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Farr from Heaven

Television (Full Length) – 2005

The Producer's Perspective

I have known Gareth Farr for many years through his family (I worked with his Dad in at Mercury Theatre); in the gay community (Queer Nation had honoured him as Queer of the Year); and as an outstanding composer (who could forget the opening of Te Papa, Farr's piece written to celebrate the opening of the Museum of New Zealand?).

But since a lovely life story documentary by Peter Muxlow in the 90s, I felt there was a lack of documentation about Gareth's creative life as a composer. He's a wonderful man to spend time with — funny, open, stimulating and energetic — great elements for television. I called him and asked if we could pitch a doco idea. He screamed: "fab, yes let's do it Johnny!" So I put forward the idea of following him around for six months to Philippa Mossman at TVNZ. She was enthusiastic, especially since the six months included a couple of international events Gareth was to attend, which had cross-cultural elements.

We put the schedule and budget together and started shooting, then a bomb went off in Indonesia. We were set to travel to Bali with a full crew to film Gareth purchasing the final elements of his gamelan orchestra equipment. We couldn't get insurance to cover the crew in Bali as the whole of Indonesia was suddenly under an official 'travel advisory'. No insurance = no travel. We were all devastated. Gareth had planned to take his gamelan teacher and his wife with him, and we were to film the influence of gamelan on Gareth's music with village musicians in Bali.

Luckily we had Gareth's visit to Sydney to work with, and the incredible voices of The Song Company and their concert at Government House. But what could take the place of Bali?

The NZ Army came to the rescue. Roz Mason, the director, and I then developed a storyline around the Farr Blitz concert. It was the first complete concert of Gareth Farr's music. It featured Gareth rehearsing and performing with Strike and the NZ Army Band, culminating in the Gallipoli-inspired piece Onslaught.

It is a credit to Gareth's prodigious output that we were able to link up with another of his activities that still told a fascinating story, when we had lost the Bali tale. The concert at Te Papa was memorable and ended with a well-deserved standing ovation. 

-  John A Givins began in television in the early 80s, and directed everything from drama to arts shows. In 1989 he established company Livingstone Productions, where he worked on long-running LGBT series Queer Nation and sketch show Laughinz. He has also worked at Māori Television, and Asian TV service Star TV.

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