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The New Zealand Cinematographers Society was established in 2008 to foster the profession of cinematography.  Today we have members from all image related fields. 

Join, and you become part of a network of image-makers working in all genres and across all distribution channels -from the web and TV, through to cinema and live shows.

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  • We have some fantastic events coming up, but no confirmed dates yet - watch this space.
  • 18 Jun 2019 2:18 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    NZCS Committee member Marc Swadel reports from Europe on the goings on thus far this year.

    Belgrade, Serbia was the location for 2019 IMAGO general meeting and the World Cinematography awards. It is a beautiful city that bridges two worlds, sitting between the EU, and the Russian and Slavic East. First up was the IAGA, the summit of IMAGO, where representatives from the member associations join to discuss IMAGO business and Cinematography in general, and secondly, the 2nd edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, which is the only such awards for Cinematographers, voted by Cinematographers.

    For the first two days - 52 delegates, representing the 63 societies, met and went over the business to hand. On the first day of the meeting, I voted for both NZCS and ACS (being an ACS member) as ACS President Ron Johanson was undertaking his duties as IMAGO board member. Piet DeVries, ACS arrived on the second day and took the reins for the ACS.

    The opening news – the BSC, at their 2019 Awards, had given IMAGO the International Achievement Award, in recognition of the work being done by the organisation, across many areas - a sign of the growing importance of IMAGO as a strong, and respected World body. Nigel Walters BSC relates how, when the Academy relegated the Cinematography Oscar from the main show for the 2019 Academy Awards, the BSC asked IMAGO to send a letter representing the World’s Cinematographers requesting the Academy to reconsider this bad decision, a letter, which he feels was an important part in the decision being overturned, and the Cinematography Award being reinstated to the main show.

    As always, there was a lot going on – the committees for Authorship, Working Conditions, and Gender and Inclusion (formally known as Gender and Diversity) made their presentations. I got up and gave a good account of the NZCS Gender and Diversity programme to the assembly - there was a lot of interest and questions, and various societies were impressed that the initiative had support from productions, and also on a governmental level (NZFC) which is virtually unheard of for most countries. The conversation spun out into the general scene for women, and different ethnicities – I mentioned how our biggest grossing films internally and internationally have been directed by either Māori or female directors (Taika’s films, Whale Rider, The Piano etc) and mentioned Waru, Rūrangi and Vermillion also.

    On Authorship – we learnt that FERA - the European Association of Directors – speak of Cinematographers as Authors, and are talking to the Rights collection agencies –this is a great development, along our rocky road to full rights and royalties. Alex Sterian, from the Romanian Society, mentioned that in his country, the Directors and Screenwriters are against DOP’s gaining rights.  

    Things are changing. Jost Vacano BVK, supported by IMAGO and the BVK, won a landmark case in the EU court in late 2016 for compensation of lost rights earned from his work on ‘Das Boot’ – a case which has helped dialogue greatly.

    This is something we need to really look at in NZ – we need to explore rights and royalties – and with a large majority of production funding coming from the government – perhaps it is something the NZCS could ally with all the other organizations to implement, for the greater good? What we need to do – is to defend and enlarge our position – we don’t want DP to stand for ‘Data Provider’ which we are in danger of being seen as...

    The Technical Committee opened discussions on the subject of Netflix – and how the web broadcaster chooses the camera for the DOP with a specs only approach. Dave Stump ASC is involved with the process, and IMAGO will meet with not only Netflix, but also Apple and Amazon in regards to this. As Lindén, FSF, co-chair of the committee states – the more we meet, the more we can change the mindset.

    Another win via IMAGO – was and amendment on EU Directive on Eco-design rules – the ‘Single Lighting Regulation’ that made all non ‘Eco’ fixtures (such as tungsten) illegal. Obviously a huge impact on the DOP toolset! IMAGO contacted the EU Regulatory body, and won an exception dispensation regards non ‘Eco’ fixtures for film+ performance lighting design.

