When Matt Murphy was working on his fatherâ€™s film set as a lighting gaffer in 1979, he didnâ€™t suspect that almost 30 years later he would be creating a film inspired by the story he was witnessing. But the film Goodbye Pork Pie, which came out in 1981, became an instant hit in New Zealand and remains well-loved to this day. No wonder it got under Mattâ€™s skin.
â€œDad has always been like, â€˜Well, you just try something and have a go,â€™â€ says Matt, now a director and writer in his own right. â€œI always felt like children should stand on the shoulders of their parents and deliver something beyond them, or learn from their experiences, or create something more.â€
When asked about how Pork Pie â€“ released in Australian cinemas this May â€“ relates to Murphy Seniorâ€™s Goodbye Pork Pie, Matt shied away from calling it a remake. â€œI have taken to calling it being inspired by the original film,â€ he says. â€œRemakes are really challenging work. People think that if you redo it youâ€™re doing the same thing, but itâ€™s never accurate enough. Calling Pork Pie a remake doesnâ€™t do either the original or the new film justice.â€
The film is Mattâ€™s first foray into feature film directing after a career of shooting commercially. â€œI worked as a lighting technician for years, and then as an art director, set designer, production designer. I worked my way through a lot of areas in film production at a young age and then I got the opportunity to direct in my early thirties,â€ he says. He made his mark in television commercials, and â€œsort of stuck at that for a whileâ€. But as many of us do, Matt returned to his roots.
â€œIt took a lot of time. I had to first of all teach myself how to write a film screenplay, which took me about a year and a half to actually understand the form. Because I understood directing, I understood film making, but I didnâ€™t understand writing in the way that I do now,â€ he says.
He showed an early draft to his dad. â€œIt was pretty rough and ready, and I didnâ€™t know quite what I was doing, and Dad just said, â€˜What I tried to do with the original was have it be a journey that was believably obtainable by a kid from the suburbsâ€™. And then I looked at my script and thought, â€˜Shit! Iâ€™ve really piled in the Hollywood car chases and explosions!â€™ So I took that to heart, because we were trying to relate to everyday people. That really informed the grounding of my future scripts.â€
When asked why his initial foray into feature films was a project inspired by his father â€“ rather than something completely of his own â€“ Matt responds, â€œThatâ€™s a valid question. In fact, at first I asked myself if I really wanted do something like Dad did. I thought, â€˜itâ€™s not really distinguishing myselfâ€™. But when I thought about it and I liked the idea of it, I thought, â€˜actually thatâ€™s an even bigger challenge in a way â€“ to take on something thatâ€™s iconic and deliver something fresh that stands beside it.â€™â€
While there are memorable lines and moments recreated in Pork Pie, it is a heart-warming (and hilarious) piece of filmmaking on its own. â€œI was conscious of not just reconstituting something that has been done. I always want to honour it, and I want flavours from the original, but I needed to make something that stands on its own feet. As a director, youâ€™ve got to deliver something that works on its own merits.â€
For Matt personally, film is the future. â€œIâ€™ve got two or three other ideas â€“ actually four other ideas â€“ that Iâ€™m writing at the moment.
â€œYou have to write something for years and get it wrong so many times and then get it right. Youâ€™ve got to love it, you really do. And I do love it.â€
Pork Pie opens in cinemas this Thursday.