subscribe: Posts | Comments

‘Kiwi Driver’ Foster and McFadzien’s best short film yet


Bad Kiwis by Deb Foster and Rebecca McFadzien was named Best Short Short Film at the 8th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival in 2018. Foster and McFadzien are back for more mischief and mayhem in an action-packed sequel titled Bad Kiwis 2: Kiwi Driver. And from the standpoint of production value, Kiwi Driver is even better, showing remarkable improvement in every category.


Funny Screenplay

It all starts with a tight, well-crafted script that belies Foster and McFadzien’s special brand of wry situational humor. And there are few situations more rife with comedic possibilities than a trip by our favorite Kiwis to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Having prepared for weeks, Summer [McFadzien] and Olivia [Foster] are convinced they’re ready to “run the streets” of California, so they head to the DMV to get their driver’s licenses …. But are they really prepared? With a large serving of Kiwi ingenuity and a dash of Australian rivalry, they’re oh so ready to take on this challenge headfirst. What could go wrong, right? Yeah, nah.

“We’re weirdly good at writing together,” Foster professes. “ We [wrote the screenplay] on Zoom or Facetime, both for the first one and Kiwi Driver. I would write a line and then Rebecca would  say, ‘Oh yeah, then we’ll do this.’ It flowed like that, and we were cracking up the whole time. We both kind of think the same way. We feed off of each other the same way that Summer and Olivia feed off each other in the films.”

As writers, Foster and McFadzien operate from the premise that less is more.

“When I was studying at Uni [Unitec Institute of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand, where McFadzien earned a Bachelors of Performing and Screen Arts degree], we were told to write detailed stage directions for the scripts we were writing,” Rebecca supplements. “When Deb and I started writing together, we realized that actually you don’t need as many stage directions as you think you do … and you don’t need as much dialogue as you think you do. As movie directors and producers, we’ve found that a lot of the gems we discovered came from having minimal stage directions and seeing what happened when the actors got scripts that didn’t have everything spelled out for them. Those organic reactions – where an actor is reacting not as herself but as her character – are just so magical, and seeing other actors doing the same and then putting it all together in a film is so great, so heartwarming.”

Foster and McFadzien also firmly believe in basing their stories on personal experience. Much of the plot line in Bad Kiwis 2: Kiwi Driver comes from their unique experiences at the DMV when it came time for them to apply for their California drivers licenses.

The 8-minute short opens with Summer and Olivia in disguises tailing a DMV examiner as he administers a road test to a driver’s license applicant. “I actually did follow some DMV examiners around,” Foster admits. “Before I took my road test, we thought it would be a good idea to tail them and see [the route they take]. I totally felt like an undercover spy while we were doing it.”

“It’s hard for Americans to grasp just how confusing and scary going to the DMV is for New Zealanders,” McFadzien explains. “One of the most intimidating things about the DMV in the U.S. is the number of people and the fact that you’re going to be there for three hours and there’s just no way around it. By contrast, in New Zealand if you book an appointment for 11:30 you’ll be in the car at 11:29, and that’s that. But here, when you come out of the DMV, you feel like you climbed a mountain and overcome some pretty intense challenges on the way back down.”

Producing the right paperwork can be a major challenge for anyone going to the DMV. Local playwright Zalman Velvel wrote a two-act farce for Lab Theater last season that lampooned the devices and artifices to which people sometimes resort in order to circumvent the Department’s rules and regulations for proving residence, ownership and title. [Directed by Carmen Crussard, DMV starred Gerrie Benzing and Sam Bostic as DMV employees and Stacy Stauffer, Todd Lyman, Mike Dinko, David Cooley, Art Keene and Margaret Cooley in the roles of various miscreants and other parties having business at the DMV on Bernice Hodes’ last day on the job.]

“I had to go home like a thousand times to get the right paperwork,” says Foster, chagrined. But that experience leads to some of the funniest episodes and sight gags in the film (like when Summer offers a Bed, Bath & Beyond 20% Off Coupon as proof of address).