    I was invited to sit in with the IMAGO G+I committee, which consists of Nina Kellgren BSC (who has been dubbed the most prolific female Cinematographer by the BFI), Ron Johanson ACS OAM (12 year as president of the ACS and 50 years as a DOP) and Estonia’s Elen Lotman ESC, who is the president of her society, is finishing her PhD, bringing up her three kids, teaching film, and working as a DOP! One thing that is evident across Europe – there are few female cinematographers/operators/AC’s, let alone non-white ones! The ethnic makeup here is a lot less rich than what we have in NZ, and Europe-wide, with many immigrant families, the impetus is to gain a degree and a professional career – doctor, lawyer accountant etc. A freelance career in the camera department, would not rate high on the list of parentally approved occupations, that’s for sure.

    Amongst the business, current IMAGO President, Paul René Roestad, was voted in for another three year term and on the board, Daniele Nannuzzi AIC ASC, stepped down, and Alex Lindén, FSF, was elected to be the new member. Daniele, who’s most known film in NZ would be Jodorowsky’s ‘Santa Sangre’, had been one of the original founding members of IMAGO in 1992, and his energy will be missed from the organisation.

    Nigel Walters BSC, was appointed IMAGO Ambassador to the eastern group (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic etc) to foster regional co-operation, as it is important to forge links here.

    IMAGO, just like the NZCS, is in the throes of choosing a new logo. Paul-René jokes that this is his idea of hell – 52 delegates all suggesting ideas! Luckily this hell is not realised, as three possibilities are chosen for further development. Bullet dodged.

    One of the motions voted on, was the formal change of the name of IMAGO from the European Society of Cinematographers, to the INTERNATIONAL Society of Cinematographers – to reflect the reality of the membership, and the growing stature of IMAGO. IMAGO has members from all points – from the South Africans, Malaysia, Argentina, Canada, Japan, Turkey... a truly global organisation. The only major societies outside of IMAGO are the ASC (who are barred from joining due to their statutes) the Russian and Chinese Societies, and the French, who were a founder member, but parted ways when the organization became international (which they did not agree with) but always have Philippe Ros AFC in attendance who is head of the ITC – IMAGO Technical Committee.

    After the conference, we were lucky to have Phil Greenstreet from Rosco, host (as per usual) a fantastic get together, at a local ‘old-school’ boozer, with a free bar and loads of fantastic local food. A great way to relax and decompress from the IAGA with friends, old and new. And I made a whole new bunch – hanging out with the Ukrainians and Russians, many who grew up and worked in the Soviet era.

    The Awards

    The 2019 Edition of the IMAGO World Cinematography Awards, were held at the National Serbian Kinoteka, with Predrag Bambic, SAS, the Serbian Societies President, opening the Awards Ceremony, which were simulcast live via the internet. 

    About this year’s event: the 2019 edition saw 143 films from 52 countries being watched by 99 jurors. Tony Costa AIP, who is on the organizing committee, relates how the Awards have energized and activated the membership – an immense cultural interchange takes place, as films are being seen that would never been seen outside of the member countries.

    Amongst the main awards – there were several special recognition Awards given out to Cinematographers who deserved to be celebrated:

    The International Honorary Member´s Award was given to Kommer Kleijn, SBC. Kommer is a Cinematography pioneer – being the first to shoot a film digitally in 2k and 4k, as well as being the first to shoot a large format film on a single chip sensor. Kommer also initiated bringing 25/30/50/60 FPS into the DCP standard.

    The International Award for Extraordinary Technical Achievement was given to David Stump, ASC. David has worked on numerous motion pictures and television productions as Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Director of Photography, as Visual Effects Supervisor, and as Stereographer,  (including both live action work and 2D to 3D conversion work), earning an Emmy and an Academy Award for Scientific and Technical Achievement. His credits include Quantum of Solace, Mars Attacks, Stuart Little and Contact amongst many others.

    International Award for Extraordinary Contribution to the Art of Cinematography  
    was given to The Manaki Brothers ICFF Film Festival, which is the first and oldest cinematography film festival (40thanniversary this year!). The directors, on receiving the award, were given with a very heartfelt, en-passioned speech by Nigel Waltlers BSC.

    The International Award for Outstanding Achievement in Advancing Cinematography, was given to Rachel Morrison, ASC, who is the first female to be nominated for a best Cinematography Oscar, for Mudbound, and, last but not least, the award which earnt a 5 minute standing ovation  -International Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinematography given to Ed Lachman, ASC. Ed, who has had a wonderful career, being a 4 times Camerimage Golden Frog winner, and having multiple Oscar nominations through lensing such films as Carol, The Virgin Suicides, Far From Heaven and Erin Brockovich.  Ed also gives time to teach the next generation, to pass on what he knows.

