Jamie Selkirk is the Academy Award-winning editor of Return of the King, the final episode of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His working relationship with director Peter Jackson stretches from Jackson's first feature Bad Taste through to the present day. Selkirk helped found special effects company Weta Workshop, and Wellington's Camperdown Studios.
...the effects were an integral part of the film and were required to put the audience into Tolkien's world, but the story was and should always be foremost in the editing process. Jamie Selkirk on editing The Return of the King
This musical retooling of the ill-fated love story began life as a concept album by ex Screaming Meemee members Peter van der Fluit and Michael McNeill. In 2010 they sent 38 songs to director Tim van Dammen, who decided to retell Shakespeare's classic romance as "a sort of trash opera — like an updated John Waters type thing". A caravan park is the canvas for a cast of beautiful young things, pop, rap, knives and beer crates. NZ Herald's Dominic Corry praised the film for its "emotionally-assured grasp of what makes this famous story so enduring".
In this odd couple tale set in the American west, Cohen Holloway (Until Proven Innocent, Boy) plays an outlaw who abducts an upper class Brit. Calamity ensues when the hardman fails to have his wicked way with her. The self-funded film screened at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, winning praise from critic Leonard Maltin. While Utu took the Western genre and applied it to NZ's colonial history, Good for Nothing mines South Island scenery for the first 'Pavlova Western'. Long-time Weta staffer Mike Wallis directs; and the rousing score is by composer John Psathas.
Based on a novel by the late Ronald Hugh Morrieson — whose stories painted hometown Taranaki as a hotbed of colourful characters and dodgy dealings — Predicament is a prohibition-era tale of blackmail, anxiety and criminal partnerships. Awkward teen Cedric (Hayden Frost) meets two oddball misfits (played by Conchord Jemaine Clement and Australian comedian Heath 'Chopper' Franklin), and becomes entangled in a plot to blackmail adulterous couples caught in the act. Jason Stutter's film went on to win six Aotearoa Film Awards in 2011.
Peter Jackson's love affair with moviemaking and special effects was ignited by seeing the original King Kong (1933) as a child. Jackson's Kiwi-shot remake takes one of cinema's most iconic monster movies, retains the 30s setting and iconic New York finale, and toughens up the "beauty" (Naomi Watts). The film also transforms the male (non-ape) lead from lunkhead to sensitive playwright (Adrien Brody). Exhilarating, Oscar-winning CGI brings the great ape to life, alongside rampaging dinosaurs, and oversized wētā inexplicably absent from the maligned 1976 remake.
Monstrous spiders, dragon-aided epic battles, endangered hobbits and final farewells ... the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy boldly upped the ante. Although the first two films had excited viewers, critics and accountants, Return of the King sealed Peter Jackson's place in movie legend. Reviewers praised it with gusto and the film won a staggering 11 Oscars, a total matched only by Titanic and Ben-Hur. Return anointed a Hollywood empire in the Wellington suburb of Miramar. The box office figures weren't half bad, and nor was the effect on New Zealand tourism.
The second Lord of the Rings installment sees hobbit Frodo Baggins continuing his mission to destroy the ring. Meanwhile the Fellowship is breaking apart, and an epic night battle ensues at Helm's Deep. The film marked a star turn by Gollum, the emaciated Andy Serkis-voiced creature whose realisation was a cinema landmark and a triumph for the design and special effects team. Alongside praise for the film's pace and spectacle, The Two Towers broke international opening records, before going on to outgross Fellowship of the Ring, and win two technical Oscars.
The Fellowship of the Ring was the film that brought Peter Jackson's talents to a mass international audience. A year after its release, the first instalment of his adaptation of Tolkien's beloved tale of heroic hobbits was the seventh most successful film of all-time. Critic David Ansen (Newsweek) was one of many to praise the fan-appeasing Frodo-centric take, for its "high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaking sleeve." At 2002's Academy Awards, Weta maestro Richard Taylor became the first Kiwi to win two Oscars on one night.
