No.2 Production Notes

LONG SYNOPSIS


Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), an elderly matriarch from Fiji, sits alone in her humble suburban home in Auckland before dawn, listening to her favourite Fijian love song and reflecting on the dream that woke her. It was of a big family wedding she attended as a child in Fiji many years ago and it's inspired her. She decides she wants a grand feast, today! She wants singing, dancing, laughter, fighting. She wants red wine, wooden tables and chairs, white table cloths and a roast pig over an open fire. And no outsiders, not even her useless children. Today she will name one of her grandchildren as her successor.
Grandson Erasmus (Rene Naufahu) arrives home from working nightshift. Nanna wastes no time telling him what she wants. He thinks the old lady has gone crazy and goes to fetch his cousin Charlene (Mia Blake) to deal with it. Charlene, who also lives at No 2 with her son Moses (Brandon Lakshman), is not happy to be woken so early but she realises that Nanna is set on her feast.
The grandchildren eventually arrive from all over the city. Flamboyant cousin Hibiscus (Miriama McDowell) sashays in with her boyfriend Shelley (Antony Starr), whom Nanna banishes as an outsider. Larrikin cousin Soul (Taungaroa Emile) roars up in his flash car. Distant cousin Pule (Joe Folau) arrives with a gift for Nanna - a live pig.
Erasmus phones Nanna's favourite, Tyson (Xavier Horan), and pleads with him to sort it all out. But high flyer Tyson is busy making plans for a day at the beach with his European girlfriend Danish Maria (Tuva Novotny). Maria is curious about the family and persuades Tyson to call in. Tyson arrives for a quick visit but when the 'Marias' meet, Nanna recognises a kindred spirit and promptly breaks her rule about no outsiders by inviting Danish Maria to stay.
Charlene, who has a secret flair for fine food, draws up a menu and sends Soul and Tyson out to get supplies. Hibiscus manages to wind everyone up as usual and Erasmus reluctantly gets stuck in to some tree-felling that's also on Nanna's list. None of them have the slightest idea how cook the pig, let alone butcher it.
Relaxing under her favourite tree, Nanna holds court over her humble domain. But her patience wears thin as her uninvited children show up. First it's nosy, uptight Aunty Cat (Tanea Heke), Charlene's mother. As a result, Soul zooms off to get his dad Uncle Percy (Pio Terei) worried he will miss out. Then Nanna decides the preparations are not being taken seriously - especially since no-one has dealt to the pig, now affectionately known as Crispy. She storms around the garden wielding a machete, then calls the whole thing off and disappears inside.
That's the challenge everyone needs. Charlene sets to in the kitchen and everyone pitches in. Soul decides to make the feast a success by inviting a host of friends and family. And as they arrive primed to party, it seems as if Nanna might just get what she wants - until a fight erupts when Soul steps over the line dancing with Tyson's girlfriend.
Goaded by Uncle John (Nathanial Lees) who steps in to stop the fight, Soul storms off and breaks down the front door that's been boarded up ever since Nanna's husband died, and that his own father blames himself for. That's when the family feuding really starts. But Nanna steps in, takes control and orders her recalcitrant children to butt out and leave things up to the grandchildren.
As dusk falls the garden comes alive. Nanna Maria takes her place at the magnificent table laden with all kinds of amazing dishes, surrounded by four generations of her family enjoying being together for the first time in years. It's exactly what she dreamed of.