    Next we have the competitive awards – which I was told by the judging committee had a record number of entries from a record number of countries this year, and the judging was ‘beyond tough’. The most nominated societies are the ASC, the BSC and the Finns, the FSC.

    Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC for Blade Runner 2049
    Greig Fraser, ACS, ASC for Lion
    Rauno Ronkainen, FSC for The Eternal Road
    Robbie Ryan, BSC, ISC for The Favourite
    Yuriy Klimenko, RGC for Mathilde

    Adolpho Veloso, ABC for On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace
    Juan Sarmiento, ADFC for Central Airport THF
    Heikki Färm, FSC for Entrepreneur

    András Nagy, HSC for Eternal Winter
    Brendan Steacy, ASC for Alias Grace
    Thomas W. Kiennast, AAC for Maximilian

    Jurgis Kmins for Bille

    Balázs István Balázs for Casting
    University of Theatre and Film Arts, Hungary, Budapest

    After the awards event, the throng then moved over the road to the ‘Aero Klub’ for a sit down celebration dinner. I sat at the ‘Commonwealth’ table – NZ/Aussie/South African and Canadian DOPs who formed a bit of a drinking club (well, being suited and all, I guess it was as formal as it could be!).

    So in conclusion – a very full three day overload of cinematography, with an overall sense of strength – strength of work, of solidarity, and fraternity, and a sense of connection. The 2nd edition of the Awards hit higher - with a noted attendance of more members of the ASC and BSC, and big contingents of Russians, Spanish, Brazilians and Danes. Both the Awards and IMAGO meeting had a strong OZ/NZ input this year, with Ron (Pres. Of the ACS and head of the Awards Committee) and myself talking the mic at the meeting, and at the Awards, Piet DeVries ACS presenting an award and Grieg Fraser ACS being up for an award. Lets get one of our guys up for an award in 2021 – there is the challenge NZCS!!

    On a side note – the most ‘in demand’ possible location for an Awards is Sydney... and if that comes to pass, then the party will be in the backyard – will be one not to miss!

  • 10 Jun 2019 12:15 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    The NZCS has recently created a part-time position of Professional Development Manager and appointed long standing committee member Donny Duncan NZCS, to helm this role.

    Its long been a goal of the NZCS to host a series of Professional Development Master Classes in Cinematography and one of the PDM’s mission will be to facilitate 2 or 3 master classes this year and establish a blueprint for running an annual series of workshops – aimed at different levels, to cater for the established cinematographer, the emerging cinematographer and the camera assistant.  

    The other key responsibility of this position, is to continue the very successful placements under the Gender Diversity initiative, where emerging female cinematographers are placed on shoots to observe and work with mentors through all stages of production, or trainees are appointed to learn on the job under camera crew tutelage.

    I’m excited to take on this part-time role in addition to my other cinematography projects. While lecturing in cinematography at Unitec several years ago, I saw the great value from bringing in guest DP’s from the industry to run practical workshops and pass on knowledge from years of experience. There has long been feedback from our members at all levels, that they would be keen to support local workshops, in preference to travelling to the USA or Australia to gain such knowledge. I will shortly post a survey to members to gather information on what content would be most sought after. 

    We are in the process of planning an intermediate-level Master Class for emerging cinematographers, keen to learn more about lighting for drama, insights into working with production designers and directors and a practical component recreating classic lighting scenes. 

    Later in the year we also hope to bring in an internationally acclaimed DP to run a high end two-day Master Class to attract cinematographers at any level.

    I’m also very passionate about carrying on the great work on the Gender Diversity Initiative that was launched from a workshop led by Nina Wells and others. We have currently had placements on three films, and have just appointed our first trainee placement on a film in Dunedin. 

