Posts

Geoff Murphy, Iconoclastic Filmmaker

When Geoff Murphy died last week, he left a film industry very different from the one that he entered in the 1970s. In those days it couldn’t be called an industry – just a bunch of mates trying to make movies. Geoff was at the forefront of the renaissance and deserves the accolades bestowed later in life: a lifetime achievement award at the Moa New Zealand Film Awards, one of twenty Arts Foundation “arts icons”, New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 Queen’s New Year Honours.

Colourful, irreverent, his anti-authoritarianism was a badge of honour to the end, his signature gesture an up-thrust middle finger to the establishment. I remember, a decade ago, sitting with him on the porch of his man-cave in Holloway Road as, a roll-your-own stuck to his lip (Diane wouldn’t let him smoke inside) he carved miniature cannons for his model warships and railed against the mendacious moguls of Hollywood and bumbling bureaucrats of Wellington.

A budding teaching career didn’t have a hope when he discovered jazz, drugs and Bruno Lawrence. They created BLERTA – Bruno Lawrence’s Electric Revelation and Traveling Apparition. A bunch of hippy musos, partners, their kids and assorted hangers-on toured the country in their bus jolting the locals awake with a crazy mix of theatre, jazz, rock, pyrotechnics and psychedelics. And film. They were experimenting with film in their concerts and from this grew their first films – Wild Man and Dagg Day Afternoon.

Some of the BLERTA crew – including Alun Bollinger, Martyn Sanderson, Bruno and Geoff – put their 60s principles into practice scraping together enough to buy some land at Waimarama and establishing a commune focussed around making music and movies.

With no money and no gear, they built their own. He and Andy Grant built the first camera crane in the country. His very kiwi ability to find creative solutions to problems stood him in good stead all his career.

In 1981 I remember coming out of a screening of Goodbye Pork Pie with a silly grin on my face. It was this tongue-in-cheek road movie that established Geoff as New Zealand’s pre-eminent action director and Alun Bollinger as a highly-rated cinematographer. The film somehow captured the zeitgeist of the time and New Zealanders took it to their hearts. To Geoff’s surprise it set box-office records that took years to surpass.

His next film, Utu, is regarded by many as his best. Quentin Tarantino possesses an intimate knowledge of New Zealand cinema and Utu is his favourite. However, the cut that was released had been “improved” by the producers and Geoff was not happy. When, in 2013, Nga Taonga Sound and Vision (the NZ Film Archive) was restoring Utu, Geoff was given the chance to recreate his director’s cut. He leapt at the opportunity. The result was released as Utu Redux. More recently Tarantino was putting together a season of screenings of his favourite films. He rang Geoff to ask for permission to screen Utu and explained that he needed a 35ml print. Geoff insisted he screen the Redux version and when he realized that they could only access a 16ml print of Redux, and Quentin would have to screen the original version, Geoff withdrew permission.

After Quiet Earth Geoff headed to Hollywood to work on action block-busters like Young Guns II, Freejack, Under Seige II and The Last Outlaw. Despite mixing with Hollywood royalty, Geoff, ever the outlaw himself, refused to be impressed by fame. His battered Toyota station-wagon stood out among the Ferraris and Bentleys in the studio carpark.

By this time he had left both his wife Pat and long-time lover Diane and married film-maker Merata Mita. Their son Hepi remembers growing up in Hollywood: “Mickey O’Rourke used to hang out on our couch. One day Mick Jagger rang and invited us down to stay on Mustique, his Caribbean island, so off we went. Dad and Mick got on like a house on fire.”

When Peter Jackson invited Murphy to be second unit director on the Rings trilogy, he returned to Wellington where he moved in with old flame Diane Kearns. A solid unit, they were together till the end.

In 2009 I had the privilege of working with Geoff on Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a genre-bending music film based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe with music by Lucien Johnson.

In 2014 his last film was released: Spooked, a cyber-thriller starring Cliff Curtis.

Despite his time in Hollywood, he was very clear about both the difference between Hollywood and New Zealand films, and his identity as primarily a New Zealand film-maker telling “our stories”.

He is survived by his brothers John and Roy, and a number of children, several of whom are in the screen industry – Robin (production manager and producer), Paul (director – Second Hand Wedding, Lovebirds), Matt (director – Pork Pie – the remake), Linus, Miles (director – commercials and short films), Heperi (director – Te Taki A Merata Mita – How Mum Decolonised The Screen), Rafer, Richard, Rhys, Awatea, and step children Joe and Paul Kearns.

 

Howard Taylor
President

8 December 2018

Ni Hao Taiwan

View from the Top banner

The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) took an official delegation to China and Taiwan in June of this year, and I was fortunate to be invited along to Taipei for the Taiwan leg as the ED of DEGNZ.

There was a strong indigenous focus to the visit with the New Zealand Commercial Investment Office (our government’s official representation there) and the NZFC organising a Matariki Festival with a number of events for the Taiwanese Film Industry, and public screenings of some New Zealand films.

On show were Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Born to Dance, and My Wedding and Other Secrets, with director Tammy Davis and DEGNZ board member and director Roseanne Liang along to introduce and do Q & A’s for their films. Also attending were writer and director Michael Bennett, representing Ngā Aho Whakaari, and playwright and screenwriter Briar Grace-Smith.

Taiwan has 11 officially recognised indigenous tribes and there is a very strong link between the Taiwanese indigenous peoples and Māori, with everyone acknowledging whakapapa through our DNA connections. This connection has received official acknowledgement with the New Zealand Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New Zealand signing a document entitled “Arrangement on Cooperation on Indigenous Issues”. This will establish cultural and “people-to-people” connections between Taiwan’s indigenous peoples and New Zealand Māori in order to promote mutual understanding and friendly relations.

