IT'S THE CHARACTERS IN LOVE PATROL ITHAT KEEP US COMING BACK FOR MORE
Love Patrol is a TV series that we film and produce here in Vanuatu. With the action revolving around a Pacific police station, Love Patrol portrays a range of socially significant issues in the region including crime, gender inequality, family breakdowns and violence. Throughout the series there is also a strong focus on people with HIV, sex workers, and MSM. The series has become particularly popular in Vanuatu as many people have found they can connect with the characters and the fact that it reflects the values and beliefs of local communities. Since starting in 2006 we have produced 8 series of which the 8th is the final series.
This is not a place where films get made so there is no industry and no continuity and costume experts so things happen.. like a crew member sitting under the desk in the police station who just happened to be in shot… the takes with the wrong shirt that had to be filmed after the police station was already dismantled… The ‘lost t shirt’ that would have meant a massive reshoot but was finally found in a house we had been shooting in the day before.
After the first series had shown on TV in Vanuatu a group of 12 chiefs came to Wan Smolbag and asked to talk to the actors. They were angry that characters in the series had openly talked about sex and they were especially cross about one of the storylines, a government Minister who rapes the young woman who works cleaning his house. They told the group that the series was too exciting and sexy.. ooops! But the actors told the chiefs they were talking about things that really happened and telling young people what they needed to know. And the chiefs went away and never came back.
I noticed Love Patrol portrays things about us. Like the corruption issue, STIs, and broken homes. When we talked about corruption we were just talking around the surface, but it’s good we saw the real picture so that more people could understand what it was. It affects you when you keep hiding it, but the more we address these issues then people can understand how to protect themselves.
Back in 2005, Tamara Kwarteng was running the Australian Aid funded Pacific Regional Response to HIV Project. As she came from Ghana, she had seen the way some African countries used ‘edutainment’ (film drama) to tackle the HIV epidemic; the most famous example being Soul City, a long running soap from South Africa. Tamara was keen to try ‘edutainment’ in the Pacific as she felt people related to stories much better than bare facts and a series with HIV positive characters might help people to understand rather than stigmatize real people with HIV. As Wan Smolbag had made many films, some for the Global Fund, Tamara asked if the group were interested in trying to produce a 10 part TV series.
‘No!’ was the first reaction, followed by, ‘in English! Why not bislama?’ We were told firmly it had to be in English for regional use. And then … well we signed a contract. The first series was made with fairly basic equipment and with little understanding on our part of what we were taking on. The shoot lasted 13 weeks and it was very hard but we were excited to have finished. We premiered the series at Wan Smolbag in 2006 and the public reaction was incredible. People loved it. They had never seen a Pacific series before, they had seen French, Korean and Philippino soaps, but never one showing people who lived in corrugated iron houses and dressed and looked like everyone else and they even recognized the actors! But the series took off in other Pacific countries, like PNG and Fiji. The feedback was amazing! People said they stayed up into the early hours, talking about the issues in the film.
The crew has learnt so much about production and the level of professionalism needed on such a long and exhausting shoot. Shooting starts a 6 am so many of the crew have been up since 4 am, and the day often doesn’t finish till 5 pm, On night shoots, the crew often work from 3 pm until 2 in the morning. We have also been able to work with excellent directors of photography, Danny Philips who also edits the series, was DP on Love Patrol for the first 3 years. Since then we have worked with several DP’s from Australia’s AFTERS and one from the US. Nearly all the main actors have a double role, also working as crew. They may be doing continuity, looking after costume, make up or moving lights. They move from one role to the other seamlessly. Loic Taga, who plays the part of a young machiavellian politician also composes the music for the series and does all the sound work on the episodes. Yes, we have learnt a lot producing Love Patrol and we’re sad that season 8, filmed in 2014 will be the last series.. as far as we know…
The first reason why I always watch Love Patrol is because it’s very educational. Because it talks about issues affecting Vanuatu. Secondly it’s because I like watching our local actors, because I just can’t believe that we ni-Vanuatu people can act like that. It’s just an outstanding performance!
I want to say everyone in my home enjoyed watching the DVD. When I put on the DVD, everyone in the house, my parents, everyone came and sat down to watch, even all the neighbours came and watched it. And I felt the DVD was talking about our life today in Vanuatu. We all enjoyed it and everyone at home agreed that it was true.