Passion project The Lunatics' Ball follows an unorthodox psychologist who arrives at a psychiatric hospital and tries to use art, joy and respect to motivate his patients. First-timer Michael Thorp wrote the script partly out of worries that drug-based treatment programmes could prove more of a trap than a solution. After casting American-born oboist Russel Walder in the main role, and shooting on a shoestring, Thorp completed editing thanks to $400,000 in Film Commission funding, and help from some major industry names. The result won a jury prize at the Shanghai Film Festival.
In Larger than Life Jo (Rebecca Hobbs, star of horror tale The Ugly) discovers her new house is inhabited by an array of mutant arachnids, each larger than the last. Kiwi writer/director Ellory Elkayem cleverly melds puppetry and digital effects to give his spiders maximum yuck factor, while the violin-fuelled soundtrack pays spirited homage to the 50s monster movies (Them!, Tarantula) which inspired the whole enterprise. After the success of this spider tale, Hollywood called: Elkayem answered with bug tale They Nest, and comical spider epic Eight Legged Freaks.
Peter Jackson’s fifth feature is a playful blend of comedy, thriller and supernatural horror and was an effective Hollywood calling card for Weta FX. Frank Bannister (Michael J Fox) resides in Fairwater, where he runs a supernatural scam. Aided by some spectral consorts, he engineers hauntings and “exorcises” the ghosts for a fee. When a genuine spook starts knocking off the locals, the FBI suspects Frank is the culprit. To clear his name, Frank must deal to the real perpetrator – none other than the Grim Reaper ...
An epic documentary chronicling the extraordinary life of Kiwi filmmaker Colin McKenzie. Or is it? McKenzie's achievements included cinematic innovations involving steam power and eggs, and an unfinished biblical tale filmed on the West Coast. The first television screening of this Costa Botes/Peter Jackson production memorably stirred up New Zealand audiences. Forgotten Silver went on to screen at international film festivals in Cannes and Venice — where it won a special critics' prize.
Jack Brown Genius is the story of an obsessive flight of fancy. The spirit of a thousand year old Monk (Stuart Devenie) inhabits the mind of a contemporary New Zealand inventor (Tim Balme), who is inspired to turn the idea of human-powered flight into reality. Along the way he creates havoc for his pal Dennis (Marton Csokas), steals his girlfriend (Nicola Murphy), incinerates the factory of his Boss, and incurs the wrath of the Boss's financial backer Sylvia (Lisa Chappell). The film won director Tony Hiles a 1996 Film and Television Award.
The movie that won splatter king Peter Jackson mainstream respectability was born from writer Fran Walsh's long interest in the Parker-Hulme case: two 1950s teens who invented imaginary worlds, wrote under imaginary personas, and murdered Pauline Parker's mother. Jackson and Walsh's vision of friendship, creativity and tragedy was greeted with Oscar nominations, deals with indie company Miramax, and rhapsodic acclaim for the film, and newbie actors Melanie Lynskey and Kate Winslet. Time magazine and 30 other publications named it one of the year's 10 best films.
After the assassination of scientist David Typhon, a cast of interested parties head for his secret lab in New Zealand, pursuing the truth behind rumoured experiments on humans. Among them are rabid protestors, a European infiltrator (Michael Hurst) and the strangely-gifted Cato (Greg Wise). Typhon’s People marked a rare time that writer Margaret Mahy created a story aimed at adult audiences. Blessed with an impressive cast of Kiwis, Brits (Wise, Alfred Molina), and The Castle star Sophie Lee, it sold as both a mini-series and as a 90 minute tele-movie.
After his mother gets infected by a bite from a deadly Sumatran rat monkey, Lionel (Almighty Johnson Tim Balme, in an award-winning performance) has to contend with a plague of the living dead while attempting to woo the love of his life. Peter Jackson had already been tagged with the title ‘The Sultan of Splatter’ after his first two features, but this was the film that confirmed it. Armed with a decent budget, he takes a Flymo to fusty 1950s New Zealand and takes cinematic gore to a whole new extreme in the process.
Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.
A death-bed confession from a touch judge leads to a repeat of a test match between the All Blacks and Wales played 25 years earlier — with the same players. Before the footy, a former Welsh star is forced to face up to a past romance. Mateships and rivalries are rekindled in this genial "what if" yarn, that celebrates and satirises two nations' rugby obsessions. It won best screenplay and supporting actor (John Bach) at 1992's NZ Film Awards. The cast saw former All Blacks and Welsh rugby reps playing alongside acting greats from both countries.
In this film, late choreographer Douglas Wright's work Gloria is captured on camera by Alun Bollinger, in a rare directorial effort from the legendary Kiwi cinematographer. Antonio Vivaldi's Gloria RV589, a hymn praising the birth of Christ, plays behind a yellow and black flurry of limbs and gestures. The journey from gymnastic leaps to rest, marks the cycle of life. The work was shot soon after Wright returned from his dance OE and formed the Douglas Wright Dance Company. The screening attracted attention from morals groups worried about nudity on television.
In 1989 dancer Douglas Wright returned home to choreograph and form his own company. This half-hour TV documentary, marking the launch of his work Gloria, looks back on a blossoming career that began at 21 — when he took up ballet to overcome a heroin addiction. After becoming a star with Limbs, Wright joined prestigious troupes in London and New York. Now, as opening night looms, he is acutely aware of the danger of pushing his dancers too hard as he fights to get the best out of them on an ambitious, demanding piece. Douglas passed away in November 2018.
Director Peter Jackson's second feature Meet the Feebles offers even more bad taste than his debut. The irreverent, outlandish, part-musical satire is populated almost entirely by puppets, but it is by no means cute. The motley creatures are all members of a variety show that’s working up to a major performance. They include Bletch the two-timing pornographer walrus, an obese hippo femme fatale, a drug-dealing rat, and a heroin-addicted frog — in other words, something to offend everyone. Richard King writes about the creation of New Zealand's first puppet movie here.
Screened on a TVNZ arts show, this documentary looks at how the strings were pulled on Peter Jackson's low-budget puppet movie Meet the Feebles. An old Wellington railway shed fizzes with energy and imagination as a team peppered with future Oscar-winners crafts the gleefully subversive Muppets parody. Jackson muses on his influences, processes and propensity for "savage humour" in a fascinating interview. Included is footage of his childhood films — war movies and stop motion animation made with his first 8mm camera. Richard King writes about Meet the Feebles here.
Anna Campion directs her mother Edith and younger sister Jane in this slyly observed short: a re-imagining of Edith’s (reluctant) audition for a small role in Jane’s An Angel at My Table. From when Edith picks Jane up at the airport en route to her Otaki home, the professional and personal roles blur. Anxiety, huffs and matriarchal needling ensue as an often comic, sometimes poignant domestic tango between the former stage actress and film director Jane plays out in front of the camera. Anna was studying at London’s Royal College of Art when the film was made.
After concocting all manner of outlandish images on 8mm film, Bad Taste was Peter Jackson’s breakthrough; years in the making, it was the first feature to make it from his Pukerua Bay backyard to cinema screens, where it quickly began to rack up sales. An all-male cast of public service Alien Investigation and Detection Service operatives run amok with guns, food, vomit, rockets and misguided enthusiasm, to rid the earth of alien Lord Crumb and his fast-food gang — who want to turn earthlings into hamburgers. Jackson took two acting roles in this ‘splatstick’ sensation.
Poet Sam Hunt goes "between islands" on a home turf tour. To a backdrop of languid 'good day' Strait's scenery, he yarns with locals about stories of land and sea, and recites poetry: "[it's all about just] standing back and listening ... or watching". He chats with poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, goes groper fishing off Mana, and hears of a plan to float on a flax flutterboard across the Strait. Hunt then gets himself across via ferry for whaling stories at Oxley's Rock pub and meets boatbuilders and Cape Jackson farmers. The Costa Botes film includes (brutal) archival whaling footage.
