In fact, that’s what attracted screen icon Charlotte Rampling to Juniper, a film by Kiwi Matthew J Saville – she loved that it was an auteur production, and was attracted to the “beautifully crafted script”. “I like making films with a smaller production team too,” she said. “You feel like you can go on an adventure in a way you can’t with a big production.”
Rampling plays Ruth in the film, a gin-loving former war journalist who moves from the UK to New Zealand to live with her son after she breaks her leg and is confined to a wheelchair. It’s there she meets her grandson, 17-year-old Sam, who is on a self-destructive spiral. Ruth and Sam clash initially, but a familial love story emerges.
The film is a highly personal project for Saville – it’s based on his experience of having his own wheelchair-bound grandmother move in when he was a teenager. Juniper is Saville’s first feature film as a writer and director.
Juniper also marks a big first for George Ferrier, as the 20-year-old actor’s first leading role in a feature film. Ferrier found out he’d been cast during his lunch break from classes at drama school in Los Angeles. “I got the email that I’d been cast and I showed a friend and we freaked out; we jumped up and down and were screaming and everyone was like, ‘What’s going on?’” he laughs. “And then I had to go back to class for another three hours and I was buzzing in my chair just wanting to celebrate.”
He didn’t know that Rampling or Marton Csokas (who plays Sam’s father in the film) were also on board until he’d been cast. “Once I found out that I got the role, I found out that Charlotte and Marton were also attached and that just added layers and layers of excitement to this project for me.”
While it may seem as though it would be intimidating to star opposite a tour de force like Rampling, Ferrier quickly formed a close bond with the actress and found acting alongside her to be a “masterclass”. “I learnt so much about acting when we were working and when we were locked in and we were focused, because there are a lot of thought-provoking themes that we had to really focus on,” he says.
The release of Juniper was delayed when New Zealand went into lockdown, but it’s finally set to be released on 28 October. Ferrier is understandably champing at the bit for people to see it. “I’m so proud of all the work that we’ve done. I can’t wait for this story to be out there in the world.”
Juniper is in NZ cinemas on 28 October.