Noni Did NZ: A Night With The Vampires

Today’s derpy Noni photo is care of the What We Do In The Shadows Facebook page.

From Monday June 16 to Sunday June 22, I was in Wellington, New Zealand. And despite the strange (possibly a little bit intoxicated) look on my face in the photo above, I had enough of a ball that I have managed to write a few blogs about it, which can be found here. This is the biggest and most important of all of them. This post is about the reason why I rushed into my boss’ office and begged for leave, why I booked plane tickets as soon as it was granted, why my mother made multiple sighing noises at me as she gave me my passport, and one of the reasons why I’m still crapping on about it to anyone who is still listening. This post is about What We Did At The Premiere.

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It was Wednesday June 18, 2014. And it was one of the most amazing/bizarre/wonderful nights of my life.

A straight, start-to-finish, by-the-numbers blog entry was never going to be possible for this evening’s proceedings. Even my scrapbook pages from the night are tangled and flustered with excitement, even though I wrote them over 24 hours later. I committed myself to burning as much of it into my brain as possible, and I think I did a pretty good job, but if I ever tried to share it as a flowing chronological stream I think I would probably melt every neuron in my cerebrum with nostalgic joy.

In order to preserve the little brain function I have left, this blog will consist of chunks, each attached to a photo or gallery. Some of these photos are mine, but most were taken by others, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. The quality of some of the photos is… questionable. That said, I maintain that the spirit of the night shines through their grainy pixels.

Hopefully, when it’s all put together, it will give you an idea of the sheer delight I experienced on that wonderful Wellington Wednesday evening.

Getting Ready

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I bought the dress especially. I love the tulle in the bottom, because it negates the need to pack a separate petticoat. It saved a lot of room in my bag.

Jane helped me put my just-that-little-bit-too-short hair into a bun and lent me her brooch. I wore bright red shoes. Somehow we had completely colour co-ordinated. She looked absolutely incredible in that dress, with her hair done up high. The dress code on the invitation had been “Dead But Delicious”. We certainly had the last bit right.

There’s no wine in the goblet I’m holding. It was purely for effect. Jane’s daughter mentioned that because it had skulls all over it, I should definitely be holding it in our “before the premiere” photo. So I did.

Arrival

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We took a cab into town. We had a few drinks at The Bangalore Polo Club. From there, we headed over to The Embassy Cinema. I was buzzing with excitement. I tried to take my time to soak it all up. My eyes must have been like saucers. No, like satellite dishes.

Every sound, every smell: I tried to drink it all in at once. A black hearse was parked out the front. We waited in line as a brass band played their way through the crowd. I yelled, “Yeah! Sousaphone!” because I am an idiot. My smile was so wide, it felt like the corners of my mouth were trying to run right off my face.

Inside, we were met by replicas of scenes from the film. The detail was impeccable. I’m sure I audibly gasped a number of times. Even the goblet on the side table still had drops of blood in it. I wondered briefly whether it had tasted like blackcurrant or fermented grape or cool metal.

Into The Cinema

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Chris spotted us in the crowd upstairs and said we should go in now if we wanted to get a good seat. In our hurry, we lost Theresa. I didn’t spot her again until the film was over.

I did see a number of familiar faces in the crowd, but of course, none knew me from a bar of soap. It was strange, but in a delightful way. It wasn’t like seeing Australian people-of-note; hell, that happens almost every time I visit Newtown. This was strange, because here I was in another country (which was strange enough), seeing these people in their home town. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It was strange, but nice.

We took our seats and watched the band play again. They were still incredibly wonderful. Jane and I chatted and I bopped in my seat and hooted and whistled when they were done.

There was a Māori version of Welcome To Country; at least that was how it seemed to an outsider like me. I wished that more events in Australia had an Indigenous Welcome To Country as their opening words. I felt sad that this is such a rare occurrence in my homeland.

Then Taika and Jemaine took to the stage and began to tell the story of how they came to make the film. It was like this video, which was taken by somebody at the Q&A screening a few days later, but at the premiere, they were far more snappily dressed.

They said that we had missed the opportunity to go to the toilet, as the movie was about to start. I suddenly got the urge to go to the toilet. This is not a good feeling to have before and during a film that is going to make you laugh a lot.

The Film Commences

It was just… great. Having waited two years for this movie to come out, I was afraid I would have built my expectations too high. But I didn’t. It was everything I had hoped for and more.

I’ll tell you more about it another time… Say, a little closer to the Australian release on September 4th. Or maybe next week. Don’t fret. It will be soon. I’ll let you know.

