Tough Stuff: WORD Christchurch

Tough stuff brought together a team who have dealt with raw and challenging subjects in different ways. Film maker Gaylene Preston produced the recently screened Christchurch earthquake TV drama Hope & Wire; Rebecca Macfie wrote on the Pike River mine explosion; and Lloyd Jones has written on tough themes. Their panel was ably chaired by Finlay Macdonald.

Tough stuff panel
Lloyd Jones, Rebecca Macfie, Gaylene Preston and Finlay Macdonald

Rebecca Macfie talked about writing Tragedy at Pike River Mine. It was tough because of the subject matter, but also for grieving families and community so much was at stake. Rebecca had to cope with earthquakes too:

Gaylene Preston spoke about her documentary War stories our mothers never told us. During filming, her mother revealed a wartime affair. At the premiere, her Mum held her hand and said “Don’t let the lights come up”. But the crowd was warm, and hugged Gaylene’s mother out of the theatre. After a panadol and a glass of champagne, her Mum was the star of the after party.

Gaylene Preston: Tough stuff
Gaylene Preston

Lloyd Jones told a couple of stories in which he used true stories and the moral dilemmas involved. “Please don’t write about my testicles” his son said after a hospital incident. Lloyd also used the story of a friend’s Auschwitz survivor mother’s robbery in an article in the Dominion Post. This was not the tough stuff of writing, conveying nothing and stillness is the hardest:

High coloured moments are easy.

Lloyd Jones: Tough Stuff
Lloyd Jones

Lloyd observed that one of the tough and key things about writing narrative is how you manage time.
Gaylene is “attracted to the gap in the story” and later she said “the best place to stand is the gap”.

The discussion moved to the Canterbury earthquakes. Lloyd said:

This was a city that forgot what it sat on. … Time suddenly had a smell.

Rebecca spoke of “a brilliant rediscovery of the power of reporting … everydayness suddenly became news”.

When Hope and Wire was first mooted, Rebecca had objected to Gaylene: “It is too soon and you didn’t live here”. Auckland’s “quake fatigue” was picked over, and the balance between being an outsider and an advocate.

The panel agreed it is important the Christchurch story is claimed nationally, or it is just a thing that belongs to Christchurch. People have an “incredibly primal need to tell their story when they have endured something”.