    I’ve always been a strong advocate for female crewing around camera, lighting and grip, where possible. When producer Chloe Smith and myself were crewing up the” Xena:Warrior Princess” series over 20 years ago, we made a conscious choice to bring in as many women as possible on a shoot with predominantly female lead characters. We wanted to create an atmosphere of calm and trust and balance and didn’t want it getting too exclusively “blokey” around the camera. To this end, over many seasons, we collaborated with Sharon Hawke (1stAC), Bindy Crayford (Gaffer) Ginny Loane (Best Person/ 2U Gaffer) Gaysorn Thavatt (2ndAC) Terese Mangos (Lighting Assistant) Frith Locke-Bonney (1stAC) Inga Fillary (2ndAC) Kirsten Green (2U 1stC) and others. Many of these women are now very firmly established in their chosen career paths.”

    We are currently looking for opportunities to support short or longer-term placements on films before the end of the year. Please contact Donny Duncan if you are a Producer who would like to discuss more detail on how this works.

  • 06 May 2019 6:04 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    We had a good turnout for our demo night at Boxfish in Orakei to see their underwater remote operated camera system in action. It was a highly interactive night, with everyone having a crack at operating the controls and thinking up new camera moves and shots to try with the ROV.  

    Photo credit: David Peterson

    Equipped with a Zcam 4K camera recording 10bit, 4:2:2  it is evident of the many different shots one could achieve. Boxfish will continue to develop options for the ROV that are targeted to narrative underwater cinematography, films, drama, commercials, etc. 

    The Boxfish underwater 360 degree VR capture unit was also on hand for people to experience through VR goggles.

    While it's not unusual to have NZCS events with a beer or wine in hand, it is uncommon to be outside on a chilly evening in the dark around a pool and Aucklanders got to bring out their puffer jackets for the first time since last winter.

    Thanks to some ARRI M8 lights kindly loaned from our friends at Professional Lighting Services, we had a fabulously lit scene. Thanks also to DVANZ Nigel Burton for supplying all the monitors for us to see the pictures live from the 4k camera submerged in the pool.

    A few members expressed interest in hiring rather than buying and Boxfish would be happy to speak to those members about this and the associated costs. Just email or

    You can follow Boxfish Research on Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and Twitter.

    NZCS will endeavour to keep these exciting events happening each month. If you know of something coming up or have an interest in something we could organise, or if you have something you would like to organise - do let us know.

    ~ Murray Milne NZCS

    "I came to do some networking but ended up super interested in what those underwater cameras can achieve. Thanks to you guys I’m totally inspired to write an underwater script, hopefully as a swimmer and an ex-lifeguard that shouldn’t be too hard.  Anyway, just wanted to let you know that what I thought would be a very boring technical and tough evening, was really fun,  thanks to your hospitality and kindness.  So thanks, guys! I might show up to more of these crazy technical nights." ~ Unamious

  • 06 May 2019 1:31 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    There has been some buzz and some mystery around the Sony Rialto system. Also known as Sony Venice Extension System or officially CBK3610XS.  

    I recently shot a docu-drama for which I used the Sony Venice with the Rialto (aka: extension system) from Imagezone

    Many times while shooting drama etc. I’ve come across shots where I’d think the situation or shot I was trying to get would suit a DSLR  type camera due to its size — needing something small or perhaps something easier to sling about.  I can say the Venice Rialto gives that option and in its full glory Full Frame 6k. 

    1st AC, Daniella Conforte (aka: Nani), was all over it. With some quick training from Imagezone, Nani was able to rather quickly switch from full production mode to the Rialto mode on set. Noting this is only done in a controlled environment, clean and dry. So not suited to be done on windy beach etc.

    The Rialto system enabled me to get shots I’d never have got, or it would have taken too long to achieve on our tight schedule and budget.  In the car, handheld shots were a breeze. So easy to place the camera almost anywhere you want it. We’d done a few runs shooting various shot sizes of the driver for an Int’ car scene. As we were heading back to base, I lent over and placed the camera on the armrest and got a  shot I’d never have been able to get without removing car seats, etc. Not to mention how quickly we got bonnet mount shots. 

    For hand holding, I  used an Easyrig Cinema 3 / 200n  / 230mm ext arm with a plate mounted to back of the Easyrig on which the Venice Camera body mounted. I was free to roam with just a small camera in my hands. It really gave a lot of freedom. Again  I  was getting shots so easily, in very close to actors and it wasn’t a large production camera in their face, and I was able to hunt or search for exciting angles very quickly. With the 5.5m cable, you can easily hand hold it without an Easyrig and have your grip carry the camera body. In this same configuration, it can still be used as if in production mode. Pop the front unit onto the tripod and operate as per usual which we did at times as well. I have to say I’m quite enamored with the camera and system with all the mobility and possibilities. 

