Composer David Downes defines the word multi-media. Often supplying images to play alongside his music, he has also written for orchestra, percussionists Strike and dance legend Michael Parmenter (Jerusalem). In 2000 Downes was a key collaborator on 50 minute long film A Small Life, which uses music to explore childhood and death. In 2004 he directed animated short Generation, which played in many international festivals.
David Downes' previous experience as composer for choreographers and videographer of dancers has strongly shaped the composition of the scenes, and their relationship to his complex, multi-layered soundtrack that mixes field recordings with instrumental music. Writer Lawrence McDonald on A Small Life, in the 2000 Wellington Film Festival Programme
Little known in its homeland, but an award-winner overseas, director Michael Heath's tragic portrait of mother and child confronts "intense emotion without flinching" (as Lawrence McDonald wrote). Largely bypassing dialogue in favour of a more elemental approach, the filmmakers combine sound and song (courtesy of composer David Downes and singer Mahinārangi Tocker) with lyrical imagery of the family revelling in their rural backblock (shot by Stephen Latty). There is added poignancy in the fact that Tocker — playing the mother who loses her boy — herself passed away in 2008.
Biscuits dance, food flies, dead chickens walk ... come closing time, the shelves of a dairy come to life. Four years in the making, this showcase of stop motion effects is based loosely on a classic poem by Goethe. The lively Indian-tinged soundtrack is inspired by the poem's most famous retelling: the Disney classic Fantasia, in the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence where Mickey Mouse battles magical broomsticks. The music is handled by John Psathas, who later composed for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Footprints of the Dragon examines immigration from China and Taiwan, through interviews with three families: the Kwoks, already into their fifth generation down under; and two families from Taiwan, who are far more recent arrivals. One woman is forced to return frequently to Taiwan, to earn money for the family. The documentary also examines discrimination against early Chinese migrants in the late 1800s, who were required to pay a 100 pound poll tax. The episode is directed by Listener film critic Helene Wong, herself a third-generation Chinese-New Zealander.