Short film, Four Months, 4 Seconds, packs a powerful punch as it captures the pain of teen Harry, (played by Harry Bartle) and his parents, as their increasingly volatile marriage implodes. This is juxtaposed with Harry’s relationship with his two friends, both seemingly intent on aiding his destruction. Faced with unbearable challenges, Harry seeks a way out.
Director, Mike Murphy was aware of the difficult subject matter; both he and the Producer have experienced suicide in their lives. Murphy says, "young people are faced with challenges that they often have on their own. Experiences around emotional issues, family and peer pressure can be quite overwhelming. Young people aren't fully equipped to deal with all of these issues and often it's friends who know what's going on, and in some cases they're the ones that are there offering the advice. It's not always easy to seek out help. I wanted to look at how two young men would handle this." Murphy says research assured him that they handled the subject matter well. "Ideally parents would always be involved, maybe other help, but in reality that's not the case, once children hit the teens, friends are the most important part of the mix, and are privy to conversations and information parents are oblivious too. We wanted to explore that."
A five year study that has recently come out of Victoria University, (the Youth Wellbeing Study, led by Professor Marc Wilson) around self-injury, shows just under a third of secondary school students aged between 13 and 18 deliberately hurt themselves. "It's very topical, and the series 13 Reasons Why, has also shone a light on this subject matter," says Murphy.
With Four Months 4 Seconds, film maker, Mike Murphy took the guerrilla film making process to its extreme, doing everything from writing the script to filming, sound, special effects and editing. “I just had a handy cam with internal camera sound, so no, it’s not perfect! I wanted to see what I could achieve with very little. When Lord of the Rings was released, a plane flew overhead in one of the scenes, it’s since been removed, but it just goes to show, big or small budget, things are never perfect. The crucial point is that this is a real story about a young man struggling with real challenges, and I wanted to give the story, the characters as much credence as possible.” Murphy, who is of Ngati Poru decent, also takes a subtle look at the racial stereotyping of young Maori in film. “The casting of Sim, (played by Nick Ratapu) was deliberate. Not all young Maori come from loveless, poverty-stricken circumstances.” He continues, “The reality is many Maori come from loving homes, with supportive families, even those who are from poorer families. Sim gets his shit together, he turns things around, then he tries to help,” says Murphy, “we’re not all at decile one schools with no future, let’s see more of that reflected on film.”