Q&A with Alex Reed

Q&A with Alex Reed

What was the inspiration for Decades In Colour?
We had always thought that there was a bit of an untapped treasure trove of people’s memories that was sitting in little yellow boxes and it would be lovely to be able to see them. I come from a history background so I’m always interested in telling history in a different way and this is just such a personal way to tell it.

Season one focused on three different decades, the 50s, 60s and 70s, how did you decide on this season’s themes of Home, Work and Play?
It was great to get a flavour of each decade but there were some really strong themes that we felt we hadn’t been able to explore properly. We thought a very different way of doing it would be to traverse all the way across those decades and work in themes.It was quite a challenge to think about how you can define work for New Zealanders from the 40s to the 80s; there were some really big changes there so there was a lot of work to do up front. Trying to find that narrative spine is what we worked on initially before we even knew what footage we had.

Given the success of season one, did you get a greater response to requests for footage?
It was definitely easier. Obviously having Judy Bailey involved helped because she did a shout-out for us.
We had a really strong base to work from because there were some people whose footage we’d used in the first series but who also had footage of the 80s for example, which we didn’t cover, or had material that was much stronger when you were thinking about themes rather than decades.

This season expands to the 80s, the boom time for home videos, how did that footage compare?
It was funny because in the first series there was a little bit of heartbreak that we had to finish at the end of the 70s because so much kicked off in New Zealand in the 80s. It’s a fascinating era, but quite tricky in terms of footage because quite honestly, the material from the 40s and 50s was beautiful and really well preserved, that old 16mm. Whereas the 80s, the quality is kind of changeable. But I think it worked because we mixed it up with the footage from the other decades so they’re just little bits where you can tell that the VCR quality is quite different. But it’s so nostalgic, it’s what lots of us lived through.

It must be difficult to choose what goes into the series, how do you make those decisions?
When we asked for footage we always said that we were asking for stories as well, so sometimes it was the stories that were the defining factor. We always knew we couldn’t do a comprehensive history because the footage is so varied and we’re ruled by that really, so we tried to make sure that it was a little quirkier.  The series has never really been about the big events, it’s about the everyday or how the everyday person might respond to a big event. What we were looking for was something really personal to one person, but that a lot of people could relate to.

There are some great stories this season, told by the people who lived them. Did it take much coaxing to get those stories out?  
Sometimes it was a back and forth in what they were comfortable to talk about, but I think it was easier in the second series because we could show them an example of what we’d done in series one. There were some stories that people didn’t want to tell for sure and so we didn’t go there. What I really loved is that often people would write us these long emails or handwritten letters, beautifully told personal stories, it was really lovely. The whole series really is about memory and when we lose people that’s kind of all we’ve got left.

Do you have a favourite moment from this season?
I love the beginning of Home where it’s that family in the garden and they’ve chosen that great music and it’s just so familiar. I think that is probably one of my favourite moments but actually there are heaps of them all the way through.