I will tell you this, though: when we got out, the first thing we did was go to the toilet. I met Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown in the line for the ladies. She had a lovely dress on, and a magnificent pair of fangs. As I write this, I wonder if Katy Gallagher has ever worn fangs.

Vampires Come Out To Play

Photo by Jane - @powderkeig
Photo by Jane – @powderkeig

After the film, the vampires and some of the werewolves came out to answer any questions their audience/dinner might have. I wish I could have thought of something a little more clever than, “Where are the lady werewolves?” But I was high on endorphins. Getting through an entire sentence was an achievement at that stage.

Once we had taken our aforementioned loo break from the previous chapter, we began to move back out into the upstairs foyer. We had a few drinks and mingled with friends Jane had spotted in the crowd, but I had one thing on my mind: I wanted photos with the vampires.

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I always feel like a mug when I ask people for photographs, but they were all incredibly kind. The only pre-cursor was a brief introduction from Jane, which was missed by most, followed by a request for a photo, the pose, the snap, a smile and then moving on.

The exception was Viago. Jane mentioned that I was Noni, and he immediately recognised me. “Noni Doll!” he exclaimed. “You made it!” It was odd, like I was meeting up with an old friend, as opposed to a fictional 300-year old vampire. I wanted to hug him and sit down and chat, but the room was full and loud and there were others who wanted their chance to interview a vampire.

Getting the photo with Nick (or was he just Cori?) was the most awkward of the set. I tapped him on the shoulder as he swept through the crowd towards the bar, and with a mixture of sudden boldness and sheer mortification, asked if I could have a photo. For some reason, Jane couldn’t get the camera to work, so we were stuck in that terrible position of, “I don’t know you, but I have definitely had my arm around you for far too long and now it’s a bit weird.” Bless.

Deacon and Petyr were incredibly naughty. The former was being an absolute bossy-pants, and I was immediately taken aback at his lack of manners. After the photo, I mentioned to Petyr that his sire’s behaviour was thoroughly ungentlemanly. Petyr simply responded: “I don’t give a crap.” What a pair of charmers.

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More displays were set around the upstairs area, with finalists from the poster design competition scattered along the walls. Vampiric art was scattered around another coffin. I would have taken a picture of myself in it, but I feared I was too wide for it and wouldn’t be able to get out, even if I managed to squeeze in.

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Jane, Theresa and I got our photo taken in the photo booth, which was made up to look like the hall of the vampire’s abode. We all looked absolutely gorgeous. (Say otherwise and I may have to send some undead messengers to… have a discussion with you.)

The End of the Evening

Anna gave me directions to the after party. Jane went home, and Theresa came with me.

I took no photographs, because this was time for fun and nothing else. This was something to live, not document. So I did just that.

But I will tell you this:

  • Boogie Wonderland is a place that I believe should not exist. Novelty bars that play the hits of the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 00’s are things that only exist in movies and British sit-coms, not in real life.
  • Niko Ne Zna played Balkan brass on a flashing dance floor under more mirror balls than could ever be necessary. This was more amazing than you can imagine.
  • I danced through a doorway traffic jam with Rhys Darby.
  • I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact with Bret McKenzie, because he constantly looked like he was in the middle of a really serious conversation. Also, he wasn’t even in the movie, so he wasn’t even really worth my time, y’know?
  • I abruptly ended a chat with Taika Waititi by smashing a glass with an overzealous gesture.
  • Anna introduced me to Jemaine Clement in a barely decipherable dance floor conversation. The one thing I remember him saying was that I’d been on TV all over New Zealand, to which I responded that this was definitely a thing we were not talking about and will never speak of ever again.
  • I drank a lot of Delicious Neck beer. It was indeed delicious.
  • I went home at 3am, but the party was still kicking. Perhaps they were vampires after all…

That night, I dreamed about hanging out in dark bars with Vladislav, Viago and Deacon, drinking red wine until the early hours and talking about how Canberra is also a pretty good place for vampires to live. I dreamed that I had asked Jemaine and Taika to sign my scrapbook like I’d planned instead of just plain forgetting. I revisited the Boogie Wonderland dance floor over and over in my subconscious. It took all night for my brain to come anywhere near processing what had happened. In doing so, it prolonged just how wonderful the real thing had been.

A month later, and that night is still my ultimate happy place when things go awry. I often get out my scrapbook and thumb through the photos and remember stupid things that happened and laugh to myself at how gloriously ridiculous life can be, but only when you step out and grab every opportunity with both hands.

Speaking of opportunities, did I mention I’m going to Melbourne to see What We Do In The Shadows again next month?

