A restless young man approaches adulthood in rural New Zealand. He spends an afternoon with his best friend, struggling to confide his plans for the future.
SHADOW CUT is a poignant and lyrical drama centred on the intimate relationship between Boy and Girl, two teens drawn to a world beyond the restrictive walls of rural New Zealand.
Boy and Girl decide to take the long way home after school. When Girl senses Boy is hiding something, their romp around town soon exposes their dreams, fears and secrets. This search for truth leads them to a late night decision that could change their lives forever.
While growing up in the rural Far North of New Zealand I was always drawn to the nearby town of Moerewa. Located on the side of New Zealand’s only Northland highway, it is a town that is easily passed by. For me, I was always pulled in by its faded colourful houses, closed shop fronts covered in murals, looming meatworks and mysterious gang history. I found myself wanting to know more and explore more. This served as the inspiration for my first film, SHADOW CUT.
SHADOW CUT’s characters also hold personal significance for myself, as they were inspired and based upon experiences my friends and I shared while growing up in the Far North. These ideas and remembrances sparked the development of SHADOW CUT’s screenplay, which was in turn granted support from the New Zealand Film Commission’s Short Film Fund, Fresh Shorts.
As SHADOW CUT is rooted in truth it was important the film retained its authenticity. With this, neorealist filmmaking techniques began to influence the production; non-actors were cast from the area, we shot only on location and predominately only used available light.
During the casting and rehearsal process we worked alongside Stu Turner, a skilled casting director who has experience with young non-actors. Our casting process occurred over several months and entailed holding auditions at every school in the region. After meeting with and auditioning over 200 students and holding multiple workshops and recall sessions, fourteen-year-old Matenga Ashby (Boy) and sixteen-year-old Kyla Moffat (Girl) were cast in the lead roles. We were not only impressed by Matenga and Kyla’s acting abilities and raw talent, but also by the way they engaged with and related to the story and its characters. Tangaroa Pireroa (Boy on Bus) and Troy Kingi (Uncle Kingi), the film’s only professional actor, were also cast from the local area.
Once casting was finalised, we met with Matenga and Kyla 2-3 times per week for nearly 3 months. It was important Matenga and Kyla felt ownership of their character and were completely comfortable with the subject matter and dialogue. We held personal workshop-based rehearsals; exchanged stories about our own experiences growing up in the area, what it meant to them to be from Northland and what hopes they had for their future. We related their personal experiences to our script analysis work, delving further into their characters and their story.
The script and its dialogue was further developed with Matenga and Kyla’s stories and experiences in mind, bringing it new authenticity. During these months we continued to grow closer to the characters of Boy and Girl by working on silent takes, ad libbing, playing games and going to lunch in character and rehearsing on location in Moerewa.
It was not only crucial that Matenga and Kyla felt comfortable with their characters but also with each other. Their relationship in the film is undefinable, tender, intimate and truthful. While the workshops and sharing of stories helped develop this relationship off camera, we also spent a lot of time just hanging out - going to the movies, the theatre and having lunch together.
When organising our shooting locations we took a similar personal approach. It was important for the production to get to know the local community and work with them. We wanted to make sure there was a mutual trust and friendship between Moerewa and the SHADOW CUT production. Through exisiting relationships, and the new relationships we built, we received a beautiful amount of support and kindness from the community. We were able to shoot on the streets of Moerewa, at local houses and in the town’s meatworks. The authenticity of these locations eliminated the need for art department. These relationships also led to the casting of our extras and gave us the ability to capture cinéma vérité style shots of the town and its locals. The weeks we spent rehearsing and filming in Moerewa were some one of the best creative and personal experiences I have had.
I always considered Moerewa SHADOW CUT’s other main character. By choosing to shoot with anamorphic lenses we were not only able show more of the environment, but we were able to cinematically present a world that is often overlooked. By presenting the beauty of a town, which also holds harsh realities, we hoped to show the two sides of Boy and Girl’s home and the difficulty of their late night decision.
In post we wanted to further push the idea of bringing the audience into Boy and Girl’s’ personal world. We refrained from the use of music, instead we used audio recorded in Moerewa to create a soundscape that reflected the personal journeys of the main characters. We also adopted a more emotive editing style during each characters’ emotional disclosure. For Girl, we wanted to support the reveal of her vulnerability by interweaving two scenes to create a sensitive and dream-like effect. For Boy, we wanted to heighten the reveal of his voice and his power by juxtaposing jarring non-linear cuts.
While SHADOW CUT is an intimate story, told from a very small part of the world with a distinct New Zealand voice, it hopes to engage with an international audience on a personal level, taking them on a journey to connect with their own coming of age and feelings of finding independence and self.
Boy on Bus
Tangaroa was a 15-year-old student at Okaihau College during the production of SHADOW CUT. He was discovered at his local high school in Northland, New Zealand. Tangaroa brought a great sense of energy, confidence and charisma to set. SHADOW CUT was Tangaroa's first film experience.
Matenga was a 15-year-old student at Northland College during the production of SHADOW CUT. He was discovered at a casting call in the small town of Kaikohe in Northland, New Zealand. We were immediately drawn to Matenga’s sincerity, openness and charm. He invested a lot of sensitivity and brought a beautiful warmth to his character. SHADOW CUT was Matenga's first acting experience.
Kyla was a 16-year-old student at Bay of Island College during the production of SHADOW CUT. She was discovered at her local high school in Northland, New Zealand. Kyla's fun, headstrong and tomboyish nature immediately caught our attention. Through later recall sessions Kyla revealed a beautiful vulnerability, an endearing characteristic she imbued within her character. SHADOW CUT was Kyla's first film experience.
Troy is a well-known and talented New Zealand actor and musician, who has appeared in several feature films. He is a generous, open and comically gifted actor. Troy was extremely supportive of Kyla and Matenga.
WRITER / DIRECTOR / EDITOR
Lucy Suess, born in Santa Cruz, California, grew up in the Far North of New Zealand. Lucy graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelors of Arts in Film. SHADOW CUT is Lucy’s debut film and received funding and support from the New Zealand Film Commission.
Lucy currently resides in New York City.
Johnny Lyon, born in Auckland, New Zealand, graduated from the University of Auckland with a Bachelors of Arts in Film and a Bachelors of Commerce in Marketing. Johnny has directed and produced many New Zealand on Air music videos, content for New Zealand television shows like TV3's Jono & Ben as well as commercial content for global brands including MTV, TBWA and Nickelodeon and international events such as the Frankfurt Bookfair.
Johnny currently resides in New York City.
IN association with
The New Zealand Film Commission
Maria Ines Manchego
CASTING director / coach
Stu Turner, Catch Casting
Amy Barber, Bespoke Post
POST PRODUCTION FACILITY
Department Of Post
Camera equipment supplied by
lighting equipment supplied by