Show of Hands
Show of Hands is an off-beat love story centered on a car yard in an everyday suburb, where an endurance competition with a difference is being staged. The competition requires entrants to place a hand on a new Land Rover Discovery and keep it there. The winner of the car will be the person who keeps their hand continuously on it the longest. The world record for such a competition is over five days.
Attracted to this grueling Darwinian contest are people from every walk of life, who for one reason or another - avarice, poverty, anger, revenge, despair, loyalty, love - see their salvation in winning the glistening car. Inspired by a true story, Show of Hands pits all these motivations against each other, and in a grueling social experiment, reveals which human drive is the strongest. While it is an ensemble piece the primary focus is on two people: Tom is a single, obstinate, but charismatic bankrupt. He’s a lovable rogue and so brutally blunt to everybody that it’s funny. We like him, despite his shortcomings, which are mainly that he seems willing to do anything to win. He’s addicted to competition. He lives alone. Go figure. The other, Jess, is a solo mother and a park warden, and is at first only interested in winning the car only to help her invalided child. She’s nice as pie but feels (as we do) she isn’t going to go very far. Not, at least, until her motives for winning unexpectedly change after Tom rubs her up the wrong way. Some of the other characters introduced are Matt, the young, handsome son of a millionaire; Walter, an elderly retired security guard; Tayshawn, an overweight Pacific Island street kid; Betsy, a bubbly young woman looking for a man; Terry “Hatch” Back, the owner of the dealership, who is struggling to survive in this business; and the DJ at the local radio station, who sees this competition as a battle to decide which of the human drives is the strongest. In the end, Jess surprises everybody by going right to the wire. When she finally collapses – a loser once more - she leaves the flagging Tom and the fit young Matt to battle it out to the end. But as it proves sometimes letting go is the only way to win. Based on actual events (such a contest took place in Lower Hutt, New Zealand in the late 80's, resulting in a world record) Show Of Hands pits all these Kiwi characters against each other and tests which inner motivation will prove the stronger.
Show of Hands was filmed in New Plymouth, New Zealand, during November and December of 2007. Originally set in urban Lower Hutt, Wellington where the World Record contest was actually won, a chance cup of coffee with Venture Taranaki Film representative Peter Avery, changed all of this. He offered an array of incentives and infrastructure support from Venture Taranaki and the New Plymouth District Council to film in New Plymouth. Although at first filming in New Plymouth didn’t make sense, the impressive benefits and willingness to accommodate our filming needs outweighed any negatives.
The film was conceived under the low budget Signature Film scheme which was financed by the New Zealand Film Commission, TVNZ and NZ on Air and was initially funded for television broadcast. The onus was on us therefore to find extra funding for theatrical distribution. In order to do this we needed to secure some great cast. We approached NZ actor Melanie Lynskey, currently based in LA and starring in the US top rating sitcom “Two and a Half Men”. Melanie was very keen to be involved and even filmed her own audition in LA. She sent the tape to us because we couldn’t afford to fly her over for one. We were rapt to have her on board, especially when what we were offering to pay her was a fraction of what she normally earned. She was the complete opposite of a prima donna. She was always professional, had an amazing work ethic and coped tremendously with the high pressured fast turnaround nature of low budget filmmaking. Filming took place over 24 days; however in reality it should have taken 35 days. Shooting on the HD Thomson Viper camera enabled us to have a second camera most of the time. In fact we shot 20 days off a second camera. We needed to as Anthony had presented us with a 1000 shot storyboard.The camera team was hugely experienced, from DOP John Cavill down, and at times we averaged over 40 set-ups a day which is nearly double the norm.
The shoot was ambitious and proved as sleepless as the contest we were depicting. Shooting HD offered the chance to work faster and go where film might not have allowed us to go. As the contestants tired and even started to hallucinate in some cases, the language of the film itself began to slip, fragment, distort and deceive, so HD gave us more flexibility to really go on that complex and visually intense ride with them.