DIRECTOR'S STATEMENT

DREAMS and MEMORIES - Thursday 25 August 2005

I see No 2 as a love letter, I always have. I wanted to write a love letter to family, to friends, to life. It didn't take long to figure out it was going to be a story about Mt Roskill, the area of Auckland where my large Pacific family has lived for more than fifty years.
For as long as I can remember, Mt Roskill has been a romantic, mythical place. In the stories I heard as a child, growing up in the English countryside, Mt Roskill was one part Mt Olympus and one part Big Whisky: a place where powerful, immortal figures sat around with their ambrosia, a place where passions ran wild and whisky was poured, not sipped. Parties would start at 9.30 in the morning and finish forty-eight hours later, just in time for the weekend. Only recently I've learned that Mt Roskill was supposed to be the opposite of the way I've always known it - apparently it was supposed to be the most boringest place in the whole wide world, where common sense New Zealanders could nurture their families in a safe environment. The only common sense in our vision of Mt Roskill is the common sense to realise the important things in life: laughing, singing, dancing, fighting, boozing, eating - the stuff of our Mt Roskill, our New Zealand, our world.
No 2's all about journeys. The journey from Scotland and Samoa to Levuka to Mt Roskill. The journey from Roseman Ave. to Dominion Rd. shops to St. Therese Catholic Church. From Harlem and London and Copenhagen and Sydney to Mt Roskill. The journey from Suva, where I began writing the screenplay, to Wellington, where we're finishing post-production.
And this is it man, finally made it. I'm sitting alone in an ultra-plush office in Peter Jackson's ultra-luxurious Park Road Post, all oak doors and amber handcrafted lamps. It's nine-thirty in the evening. I've got Trinity Roots on the stereo. I've got a whisky next to me and a whole fridge full of beers across the way.
Of course it's unbelievably satisfying. It feels really cool to be sitting here at this desk, swamped by great music, great photographs, videos, beautiful little personal mementoes from the cast and crew, knowing that we've made an awesome movie and when I started writing No 2 as a play in 1999 we had no money to go out and get some decent coffee. We weren't struggling I guess but seriously, on occasion, I'd be picking up extra sugars and sachets of ketchup to take home from Burger King when we'd go eat there during a long evening shift at the cinemas. We'd eat at Burger King because the staff there hooked us up with cheap burgers to get free movies in exchange.
It feels cool that all last summer I was listening to Trinity Roots' Home, Land and Sea, especially at the beach. I fell in love with that song at the beach and it ended up being a major part of the movie. My wife and I have been going to that beach for I guess three summers now and for three summers I've been sitting in the wheelbarrow going on about the film, writing new scenes, incorporating notes from producers and friends and family. I've sat there and thought about the movie for so many summers it's crazy.
Making No 2 was hard! It was hard, hard work from beginning to end, for everybody involved. It was the hardest thing I've ever done, easily.
It took almost four years to write the screenplay. We were meticulous in its development. I worked with producers and script consultants who constantly pushed me and pushed the script further and deeper. We explored the world of No 2 entirely - taking it to the limits. At one point there was a Crouching Tiger fight at the Parnell Pools. At another point there was a little Iraqi girl on a bike. I made some missteps, certainly. One draft was met with such disdain by producer Tim White it tested our relationship so much that there was only one thing for it: rewrite in 24 hours. I did and admit to hyping it a little by calling it "The Jerry Collins Draft". Yeah, the Jerry Collins draft, 'cause if you run into it, it'll knock you out. Jerry Collins is one of the toughest All Blacks of all time, surely. Funny but true: that draft provided the structural foundation for the shooting script. We got there in the end, but man it was hard. Many long, lonely nights, umpteen trans-Tasman script conferences. My mum has a phrase for that horrible feeling in your gut when you've been working all night: "Night-shift rot." I had night-shift rot on a regular basis for years. The play was pretty tight. It was based on some old-fashioned principles like unity of time and place. The screenplay blew out for a while, really exploring time and space, and it's satisfying to me that we went that wide, gathered all the new things up and then brought them back to a simple structure. There's something really satisfying about watching a story so simple it hangs its simplicity out. One of my favourite scenes of the movie is one of the simplest: the dishes scene with AUNTY CAT and CHARLENE. In the screenplay the scene had a lot more lines, the same emotion but it was a little more comedic - those two (Tanea Heke and Mia Blake) went off into their… they didn't have trailers I guess they just sat outside in the car park - and decided, "We're going to do this scene with one line." Pity the poor screenwriter who's been up all night writing for years.
