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people It’s all about love and perseverance


Titirangi and its environs are renowned for breeding artists of all persuasions – musicians, singers, painters, dancers, potters, photographers, ceramicists, poets, actors and movie makers. The talent is palpable and those who have it are usually down-to-earth, friendly and happy to share their experiences. Cue husband and wife team,


Titirangi locals Vanessa and Alastair Riddell (pictured left) who have just returned from a road trip around the country promoting their first feature-length film, a film that's been getting great reviews wherever it's shown. Broken Hallelujah was written


and produced by Vanessa (she also starred in it) with Alastair directing and good friend and associate in their company, Little Red Hen Pictures, Dean Carruthers, taking on the roles of cinematographer and stills photographer. He starred in it too.


The film is not a love story but it is about love. There are gritty story lines – including suicide – that see three families, bound by love and broken by betrayal, struggle with the ebb and flow of everyday life. "We've tried to make a positive film about life. Real life, not TV life. It's a film of hope and compassion," says Alastair. And it's been a been a labour of love for the Riddells since 2007 when


Vanessa started the script, based on the real-life trauma of a friend going through a marriage breakup and inspired by one of the friend’s favourite songs, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. "I get a lot of ideas for writing from things people have told me. When we're in cafés, my kids accuse me of listening to other people's conversations. I deny that, of course!" After two years with the script and cast in place, filming took place at


West Coast beaches, Titirangi, Glen Eden and Kelston. It was done in the weekends as Vanessa and Alastair worked at other jobs to support their venture, as well as parenting four teenage children. The film has a stellar local cast including Greg Smith, Ben Mitchell,


Matthew Chamberlain, Lesley Locke, Miranda Tripp, Mike Ginn, Helene Wong and Roussel Dubois. It's also the debut for a group of child and teen actors.


It was a long, long process and one that wasn't easy. "More than once


we thought we'd bitten off more than we could chew," says Alastair, "but then a few things, almost magical things would happen and we'd hold onto those and keep going."


Not having a major budget, the couple and friend Dean had to


learn how to do it all themselves. They begged and borrowed and Vanessa learnt about negotiating with film distributors and cinema owners. "Rialto have been marvellous to us," she says. They say the support from everyone who helped them make the film was stunning. "They were incredible in the faith they had in us – that helped us keep going," Vanessa says. There was distress and upset too when actor Jimmy Keen took his life in 2011. His role saw him talking about suicide, a scene felt to be vital to the film. Jimmy's real mother, Hillary Keen, thought the scene's inclusion would lead to better understanding of suicide and draw awareness to the support that family and friends need at such a time. Mental health professionals agreed. While there may be fame, there's no fortune for this hugely talented


Vanessa Riddell in Broken Hallelujah


pair. "We have to work full-time at other things to just keep going," says Alastair. Another film, Cowboy, also written by Vanessa and directed by Alastair is awaiting editing and post production and may be released in July or August 2015 – if funding can be found. Those great reviews can only help.


– Moira Kennedy


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The Fringe DECEMBER 2014 – JANUARY 2015 15


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