Profile image for Don Blakeney

Don Blakeney

Producer

Don ‘Scrubbs' Blakeney was born in New Plymouth on September 11th, 1943.

Blakeney graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Victoria University and by age 30 was given an overseas appointment as P&O's financial controller. It was an invaluable business opportunity, but Blakeney became increasingly disillusioned by the corporate world, and dropped out in 1973.

Returning to New Zealand he met producers, John Barnett and Grahame McLean. McLean asked Blakeney to help him out on the production of Sleeping Dogs.

He found himself acting as the unit caterer, a role which brought him into the orbit of filmmakers like Roger Donaldson and Geoff Murphy, who soon discovered that Blakeney knew a thing or two about financing.

The filmmakers in turn, recommended Blakeney to Jim Booth, who was looking for someone to help facilitate the establishment of the NZ Film Commission. When the Interim Commission became a full fledged body in 1979, Blakeney was asked to become its first Executive Director.

Producer Kerry Robins remembers Blakeney's time at the NZFC: "What impressed me the most about him was his open door policy to ALL Kiwi filmmakers, his enthusiasm for their projects and the sound financial advice and NZFC support he would offer where ever he could. [...] he saw the NZFC were there to serve the filmmakers [...] if you needed photocopying done, the NZFC photocopier was freely available and as a result film makers were in and out of the offices all the time ..."

He pioneered the use of tax shelter mechanisms in the financing of Paul Maunder's Sons For The Return Home (1979), and Murphy's Goodbye Pork Pie (1981), helping raise private equity to get these films made.

Blakeney then left the NZFC and became an independent producer, taking on Geoff Murphy's project, Utu (1983).

Although Utu was achieved solid critical attention, sales were elusive. Blakeney chose to recut the picture, a decision that resulted in a turnaround in sales.

Unfortunately the Inland Revenue Department had decided to open the books on dozens of film productions (including Utu), alleging financing irregularities amounting to tax evasion.

Blakeney was one of only two producers who chose to fight the IRD Commissioner's assessment, rather than settle. After 20 years, and a legal battle which went all the way to the Privy Council, the production was cleared.

The battle took its toll on Blakeney and his public career as a producer, although privately, his advice was sought, and he worked behind the scenes on various productions.

Today, Blakeney lives with his family in a small East Coast community. Although justifiably proud of his contributions to NZ film in the past, he is content to stay out of the arena now, though he has been a judge in local heats of the 48 Hour Film Festival.