This documentary showcases some of the tricks of the trade used by Peter Jackson in the making of his first feature — the aliens-amok-in-Makara splatter classic, Bad Taste. Compiled following the film's 1988 Cannes market screening, it's framed around an extensive interview with a 25-year-old Jackson at his parents’ Pukerua Bay home. These excerpts offer fascinating insight into his ingenuity: from building a DIY Steadicam, to the making of the infamous sheep-obliterating rocket launcher scene, to PJ musing on the impetus that being an only child provided him.
This whimsical film starring New Zealand artist Michael Smither, animal wrangler Caroline Girdlestone, and cartoonist Burton Silver, documents Smither's quest to learn to fly. It is a documentary in the accepted sense but lyrical and full of surprises. Made by Wellington filmmaker Tony Hiles, edited by Jamie Selkirk (future Oscar winner for The Return of the King), and gorgeously shot on location at Farewell Spit and Wharariki Beach. Smither is well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks With Mountain.
Director Grahame McLean uses the notorious (then recent) 'Mr Asia' drug smuggling saga as fodder for this Wellington underbelly tale. Hello Sailor’s Harry Lyon headlines as a musician and ex-con who partners with a beautiful journo to investigate a global drug syndicate, in between nightclub sessions with fellow musos Beaver and Hammond Gamble. High on 80s guitar licks, Should I be Good? was made in the tax break era without Film Commission investment. McLean followed it right away with The Lie of the Land, becoming a rare Kiwi to make two movies back to back.
New Zealand artist Michael Smither (well known for his idiosyncratic realist paintings, such as Rocks with Mountain) is a man of many theories and ideas. This film, made for TV, documents his experiments rebuilding eroded beaches around Taranaki with driftwood. Only partially successful, these experiments nonetheless reveal Smither as something of a visionary. They contrast with the New Plymouth City Council's own efforts to check sand erosion; and over two decades later, Smither's less orthodox methods look the more sensible, and sustainable.
The Silent One is a mythological children's drama about the friendship between a deaf mute boy, Jonasi, and a rare white turtle. The boy's differences lead to suspicion from his Rarotongan village. When the village suffers drought and a devastating storm, the boy and turtle (also considered an ill omen) are blamed and ostracised. Adapted by Ian Mune from a Joy Cowley story, the beloved film was the first New Zealand dramatic feature to be directed by a woman (Yvonne Mackay). In the excerpt here, Jonasi is excluded from a boar hunt and first meets the turtle.
Mitch (Keith Aberdein) moves to Tongariro National Park to help wrangle wild horses threatening ecology and traffic. He meets Sara, who shares an obsession for a fabled silver horse. They clash with rangers and deer recovery guns-for-hire (Bruno Lawrence is the black-clad villain) determined to eradicate the horses, and a showdown on the Desert Plateau ensues. In the notoriously fraught production a stable of Kiwi acting legends perform a melange of western and freedom-on-the-range genre turns (with the conservationists oddly set up as the bad guys).
This documentary follows a Southern Alps ski competition for local and off season northern skiers. Organised by Coast to Coast impresario Robin Judkins, the ‘grand slam’ series begins with a chopper ride to Black Peak for powder 8 and telemark skiing; and then it's above Lake Wanaka for slalom, ski jumping, and a grunty "air, style and speed" mogul. Après-ski competing there's a springtime descent down Mt Taranaki. It wouldn't be Kiwi skiing without kea, and the discipline of the inner tube. The crisp sax and synth 80s score is by Hello Sailor's Dave McArtney.
