Introduction

New Zealand Film: An Illustrated History

In the earliest days of film, Aotearoa New Zealand had a steady but modest film production and no real infrastructure. Our early filmmakers were pretty much on their own! They had to finance their own projects, teach themselves to use the equipment, process their own films and, in some cases, even make or adapt their own equipment. Because of this, making a feature film was a difficult venture and many of our early films are short fiction films, non-fiction newsreels and documentaries.

There was little by way of an industry or the infrastructure to support it, until the early 1980s. So filmmakers often had to write, direct and edit the films themselves and budgets were almost non-existent. Because so few films were able to be made, acting was not a particularly viable career.

Our 'do it yourself' attitude certainly came to the forefront. Ted Coubray invented his own sound system, Rudall Hayward his own talkie camera and Geoff Murphy invented the Acme Sausage Company Crane that enabled him to take high-angle shots. Sir Peter Jackson started out making Super 8 movies as a child and Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger started Weta Workshop in the back room of their flat.

The 1970s saw a shift in public attitude towards the arts in New Zealand in general, and there started to be less audience resistance to ‘homegrown’ films. Sleeping Dogs (Roger Donaldson, 1977) and documentaries like Tangata Whenua (Barry Barclay, 1974) became vehicles for social and cultural change. However, It was still very hard to make a living making films.

The international success of films like The Piano (Jane Campion, 1993), Once Were Warriors (Lee Tamahori, 1994) and Whale Rider (Nikki Caro, 2002) to name a few, meant a growing self confidence.

And while the debate over whether Peter Jackson’s later films the Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003) and The Hobbit (2012) are New Zealand films continues, it is clear that he has established a successful movie empire in Miramar, Wellington. He continues to lure Hollywood here with the technological advancements he has made in filmmaking.

Achievement Criteria

Media Studies

1.1 Demonstrate understanding of how individuals interact with the media.
2.1 Demonstrate understanding of the relationship between a media product and its audience.
3.1 Demonstrate understanding of an aspect of a media industry.

English

1.1 Show understanding of specified aspect(s) of studied and written texts (90849).
2.1 Analyse specified aspect(s) of studied written text (s) supported by evidence.
3.1 Respond critically to specified aspect(s) of studied written text(s), with supporting evidence.
1.2 Show understanding of significant aspects of unfamiliar text(s) through close reading, using supporting evidence.
2.2 Analyse specified aspects of studied visual or oral texts, supported by evidence.
2.3 Respond critically to specified aspect(s) of studied visual or oral text(s), with supporting evidence.
1.11 Show understanding of visual and/or oral texts through close viewing and/or listening, using supporting evidence.
2.10 Analyse aspects of visual and/or oral texts through close viewing and/or listening, supported by evidence.
3.9 Respond critically to visual/oral text(s) through close reading, using supporting evidence.

History

1.2 Demonstrate understanding of an historical event or place of significance to New Zealanders (91002).
2.2 Examine an historical event, or place, of significance to New Zealanders (91230).
3.2 Analyse an historical event, or place, of significance to New Zealanders (91435).
1.5 Describe the causes and consequences of an historical event (91005).
2.5 Examine causes and consequences of a significant historical event (91233).
3.5 Analyse the causes and consequences of a significant historical trend over time.

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FORWARD to Chapter One - The Magic of Moving Pictures: Filmmaking 1895-1918 

BACK to Our Film History

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