I began the first draft of the screenplay in 2001, in Suva. Every morning I'd eat a chicken curry roti parcel and drink two litres of Fiji water and some bad coffee and write ten pages. One of the real key developments between the theatre script and the film was the deepening of the emotion - part of that was to do with the fact that my grandmother died during the development of the movie. She was my biggest supporter. She used to buy me books on directing films when I was twelve. She bought me a clapperboard when I was thirteen. She was a huge movie fan and in the month before she died she gave me her set of hand-coloured postcards of movie stars like Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Fay Wray, Betty Gable, Errol Flynn, James Stewart and Jean Arthur. No 2 owes a lot to her.
It took all kinds of people from all over the world to make this movie, to help us tell our story with our voice - as Ruby Dee said to me, "You've got to use your voice or somebody will use it for you." Ruby Dee came from New York. Tuva Novotny came from Copenhagen. Tim White and Lydia Livingstone from Sydney. The family at the centre of this film is a global family, a family whose ancestors come from Scotland, France, England, America, Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa. I love that my father was born in Vatukoula, a gold mining town in the middle of Viti Levu in Fiji and 30 or so years later he was singing Core 'ngrato in bars in Italy for free bottles of vino rosso. Nanna Maria's vision for the day is for a feast with all kinds of food from all over the world. I love that last summer all kinds of people from all over New Zealand and the world - actors, technicians, producers, lawyers, make-up artists, investors, insurers, carpenters, pig-wranglers, were crammed into this backyard in Mt Roskill.
Every aspect of making this movie was built around generosity. That shot of little Nia (Tayla-Lee Griffin) with the fish? Ruby Dee was right there, her head right up next to the camera, smiling at Tayla, helping her with her performance. We were so incredibly blessed that Ms Dee believed in our project enough to travel from the other side of the world to appear in it.
The day I met Ms Dee she had been in Auckland only for a few hours. She was on the phone to her husband Ossie Davis. I'll never forget that first meeting. She had a glass of wine, I had a beer, we talked about all kinds of stuff: the Fijian language, the Pacific, Oprah, Halle Berry, Malcolm X, P Diddy, my family history, Martin Luther King. Rene Naufahu has a nice phrase for the emotional discipline it takes to see a film through from beginning to end: "You gotta economise on your happies and sads." So true, and the years of development on the screenplay, crossing your fingers and having faith in your producers to convince investors to be part of the movie taught me that very thing: don't get too excited, don't get too down. That day I met Ruby Dee - two weeks before we were scheduled to start shooting - I opened up the small book of happy vouchers and ripped a big one out. Ossie Davis died that night, in Florida. Ms Dee was on a plane back to New York twenty-four hours after she arrived in New Zealand.
She was of course devastated. She said to me before she left, though, that she'd be back, that she was looking forward to coming back and celebrating life. She went back to Harlem, to practically a state funeral, where Harry Belafonte, Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton spoke. I went back to the beach with my wife, and listened to Don McGlashan's rough version of his song Bathe in the River (just him and a guitar) about 500 hundred times.
Ms Dee came back two weeks later. Meeting her and working with her, the whole experience was awesome in the real meaning of that word I overuse. I was in awe, I still am.
Making movies is hard, but I guess to me the days that involved Ruby Dee were the real challenging ones to me - could you get a situation where there's a greater gulf of experience between the lead actor and the director? One's a vastly experienced screen star who's been working since forever and been in fifty billion films; the other's squeaked into his thirties by a matter of weeks and the only people he's ever directed are his cousins' girlfriends giving him a lift home from Mt Roskill. But again, it was all about generosity: Ms Dee opened her heart to us, and we opened ours to her. It was a pleasure watching, for instance, Nathaniel Lees, Pio Terei and Tanea Heke speak the language of Pacific hospitality to Ms Dee in their performances with her. I've got some great home movie footage of the cast assembled around the feast table, waiting for a shot, Pio on the guitar playing some Elvis song and Ms Dee getting into it. Man what memories.
Everybody who worked on No 2 brought a grand bounty, a willingness to open up the soul. Tuva came from Copenhagen at a weeks notice. We were struggling to cast her part until Tuva sent over a scratchy self-made audition piece she performed in her bedroom and got her boyfriend to shoot on a little mini-DV camera. Apparently she's a big deal in Scandinavia?!? Watching her crazy beautiful audition you couldn't help but respond to her generosity of spirit. She was on a plane the next day and shooting in the backyard in Mt Roskill within a week.
I have so many wonderful and meaningful memories and mementoes of making No 2 but this is one of my favourites: Miriama McDowell who plays Hibiscus gave me a note at the end of filming. She said it was a privilege to work with somebody who wears his heart on his sleeve. Man, and I thought I was cool, inscrutable, economical with my happies and sads!
