Monday, March 20, 2023

Rima Te Wiata: “We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are, Mate”

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Is there a bigger scene stealer in New Zealand film that Rima Te Wiata? Think Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Golden Boy and Westside, and now, the local runaway hit of 2020, This Town.

It’s a movie the creator David White swears isn’t based on the whole David Bain did-he-or-didn’t-he question (you be the judge of that one).

But aside from the dark comedy’s main plot sits Rima’s character of Janice, a small-town journalist with big, exclusive dreams. And as she tells Capsule, it’s been a ride.

C: Kia ora, Rima! We love This Town, and it’s been so successful. Did you get a feeling when you were shooting the film that it would be a hit?

R: Funny you should say that, when you’re making a film you kind of can’t afford to think what’s it’s going to be like or the audience response before you’ve even made it. The main thing you have to do is try and get into the situations of the characters. If you start wondering what people will think of it, you can get yourself in quite deep water!

C: The movie’s release ended up being just the tonic we needed to give us a little boost post our first lockdown – how have you gone personally with all of Covid’s restrictions this year?

R: I’ve actually really… this sounds a bit loopy, and I hope I don’t offend anyone, but I’ve really enjoyed it! I felt there was a lot of time to think and decide what to do next and make some plans for the future with different paths. It was a nice time to hibernate with some wisdom coming in, as opposed to being in a rush all the time.

There was a lot more time to reflect, which was amazing and I think a lot of people felt the same way.

I think nobody knows what’s going to happen the next day anyway, but Covid really has given us such a big shift in this. And it all depends how you look at things, and if you can keep some perspective. But, I do feel very, very sorry for people with businesses.

Rima and co-star Robyn Malcolm on the set of This Town

C: What did you do to pass the time?

R: I spent a lot of time in the garden. I quite like solitude and I don’t need a lot of stimulation when I’m not working. I ripped off the carpet off the stairs – I used the garden tools for that, you have to be a bit creative in these times! This time when it hit level 3 again, that’s why there was such a huge ‘skates on’ to Bunnings!

C: This Town was actually filmed far before Covid-19, down in the Hawke’s Bay – what was that experience like?

R: It was fantastic – we had a reduced crew as it is on low budget films, and a lot of actors, it was a family atmosphere really. And it was so nice to hang out in Hawke’s Bay, it was a big perk!

C: New Zealand seems to do very well with the ‘dark comedy’ genre – do you think that’s becoming our hallmark when it comes to Kiwi films?

R: We’ve been doing that for quite a long time, Scarecrow was one of the very early ones where we show the darker side behind the white picket fence. I don’t think we need to look to it all the time, but I like the balance when we see it – it helps us assimilate issues and helps us deal them in a way that has some light in there as well, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Which is what we need more of right now!

C: So with all the lockdown thinking, what is next for Rima?

R: I’ll be stretching my wings away from just one aspect of the arts and taking some other roads, as well as seeing what else I can explore. But the key things to take away from the lockdown experience is that if you don’t keep things in perspective, especially for young people as well, you can get quite down. You can’t afford to lose the perspective of how lucky we are to be in this amazing country.

C: That reminds me of the Fred Dagg song!

R: Yes! *Sings* We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are, mate! So true. We have to remember this is nature’s paradise, and we need to make the most of it. We’ll be ok.

This Town is in cinemas nationwide.

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