Because I totally am.

Noni Did NZ: Friendly Faces

If you haven’t heard about me harp on about it yet, I went to Wellington (this one, not this one) last month. It’s taken all that time for me to be able to take a step back and start writing about it without dissolving into fits of giggles and nostalgia. That and I’m a little bit lazy. I’m compensating for the delay with sheer quantity. Over the next few entries, I’ll be writing about all the fantastic things I got up to in an attempt to give you a glimpse of Wellington that doesn’t involve that dude from The Voice. For the rest of the posts, take a look here.

*****

Travelling on your own is a funny thing. It can be incredibly liberating, wandering the streets of a place that isn’t home, knowing that there’s no expectations as to what you’re going to do or how late you will be out. You’ve got all the room in the world to make your own way without worrying about how it might affect your reputation back home. It leaves plenty of room in your head for soaking up experiences and meditation on what you want from life. Basically, it can be pretty damn rad.

Conversely, it can be incredibly lonely, full of nights spent in and wandering between unfamiliar bars, stuck in a hotel room or a backpackers with a lottery of transients who know about as much about your destination as you do. Before you know it, you’re wishing for faraway friends, or at the very least someone with enough local knowledge that you could find a decent band to wash away your homesickness. Your days can be spent scouring the internet and whatever street press you can find for scant details on what might be happening outside of the usual tourist haunts, but even with the most accurate information, you can never tell if your experiments will fly or pull a spectacular Icarus routine.

On my trip to Wellington, I was lucky enough to have the perfect combination of solo ambling and time with new friends and acquaintances. From those I spent whole days with, to those who humoured me with fleeting chats in the bizarre space that is Boogie Wonderland, I was surrounded by ridiculously awesome people I was completely and utterly blessed to meet.

This post is dedicated to just some of the magnificent human beings who made Wellington Week so absolutely marvellous.

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Anna and Petyr being total babes. (Source: What We Do In The Shadows Facebook page)

Anna

If it wasn’t for Anna, none of this ridiculousness would have occurred in the first place. Sure, I was really damn excited to see What We Do In The Shadows to begin with, but the marketing campaign that she devised and drove was more than the icing on the cake; it was fucking ART.

When Anna first got in touch, I was still sitting in shock at my computer, having won the TradeMe auction for an WWDITS artwork only a few hours earlier. There were a few emails back and forth over the following days, flitting across a few different threads: the joy I’d derived from interacting with the vampires through social media and the auction, the possibility of a personal handover of the artwork from Jemaine and Taika, or maybe I could come to the premiere, but how outrageous is that?

Before I knew it, I’d booked my leave and flights and was just about falling over myself with glee. It seems that Anna is not only a marketing and PR wizard, she is also remarkably good at dealing with insane Australians who are high on post-purchase euphoria.

Over the following weeks, Anna sent me information about the weather (“four layers” was the prescription in terms of wardrobe), made suggestions for accommodation and somehow wrangled me in for a brief TV stint in a story about the campaign. (Did I mention it was fucking ART?)

The initiation of my trip alone would have been enough, but I also had the pleasure of hanging out with her after the premiere and then again on the following Friday at the launch of her gentleman-friend’s exhibition in a venue that was so full of beautiful, stylish and awesome people it was unbelievable. (Daif is also incredibly rad.) Then we went and had Japanese and that was also brilliant. (Although I did discover that sake and I are probably never going to be friends.) After that, we walked through the city for a little while and she and Daif pointed out various locations from the film, adding even more sparkle to the places around me.

From start to finish, Anna was an incredible guide and phenomenal pal. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the New Zealand capital, and its community of insanely clever people, than the one she provided. I still feel so incredibly honoured to have met her.

Note: Somehow, despite all the joy and fun I had hanging with Anna over the course of the week, I forgot to get a photo with her. This is because I am an idiot.

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Pre-premiere drinks with Jane = THE BEST.

Jane

When it all suddenly became clear that I was actually going across the Tasman on this mad jaunt, Anna immediately offered to help me out with accommodation by way of sorting a couch surfing arrangement. Jane was the first name she threw at me, and she went on to be pretty much my guardian angel for the whole week.

My first connection with Jane was via Twitter. From there it was only a matter of days until I pulled up in a cab at her front door, fresh from the airport (and the cab driver charged an extra $100 on the fare by accident – OH HOW WE LAUGHED).