Does it show? Does it show that I was born in England and grew up there and loved the idea of my big family in the South Pacific? The idea of aunts and uncles so numerous I couldn't remember their names? The idea of literally hundreds of cousins? The idea of hibiscus and jandals and sulus and roasting pigs? Does it show that I love big strong Pacific voices like those of Xavier Horan, Tanea Heke, Te Paki Cherrington, Mia Blake and Warren Maxwell? I hope so.
The story and the setting were so personal to me I needed to make sure anybody I was going to work closely with on the movie I'd feel comfortable with and my family would be comfortable with. It took me a very long time to take anybody even for a drive around the streets where we'd shoot the film. I guess that was the single biggest source of anxiety for me about making this movie. I wanted to make sure I could absolutely trust the people that were going to produce this thing. No way was I going to let this important story get into the wrong hands. As Ms Dee said, "You've got to use your voice or somebody else will use it for you." No way I was going to sign over the rights to this script. I formed a company with Lydia Livingstone, who believed in the story and me. Lydia had helped take the play to Fiji, Jamaica and Sydney. We took it to Tim White, who took some convincing but once convinced, threw his heart and soul and considerable experience into the movie. My little cousin Gareth drove us round the streets and at the end of the trip Tim shook his hand, looked him in the eye and said, "I'll see you again."
Once that trust factor had started, I began taking a few more people around the neighbourhood - producer Philippa Campbell, production designer Phil Ivey… by the time our locations manager Charlotte Gardner came on board we knew exactly where we wanted to shoot the movie. We rolled around Roskill for a little while until she said, "Shall I go knock on the door?"
The local support and particularly the support of my family were crucial in making No 2 what it is.
I found the shoot very stressful - even though it was in a neighbourhood that I felt was my turf. Writing and directing are poles apart. There's nobody staring at you when you write, you can take your time, try things, make a cup of coffee, go for a long walk. Directing is a test of character. There's nowhere to hide, it's like batting in test-match cricket. Everybody's staring at you, wanting to know if you know what you're made of. You've got actors in front of you, your producers standing behind your right shoulder, your director of photography to your left, your 1st assistant director over there. Often they're asking questions at the same time - What lens do you want? How many shots in this scene? How sweaty should ERASMUS be? What time of the day is it? Toa, Toa can I have some more pineapple? And the big question nobody asks out loud: "Why the hell did he just do that?" Unlike writing, you can't go for a long walk and think about something, you have to make your decision right there on the spot and you don't have the privilege of changing your mind. You have to believe you know what you're doing and you can't show doubt. You get pats on the back, encouraging words and great advice from your producers and your crew but it's a very, very hard business. Yet I had to direct this film. You have to use your voice or somebody else'll use it for you.
That said, the shoot was awesome. The sunniest New Zealand summer for years. It was great rolling around the streets shooting driving scenes at the foot of Mt Roskill and kids would see Taungaroa and shout, "Hey Boogie! It's Boogie!" recognising him from Once Were Warriors. A lot of the extras are my cousins. There's a shot in the movie where a group of wedding guests stare right into the camera to have their picture taken. I love to sit in the audience and see my cousins Philippa and Johann up there on the screen smiling at me.
Making movies is hard. Constant pressure, for four years, from the moment you open a new file and start tapping to the moment… I don't know when. I was talking to one of the sound guys about it today: when you start, you figure you'll feel relief if you get through the day and have managed to write ten good pages of script. You do that, but you're not satisfied: you figure you'll be relieved when you've finished the first draft. Then you'll feel relief when somebody reads it and likes it. Then you'll feel relief when somebody helpful reads it and likes it. But then you'll feel relief when… on it goes. I thought I'd feel relieved when we got funding. I thought I'd feel relieved when we finally cast Nanna Maria.
My over-riding feeling now, sitting here in the dark, surrounded by all these leather couches, is that doing No 2 was a really kind of lonely experience - which is ironic considering it's a story about what it takes to bring family together. There were a huge amount of very lonely nights writing - and the director's job is kind of a lonely one because you can't really be part of anybody's clique - I made a big effort to remain a little bit aloof - and I remember going to rushes and feeling very, very lonely. The idea of aloneness is something that NANNA MARIA feels very strongly too, as she sits there in the dark with her memories.
It takes all kinds of people to make a movie, that's one of the most enjoyable things about this game. Everybody who worked on No 2 poured his or her heart and soul into the movie. Those hearts and souls are up there on the screen, in every frame.
Toa Fraser
Wellington, 2005