This was my second visit to Taiwan, following my time there in October of last year to attend the Asian Producers Network conference. I was once again struck by the friendliness of the people, particularly the strong and positive response by the indigenous locals to anything and anyone Māori. There was even a Māori cultural group made up of ex-pats out of Hong Kong to give the various events some distinctive Aotearoa New Zealand flavour.

As part of the effort to develop bonds between Taiwan and New Zealand, the NZFC and the Taipei Film Commission announced a Professional Sreenwriters Exchange. Under the exchange one professional screenwriter from Taiwan will travel to New Zealand and one professional screenwriter from New Zealand will travel to Taiwan for at least a month, in order to strengthen cultural ties and promote greater cooperation between the film industries on both sides.

The exchange is intended to occur on an annual basis and is aimed at applicants who have experience writing a minimum of one feature film script that has been produced as a feature-length film. They also need to have either direct personal experience or a strong interest in Māori culture and/or the Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan.

I lived in Japan for a long time and have visited China a couple of times and many Southeast Asian countries repeatedly. Of them all, I feel that Taiwan is at the moment perhaps the most proactively open to doing coproductions with New Zealand. While the budgets there aren’t big with US$1 million being the average film budget and an almost purely commercial focus on box office, Taiwan I think offers great opportunity for filmmakers who want to work with Asian partners … with the right story.

On our delegation were some producers who are already engaged with Taiwan on projects, looking to leverage off a Taiwan-NZ connection, or working with Taiwan to access Mainland China.

Official activity aside, Taipei has great architecture, galleries and museums, outdoor activities and fabulous food. And wouldn’t you know it, after delegates found various ways to wing their way there via stopovers in Singapore, Hong Kong or Brisbane, Air New Zealand opened up direct flights to Taiwan after our visit.

I guess you can’t have it all.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

DEGNZ Presents: A Mentorship and Masterclass with Niki Caro

, ,

"The Vinters Luck" Screening - 2009 Toronto International Film FestivalDirectors & Editors Guild of NZ (DEGNZ) is thrilled to invite applications from experienced film directors with a feature film project in or near to advanced development or ready for production to apply for an International Director’s Mentorship with acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro.

Niki Caro, one of New Zealand’s most successful film directors, needs little introduction, with credits including Whale Rider, North Country, A Heavenly Vintage, McFarland USA and The Zookeeper’s Wife to her name.

The overall intention of the mentorship is to inspire a NZ director, demystify the international film industry and offer genuine insight into creative process and engagement with the industry as a whole, while providing a solid platform upon which to build an international career.

This mentorship is designed to assist a director with project development, career planning, creative relationships, new practices in audience engagement, and relationships with producers and agents.

As Niki is a busy working director there is a small window of opportunity to start this mentorship with her. The successful applicant must be available for initial meetings during the week of 6 June 2016. Further mentoring will continue for the term of the mentorship over the rest of 2016.

To apply, please provide:

• Maximum one-page letter about why you should be chosen and what you hope to gain from the mentorship.
• A narrative feature film script and one-page synopsis for the project you wish to apply with, which must be in or near to advanced development or ready for production.
• Up to 3 examples of past narrative dramatic work (not showreel) that have had festival success.
• Applicants MUST be available for initial meetings the week commencing 6 June.

This initiative is NOT intended for applicants with projects in very early development. We will not offer script notes or enter into correspondence with applicants who are not selected.

Applications should be submitted electronically to admin@degnz.co.nz as ONE PDF file. Please include links in the document.

Only FULL DEGNZ members may apply. If you are not a member and wish to join, you can do so here.

Applications must be received by DEGNZ no later than 9am on Friday the 13th of May.

This initiative is brought to you with the financial support of the New Zealand Film Commission.

Masterclass

DEGNZ invites you to register your interest for up to eight seats in a Directing Masterclass with acclaimed filmmaker Niki Caro.

The workshop will take place from 1pm-5pm, Wednesday 8 June in Auckland. DEGNZ members free, non-members $50.

Please register your interest by emailing your CV (including links to your work) to samantha@degnz.co.nz by 9am, Friday the 13th of May. Successful applicants will be notified shortly thereafter.

This initiative is brought to you with the financial support of the New Zealand Film Commission.

Rialto Film Talks: 25 April and Notes to Eternity

,

There are two wonderful Rialto Film Talks coming up – DEGNZ member Leanne Pooley’s 25 April (Monday 25 April) and DEGNZ member Sarah Cordery’s Notes to Eternity (Thursday 26 May). Both are taking place at Rialto Cinemas Newmarket in Auckland.

Director Leanne Pooley will be present for 25 April‘s Q&A while director, writer and producer Sarah Cordery, illustrator and animator Ant Sang, and cinematographer Andrew McGeorge will be present for the Q&A after the screening of Notes to Eternity.

Notes to Eternity

Notes to Eternity

Working on Connecting at the Wellington Rehearsal Room

,

On Saturday, four of our members took part in our most recent Rehearsal Room in Wellington facilitated by Miranda Harcourt.

Directors Collin Hodson, Sinead Lau, Paula Jones and Jess Feast received invaluable practical advice from Miranda who was also great at helping the directors rapidly connect with their actors.

A big thanks to everyone involved – Miranda Harcourt, the directors and the actors from Actors Equity who kindly gave their time.

P1010440 small P1010472 smallP1010460 smallP1010531 smallP1010545 small