Of the many “where Westport meets the world” connections that “06880” is fond of making, there’s none weirder than this.
Paul Henry is a highly rated morning TV personality. But you’ve never heard of him, because his show is in New Zealand. (Admit it: Besides seeing “The Hobbit,” you’ve never thought about New Zealand.)
In 2010, Henry resigned/was fired from TVNZ — the country’s network — after mocking the name of an Indian official named Sheila Dikshit.
Henry — attempting to make lamb stew out of lamb turd — then tried to become an American TV star. His first choice was a talk show, but he figured a scripted or reality show might work too.
His foray into this country — with a population roughly 100 times that of New Zealand — failed. Which is why you’ve never heard of Paul Henry.
But Andrew Goldman did.
His name may be slightly more familiar than Henry’s.
He’s the former interviewer for the New York Times Magazine‘s Q-and-A page, “Talk.” His probing, off-the-wall, uncomfortable questions — of everyone from Iggy Pop and Terry Gross to Tony Blair– were a very popular feature.
I should mention here that Goldman lives in Westport, which is why I am taking through this long, winding tale.
Goldman was fascinated by Henry. Though not a filmmaker, he decided to make a documentary about the New Zealander’s route to what turned out to be not stardom in the States.
Goldman calls the film “the best experience of my life.”
Three days after it was finished, the Times fired him. (It’s a complicated story. Just google Andrew Goldman, Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Diane von Furstenberg and Jill Abramson.)
He thought he had a “fantastic” film in the can. But when he looked at it, he realized, “it stinks.”
Goldman attempted to salvage the film by addressing themes he could never do as a Times employee. He wove serious themes — including his own firing, and the death of his mother — into the previously jocular video.
He knows that the new emphasis — on him — might seem narcissistic.
But, he says, “this is about real life. People lose their moms, lose their jobs, have to deal with their families every day.”
He sent the new version — called “The Desk” — to festivals in Florida and San Francisco. He also spent 3 weeks with it in New Zealand.
“It was not well promoted there,” Goldman admits. “The crowds were small.”
So what to do with a movie that is about both an obscure New Zealand broadcaster and a former New York Times journalist?
Goldman searched for a commercial distributor. Gawker screened on its rooftop. (Of course, Gawker is not around anymore either.)
There were no bites.
Goldman says, “I’d like to say it was a labor of love. But it was more a labor of pain and angst – the creative equivalent of a kidney stone.” He thinks he may have made “the least commercial film of all time.”
Friends have called the 87-minute film “shaggy,” “ambitious,” “bizarre,” “unhinged” and even “really good.”
Yet, he adds, “I love it. And I stand by it.”
So he has finally found a way for anyone — friends, strangers, American, New Zealanders — to see “The Desk.”
It’s available on Vimeo. Just click below.
Wherever in the world you are.
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