Martin Csokas, Benee, Roxie Mohebbi join Jonathan Ogilvie’s ‘Head South’

Jonathan Ogilvie on the set of 'Head South'.

Cameras are rolling in Christchurch on Jonathan Ogilvie’s semi-autobiographical music drama Head South, with Marton Csokas, singer-songwriter Benee, and Roxie Mohebbi joining Ed Oxenbould in the cast.

Set against the background of New Zealand’s 1979 post-punk scene, the film follows Angus (Oxenbould) as he navigates the trials and tribulations of being 16 while discovering an underground culture.

Csokas plays his father, while Mohebbi and Benee star as Kirsten and Holly, respectively.

The project is inspired by Ogilvie’s own experiences as part of the long-running post-punk ensemble YFC and will feature songs penned by the writer-director, as well as music from composer Shane Carter, and a soundtrack of UK and New Zealand bands.

Ogilvie told IF the decision to cast Benee, an artist who has been streamed more than 4 billion times on Spotify, as someone with whom Angus forms a band was a calculated one.

Benee (Image: Wiki Commons).

“The film is music and so it felt right to have a musical presence in it,” he said.

“In Lone Wolf, I cast [New Zealand singer-songwriter] Marlon Williams because I like the energy musicians bring to dramatic performances.

“It’s really interesting to me.”

As IF previously reported, Head South is being produced by Antje Kulpe, while Emma Slade and Lee Hubber are onboard as executive producers.

The creative team also includes production designer Chris Bruce, DOP John Chrisstoffels, costume designer Lesley Burkes-Harding, and makeup/hair designer Verity Griffiths. The $NZD3.8 million budget is funded with support from the New Zealand Film Commission, with Label to distribute the film in Australia and New Zealand, and Moviehouse handling the international release.

This is the second week of a five-week shoot, which will encompass various locations across Christchurch and be based at the University of Canterbury.

Ogilvie said they had to be strategic in finding locations to fit the film’s late ’70s aesthetic, given the changed landscape from the 2011 earthquake.

“It’s been interesting because post-earthquake, there’s a lot of buildings missing that were there in 1979, but we’ve been able to find some of the iconic buildings that were there then to shoot in, which has been great,” he said.

Young extras filming ‘Head South’.

“For instance, the Christchurch Town Hall, which is an iconic example of Christchurch’s modern style of architecture, which is something unique to New Zealand.

“The city has a modernist style of architecture that has been identified internationally.

“It’s really interesting because it’s a beyond mid-century between the late ’60s up into the ’70s style that this type of architecture came through.”

Despite a story firmly centred in the past, Head South is contributing to a new screen future for the University of Canterbury as its inaugural production in residence.

As part of the initiative, Ogilvie will host a lecture for UC staff and students interested in learning more about directing or screenwriting, in addition to the production team offering internship positions, which will be open to UC Fine Arts students studying Film.

The university will also work closely with the production team to ensure they have the space and resources to best support the film.

It comes as the institution’s Dovedale campus, which is housing production offices for the film, prepares to open as a Digital Screen Campus from next year, providing training in film production, game development, and cross-reality.

Project manager to Petra Westropp said housing Head South was a “fantastic demonstration” of the university’s intent to “further bridge the gap between industry and academia”.

“This is a uniquely valuable experience for UC’s Digital Screen Campus team, ahead of welcoming our first cohort of Bachelor of Digital Screen (Hons) students in early 2023,” she said.