THE STORY AND BACKGROUND OF No 2

Set in contemporary Auckland, the biggest Pacific Island city in the world, No 2 takes place over the course of one eventful day. The action is centred around the humble home of Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), who migrated from Fiji to the working class suburb Mt Roskill in the 1950's.
No 2 is about family - the love that bonds and brings them together, the differences that create division; where they come from; where they're heading. At the head is the matriarch, Nanna Maria. "I was immediately drawn to Toa Fraser's script, particularly the emphasis on cultural estrangement and finding a way back to family," says African American actor Ms Ruby Dee (Nanna Maria), "This is being experienced in so many places in the world today as we are wooed away from our families, for so many reasons".
"This is a story not only about immediate family," says Ms Dee, "but the family of man. Getting a look at ourselves before everything else in the world came to define us…The greatest thing this family could do to celebrate is to be with each other - remember what they did together - try to hold on to the things that made them feel connected to each other."
The character of Nanna Maria comes from mixed race Fijian/European heritage. Her history as a descendent of European sailors and adventurers from Scotland, America, and Europe is the 200 year history of a multi cultural South Pacific. These men sailed to the South Pacific on their schooners, married Pacific Island princesses and established a different kind of cultural vibe. In the mid 1800's Levuka township was one of the busiest, strategic ports in the South Pacific placed between San Francisco and Sydney. Levuka was a wild outpost populated by people from all over the world - whalers, traders, beachcombers, bounty hunters and even a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Some semblance of order was instilled under the British Administration when the Fiji Islands joined the British Empire on the 10th of October 1874 and Levuka became the new nation's first capital.
"Within the context of Nanna Maria's family is a particular kind of subculture of Fiji in terms of the fact that she is part European or mixed race, going back maybe four or five generations" explains writer/director Toa Fraser. "There is a particular kind of mixing - a melange of many different cultures. Particularly in terms of our story which starts in Levuka on the island of Ovalau in Fiji - where my own grandmother grew up".
Preparing for the role Ms Dee used her training as a speech and drama major at Hunter College, and her abiding fascination with speech pathology. "Trying to authenticate myself as a character from Fiji drew on my interest in the formation of sound and the subtleties of personality and language that describe a people."
In No 2 Nanna Maria's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are first, second and third generation New Zealanders living an urban lifestyle. Nanna is compelled to remind her family where they come from and fire up their lives again with the passion of the South Pacific.
"I was impressed, as I read Toa's script, that here is a writer from another cultural background but one very similar to my own. There was a difference in the way people expressed themselves, which I found delightful. No 2 has great truths, great drama and great humour. Toa's work has a new kind of edge; he has also lived this experience and has an organic connection to the themes of tradition, relocation and love. He has sensitivity - he is a young writer concerned with the issues of today."


