A gang member wakes up one morning and decides he needs a day off, so he impulsively decides to take a short ferry trip. With his tattooed face, black leather clothing, and prominent gang patch, the gangster is a fish out of water when he arrives in the idyllic small port town of Picton. The experience he has there will change his outlook on life forever.
Director's Statement Collapse
Day Trip is my first serious dramatic film. Predominantly I have been working on documentaries since graduating university, drawn to telling stories that reveal a deeper understanding about people on the outskirts of society. Day Trip immediately resonated with me because of its gritty subject matter, and the challenge of presenting the story almost entirely without dialogue. I saw the potential to create an edgy-looking picture that takes viewers into the margins of our culture. The whole thing is based on the visual contrast between a human being branded with images of fear and hate—he's a walking billboard of social alienation—and the 'normal world.'
One of my favorite scenes is when the character walks into an old bar in the ferry port he travels to. Like a fish out of water he interrupts a group of elderly bowlers all wearing white uniforms. The bar is their territory, covered with bowling pictures, trophies, and club insignia. I was interested in how people develop their own types of gangs and create their own 'packs' within our society. I also liked the idea of showing how this tough gang guy is vulnerable when he steps into someone else's territory.
Gang culture is a touchy subject in New Zealand and very rarely is a gang member presented as a sympathetic protagonist. Finding the right talent would be crucial to the success of the film. Tuhoe Isaac is a former chapter president in the Mongrel Mob, one of New Zealand's most notorious criminal gangs. He had lived through a very similar experience to the character in our story and could immediately identify with the role.
Tuhoe had never acted before, but I felt he had the life experience and attitude to pull it off. After an audition, nobody had any doubts he was the guy. The real challenge came after casting him. Tuhoe grew up in a culture that had very little respect for women. Suddenly he was presented with this tiny blond white woman telling him what to do. I could tell he was uneasy about this as he kept looking to the guys in the crew for direction. I decided to take him out for a beer on my own and see if I could resolve this. I said, "This is the first time you've ever acted, this is the first time I've directed a drama, but you have to trust me. I know this script inside out and I have a really strong vision for this film. If we work together I think we can make a really great piece." After that, we had a good connection throughout, and he was a pleasure to work with.
The other significant challenge was recreating the world of the story—the gang house and the bar where the main character has a critical epiphany both had to be created. Our hardworking art department achieved small miracles with a tiny budget. We had to jump around a lot of exterior locations too. Because of this the production was very vulnerable to bad weather. It duly rained and stormed, yet with almost supernatural luck we managed to survive every outrage nature through at us, and in the end this even contributed to the unique look of the movie.