Wikinews interviews Flame about special effects at New Zealand's Rock2Wgtn festival

Thursday, August 7, 2008

File photo of KISS, who headlined night one.
Image: Wok.

Across Easter weekend Wellington, New Zealand was host to Rock2Wgtn, an international two-day hard rock festival. Large crowds showed up at Westpac Stadium to see the various acts. The world has never seen an event of this kind before, and New Zealand has never had any kind of major rock festival or multi-day music festival.

Day one featured three theatrical acts. Finnish band Lordi, known for their monster costumes, opened the night. They were followed by the US shock rocker Alice Cooper, whose themed set included the horror theatrics regularly associated with him and a hanging stunt he recently restarted after a gallows collapse nearly killed him two decades ago. The night was headlined by the distinctively costumed band KISS, complete with their famed black-and-white makeup.

The first major act on the stage on day two was the American hard rock/glam metal band Poison. After Poison, British act Whitesnake took to the stage and performed their set to the crowd. British-born American rocker Ozzy Osbourne, who, as well as a solo career, fronts the world-famous Black Sabbath, was the second night's headline act.

The festival's entertainment did not stop at the six main acts. There was also support performances from three New Zealand bands - The Symphony of Screams, The Valves and Sonic Altar. Their sets were accompanied by a special effects package from award-winning studio Weta Workshops, who are known for their work on movies such as The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. This came in the form of 'Drusila the Dragon', which rose up to a height of six foot and wigspan and moved for the audience, shining lasers from its eyes and breathing red smoke. Flame Fire Productions were hired to put on a fire show featuring several dancers alongside the performers. Also performing were six local guitarists and a group of 'zombie' cheerleaders.

Wikinews was able to secure two exclusive interviews with those responsible behind the scenes for putting on such a show. Weta Workshop's Philip Sharpe, who supervised the project and Milly Bea, current manageress of Flame Fire Productions, discussed their roles. In the first installment, Milly Bea tells us about "a definite highlight" for Flame and lets us know everything from her thoughts on Gene Simmons's tongue to just how much kerosene it takes to put on a fire show at a rock fest.


 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) How did you come to be involved with Rock2Wgtn?

Milly Bea: We came to be involved thru a recommendation from one of the stunt guys, unfortunately I am not sure who? Someone Holly Wademan had met in past years. Then Rok2Wtgn contacted us and we began liaising from about December.
In total Flame travelled 6 fire dancers, including Flames choreographer, producer and creative directors, along with 2 safety crew from Queenstown, where we are based, to Wellington.

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) This was a very unique event. How did it differ from your previous experience?

Milly Bea: It was a great event to be involved in because the bands were such big names and legends, one way or another!!! And of course the thousands of people to perform to over 2 nights… to Rock music!!
In these ways it was a unique experience, definitely performing to original kiwi rock music…we often fire dance to the likes of Fat Boy Slim & prodigy
We have performed throughout New Zealand with our biggest audience probably being the Qtn Winter Fest openings in 2005 & 2006 but I think the Rock2Wgtn was bigger than that.... And it was different to feel part of a whole production, with the stunt guys and zombie girls and the NZ bands and the big time bands and the dragon!!?… Often we’ve been a stand alone performance so it felt good to have a role, alongside others, in creating a rocking experience for the rock enthusiasts.

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) Was it hard to choreograph a show around the rock music that was on offer?

Milly Bea: Our fire dance performances are usually fully choreographed routines, from start to finish of one track, with an assortment of fire spinning devices… for this gig we requested the bands set list, in order of their play. We familiarised ourselves with their music and used combinations of toys that would work best with each song, according to rhythms, tempo and feel. For example, the up beat rock songs were great for the fire hula hoop or staff or poi, where as the more tragic rock ballads leaned towards a slow seductive fire whip. We skipped the songs that didn’t inspire us and went for it, having heaps of fun, with those songs that did.
The combining improvised fire dance with tight choreography on the chorus seemed to work best for us. It flowed naturally and looked effective in performance. We discovered rock music, at times, had quite complex beats, making some songs harder to choreograph than others, in such instances we avoided choreography and let the improvised fire dance roll!! Our aim was to use toys that had the biggest fire for the hottest most blazing effect. We had well over a month of rehersing[sic] two nights a week, to get to know the songs, the choreography and practise[sic] improvised rock dance moves.
So while still being flexible for any last minute changes we were ready to rock with prepared toys, routines and dancers specifically for each song.
Performers Anna and Milly onstage with fire umbrellas

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) What was the audience reaction to your show like?

Milly Bea: As we were performing on 2 small stages simultaneously, in the terracing, behind and to the either side of the main stage, we were quite a distance from the audience, so couldn’t really gauge their general reaction…Those faces I could see down below, of the roadies backstage, were all smiles and waving fists of rock…. We did hear back from a few people in the audience that we looked great from the distance and on the screen when we appeared on occasion. They noted the massive fire and our choreography.
The stunt guys enjoyed our show and apparently Ozzy stopped to whatch[sic] us briefly as he moved towards the mainstage!!

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) Just how much fuel did you get through, and at what cost?

Milly Bea: We had over estimated our fuel usage… better to have more than not enough I suppose. We probably ended up using 8 litres of kerosene for each 15-20minute burn set.
So for 2 burns sets on 2 stages for 2 nights plus 1 rehersal each…Making that a grand total of 10 burns of 8L =80L at $4 L…approx..$320
About that..I didn’t do the figures or pay too much attention to how much we were burning..but think that’s a pretty good guess.

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) How has this event changed things at Flame Fire Productions?

Milly Bea: Flame Fire Productions hasn’t really changed all that much as a result…by the fame I mean.. tahaha hasn’t really been any major influx of gigs as a result..!!? But now, as a result of needing to invest in more & in quality gear for Rock2Wtgn, we have a mass of new and gorgeous fire toys and red hot pvc costumes…that do truly rock! And some great photos and an awesome experience.

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) Do you anticipate a repeat of Rock2Wgtn? If so, do you feel you would get involved with that or a similar event again?

Milly Bea: It would be great to be involved in the same or similar event. I love the idea of combining big Music gigs with other performing arts and dance… in one night events as well as music festivals. Its awesome to work with other artists and organisers in creating events that surround, immerse the audience so they are embraced by the experience being communicated and received through all the senses, visual, sound etc.... whether Rock or whatever!!

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) What was your personal opinion of the bands performing?

Milly Bea: I find my personal opinion of the bands performing quite entertaining really…I never really realized or experienced the art of Rock theatre and I did find it both disturbing and comical as well as rocking.. KISS were outrageous!! Their outfits?! The studs!! The boots!! What are they on? And that man's [Gene Simmons'] tongue is outrageous.. and what he does with it!! I was ooooeing and laughing and rocking my fist in the air.. definately[sic] entertaining.. Alice Cooper was also a little disturbing especially when it came to the hitting the lady dancer routine.. didn't dig it… and the baby in the push chair?.. a clash of psycho & comic...? althou[sic] I did like some of his lyrics…
I enjoyed Poison.. they seemed way more down to earth and genuine Californian rocker dudes… with one hit and thankfully their hairstyles were more natural and relaxed.. liked them.
But my fave has to be Ozzy!! He's great!! Relaxed natural genuine rocker… he's not trying to rock he just is and he's not all hard arse and showy and I like his melodies and he's got a cool band… so yeah got into Ozzy the most.

 ((Wikinews (Blood Red Sandman) )) So all in all?

Milly Bea: We had fun playing with the Rock theme… with costume design and rock dance moves, all at one time having flash backs to the teen years when we did most of our rocking!!



This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.