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Wellywood - From the Tin Shed to Filmcraft

Kia Ora Wellywood - From the Tin Shed to Filmcraft

December 18 2004 - 20 February 2005

Pelorus Trust mediagallery Film Archive mediaplex cnr Ghuznee & Taranaki Streets, Wellington open daily from noon

Preview on Thursday 16 December from 6.00pm

The first in a series of exhibitions that explore the history of the film industry in Wellington from its earliest days right up to the present. An underlying strand of the series is the phenomenon of a compact geographical locale, the Miramar Peninsular, providing the 80-year-old filmmaking heart of “Creative Wellington - Innovation Capital”

From the Tin Shed to Filmcraft explores in detail the history of Filmcraft, which from the late 1920s and into the 30s provided the directors, cameramen, editing and processing facilities for the film agency of the Government’s Tourist and Publicity Office, producing dozens of scenic films promoting New Zealand’s industries and scenic attractions to an international audience. The exhibition also includes a brief survey of Filmcraft’s predecessor: the Government Photography Office, based at the “Tin Shed”, the colloquial - and most polite - name for the rusted and rickety corrugated iron shed that housed the film unit in the early 20s.

Filmcraft’s story ends, and the exhibition concludes, with the sale of its Miramar Film Studios to the Tourist and Publicity Department in 1938 and the facility’s rebirth as the Government Film Studios, from 1941 the home of the National Film Unit.

The exhibition features a selection of photos and wall text panels, cartoons by Filmcraft cameraman Cyril Morton, along with monitors playing selected examples from the many films produced by the dedicated and creative staff at Filmcraft, often working under the most trying of circumstances. Circumstances more often than not created by the obtuse and contradictory instructions issued by their “masters” in the Publicity Office bureaucracy:

I got word from them that I was to leave by such and such a train from Auckland the following afternoon and proceed to Hellensville and then by river steamer to Dargaville. And what I was to shoot would follow in the next mail. And it duly followed in the morning, and it was so glaringly, obviously impossible you see. That for one thing, the river steamer left Helensville at quarter past seven and this was no day light saving in those days and it was nighttime, it was dark. And arrived at Dargaville at about three o’clock in the morning at the Great Northern Wairoa River.

And it stayed for only a quarter of an hour at Helensville, and yet at Helensville in that quarter of an hour at night time I was supposed to film the post office, the main street, sundry other buildings, the school, and the parks and gardens and hot pools at the spa. All in a quarter of an hour of darkness.

I sent a telegram saying that their instructions conflicted: that if I travelled as directed I would be doing the river journey at night (and they wanted the river journey all covered). As I said I’d be doing it at night and just before I had to get on to the train, just in time, I got a telegram - which I kept for years and years. It said: “Perfectly well aware you travel at night. Carry out the programme.” – Cyril Morton, Filmcraft cameraman

Films include: [Les Mitchell - Filmcraft Artist at Work], graphic artist Len Mitchell demonstrating art work at Filmcraft, Miramar; Eternal Fires: New Zealand's Only Active Volcano Ngauruhoe, with Filmcraft crew, including Len Mitchell, on location in the Central North Island and Deep Waters (1929), featuring footage originally shot in 1924 by Cyril Morton of Zane Grey on his big-game fishing expedition to New Zealand.

Grey’s time in New Zealand was documented in his memoir, Tales of the Angler’s Eldorado New Zealand, generously dedicated to, among others, Cyril Morton “cinematographer-extraordinary, who braved the rough seas, day after day, week after week, always on deck with his motion-picture camera, always ready with his cheery call - ‘When do we eat? When do we eat?’”


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