Hunt for the Wilderpeople tells the story of misfit kid Ricky Baker. When Ricky’s foster aunt suddenly passes away, he’s left alone with his grumpy uncle Hec The unlikely duo find themselves on the run in the vast New Zealand bush, evading child services and the law. They are forced to work together to survive and despite their differences, form a bond in this hilarious and heart-felt adventure.
Writer and director Taika Waititi first came in contact with the Hunt for the Wilderpeople project in 2005, when executive producer Charlie McClellan employed the then “writer for hire” Waititi to adapt the Barry Crump classic Wild Pork and Watercress into a feature film script. Jumping at the chance, Waititi delivered a script for the ambitious project, which ultimately stayed shelved for years. But, in 2013, a meeting with the Crump family put the rights for a film version of the book back on the table and rekindled Waititi’s fire for the project.
Waititi formed a bond with Barry Crump’s son, Martin Crump, and gained the Crump family’s blessing to tell the story on screen. He resurrected the script, bringing it in for a workshop to production company, Piki Films. Meaning to ‘ascend or climb up’ in Māori, Piki Films brought together a selection of New Zealand’s most influential and talented writers to workshop the script. Piki Films formed by Waititi, and respected producers Carthew Neal and Leanne Saunders, financed the project.
The film was shot across a five-week period in the New Zealand winter months of May and June 2015 in a variety of stunning locations across New Zealand, including Piha, Karekare, Bethells Beach, Horopito and the Kaimanawa Plains.
The Kiwi crew worked tirelessly in sometimes challenging conditions across the shooting of the feature. Variable weather conditions including snow, high winds and remote locations meant the crew had to demonstrate their nimbleness and ability to adapt quickly. Assistance and on ground support from the New Zealand Army alongside local iwi [tribe] Ngāti Rangi which allowed the ambitious picture to be completed within schedule.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople went on to become the highest-ever grossing New Zealand film at the local box office.