CASTING No 2

Writer/Director Toa Fraser and Casting Director Diana Rowan worked together for over a year through a very demanding casting process. "Di is a voice of quality and only settles for the best", said Toa.
"I really enjoyed working on No 2," Di explains. "Casting a large mixed race Fijian family through four generations was certainly a challenge, but Toa introduced me to some great and very supportive friends and members of his family, which gave me an understanding of the culture. We both had a lot of fun creating the final family. Finding the central character of Nanna was an enormous challenge. Finally, I reluctantly went looking overseas, and when Ms Dee agreed to play the role, Toa and I were over the moon."
Casting Ms Dee as Nanna Maria is a dream come true for Fraser and the film's producers. "We were committed to searching locally but as the casting process evolved we realised the character required an incredible and unique actor" Toa Fraser explains. "We were knocked out that Ms Dee, on the other side of the world, was excited about our story. The great Ossie Davis her late husband, was also very passionate about it. The thought of those two wanting to help us tell our story was amazing."
The next challenge was to find Danish Maria… "a character who spends a lot of time with Nanna challenging, entertaining and laughing with her, so we needed a young actress who was able to stand up to her. With the guidance of our UK Casting Director our search took us to Tuva Novotny in Copenhagen. We emailed Tuva the script, and she put together a makeshift audition tape with webcam and her boyfriend reading opposite her. It arrived 36 hours later and her spirit just shone through. She was on a plane to join us the next day! "
Casting Nanna's 'family' was a long and careful process. "We are blessed to have talented established actors from very different backgrounds to draw on like Nat Lees, Pio Terei, Rene Naufahu and Taungaroa Emile. Tanea Heke has a long association with my writing, from her time with Taki Rua. And last but not least - introducing emerging young talent of the calibre of Mia Blake, Antony Starr, Miriama McDowell and Xavier Horan has completed this fine ensemble," Toa concluded.

THE CAST & CREW

Nanna Maria Ruby Dee
Charlene Mia Blake
Erasmus Rene Naufahu
Hibiscus Miriama McDowell
Soul Taungaroa Emile
Tyson Xavier Horan
Danish Maria Tuva Novotny
Shelley Antony Starr
Aunty Cat Tanea Heke
Uncle John Nathaniel Lees
Uncle Percy Pio Terei
Moses Brandon Lakshman
Nia Tayla Lee Griffin
Pule Joe Folau
Grace Michelle Ang
Father Francis Te Paki Cherrington
Aunty Marama Margaret Emma Rhodes
Peter Andy Wong
Da Baker Mark Ruka
Tolkein Enthusiast Nathan Meister
Little Maria Sarah Lily Carson
Nanna Maria's Mother Sue Garton


Sai Levuka Ga (It Is Levuka Alone)
(Eremasi Tamanisau Snr) Control
Performed by Senirewa Nawanawa
Arranged and produced by Don McGlashan

The Medicine
(K Futialo/A Morton) Control
Performed by Tha Feelstyle
Courtesy of Can't Stop Music / Festival Mushroom Records

It's Our Party
(A Lio/Fou Nature) Control
Performed by Fou Nature
Courtesy of Pagan Records Ltd

Meke (action dance)
Traditional
Performed by Fijian Festival Performers, South Pacific Festival of Arts, Suva, 1972
Courtesy of (P) 1972 Kiwi Pacific Records International Ltd/Hibiscus HLS-43

Raise Up
(B Urale/M Luafutu/T K Hapurona) Festival Music Publishing/Control
Performed by King Kapisi
Courtesy of Festival Mushroom Records

Core 'ngrato
(Mariano Rapetti/Domenico Carolli/R Cordifferro) G Ricordi & Co Inc/BMG Music Publishing Australia Pty Ltd
Performed by Shaun Dixon
Arranged and produced by Don McGlashan

Bathe in the River
(D McGlashan) Native Tongue Music Publishing
Performed by Hollie Smith
Produced by Don McGlashan

Wai Ni Bu Ni Ovalau
Traditional
Performed by Fijian Festival Performers, South Pacific Festival of Arts, Suva, 1972
Courtesy of (P) 1972 Kiwi Pacific Records International Ltd/Hibiscus HLS-43

Waka
(C Ness/A Morton) Origin Network Pty Ltd/Control
Performed by Che Fu
Courtesy of SonyBMG Music Entertainment (New Zealand) Limited

Yellow Bird
Traditional

Feliz Navidad
Traditional

Chulu Chululu
(Eddie Lund) Published by Criterion Music/Origin Network Pty Ltd
Performed by Mila with Eddie Lund and his Tahitians
© 1957 & 1991 by Tahiti Records/Manuiti Productions Musicales

Home, Land and Sea
(Warren Maxwell) Control
Performed by Trinity Roots
Courtesy of Trinity Roots