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Local Filmmakers Shoot Russian Troll Agency In Mockumentary

Kōwhai Collab

Someday Stories 5 is well underway in Aotearoa. Screen CanterburyNZ got to sit down with Kōwhai Collab, the team behind the quirky short film "A Peek Inside the Chch Internet Troll Agency" - we find out how the shoot went, and what it was like to make it in Canterbury.

Firstly, who is Kōwhai Collab and how did you all end up together?

Genevieve Kent - Mikaela and I were both in LA (Lucie in NYC). We all made the decision to return to New Zealand separately, none of us thinking that the move would be permanent. I teamed up with Lucie as soon as we got back and started working on a web-series. When we decided to enter the "Someday Stories" competition we teamed up with Mikaela Rüegg and Kōwhai Collab was born.

Lucinda Jones - It was exciting to get the nod from Someday Stories for our script, and Mikaela was the missing link we needed to make it happen. The three of us work really easily together - so we're pretty excited to see where this project leads us next.

Mikaela Rüegg - The idea is so out there that it was really exciting to join the team. I’d worked with Gen and Lucie prior as a character in their web series but making the full jump to working as a trio turned out better than we could have hoped for. We are all actors by trade, so naturally we cast ourselves as three of the five characters.

Can you tell us a little more about the short - What is "A Peak Inside The Chch Internet Troll Agency"?

Lucie - It's a comedy based on the Christchurch branch of a Russian Internet Troll agency. Think, ‘Internet trolls for hire, but it could be your dad.’ It follows a five star ensemble cast. The team work on the various misinformation projects that the Russian head office allocate to them - until something happens internationally that sends the local team into chaos. The unreleased footage relates back to a situation two years ago, and is finally able to be seen for the first time.

Genevieve - That's about all we can say at this stage. Russian Troll Agencies are an actual thing, so we felt we would parody the very idea of them in a short film that shows the power of the internet and the severity of the choices we make online. It was fun to imagine a branch located in Christchurch doing subversive work that had unfortunate global impact.

How did the shoot go, and how did you find the right location you needed to bring the story to life?

Mikaela - Christchurch is the perfect place to shoot a film like this. There is a treasure trove of vacant office spaces. We found an abandoned space thanks to The Millfield Group, and transformed it into the Christchurch Internet Troll Agency office. It was a crazy amount of work in a short space of time, but our local crew helped us do an amazing job to create the exact look needed to tell the story. Couldn’t have done any of it without the help of the incredible Henry Aitkens on art department.

Genevieve - We needed a space where we could control everything, so our Henry designed it specifically for our needs. The building owner was blown away when he saw what we had achieved - it looks great on camera, we can't wait to show everyone the final cut.

Who is the intended audience for this project?

Lucie - Someday Stories is supported by NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho and has an amazing following in New Zealand with streaming on Stuff, Radio New Zealand and Mãori Television On Demand. This is the 5th year that six sustainable stories have been chosen from across NZ. The film festival is also getting real recognition around the world. We are really looking forward to the Premiere in August to see where this film may lead us.

Genevieve - We hope that the film creates the interest for us to get the funding to turn it into a series or feature-length film.

This production seems like a truly Canterbury project?

Mikaela - It was. There is so much talent in our region. With the tight film schedule and small budget, we needed creativity and an awesome team effort. The local crew all worked their butts off to deliver something of quality we can all be proud of. We are really excited to show what we've created, it will be great to see it on the big screen. We'd love to get all the crew back together if the next project gets the green light. We are really blessed in Canterbury to have it all right here on our doorstep and be working with the likes of John Ross and Chris Cubitt.

Get in Touch

Bree Loverich
Screen CanterburyNZ Manager
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