires.

Vanessa knew Nicola would be excellent in the part of Rose. I think playing Rose was a challenge. Rose has some heavy emotional low points in the film, yet she finds this solace in the humour and eccentricity of Magik. Nicky managed to take Rose on a journey through comedy and tragedy without ever seeming disjointed.

Magik and Rose is Nicola's third feature, after female leads in Jack Brown Genius and Wild Blue. She has a wide variety of theatre and television experience to add to this, including Waiora, Foreskin's Lament, Cover Story, and Shortland Street.

Oliver Driver — Jackson

Oliver Driver as Jackson

When snails mate they kind of fire this little dart into the other snail, which makes the other one want to mate… – Jackson, scene 122

Besides breeding snails and studying the maths of fractals, Jackson is a square dancing fiend. That's when this job is great, when you get to be someone else doing this thing you would never otherwise do, says Oliver.

Jackson was great fun to play, says Oliver, When you're a kid, you spend all your time doing things you're into. You're not worried what other people think. Jackson is like that - only he was generally in his underpants.

Jackson needed to be the perfect man - in a way you've never imagined him. says Vanessa. On screen, Oliver has this sort of tall, intelligent oddness that you just can't take your eyes off. I think he is a bit like Jackson in some ways - they both have exciting, creative minds.

Oliver loved the experience of being in Hokitika and speaks highly of his work with Vanessa. Vanessa was an inspiration, he says. Maybe it was because she hadn't made fifty movies - but you always felt it was your story. For somebody to write and direct a film, they have to trust you to take their character. Vanessa had that trust - and it was returned as respect.

Oliver Driver has an acting record as long as his (very long) arm that includes work in theatre, film and television. He is especially well known as a top TheatreSports player, and as Nurse Mike on Shortland Street. Over the last few years, he has worked on some of New Zealand's most popular television series (including Marlin Bay, Plain Clothes, and City Life) and feature films such as Topless Women Talk About Their Lives.

Simon Ferry — Stuart

Simon Ferry as Stuart

I don't think you're not normal… even some of the cows have trouble getting going. – Stuart, scene 50

We have some serious similarities, laughs Simon Ferry of his character Stuart. We're both from a small town, have a fetish for dressing up and we've both had our arm up a cows arse!

In trying to conceive and always being disappointed, Stuart and Rose have some emotionally fraught scenes, says Simon. I think the film shows the pain and anguish some would-be parents have with conception, he says. I loved that Stuart works as an artificial inseminator, as well. It crushes instantly the mystique and magic surrounding the natural conception of a baby.

Simon puts enormous thought into character, says Vanessa. Stuart could easily have been played two-dimensionally, but Simon brought to this 'classic Kiwi bloke' an enormous subtlety, strength and emotion.

Since leaving Drama School in 1993, Simon has appeared in television programs like Mirror Mirror, Duggan, Twisted Tale, and Home Movie, and films such as Out of the Blue. Simon's theatrical credits are too numerous to list but include winning the Chapman Tripp theatre award for "Best Newcomer" in 1995 and being nominated Best Supporting Actor for playing Gloucester in Theatre at Large's Lear in in 1997. Previously the Head of Performing Arts at UCOL in Palmerston North, Simon is now the Artistic Director at the Centrepoint Theatre.

Florence Hartigan — Girl

Florence Hartigan as Girl

I already have a mother, right? Who needs two? – Girl, scene 122

The part of Girl was incredibly difficult to cast. says Vanessa Alexander. We needed a 16-year-old with attitude and emotional punch who could also cope with some hefty passages of dialogue. Seventy percent of the girls who auditioned turned up in lipstick and high heels. They were supposed to be whitebaiting!

I've wanted to act ever since I saw Annie! laughs Florence, a little embarrassed by the confession. Girl is a Hokitika local. She's confident and smart, but likes to be in control. Then, her world is suddenly shattered by the reappearance of her natural mother. I just thought how shocked I'd be if at my age someone just waltzed into my life and completely shook my ideas of who I am.

Florence and Alison Bruce enjoyed their time acting as mother and daughter. There's something extremely compelling about this self-possessed young woman, says Alison. She was so present, so striving to be the best she could at every moment.

In between filming, Florence managed to do her schoolwork, prepare for a Shakespeare competition, and stun the crew and locals with her enchanting musical talents. By the time you've seen Florence act, play guitar, dance an Irish jig, sing like an angel, and smile like the sun shines - you'll think, ‘In my next life, I'm coming back as her’, says Vanessa Alexander.

The crew

The crew

Director of Photography — Fred Renata

I always wished I'd taken a photo — so… I came back to get one. – Magik, scene 72

Fred has an eye like a viewfinder, says Vanessa. Alexander. Larry suggested that Fred's pupils might be rectangular — and I don't think he's far wrong.

Producer Larry Parr says he's worked with Fred quite a lot but never when he was DOP on a drama. It was fantastic because he was so good, he even surprised me a little.

From the beginning Fred felt a real connection with the script. I really enjoyed Magik and Rose — it was a great read that made me laugh out loud. That's what attracted me to the project.

Vanessa really gets some beautiful performances, says Fred. We had an excellent shoot — you know there's a touch of crazy in Vanessa and you can't help but love people like that.

Fred Renata began his working career as an electrical engineer. In 1987, he made a new start in the film industry — as a lighting assistant on Merata Mita's film Mauri. In the last four years, Fred has been the director of photography on numerous TVCs, music videos, documentaries and short film dramas.

Magik and Rose is his first feature.

Art Director — Simon Harper

This is the point where maths meets art. It's like a mathematical picture of history and why it can never be predicted.

Simon did such a great job making sure that everything was there. When you look at this film it's really difficult to believe that it was basically a two- or three-person art department, says Larry Parr.

Magik and Rose is the first feature film for Simon as the Art Director. Previously his experience has been in short films and television - including the popular television series Hercules.

Costume Designer — Simonde "Monde" Norden

And I was thinking all of my clothes are pretty strange. What if she doesn't like me?

Monde's costumes were quite inspired, says producer Larry Parr.

I begged, borrowed and stole, says Monde. After that I started using my own clothes. Designing Magik's costumes was great fun, she says. Magik is a character who needed a really unique style - strange… but sexy.

Vanessa Alexander says she didn't set eyes on a single costume until three days before the shoot. I was already in Hokitika. I think Monde was even more worried about this than I was. Fortunately, she knew exactly what would work - and I was thrilled with them.

Monde Norden has been working the film industry for over ten years. She's worked on a variety of things, including Hercules, Xena, and When Love Comes. She was also the production designer on I'll Make You Happy.

Editor — Eris de Beus

Then you do this pseudo-Freudian displacement thing and become demented about getting fresh air in the place.

Eric de Beus did not plan to become an editor in a dark, windowless room. Initially, he worked in the wide open spaces of theatre, as both a stage manager and set designer. In 1987, Eric decided to make a change and began to work with film.

Over twenty years on, De Beus has numerous of short films under his belt and can list a multitude other projects he has been involved in, including Velvet Dreams, Duggan and the infamous Forgotten Silver. While Magik and Rose was Eric's first feature credit, he already has others to his name - Jubilee, for example.

De Beus immensely enjoyed working with Vanessa. She has a great instinct for drama, and possesses a natural talent for visually telling a story.

Eric has a in-depth understanding of story and character that he can articulate incredibly clearly - this is the key to editing drama - and it comes to Eric effortlessly, says Vanessa.


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