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In recent years there has been an abundance of musical biopics being released, particularly on highly successful musicians and bands (such as Queen and Elton John). As a young filmmaker (16) and fan of the Enz, I have thought about the possibility of a Split Enz biopic (a drama not a docuemntary). A lot of people believe that biopics are at risk of not fulfilling their careers/lives to justice, and others feel that they should have simply left the story alone. There are a few problems:

  • Time: the career of a band will never be expressed to its extent in two hours... it might work better as a TV Show
  • Drama: is it entertaining enough for fans and non-fans?
  • Actors: casting is very important... you need someone who looks, acts and can sound relatively like the characters - singing wouldn't matter though

One of the main hooks for producing a biopic on a popular band is the fact that they will draw in the band's audience, and the film will draw some in for the band.

For a band such as Split Enz, the fanbase is much smaller and people particularly outside of New Zealand won't be drawn to it as much as they would be to other bands. Therefore, the subject of it being a Split Enz biopic can't carry the film... the film must be fresh and of high quality in its own right. Having listened to the Enzology podcast and have seen a couple documentaries outlining the development of the album, I believe that it would make a terrific drama. Split Enz is an interesting case: one of the first bands to emerge successfully from New Zealand (fish out of water), experiment with a new and exciting sound and be a band that is bizarrely sober yet clownish in its image.

I made this post as I'm curious as to what you would think of a Split Enz biopic, do you think you'd like to see one? I might even write a script for one.

Last edited by Dec
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I share your thoughts... now that you say it, I wouldn't want to watch a fake Tim Finn when there's perfectly good archive footage out there! There has been quite a few documentaries made on Split Enz (from last century) so there might not be much point, but I recently saw The Sparks Brothers, a documentary on Sparks (a band with a similar level of success). The film only uses archive footage and presents it in an interesting way that matches the style of each phase of their career. Something like that might be able to work for Split Enz...

It’s certainly an interesting idea, I can imagine the costumes would be especially fun to recreate! Although Probably the best thing to come from a bio pic of that sort would be re-newed interest in the band, hopefully in younger fans. As someone who’s also young ( 17) and into the band it’s tough out here!

Count me out as a fan of those film biops, too, as they strayed far from accurate song sequencing, as well as facts.  Meanwhile, the Enz already are served by two tremendous long-form audio documentaries, or what the kids call podcasts.  The first-to-the-post Letters To My Frenz was transmitted in the early 1990s on NZ's bFM, featuring the hard work of Owen Harris.  The epic Enzology was transmitted on RNZ about a decade later, with fantastic work by Jeremy Ansell.  Both are worth the time and consideration.  Cheers!

Hey Dec - great topic! I have often thought that there is a very good bio-pic around the Enz. I don’t see it being like the Queen or Elton John one but more like Nowhere Boy (which focused on John Lennon as a boy and the start of the Beatles, rather than their heyday).

I think we are blessed with the quality of Enz documentaries to date - Spellbound on TV/DVD and Enzology on radio/podcast and not to mention Mike Chunn’s books.

What makes the Enz so special to me is not just the music but the story(s) behind the band - the complex relationships/personalities, the drama, the daring to be different, the problems encountered along their path to success and the changes of band members.

I had always appreciated the music (in the sense that I owned the Greatest Hits album and thrashed it to death) but it wasn’t until I read Stranger Than Fiction and watched Spellbound that I truly appreciated ‘the band’, it’s history and artistry.

What I always thought would work is is a script that focuses on the Brian Finn/Philip Judd relationship and the formation of Split Ends, and then the Enz. I reckon you could make something work that finished with the band leaving NZ for England to conquer the world! Very few casual fans will know much about this era but from a story telling perspective, there is so much to work with there and it would appeal as a general film not as a ‘music film’.

Or if you want a wider focus you could try to also include the move to England, then you have Phil and Mike leaving the band, Neil and Nigel joining, Phil coming back and then finishing it with Phil leaving the band for good.

Another script could focus on the 1978-84 era and focus on the Neil/Tim relationship. It starts with the hardship in the UK, the return to NZ for Sweetwaters, the success of True Colours and finish with either Tim leaving the band or with the Enz with a Bang tour.

If somebody could do it well, I would love a TV series based around Mike’s Stranger Than Fiction book that takes on all the eras. I also don’t care so much to see actors trying to recreate performances but would love to see the actual story dramatized. You could never do that time period just in 2-3 hours, but you probably could over about 12 hours.

Alternatively (or additionally!)  somebody could give Peter Jackson all the footage that was shot for the Enz With A Bang documentary and he could do a new cut of that! … That’s tongue in cheek - I don’t imagine there is a ton of forgotten film locked away somewhere but we can live in hope!

Finally - thanks Flicker, I wasn’t aware of the Exponents biopic - I will stream it when I get the time…

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