    ~ David Paul NZCS

  • 03 May 2019 1:45 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    It was almost a year ago that I arrived back in my home town of Auckland to begin prep on THE LUMINARIES, and my goodness what a year it has been.

    6 hours of prestige television with some fantastic cast and creatives that were flown in from all around the world and some absolutely wonderful A-class homegrown talent. We had a jam packed schedule that had us shooting all over the country, from the tin sheds of Penrose to the rolling hills of Jonkers Farm, Bethels, Muriwai and Tawharanui beaches, Whangaroa harbor, then to the South Island for Hokitika, Lake Kaniere and the Southern Alps.

    We had a fabulous team that included many NZCS members, Kieran Fowler NZCS ACS, Dana Little and myself fulfilled the roles of camera operators for the bulk of principal photography, with some rock star appearances from David Paul NZCS & Todd Bilton, additional photography was in the safe hands and eyes of both Kieran Fowler NZSC and John “JC” Cavill NZCS whom both did a superb job. The AC’s were made up of the absolutely solid team of Peter Cunningham, Sam Matthews, Declan Cooke, Niki Winer & Jack Vincent and with special appearances by Dave Hammond and Stefan Coetzee among many others.

    ImageZone provided us with a fantastic and flawless camera package that comprised of 3x Alexa Minis with 3 sets of Cooke Anamorphic primes. And FAT Lighting provided painterly and atmospheric illumination often at a huge scale for some massive night exteriors and big VFX set pieces, Sam Jellie ran a tight ship. Terry Joosten headed the grips team and The Rebel Fleet handled all our data with great care and attention to detail.

    It was an ambitious project with a very challenging schedule. We made it to the end gracefully and hopefully with some beautiful and special cinematography to show for it. Thanks to the team!

    The series will be broadcast on BBC Two in the UK and TVNZ1 in New Zealand. Produced by Working Title Television and Southern Light Films, it is being adapted for the screen by novelist Eleanor Catton and director Claire McCarthy (Ophelia, The Waiting City).

    ~ Denson Baker NZCS ACS

  • 10 Apr 2019 2:34 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Video marketing in China has been growing exponentially in recent years. In 2018, the budget to air & market TVCs, advertising on public elevators, bus and taxi screens, outdoor screens, cinemas and Internet video platforms (digital platforms) ranged from 9.4 per cent to 26.6 per cent, with significant increases. There has also been a significant increase in the number of views of digital films created for the purpose of marketing and TVCs, both setting new viewership records.

    So how can local brands create new, interesting and visually great content for this fast growing space? How do they ensure that their content stands out from the crowd? There is a growing number of production houses and agencies who believe that there is a need for fresh new eyes from the western world to bring some new visual thinking into China’s local advertising space.

    In our two years of interacting with various production houses in china, we have frequently been asked whether New Zealand's advertising photographers, directors and other technical crew could be made available for work in China. The local producers understand that the technical proficiency of western crew plays a crucial role in making a good film and overall production quality. 

    International DoPs, Directors and technical crew bring a new, fresh & unique value to Chinese production. The Chinese industry has not only embraced international talent and learnt from them but have ensured that they are paid according to their local fees back home, in this case New Zealand. In certain instances and challenging projects DoPs and Directors are paid a lot more than what they get paid back home.

    Chinese advertising companies are increasingly looking for locations overseas to give viewers a different visual feel, especially in countries like New Zealand, where the scenery is unique and pure. Ki Studio works exclusively with the Chinese market and has relationships with over 50 production houses. Having worked on over several projects in the last 2 years we see that 70% productions bring their DoPs and Directors from China but the remaining 30% look for local crew which can range from DoPs to 1st, 2nd & 3rd ACs. With projects related to TVCs we also always look for focus pullers and other crew that fall under the DoPs team.

    With rules & regulations related to drones tightening across New Zealand we now push clients coming from China to hire local drone operators, especially if areas that we need to film at require lvl 3 operators.

