Action-packed TV series filmed in Wellington

The Press 30 Mar 1983

A Television New Zealand film crew has been working round the clock on the streets of Wellington to get the second episode of the action-packed series, "Inside Straight," filmed in. just three weeks.
Called "Taxi Hijack" and written by Keith Aberdein, the episode follows on from the pilot filmed at the end of last year, and stars Phillip Gordon as the brash Steve Keenan - a one-time fisherman now trying his hand at taxi-driving in the big smoke.

An escaped convict, a brush with the Armed Offenders Squad and a harmless bet with his girlfriend all add up to a monumental headache for young Steve and his somewhat reluctant sidekick, George MacClean, played by Roy Billing.

So far locations in and around Wellington have included Scorching Bay, Point Halswell Road, Willis Street, Taranaki Street, the Railway Station, the Shelley Bay R.N.Z.A.F. Base, Nairn Street, Queen's Wharf, the Overseas. Terminal and Island Bay.

The taxi used in filming the series has been confusing many. people on the streets of Wellington.

"When we did the pilot programme I had quite a few instances of people trying to wave me down," says Roy Billing, who portrays the taxi- driver.

"Or I'd pull up at the front of a rank and cause a few puzzled looks from the other cab drivers. There's a quite definite sort of ruling that when the driver at the front of the rank pulls out, all the others move up one, but if we were doing a quick shot, I'd just pull right in to the front."

On another occasion Billing was sitting at the front of the rank waiting for the producer, Peter Muxlow, to give him a signal when the lights turned green, so that he could drive into view of the camera, when a woman jumped into the car - wanting to go somewhere.

"I tried to explain that we were filming a television programme, but she looked round and couldn't see the camera, so I tried explaining that it wasn't a real taxi, so she looked at the meter and everything and then started berating me."

Before filming got under way on the series, Billing. spent some time with a Lower Hutt taxi-driver to get the feel of the job, and also visited the operations room of a taxi company. "Also, the fact" that Keith Aberdein has done quite a bit of taxi-driving in his time has meant that he's managed to strike a very realistic note in the scripts," he says.

But taxi-driving is not the only thing George MacClean is involved with-he is also, a part of the local underworld and often finds himself wheeling and dealing with unsavoury characters. He is a good crook: though, says Billing, a like- I: able sort of chap, but very I dangerous with it.

"Taxi Hijack," also stars Joanne Simpson, Sylvio Famularo, Jim Moriarty, Heather Bolton, Ellie Smith, John Bach, Peter McCauley, Don Kjestrup and Don Langridge.

 An escaped convict (Jim Moriarty) gets ugly with Steve Keenan (Phillip Gordon) and Sylvia (Joanne Simpson) in an. episode of "Inside Straigbt." Obscured by the gun is Heather Bolton.

 A cameraman, Wayne Vinten, is strapped in and ready for action during the filming of the new drama series.

Series set on fringe of underworld

The Press, 27 Aug 1984

Joanne Simpson in the role of a stripper in Inside Straight, starting on One tomorrow night.
Joanne Simpson in the role of a stripper in Inside Straight, starting on One tomorrow night

A small-town lad, Steve Keenan, arrives in Wellington to track down the shady financier who has repossessed the fishing boat he was working on, in the first episode of TVNZ's new drama series, "Inside Straight," beginning on One at 8.30 tomorrow night.

Totally unused to the ways of city life, Steve befriends George McLean, a taxi-driver, and a streetwise stripper, Sylvia Davies.

"Inside Straight" concerns Steve's survival in the urban underworld he falls into. "Inside Straight" is a gambling term, and for the central character, Steve Keenan, life is a series of gambles as the 10 hour-long episodes unfold.

The. producer, Peter Muxlow, said that the original aim behind "Inside Straight" was to produce a commercial, urban-based series.

The series was different from anything Television New Zealand had made before.

"I think the series will polarise people. It is aimed at a specific audience and they should love it, but other. people might hate it," he said

"lnside Straight" was intentionally filmed much faster than TVNZ drama productions usually are and Muxlow said this fast filming schedule brought a tight and gritty reality to each episode that looked good on screen.

Wellington locations seen in the series include Scorching Bay, Point Raiswell Road, Taranaki Street, the Railway Station, the Shelley Bay R.N.Z.A.F. base, Nairn Street, Queen's Wharf, the Overseas Terminal, Island Bay, the James Cook Hotel, the Terrace Regency Hotel and Cuba and Vivian Streets.

It was in Cuba and Vivian Streets, Wellington's redlight area, that the "Inside Straight" team encountered the most difficulties in its location work.

"The people were good initially,' said Muxlow, "but then I think we wore out our welcome a bit. We might have lights all set up outside a strip club say, and they thought we were scaring away their customers, so they got a bit stroppy.

"In the end we made sure , we didn't do any filming on their best business nights."

Muxlow's previous. TVNZ production and direction credits include "The Governor," "Close to Home," "Moynihan," "Jocko," "You Stand Indicted," "The Protesters," and "Tough at the Bottom."

He is now working on a new drama series, "Roche," about a family with two members involved in trucking.

Actor returns to old haunts

The Press 27 Aug 1984

Phillip Gordon.jpg

For Phillip Gordon, acting in "Inside Straight" was a bit like revisiting his past.

Gordon, aged 25, grew up in Wellington and as a teenager spent time on the fringe of the underworld scene that is portrayed in the series.

Playing the lead role of Steve Keenan, he had. to return to many of his old haunts in the city.

"It was an odd experience. I kept bumping into people from my past. My ambitions had been so different than theirs and I'd left it all behind, but they were still there. It was really hard to talk to them. I'd changed so much, we didn't have anything in common any more."

Phillip Gordon's first acting experience was when he was eight, appearing as a member of Fagan's gang in an Australian touring production of "Oliver."

When he was 16 he spent a year on "Close to Home," as the wayward teenager, Hugh Clifford.

He moved to Auckland six years ago to study at Theatre Corporate's drama

In 1982, after three years with Theatre Corporate, he went freelance, spending last year back in Wellington working on' "Inside Straight."

The Auckland-based actor, Roy Billing, says that he is a bit like George McLean, the taxi-driver he plays in the series.

"I was trying to make the character as real as possible, you know, the archetypal Kiwi male."

Experience. useful

It was not hard for Keith Aberdein to write about the Wellington taxi-driving scene that plays a big part in "Inside Straight."

Four years ago. Aberdein, who wrote six episodes of "Inside Straight," spent almost a year driving a taxi

"Just going on the things I had to deal with every night as a cab driver," he said, 'Inside Straight' is perfectly accurate.

"Just about everything that happens in the programme is based on real events. "


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