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Loading Docs: Please Open

Monday 13th July 2015

Loading Docs is a launching pad for New Zealand short documentaries which has just released 10 new films. We’ll be featuring each of the films and profiling the directors behind them. 

DIRECTOR PROFILE: ROBIN GEE AND KARL SHERIDAN

Please Open invites the viewer to step over the worn threshold and into a visual exploration of Auckland’s Crystal Palace cinema. Directors Robin Gee and Karl Sheridan celebrate the cinema’s life and character for their Loading Docs short film.

The title “Please Open” is taken from the words written in flakey gold paint on the front door of the Crystal Palace, and the film plays with the concept of inviting the viewer to take a closer look into the cinema, rather than just a hurried glance at an old exterior.

“It’s a sneak peak or insight into what the theatre was, and is, and could be. It explores a little bit of the architecture and the people that surround it,” says Sheridan.

Capturing the vivid stories and memories that make up the history of the Crystal Palace was essential to telling the story.

“People would come and tell great stories about how couples met there and got married, lots of people did. We had people that played there, people that used to go dancing, people who had their first kiss in the back row,” says Gee.

He also set up an impromptu  “listening booth” to learn more about the theatre. “Lots of people came in wanting to tell stories.”

Gee spent six weeks in the cinema, getting to know its history, in preparation for making the documentary.

“For us, we really wanted to have the connection with community, that was really important for us. It’s really about the people and the magical aspects of it,” he says.

“Being in an empty theatre is quite a unique experience, it’s not spooky at all. It’s got ghosts, but ghosts of good times and memories.”

Being in an empty theatre is quite a unique experience, it’s not spooky at all. It’s got ghosts, but ghosts of good times and memories.

During the filmmaking process Sheridan dubbed Gee the “unofficial historian of the theatre”, a title that the filmmaker is at home with.

Sheridan, who runs production company Monster Valley, used to have a studio near Crystal Palace and was drawn to capturing its unique charms on film.

“Robin and I talked about it one day and thought that would be an awesome thing to share with everyone. It’s a bit of a gem that’s sitting there … so we wanted people to see it and experience it, maybe start some more interest in it.”

For Sheridan, the pleasure has come in igniting interest in the cinema.

“Everyone’s been so supportive of the project, it’s been really great. We held a fundraising screening, and over 500 people showed up,” says Sheridan.

“It was great to be able to introduce it to people for the first time, or reintroduce it to people who used to go there, and thought that it was all locked up.”

As well as their Loading Docs film, Sheridan and Gee are also working to collate the information they’ve collected about the Crystal Palace into an online resource.

“I like the idea of questioning what’s next for the theatre, rather than just saying what it was,” says Sheridan.

“Getting the theatre out there, getting people to submit their own stories, hopefully that’ll spark interest around other places around the country.”

Story by Elizabeth Beattie.



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