    Ki Studio has spent a lot of time and effort in understanding the Chinese market and worked closely with them over the last 2+ years. Thanks to our efforts and those of some other institutions, the Chinese market is constantly learning about film makers of New Zealand and New Zealand as a destination for filming. In the past two years, we have received requests by several producers from China asking us for showreels of Cinematographer who specialise in TVCs and documentaries - both for projects coming into New Zealand and for local projects being filmed in China.  There is also an increased demand for feature film DoPs in the last 12 months. 

    Going to work on projects in China is challenging as there is a language barrier and sometimes the local crew in China do things very differently than what we do here. Jump past the hurdles and you will absolutely love being a DoP in China - You get pampered, You have a camera crew on sets which at times can be bigger than a complete film crew in New Zealand, amazing food and an explosion of culture.  

    What we have noticed over the last 2 years is that Chinese crews love working with kiwi crew. They understand that we are not just highly professional and technically good but every crew member has multiple talents which is not always the case with Chinese crew. 

    We would like to take this opportunity to reach out to the cinematographers community and wish we can work and represent a few of you in China. We would put a lot of effort in promoting your showreel across production houses in Mainland China, Hongkong & Taiwan. We request interested DoPs to kindly contact us on

    We would also like to hear from DoPs, 1st, 2nd & 3rd Acs who would like to share their showreels with us for future projects from China that come to film in New Zealand. Thank you.

    ~ Darshan Shetty, CEO Ki Studio

  • 10 Apr 2019 11:00 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    We look at what was being made in NZ ten years ago – and wow! Was that REALLY ten years ago??!!

    2009 – The inauguration of Barack Obama, David Bain found not guilty at his re-trail, Michael Jackson dies, and David Tua makes his comeback. The Royal Commission on Auckland Governance recommends the 8 regional bodies merge into the ‘Supercity’, LadyHawke wins pretty much everything she is nominated for at the Music Awards, the French beat the AB’s at rugby, India wins the test series, and John Key sits in the Beehive. 

    It was a big year for film in NZ too, with a mix of co-productions, horrors and comedies being released in the year.

    Biggest film of the year – Avatar - in fact the biggest grossing film of all time – no contest. 2.8 billion to date. Damn. It won the best Cinematography Oscar for DP Mauro Fiore,  had Richard Bluck as 2ndunit DP with Dean McCarroll in the Camera Department. Richard did another 2ndUnit DP credit on a film that year (Dean McC also in the camera crew) – Peter Jacksons ‘The Lovely Bones’ lensed by the late great Andrew Lesney.

    Photo: Richard Bluck

    Another Aussie DP shot a NZ film in 2009 - Steve Arnold, who shot Paul Middleditches’ NZ/German Co-pro ‘Separation City’ in Wellington. 

    The Windy City had a busy year – ‘Last of the Living’ Logan McMillan’s Comedy Zombie Romp, which was DP Kirk Pflaum’s first feature, was shot there as was (partially)  ‘District 9’. Although principal photography  was in 2007/08,  D9 saw the light of day in 2009. Neill Blomkamp’s excellent action film was shot in both NZ and South Africa, by Canadian Trent Opaloch, with Simon Raby as 2ndunit Director and DOP (with Richard Bluck operating).

    Another DP/Director credit in 2009 went to Thomas Burstyn, who’s doco-feature  ‘This Way of Life’, a very personal film, about a rural family in Ruahine, did very well on the festival circuit, being  nominated for best Cinematography at Cameraimage, and winning a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

    Photo: Thomas Burstyn

    Another festival hit, was ‘The Strength of Water’ - Armagan Ballantyne’s film set in the Hokianga. Shot by Oscar nominated Polish DP Bogumil Godfrejow, the film also counted Kirsten Green, Grant Mckinnon and Rob Marsh amongst the crew.

    2009 also saw ‘Until Proven Innocent’, Peter Burgers TV Drama about a man wrongly convicted, which was shot by David Paul, and at, that year’s Film and TV Awards – Rewa Harre won for his work on ‘Apron Strings’.

