The Road to Rhythm

Documentary tracks 15-year history of Gisborne's R&V music festival.

Documentary tracks 15-year history of Gisborne's R&V music festival.

THE ROAD: Co-director Belinda Henley, of the warts and all documentary about the music and mayhem involved in the development of Rhythm and Vines, stops by the music festival’s site on her way to Gisborne. Picture by Liam Clayton


Gisborne's Rhythm and Vines music festival. File picture

The road to the Rhythm and Vines music festival has often been a rocky quest to get the formula right. It is this journey that co-directors Belinda Henley and Phill Prendeville have tracked in their four-part web series The Road to Rhythm.

The documentary goes behind the scenes of the 2017/2018 event and stage dives into the festival’s 15-year history of music, partying and camping. Last summer’s festival marked 15 years of Rhythm and Vines and the team agreed to tell their story warts and all.

“Other documentaries have been done but ours is different,” says co-director Belinda Henley.

“We have three narratives. They are the 15-year history of R&V, the 2017/2018 festival, and we follow a group of North Shore girls who travelled here for the event.

“It was incredibly complicated to weave the three narratives together.”

R&V organisers Hamish Pinkham and Toby Burrows gave Henley, Prendeville and their crew unrestricted access and that was an important part of the process, says Henley.

“It was amazing because they trusted us.”

Waiohika Estate owner and festival co-founder Dean Witters was terminally ill when Henley managed to interview him shortly before he died last year. Witters had seen the potential in the series of natural amphitheatres on his property, and had the vision to kick-start the festival’s development. In a poignant moment in the documentary the festival organisers’ “mentor and visionary” struggles to keep his emotions in check as he describes a moment from the festival’s early days.

“I just stood here and looked down over the crowd. My thoughts were ‘what a bloody monster’.”

The second part of the documentary is dedicated to him.

Henley had worked with Prendeville at TV3 so she brought him into the project as co-director. He joined the team with a particular advantage.

“He didn’t know Hamish and knew nothing about the festival. He brought a fresh pair of eyes to the documentary.”

Prendeville immersed himself in the project and lived alone in a caravan at the festival site.

“That was a time for him to figure out who the main characters in the story were,” says Henley.

The first time the producers screened The Road to Rhythm for festival co-founders Pinkham and Burrows was hard and “pretty confronting”, says Henley.

“What will strike people is how close they came to losing the festival several times.”

The documentary has a happy ending, though.

“There is resolution and there is redemption. They have come a long way. When they started they were uni students, kids wanting to party with their mates. They’re 15 years older now and they have their own kids.

“I think the festival has got to a place where Gisborne should be proud of. We want to give people a real insight into New Zealand’s longest running festival and into those who kept it running through sheer grit and passion.

“They all share an absolute passion for the festival.”

  • Four-part web series The Road to Rhythm will be launched on The New Zealand Herald website nzherald.co.nz from May 31. A trailer can be viewed on The Gisborne Herald Facebook page. The documentary was helped with funding from NZ on Air.

The road to the Rhythm and Vines music festival has often been a rocky quest to get the formula right. It is this journey that co-directors Belinda Henley and Phill Prendeville have tracked in their four-part web series The Road to Rhythm.

The documentary goes behind the scenes of the 2017/2018 event and stage dives into the festival’s 15-year history of music, partying and camping. Last summer’s festival marked 15 years of Rhythm and Vines and the team agreed to tell their story warts and all.

“Other documentaries have been done but ours is different,” says co-director Belinda Henley.

“We have three narratives. They are the 15-year history of R&V, the 2017/2018 festival, and we follow a group of North Shore girls who travelled here for the event.

“It was incredibly complicated to weave the three narratives together.”

R&V organisers Hamish Pinkham and Toby Burrows gave Henley, Prendeville and their crew unrestricted access and that was an important part of the process, says Henley.

“It was amazing because they trusted us.”

Waiohika Estate owner and festival co-founder Dean Witters was terminally ill when Henley managed to interview him shortly before he died last year. Witters had seen the potential in the series of natural amphitheatres on his property, and had the vision to kick-start the festival’s development. In a poignant moment in the documentary the festival organisers’ “mentor and visionary” struggles to keep his emotions in check as he describes a moment from the festival’s early days.

“I just stood here and looked down over the crowd. My thoughts were ‘what a bloody monster’.”

The second part of the documentary is dedicated to him.

Henley had worked with Prendeville at TV3 so she brought him into the project as co-director. He joined the team with a particular advantage.

“He didn’t know Hamish and knew nothing about the festival. He brought a fresh pair of eyes to the documentary.”

Prendeville immersed himself in the project and lived alone in a caravan at the festival site.

“That was a time for him to figure out who the main characters in the story were,” says Henley.

The first time the producers screened The Road to Rhythm for festival co-founders Pinkham and Burrows was hard and “pretty confronting”, says Henley.

“What will strike people is how close they came to losing the festival several times.”

The documentary has a happy ending, though.

“There is resolution and there is redemption. They have come a long way. When they started they were uni students, kids wanting to party with their mates. They’re 15 years older now and they have their own kids.

“I think the festival has got to a place where Gisborne should be proud of. We want to give people a real insight into New Zealand’s longest running festival and into those who kept it running through sheer grit and passion.

“They all share an absolute passion for the festival.”

  • Four-part web series The Road to Rhythm will be launched on The New Zealand Herald website nzherald.co.nz from May 31. A trailer can be viewed on The Gisborne Herald Facebook page. The documentary was helped with funding from NZ on Air.
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