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Hollywood interest sparks a following among Paraparaumu students

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What started as a joke, in a classroom at Paraparaumu College, led to an acclaimed film project by Hollywood director Wes Ball and American novelist James Dashnerand a sequel to their original film.

The group of teenagers, mostly 13 years old, produced Budget maze runneran hour-long comic adaptation of the 2014 sci-fi original late last year.

After the project was uploaded to YouTube, writer and director Liz Wyatt caught the attention of Ball, the films’ original director, and Dashner, author of the novel series, via Twitter.

I literally jumped up and down then we spammed our group chat, we were so impressed it happened, Wyatt said. It was amazing.

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After being contacted by Hollywood heavyweights in March, they decided to produce a sequel, Low Budget Scorch Trials, which is currently filming in the Kpiti area. It will be released in June or July.

The original Maze Runner featured actor Blake Cooper playing Chuck. They contacted him through Cameo, an online platform for people to request celebrity videos.

Rather than send a message of support, Cooper went further and acted out a scene that was used for the film.

In addition to writing and directing, Wyatt, originally from England, also played the character of Newt.

I felt a bit like Britain’s Taika Waititi, because he stars in the things he directs, Wyatt said. It was really easy because we already had a lot of respect for each other, we were all friends.

Melissa Welch, Amy Morris, GJ Samuel (in the box), Olivia Morris, Theo Hadfield and Liz Wyatt are part of a low budget version of Maze Runner.

Provided

Melissa Welch, Amy Morris, GJ Samuel (in the box), Olivia Morris, Theo Hadfield and Liz Wyatt are part of a low budget version of Maze Runner.

The band used social media to build hype for the project. We spent several days commenting on fan accounts like, oh, you should check this out, Wyatt said.

And then through that, we sort of talked about it.

The YouTube video has been viewed more than 4,000 times by people as far away as Brazil and Ukraine.

American novelist James Dashner enjoyed Low Budget Maze Runner

PROVIDED

American novelist James Dashner enjoyed Low Budget Maze Runner

The film was shot at Paraparaumu College and the only expenses were some costumes and props.

Media studies professor Matt Cowens, whom Wyatt described as overwhelming support during the project, said the band initially kept their work secret.

They wouldn’t tell me why they wanted to borrow cameras, microphones and tripods every week and what exactly they were doing, Cowens said. They finally revealed that they aim to get a certain number of subscribers for their [Instagram] account before they told me what their plan was.

The students were all very supportive of each other, he said.

Liz Wyatt was thrilled to have the backing of Hollywood director Wes Ball.

PROVIDED

Liz Wyatt was thrilled to have the backing of Hollywood director Wes Ball.

I’m incredibly proud of the whole team. It took a lot of commitment, time and creativity and the end product is very, very fun.

Wyatt and Amy Morris are studying film at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University in Wellington, and Cowens said it was delightful to see them follow their passion.

It’s nice to have played a small part in this journey, he said.

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