This film investigates and captures the dramatic changes to Wellington's cityscape in the 70s and 80s. "To get in before nature's earthquake we created one of our own". As a result of mass demolition of buildings deemed to be earthquake risks and the subsequent building boom, graveyards make way for motorways, and wood and stone for steel, glass and concrete. There are interviews with the boosters (Bob Jones, Sir Michael Fowler), demo workers, and laments for the loss of heritage and local culture (Harry Seresin, Aro Valley protesters, and surprisingly, Rex Nicholls).
In this tale of an English servant woman doing it hard down under, Lizzie (Sarah Peirse, who won a Feltex) finds herself trapped on a rundown Canterbury sheep farm alongside three men: one mean, one silent, and one simple-minded (Bruno Lawrence, who Lizzie first meets in this excerpt). Directed by David Blyth between his edgy debut Angel Mine and splatter-fest Death Warmed Up, the pioneer tale was written by English author Elizabeth Gowans. Newbie scribe Fran Walsh later extended the film to tele-movie length, from its original incarnation as A Woman of Good Character.
In a lawless fuel wars future, marauders roam the wasteland looking for oil. Their malevolent leader Straker threatens his daughter Corlie; she’s rescued by loner Hunter and they harbour with eco-sensitive folk in the Clearwater Commune ... but not for long: there will be blood on the Central Otago plains! Following in the exhaust of Mad Max, the cult film was made during the 80s tax-break feature surge, with US director (Harley Cokliss) and leads flocking south during a Hollywood writers’ strike, and Kiwis as crew (“artists with chainsaws”) and supporting cast.
In this film two Kiwi larrikins, Sam and Jack (Alan Jervis and Pork Pie's Kelly Johnson) go on a road trip, seemingly fuelled by blokey banter. A pit stop at Hokonui Pub leads to shenanigans with a stolen road roller, varied shaggy dog stories and jail, before Sam has to return to the dreaded missus. The characters and scenarios were adapted from two of Barry Crump's novels featuring anti-hero Sam Cash: Hang on a Minute Mate and There and Back. Mate was made for TVNZ, and screened in late 1982. Pub spotters will appreciate the pub's high pressure hoses and five ounce glasses.
Praising novel The Scarecrow, one critic argued that author Ronald Hugh Morrieson had melded genres together into “a brilliant, hallucinatory mixture distinctively his own". The movie adaptation is another unusual melding; a coming of age tale awash with comedy, nostalgia, and a touch of the gothic. Taranaki teen Ned (Jono Smith) is worried that the mysterious arrival in town (US acting legend John Carradine) has murderous designs on his sister. The masterful narration is by Martyn Sanderson. The result: the first Kiwi film to win official selection at the Cannes Film Festival.
This film documents Auckland's Round the Bays run. In 1980 jogging was booming, with coach Arthur Lydiard and a band of Olympic champs (Snell, Walker, etc) inspiring the way. Here, participants run and reflect, from a blind runner, to children and an army squad. Slo-mo sweat, sinew and samba shots frame the 70,000 runners as members of an infectious cult chasing the piper around the waterfront. Adidas, terry towelling and facial hair make the film a relaxed 70s update on Olympiad; directed by Sam Pillsbury it won awards at Chicago and Torino festivals.
Richard Turner made Squeeze to break the "conspiracy of silence" about homosexuality. A pioneering early portrait of Auckland's LGBT scene, Squeeze centres on the relationship between a young man (Paul Eady) and the confident executive (Robert Shannon) who romances him, then mentions he has a fiancée. The film was discussed in Parliament after Patricia Bartlett campaigned against the possibility it might get NZ Film Commission funding (it didn't). Kevin Thomas in The LA Times praised Squeeze's integrity and the "steadfast compassion with which it views its hero".
The Governor was a television epic that examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's "Good Governor" persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ TV's first (and only) historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. Auckland Star reviewer Barry Shaw trumpeted: "It has made Māori matter. If Pākehā now have a better understanding of the Māori point of view [...] it stems from The Governor.
