Kiwi Journo Turns To Feature Filmmaking
Kiwi Journo Turns To Feature Filmmaking
A former New Zealand columnist Alan Lewin, now resident in the UK, had been named as co-producer for a feature film estimated to require a budget of US
Lewin’s company, Dart Productions Ltd., will work with executive producer Paul Hitchcock whose last film Mission Impossible 11 with Tom Cruise in the lead returned nearly US$ 500m at box only weeks after release. Paul Hitchcock was head of Warner Brothers in Europe for 25 years and his credits include The Man Iron Mask, The Saint, Firefox, the first Mission Impossible and many other notable movies.
Alan Lewin, a prominent agricultural journalist in New Zealand for more than 30 years and also communications and information executive for Federated Farmers for 5 years, moved back to his native England in 1988 to pursue a future in creative writing.
Now aged 70 and living in rural Oxfordshire, Lewin has spent three periods in the last few years working in Hollywood as a screenplay writer. He took these skills with him to Paris in 1997 to assist with work on a new French police series for television. He has also worked in Dublin and New York.
The base material for the film came into Lewin’s possession shortly after he arrived in New Zealand in 1952 having attended a shipment of stud beef cattle as deck cargo on an elderly freighter. It comprised letters and diaries from his maternal grandfather about the days of the start of international motor racing.
This documentation remained unopened in a tea chest for 11 years because he believed it to contain his childhood toys. By the time he opened it and realised the significance of the story, he had just embarked on his journalist career with the Manawatu Daily Times. When that newspaper folded The Dominion recruited him to man the then newly established Palmerston North ‘Dominion’ bureau and to continue his column and to man the teleprinters still delivering cable news to a defunct Times.
The Hawkes Bay Herald-Tribune made him a better offer to run the farm pages and to cover general assignments. After four years The Dominion contracted him to return to cover the agricultural news from a broader perspective.
Alan Lewin took a stand with Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of ‘The Dominion’ to circulate to all Members of the House in Wellington that, in spite of the then proposed News Media Ownership Bill, the deal would go ahead to the detriment of Kiwis. The paper he published was entitled “Who watches the watcher?”
“My main concern was news delivered to New Zealanders would be subject to a filtration process beyond the control of editors and journalists distant then from a world in the throes of so many important changes. I firmly believe news and views should remain in the hands of those with the freedom to explore and tell, unencumbered by media owners with a different agenda.”
Alan Lewin was still writing a column for the Wanganui Chronicle when he decided to sell his Hunterville home and take his wife to his native England to set up an independent news agency.
His wife Delwynne had been New Zealand’s first full time female political organiser for the New Zealand Labour Party, responsible for the Otago/ Southland regional for many years and then was promoted to the party’s head office. Together they felt they could explore fresh areas of news relevant to New Zealand.
“The idea just didn’t hang together when we got here because of the way in which the media is so controlled. Since we lived in Cambridge I taught advanced journalism at Anglia School of Higher Education and that’s where I got caught up in screenplay writing. I put myself through an intensive screenplay writing course run by a top lecturer from the Los Angeles Film School (University of California).
“One thing led to another and when on the set of “ First Knight” at Pinewood studios I was encouraged to embark on a film career. It seemed strange, seeing I was a granddad, white haired and not the archetypal beginner.”
“Living and working in Hollywood was an eye
opener because the lifestyle was so over the top. I tried to
fit in but I had lived in New Zealand too long to tolerate
pretentious behaviour. I concentrated on beefing up treatments and developing a good ‘pitch’ to sell a concept.”
The movie he is to co-produce is a romantic drama set on the cusp of the 19th and birth of the 20th centuries and its working title will be “Beyond Reach”. The pre-production has already been scheduled for June/ July. “Currently we are in that silly catch 22 situation with film making where we need to access modest development funding before we can pull down the principal photography budget.”
“We now have to find a suitable director and have approached several internationally known names. Talks are underway with two and the final choice remains to be declared,” Alan Lewin said in a recent interview with the British media.
“Although I was born and raised in the UK, I feel more Kiwi because I think Kiwi. Nothing is impossible. When some in the film industry said it would be easier for me to climb Everest without oxygen than to get this project to a stage where it could become a reality, that brought out the New Zealand facet of my persona I guess.”