Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Sam Neill draws a bead on an incoming Orc

Last month was one in which I was truly ashamed to be a New Zealander.
After half a century of watching creative Kiwis with commitment, guts, ingenuity and passion build a film culture out of nothing it was chilling to watch it driven into an orgy of mendacity, manipulation, vilification and injustice - and driven there by nothing more edifying than greed.
Over those fifty years I have had the good fortune to have been on the fringes of New Zealand film. By chance I designed the titles and credits for John O'Shea's Runaway. I wrote scripts for Pukemanu, Section Seven and Crawford's Matlock Police. As chair of the Arts Council I persuaded the council to fund Sleeping Dogs and a wild extravaganza by Geoff Murphy called Chicken Man. I doctored scripts for the early Film Commission. Best of all I sat in Hollywood's Kodak Theatre with tears of pride streaming down my chubby cheeks while my wife collected an Oscar for costume design for The Return of the King having also been nominated for Last Samurai. And we were aware that The Piano, Jane Campion and Anna Paquin had been there before
The rabid, unnecessary and ugly row around The Hobbit made me ashamed.
Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Workshops are not the New Zealand film industry. They are a significant part of it and have achieved marvelous things. But even in turnover they represent only about 10% of a nation wide industry worth $2.5 billion.
But it is more than money.
The film industry world wide is rich with talented New Zealanders - Directors, Producers, Cinematographers, Production Designers, Art Directors, Costume Designers and Actors. Warner Brothers major 2011 production Green Lantern had no less than eight New Zealanders, from the Director down, in creative roles - and it featured two New Zealand actors.
In last years Academy Awards, five out of the ten nominations for best film had some New Zealand creative input and, yes, two of those involved Weta and Sir Peter Jackson.
At home Taika Waititi's Boy broke the box office records set by The Worlds Fastest Indian and Whale Rider.
These are the achievements I wish the government had acknowledged long before last week when it got sucked into an unseemly and murky scourging of the shires.

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