A fictional memoir of a 12-year-old boy's holiday on his uncle's farm, Old Man's Story is also a character study of the personable, potentially dodgy ex-sailor who works there as hired hand. When an orphaned girl comes to stay, there are worries the man has crossed the line in his relationship with her. The first drama for Wellington company The Gibson Group, Old Man's Story also marks a rare screen adaptation of author Frank Sargeson, whose tales of losers and outsiders made him "one of the founders of a modern New Zealand literature" (Lawrence Jones).
TV drama The Governor examined the life of Governor George Grey in six thematic parts. Grey's 'Good Governor' persona was undercut with laudanum, lechery and land confiscation. NZ televison's first historical blockbuster was hugely controversial, provoking a parliamentary inquiry and "test match sized" audiences. It won a 1978 Feltex Award for Best Drama. In first episode 'The Reverend Traitor', Grey arrives to colonial troubles: flag-pole chopping Hōne Heke, missionary Henry Williams, and rebellious Te Rauparaha. Writer Keith Aberdein goes behind the scenes here.
Frank Sargeson’s tale of two men and a boat is adapted for this episode of Winners & Losers. Fred (played by radio actor William Smith) sets off for a spot of fishing with recent acquaintance Ken (theatre veteran David Weatherley). As the pair head out across the harbour, Ken doesn't seem all that receptive to Fred's friendly interrogation. The episode marked only the second time that Ian Mune had directed solo for the screen. Storms, a leaky dinghy and Mune's near drowning while acting as a stand-in made this one of the most challenging shoots of the Winners series.
Almost two decades before Once Were Warriors, another drama about urban Māori under pressure stirred controversy. Hema (Dale Williams) and Janey (Julie Wehipeihana) are two kids adrift in the city, trying to escape a broken home. Screen historian Trisha Dunleavy found this "the most powerful and controversial" edition of the Winners & Losers series; it was TV's first drama about "the alienation of Māori in a contemporary urban setting". Based on a Witi Ihimaera story, it also marked the first solo directing credit for Ian Mune. He later directed the sequel to Once Were Warriors.
Conman and victim face off in the first, and arguably funniest Winners & Losers episode. Legendary vagabond The Shiner (Coronation Street's Ivan Beavis) sets out to prove to his fellow swaggers that he can con alcohol from a dour publican (Ian Watkin). Co-director Ian Mune dons a fake eye; singer Tommy Adderley plays harmonica. The real life Shiner — Irishman Ned Slattery — was immortalised in a series of stories by John A Lee. Although Lee claimed to have "once walked thirty miles side by side" with Slattery, he admitted that his Shiner stories were far from gospel truth.
New Zealand’s economy is in serious trouble in the first episode of this award-winning drama series about The Great Depression. An ailing Prime Minister and a weak government seem powerless in the face of a downward spiral caused by rising unemployment and falling export prices. Meanwhile, the plight of a boot maker seeking work while people are being laid off all around him, and a jeweller struggling to keep his business afloat and food on his family’s table bring home the human cost and social divisiveness being caused by the worsening crisis.
This award-winning 1973 TV drama follows the career of PM Richard 'King Dick' Seddon from the events leading to his premiership in 1893, until his death in 1906. Writer Michael Noonan intersperses speeches and cabinet discussions with vignettes of Seddon's interaction with pressure groups and voters. Tony Currie (Close to Home) won a Feltex Award as the colourful Seddon, who forced through groundbreaking legislation. Listener reviewer Roger Hall praised it as New Zealand's "best historical documentary" to date. Watch out for broadcaster Brian Edwards as an opposition MP.
This notorious film looks at '70s bikie culture, focusing on Auckland's Hells Angels (the first Angels chapter outside of California). These not-so-easy riders — with sideburns and swastikas and fuelled by pies and beer — rev up the Triumphs, defend the creed, beat up students, cruise on the Interislander, provoke civic censure, and attend the Hastings Blossom Festival. After a funeral, Aotearoa's sons of anarchy head back on the highway. Bikies was banned by the NZBC — possibly due to the public urination, lane-crossing, chauvinism and pig's head activity.