    Meanwhile,  from the NZers Overseas, Dale Mcready was shooting the English TV series ‘Merlin’ and ‘Demons’, Marc Swadel was 2ndUnit Director/DP on Warp Films ‘All Tomorrows Parties’ doco-feature, and  Stuart Dryburgh was shooting  Amelia Earhart biopic ‘Amelia’.

    And, finally rounding off the year – ‘Under the Mountain’.

    Released in December, Jonathan Kings creepy remake of the 80’s classic TVNZ series, was shot by Richard Bluck, with Murray Milne handling  the underwater shots. 

    2009 – such a busy year for NZ film and NZ cinematographers.

    ~ By Marc Swadel


  • 10 Apr 2019 9:12 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Q. This is your most prominent feature to date, what has it been like?

    Daffodils was a huge challenge for me.

    In its simplest form, the idea is that the songs are the internal, private thoughts of the characters. What they think, but what they wouldn’t say.  So when a character sings, other people in the scene don’t hear them. The way we approached this is to essentially shoot the scene twice. Once as a pure drama pass, and a second time as a singing pass, and these are cut together in the edit. It sounds pretty straight forward, but this approached evolved through a long process from the adaptation of the stage play to a film script, then through early discussions with the Director, and then we shot tests to see how this would work in editing.

    In addition to the creative storytelling approach, the complexity around shots and editing was quite difficult to keep clear in your mind. You have a number of songs that go across many different time periods, so you can have a character in one scene, singing a particular lyric, then they step into another time period and set and they are singing the next lyric in the song. So a lot of the typical control you have in editing, to shorten or lengthen scenes, is something you don’t have as much control over. 

    The hardest part was probably the schedule. I’ve done a fair bit of fast turn-around TV and I’m used to working within the constraints of time and budget, but Daffodils was hugely challenging to get everything done in the time available and to the standard that everyone expected. There were never any simple days. We were bouncing around the time periods with extensive wardrobe and makeup changes, lots of sets, lighting and location changes every day. We had car scenes with low loaders and rear projection, ship exteriors in studios,  lots of extras, and almost every day had significant music performances. All the music had been pre-recorded, but we also recorded all the singing live, to give a more natural dramatic performance. Often, we had musicians playing instruments live on-camera or off-camera, so the music could be more interactive and responsive to the actors and directors needs for the scene. All of this stuff together meant every day was a big challenge to complete the callsheet.

    Q. Why did you choose a high key lighting style?

    My approach to lighting for this film was quite different to things I have done in the past.  Essentially, the main story is about the two characters Rose and Eric, but it is told through the eyes of their daughter Maisie. That offered us freedom to embrace the idea that when you look back on memories and you see someone else’s story, it becomes your own version of events that is filtered through your particular view of these people. Coupled with that, I really liked the idea of making movie stars out of this story of typical kiwis. So many classic movies and movies stars come from the American Hollywood system. They took their own stories and they elevated these people beyond the ordinary, into stars of the silver screen, and I loved the idea of taking a story about ordinary kiwis and making them look like movie stars. We aimed for lighting and lenses that made them beautiful and gave  a real romantic, cinematic feel.

    I also had huge input from some key collaborators. Adrian Hebron (Wookie) who was the gaffer on this film was a big piece of the films look.  We had a large numbers of sets, a huge amount of locations and we were busting though a lot of setups every day. Wookie was the guy who always had his eye on what was coming up in the days ahead, as lighting resources and crew size would often be changing to keep pace with the variety of scenarios. 

    Also the input of the colourist, Claire Burlinson, was a huge creative part of the final look. Her artistry, energy and opinion really elevated everything. Claire brought a lot of colour tones and colour combinations that I would not normally ask for. I love the colour grading process, and I like to utilize all the tools we have at our disposal these days in the digital environment. I want that stage of the film to work just as hard as everything that has gone before it to make everything as good as possible, and I want a colourist that is an artist with their own opinions that engage deeply with the emotional subtext of the story, and marry that up with how an audience is going to experience the film. 

    Q. What were the most satisfying aspects of the film?

    Working with Production Designer Brendan Heffernan was a hugely rewarding experience for me. The process of bringing this world to life came from Brendan’s production design. He produced a few key pieces of concept art that really helped define the world for all of us, and between David the director, Brendan and myself, we were able to go through this iterative process to slowly build a world that was working for all departments.  

