Chief Gary tells the story of a New Zealand-based real estate agent who inherits chieftainship of an island threatened by rising sea levels.
Living in New Zealand, Gary has become caught up in materialism and has lost his Polynesian roots.
Gary dreams of marrying his semi-hot receptionist Chloe, but she is not at all keen until he inherits the chieftainship and is able to offer her a “royal” wedding.
He returns to the island pretending to be the “big man”, but he is quickly taught a lesson or two by his family.
Producer Fiona Copland says on the surface, the film is a very funny comedy about a self-perceiving guy who goes home to the islands and starts throwing his weight around.
But at the heart, she says it is really about the values which have led to climate change like greed, selfishness and materialism.
The comedic feature film is the directorial debut of Jarrod Holt, Nigel McCulloch and Ryan Hutchings – collectively known as thedownlowconcept – creators of the hilarious kiwi TV series 7 Days, which is one of the highest rated programmes in New Zealand.
The downlowconcept are especially notable for their quirky, irreverent, and sometimes controversial comedic style.
The film features local and international talent including kiwi actors Josh Thomson (Hounds, Short Poppies), David Fane (Outrageous Fortune, Sione’s Wedding), Matt Whelan (Go Girls, 3 Mile Limit) and Megan Stevenson, the US star of Comedy Central’s Review.
Samoan actress Taofi Mose-Tuiloma will also be making her feature film debut, playing the character of Lani.
Producing the film alongside Copland, of Field Theory, is Matt McPhail, the producer for thedownlowconcept.
Chief Gary began principal photography this week in Rarotonga, with three more weeks of filming to go.
Copland says the island in the film is non-specific and not related to the Cook Islands in any way.
But, she says when scouting for an island to film on, Rarotonga seemed best because it’s so similar to New Zealand.
“The Cook Islands felt more like home to us, and the community here have just been so helpful and supportive.”
The film also has some strong local talent and experience behind it, including local producer Trish Downie and local artist Tim Buchanan.
“There is a really experienced crew in the Cook Islands that we felt we could use and who we feel very secure with,” Copland says.
The film is shooting in Rarotonga for four weeks before returning to Auckland for an additional week.
Chief Gary is the first film from newly formed production company Field Theory, which brings together three of New Zealand’s leading producers, Fiona Copland (Matariki, Topless Women Talk About Their Lives), Philippa Campbell (Top of the Lake) and Tim Sanders (Kiwi Flyer, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring).
Chief Gary was made with investment from the New Zealand Film Commission and NZ On Air. Production partners include ImageZone, Blockhead, Fulcrum Media, Rialto Distribution and NZME.
The film is expected to be released in cinemas towards the end of 2016.