We got on like a house on fire, with hot topics including Dog on a Log (which I had somehow missed), the bizarre world that is Tinder, and the sharing of tunes from either side of the ditch (I offered up Citizen Kay and Brass Knuckle Brass Band, Fun Machine and Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentlemen; she introduced me to Beastwars and The Phoenix Foundation). She gave me a room, a bed, fed me, gave me transport advice, accompanied me to the premiere, kept me company, helped me do my hair, taught me things and convinced me to do things that I might have otherwise passed up for nerves. (I can now say I my lips have touched something that was also used by Michael Palin. Pretty fuckin’ cool.)

Jane didn’t just treat me like a friend. When I was hanging out with her and her daughter and their cat and her housemate, I felt like I was part of a family. The degree of hospitality shown to me took my breath away, and I still feel like I haven’t said thank you enough. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)

I hope that I when I have guests in my house, I’m half as good a hostess as Jane was to me. She truly is one of the kindest hearts I know, and I’ll happily call her family any day of the week.

Not a good face shot. Not a good fire shot. Honestly, who lets me use cameras?!
Not a good face shot. Not a good fire shot. Honestly, who lets me use cameras?!

Benjamin

Okay, so I didn’t exactly get to know this guy beyond throwing money at him and a quick chat, but he certainly made an impression. I spent the better part of an hour watching him entertain those ambling along Cuba St on a Friday night, before I bailed him up to thank him for the pleasure.

We got chatting: I told him how the smell of fire twirling brought back happy memories of university friends, and complimented him on his incredible live looping guitar skills; he told me that he was planning on heading to Melbourne to meet up with his girlfriend and how that seemed to be a growing trend among the young artists of Wellington.

He showed me the way to The Rogue and Vagabond, a craft beer bar a few blocks off Cuba St with a bulldog on the logo and a mad gypsy band playing in the corner. It was very much my scene.

I would have stayed and harassed him a little longer, but the bar was pretty full and he was keen to do some writing, so I took down the address of his Facebook page and told him to get in touch when he got to Australia.

Sure, I knew Benjamin for an hour and a half at most, but he reminded me of friends back home, was remarkable company and brilliant entertainment, and he introduced me to a venue I am definitely going to have to revisit when I go back to Wellington, whenever that may be. It’s not much and it didn’t last long, but you’ve got to celebrate the little things sometimes.

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Thanks to the windy hills near Wellington Airport and a magnificent tumble along the way, I’m as red as a bloody beetroot.

Taika

I didn’t get to talk to this guy that long either, but man, what a champ.

Taika and I probably talked for a grand total of about 5 minutes across four or five occasions, but in each brief instance he had a big smile and was just a totally awesome dude. Even when I was babbling nonsense from excitement, a touch of post-hill-walking exhaustion and a good serve of shaken-brain-from-nearly-face-planting-onto-concrete-on-said-walk-to-the-airport, and he was keen to get back to his car and actually do stuff with his Sunday, he was kind and accommodating. I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my trip than this: receiving an artwork from someone whose work I really bloody admire, who was also really nice about me being a complete numpty.

Seriously, I would give my right arm to share a pint and a chinwag with this guy. He’s just a freakin’ top bloke.

To be perfectly honest, I’ve really just put Taika here as a figurehead for all the beautiful people I had the pleasure of meeting through the What We Do In The Shadows premiere and in the hours (and days) afterwards, mostly because he’s the only one I got a photo with. Some other names that need dropping belong to Jemaine, Chris, Jackie, Theresa, Rhys, Vanessa, Mark, Daif, Nikkie and so many other brilliant, creative, kind, clever people who took a couple of minutes or more to chat to me, dance with me, be reasonably impressed by my trip or just cover the fact that they thought I was a bit of a twat. Whether it was the briefest of pleasantries, dancing around in an attempt to circumvent blocked doorways, dissections of Inter-Tasman media environments over wine, or barely decipherable conversations on disco-themed dance floors: every moment is treasured, and is going to stay with me until I shuffle off this mortal coil. (Even if you’ve already forgotten me. It’s okay: I’m particularly unmemorable.)

Of course, it is worth mentioning that not all the friends I made were of the human variety… But that’s a story for another time.

I really was completely and utterly blessed to have met these delightful folks on my trip, and I just want to remind the aforementioned awesome people (and those I’ve neglected to mention): there’s an open invitation for drinks at Smith’s Alternative or The Phoenix should you ever be in Canberra. (You showed me your town. I’d love to show you mine!)

Part of the reason why this post has taken so long is because I want to do these marvellous folks, and all the happy feelings they gave me, justice. Hopefully I’ve come relatively close to doing that.

tl;dr: Thanks dudes. You’re the best. Let’s go get a drink some time. x N