School of English, Film, Theatre, and Media Studies, 2017
Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink sits down with Shane Loader and Andrea Bosshard to discuss beginnings, budgets and how to tell a good story.
“What we’re interested in is storytelling. And whether it's drama or documentary, it doesn't actually matter.”
Torchlight Films is run by Shane Loader and Andrea Bosshard, both Victoria graduates of Russell Campbell’s first Film course in the 80s. The film history and theory they learned here at Victoria continues to inform their practice today.
Andrea and Shane have been working together since their university days, finding their footing at The Boulcott Street Film Workshop with friends Martin Long, Matthew Aitken, and a Super 8 camera.
In the late 80s they were invited to join documentary collective Vanguard Films by Russell Campbell. Twenty years later, Taking the Waewae Express, the feature “that got out of hand” marked the official beginning of Torchlight Films in 2008.
“We’ve never had a lot of equipment,” Andrea begins to explain their name ... “So the torch was a good light,” interjects Shane, laughing. They have generously invited me into their home office to discuss their company.
“When you haven’t had money, you really have to engage and involve people in meaningful ways. I think that’s a philosophy we carry through our work,” says Andrea. 'Real stories, low budgets' is a loose description of Torchlight, but there’s a lot more behind the name.
In 2004 Andrea attended a director’s workshop run by Australia-based director Rob Marchand. The course was about British director Mike Leigh’s improvisational process, trying to answer the question 'How the hell do you get good performances?'
Similar to a theatrical ‘devising’ process, actors begin with solo improv, then progress to improvising with the other actors in a variety of situations.
The stories find themselves, with the writers and/or directors acting as guides and editors.
“I felt so at home with that way of working …” says Andrea. “It was the beginning of us.” Since then, Torchlight has used this process to create the understated, yet powerful, stories that characterise their films.
Shane and Andrea distribute their own films, and they pay their full cast and crew the average New Zealand wage.
If they can’t afford to pay up-front, as profits come in from distribution, everyone from the caterers to the lead camera gets paid off over time.
They are truly a community film movement. “We’re amateurs in the best sense of the word,” laughs Andrea. “We still have a bit of a guerrilla approach to film-making.”
While they’re now very hands-on, they deeply appreciate their time at Victoria learning Film Theory under Russell Campbell.
They believe that having a firm grasp on both the production of film along with its theoretical underpinnings is essential for film-makers.
“We looked at the social and political context of film-making and films … It challenged your notions about what cinema was,” says Andrea.
“There’s a bit of a problem, that people mistake technical ability for being a film-maker. And it’s not.”
It’s about telling a great story. About directing in a compelling way. And about editing the piece to create a real journey.
As the interview wraps up, I’m overwhelmed when they give me two of their films “You haven’t seen them?” and show me excerpts from their current film in post-production.
But where does the process even start?
“Look at the world around you,” Andrea tells me. “Watch people, observe, listen. And use that as your first resource.”