    Q. How was it working with the Director, David Stubbs?

    David and I have worked a lot together over the years, and we have established a pretty good way of working together. The relationship between a DOP and Director can take quite different forms. Some directors have every shot of the film in their mind and the DP’s jobs is to logistically make that happen. David has a really good instinct for storytelling and drama and I love working with that at the forefront of everything. As a DP there are so many choices technically, how to move the camera, lighting, when to cut, lenses, cameras etc, and my approach is to always be about story and acting  first. If you don’t understand the underlying emotional subtext of a scene you can’t make technical choices that fit.  If you have a shared understanding of what the important storytelling elements are, you can suggest alternatives that still deliver the story points. I approach everything from story first and acting first. Like most DP’s, I love the hardware of cinema. I’d fill my house with obscure lenses if I could, but I’m also a real believer in technology comes second. First is storytelling and time and space for the actors and director to work. Getting that drama working in front of everyone’s eyeballs onset is the most important thing, rather than starting with fancy camera moves and having everyone follow that.

    ~ Mathew Knight

  • 09 Apr 2019 11:26 AM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Photo credit: Nathan Felangue

    Following on from my talk for the NZCS on Mortal Engines, I was invited by Brett Smith of ARRI to speak on the use of lighting in Mortal Engines at the NSW chapter of the ACS in Sydney on Thursday 21st March.

    As NZCS President it was great to reconnect with my friend NSW President Roger Lancer and make some new friends at the beautifully adorned ACS clubrooms on Sydney's North Shore.

    It has a great camera museum and I believe it houses the one of the most comprehensive collections of ASC Cinematographers magazines in the world. I was speaking alongside Sean Dooley from ARRI who was introducing some new camera tools, Phil Erbacher who had a photo selection from the Arri Symposium in Bavaria, and DOP Velinda Wardell who was speaking of her experiences working with Arri LF beside Dion Beebe on I am Woman, the Helen Reddy biopic.

    The evening seemed to go over very well, and it was good to establish some face to face connections with our colleagues across the Tasman.

    Simon Raby NZCS

    NZCS President

    Photo credit: Roger Lanser

    Photo credit: Simon Raby NZCS

  • 04 Apr 2019 12:16 PM | Amber Wakefield (Administrator)

    Fewer than 1 in 15 cinematographers are women.

    With support from the NZFC, we are running a 'Gender Diversity' programme. Our overall objective is to inject a new level of diversity into the camera community by supporting more women in the earlier stages of their career, increasing visibility and therein building change. We are acknowledging the base of women who already work in the camera department and giving them an opportunity to up-skill in their role. Visibility is critical to profiling a career path enabling women to key positions who are then more likely to engage other women.

    Under our Gender Diversity scheme, we are seeking women to place into short term paid mentorships that would boost their knowledge base by being attached to an experienced DOP doing both observation and practical work on a significant production. This method is a direct result of a women's' roundtable initiative to redress the gender imbalance in Camera. It is explicitly aimed at countering the low percentage of women currently populating the field of Cinematographers.

    We are in the process of generating various positions with Productions as they arise. Depending on the size and duration of the Production the placements can vary in both length and role. From five days to five weeks and for a variety of positions suitable from emerging cinematographers to camera trainees. This past month we have placed Kelly Chen with Denson Baker NZCS ACS on ‘Luminaries’ and Ainsley Calderwood with Drew Sturge on 'The Educator.’ We will shortly be considering applicants for an attachment with Aaron Morton NZCS on 'Sweet Tooth'.

    For those who are not currently members, it may mean joining because this initiative is open to members only. The NZCS is working purely for the advancement of knowledge within the community and getting a better balance of gender amongst cinematographers is one of our current priorities. An associate membership fee costs $207 per annum and this process can be completed by clicking here.

    You can express interest here by emailing a current copy of your CV and showreel (if you have one) for us to hold on file. Then we can keep you in the loop if applicable opportunities arise.

    As we provide a short list of candidates to the DPs to select and interview, there is no guarantee a placement will result from membership with us. However, we have a very minimal pool of candidates which is part of the driving reason for putting together such an initiative in the first place!

    If you have any questions or just want to chat about it further, please feel free to get in touch.

    Amber Wakefield
    Executive Officer

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