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Source: Manawatu Standard


Taika Waititi, Peter Jackson, Flight of the Conchords, Weta Workshops and Dr Who all share a huge fan in common.

For 14-year-old Palmerston North secondary school student Arlo Macmillan, these icons have helped turn an ambitious movie concept from a dream into reality.

Armed with a basic Canon EOS M-3 camera and a drone, and with help from parents, school-mates and the city library’s three-dimensional printer, Arlo has posted online the first 16-minute episode of The Tripods.


It’s a six-part prequel to the 80s BBC TV adaptation of the young adult novels about alien invasion and colonisation written by John Christopher.

It’s a quirky Kiwi take that’s made for kids by kids and set largely on the streets of Palmerston North during the initial invasion stage of the Tripods’ takeover.

“Four years ago, I found the first series at the library and the second series online, and I bought the DVD. They never made the third series and [series two] ended badly and unresolved,” Arlo said.

Now at Freyberg High School, the young director, producer, scriptwriter, location scout, special effects creator, camera operator, editor and performer, started the project last year while he was at Ross Intermediate.

“The first episode was based on a dream that I had.”

His special effects were created using models, puppets, cardboard, polystyrene and attention to camera angles. Interior scenes were shot using makeshift studios in Arlo’s bedroom, the front hall of his home, a classroom and a hallway at Ross.

He also got permission to hire Wellington’s Wright’s Hill Fortress for part of the shoot.

He hoped to complete filming at the weekend and have episode two up on You Tube by December 9.

Feedback has been positive. Arlo’s former principal, Ross’s Wayne Jenkins emailed: “Wow, thanks for sharing, just watched it, a real talent for editing”.

There was also a Twitter response from a fan in the UK, and more from, of all places, Germany.

“I sent it to the German Tripods fan club,” Arlo said.

The episode includes movie tropes and an excerpt from the famous 80s Sony Walkman “Dear John” commercial.

Mum Sonya Holm said her son had been into film since he was 3, when he picked up a camera and started taking pictures.

“He’s been a finalist in three DigiAwards and won best actor last year. Earlier this year, he won two awards at the Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival,” Holm said.

Arlo was second in the youth section of the Young Filmmakers Award for his documentary Plastic – It’s got you covered, which also won the Forest and Bird Manawatū best locally made environmental film award.

More Tripods episodes have been planned, though the film-maker is giving himself and his mates the holidays off.

As for his favourite Dr Who – that was the one he dressed as for the Armageddon show a couple of years ago, the 10th incarnation of the timelord, David Tennant.

– Stuff