But both playwrights are self-deprecating and not even an Aussie would accuse them of taking themselves too seriously. This self-effacing quality serves to endear both characters to viewers, who find themselves rooting for Summer and Olivia in spite of … or perhaps because of … the antics they unleash on the DMV’s beleaguered examiners and gatekeepers.



Many indie films suffer from poor sound quality. Bad Kiwis 2: Kiwi Driver is not one of them. In fact,  the sound in Kiwi Driver has a cinematic quality, right down to ticking clocks and tires crunching on asphalt as a vehicle comes to a stop. While delicious and distinctive, New Zealand and Australian accents can sometimes be difficult for the American ear to decipher. In fact, there’s a scene early on where Olivia says ”We’re here for our tist,” and the examiner looks at Summer and says “I don’t know what she’s saying.”

“We worked really hard on that part of it,” says Foster, who expresses pride in the result. “We had a premier in L.A. and a friend who’s a sound mixer for some really big films like John Wick came, so the whole time I was nervous about what he was going to say. But he was really impressed and that was a relief.”

In fact, many of the people who came to the premier complimented the filmmakers on the improvement they saw from Bad Kiwis 1 to Bad Kiwis 2.”



Part of the reason for the film’s perceived production value is the cinematography, particularly when it comes to the scenes that Foster and McFadzien shot in the two cars in which Olivia and Summer take their road tests.

Shooting a dialogue scene inside a moving vehicle is never easy, and it’s especially tough when you’re working on a tight budget. On a high-budget full-length feature film, you can block off roads, use rigging to mount cameras to the hood of the car, use a process trailer to allow the actors to focus on acting (and not driving) or shoot everything on a soundstage. Some indie filmmakers opt to go green screen and others choose to shoot handheld from the back seat of the car. But Foster and McFadzien eschewed those options. Instead, their cinematographer, Erik Smith, mounted Sony A6500s to both sides of the cars and had the actors push record on the cameras and just hope that the cameras remained in focus. They did and the result was a steady, stable environment that allows viewers to focus on the dialogue between each Kiwi and her examiner without any distractions.


Casting and Acting

Both Foster and McFadzien have considerable acting experience, and they give impeccable performances in the film as Kiwis gone awry. Foster gives the term “swoon” new meaning as she flirts her way through her road test. McFadzien is brilliant as a Kiwi with anger management issues. In fact, she adds a new wrinkle to the term “road rage.”

The supporting case that Foster and McFadzien assembled for Kiwi Driver are perfect foils for Summer and Olivia’s shenanigans. Danny Gura excels as that officious DMV bureaucrat we’ve all encountered at one time or another – and loathed. RoShawn Briscoe is bemused and befuddled as Olivia’s examiner, Bob, while Juan Sanchez-Molina couldn’t be funnier as Summer’s terrorized tester Theodore Rodriguez.

“We wrote the script with [Briscoe and Sanchez-Molina] in mind,” McFadzien reports. “They were very supportive with Kiwis 1 and said put us in the next one and Deb and I said, ‘I think we will.’”

Irena Reedy (right) is a stand-out as well. She plays Tash, an unsuspecting and maddeningly snooty Aussie who’s in line ahead of the Kiwis. Being an Aussie in a Kiwi film is always a dicey proposition. Her fate could go in a lot of different directions. But no Australians were harmed in the making of this film, but that leaves a lot of wiggle room for other forms of retribution. You’ll have to see the film if you want to know more.


Fun Fact

Foster, McFadzien and cohorts shot the majority of the film in a single day. That wasn’t necessarily by design. McFadzien was only able to come to L.A. for a couple of days, so time was of the essence.

“I wouldn’t advise anyone to [shoot a film in one day], ever,” says Foster shaking her head in amazement. “We shot the outside DMV scenes in Culver City, then we scooted to a location in Hollywood for the indoor DMV scenes at a place we’d only rented for a couple of hours. Even though we were having a blast, it was still stressful. For example, while Rebecca was doing her car scenes, I was running to get food. I couldn’t even direct her inside the car. But fortunately we had great actors. And our camera guy and fiancé [Erik Smith]was great.”

September 14, 2020.



Comments are closed.