Shoes evolved from The Refugee Shuffle, a simple but powerful theatre performance by Sally Rodwell, Robin Nathan and Madeline McNamara using just sticks and shoes. When I first saw this work (as part of a larger piece, Crow Station), I was inspired by the emotion it stirred.
Crow Station was considered "alternative" theatre. Sally had been a founding member of underground theatre troupe Red Mole. She joined forces with Robin and Madeline to make a work for the 10th anniversary of the Magdalena Project, which promotes the work of women in the performing arts. They toured Europe twice with this incredibly popular performance. The puppetry of shoes and music providing images of war zones was something out of the ordinary.
I came on board as producer, and the idea to turn this theatrical dance piece to film was approved by the NZ Film Commission's Short Film Fund. Shoes was OliverGILES' first financed production.
The development of Shoes was a collaboration between Sally and Robin. Although Sally was the director, both worked on the script and choreography. Robin later worked with Plan 9 to compose the music and effects for the film.
Richard Bluck agreed to shoot, and Sally's old friend Stuart Shepherd took on the art department. We spent hours working out the logistics of shooting. The performers were fantastic, and the very patient Richard guided Sally and the talented crew to a wonderful result.
The film was shot on Fuji Film at the original Camperdown Studio, now Weta Workshop, and at the Wellington Railway Station. We built a huge rostrum surrounded by blacks, and the animators were often precariously balanced. The war effects were enthusiastically rehearsed, though with some trepidation on my part.
Shoes had its premiere at the New Zealand International Film Festival and was selected for competition in the Montreal World Film Festival. In 1998, it screened at the Festival of Dance on Film, Toronto, and at the Valladolid, Hof and Turin film festivals.
A prolific and talented writer/director of film and theatre, Sally's unique style and vision was never realised in a feature film. She died in October 2006 at the age of 56.