Don Reynolds started working in the sound department, and has gone on to produce fifteen features, many of them Kiwi classics.
Reynolds began working in sound in the late 60s, while training with the Government's National Film Unit. Five years later he set up company Associated Sounds, which grew to become one of the biggest independent post-production facilities in the country.
Reynolds worked on many key productions of the 1970s, including landmark documentary series Tangata Whenua, independently-made TV drama The Games Affair, and shorts Dagg Day Afternoon and A State of Siege. During the renaissance of Kiwi filmmaking which began that decade, he could often be found either holding the microphone boom, recording the sound or mixing the completed soundtrack. Reynolds worked on the Blerta television series — home to a smorgasboard of future film talents — as well as features Solo and Smash Palace.
The shift into producing came about thanks to Goodbye Pork Pie. In 1980 director Geoff Murphy proposed to Reynolds that Associated Sounds provide sound equipment and mix the film's soundtrack, on a deferred basis: ie by being paid out of the film's future income; the deal definitely paid off. Though recording clear sound sometimes proved a challenge out on location, Reynolds looks at the completed sound mix as "one of the pinnacles" of his sound career — though Murphy's next film, the epic Utu, would come close.
In 1983 Reynolds produced and worked on sound for an adaptation of Keri Hulme story Hooks and Feelers. Shot partly on his Wainuiomata property, the short film was directed by Melanie Rodriga; the following year the pair made their respective debuts as feature film director and producer with Trial Run, the tale of an isolated photographer (Annie Whittle) threatened by a mysterious figure.
The next four years were extremely busy: Reynolds produced, or had a hand in producing, eight more features. In 1984 he helped negotiate the sometimes tense shoot for psychological drama Heart of the Stag, which went on to win praise (some for star Bruno Lawrence). Reynolds would re-unite with the film's director Michael Firth the following year for Sylvia, which they co-produced together. Based on the life of teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner, the movie was voted amongst the 10 best to be released in America that year by Village Voice critic Andrew Sarris.
Reynolds had earlier worked on sound for Sam Pillsbury's first feature The Scarecrow. The two went on to develop science fiction tale The Quiet Earth. (a big sound job, since the no-life-left-on-earth scenario meant that most of the sound was created in the studio). "That's where Sam and I work so well together," said Reynolds at the time. "I come from the commercial aspect, Sam is artistically inclined...I reflect the views of the average moviegoer who wants more visual kapow and another car chase."
Working with producer Chris Hampson, Reynolds next produced two films with ambitions unmatched by their budgets: underseen road movie/romance Arriving Tuesday, and Illustrious Energy, an acclaimed tale of nineteenth century Chinese goldminers. Illustrious Energy marked the directorial debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey; the producers agreed to delay the shoot for a year, to allow the director and his art department time to give the Clyde sets the desired lived-in feel.
The late 80s saw Reynolds caught up in helming company Mirage Entertainment, and the French shoot of Larry Parr romance A Soldier's Tale. Reynolds' production company Cinepro had merged with Parr's company shortly before the October 1987 stockmarket crash, and the collapse of Mirage.
Reynolds went to work at newly created TVNZ drama subsidiary South Pacific Pictures, and within a year was appointed Chief Executive. He produced Welsh-Kiwi rugby romp Old Scores, was executive producer on Kiwi classic The End of the Golden Weather, and part of the 13-strong multi-national team behind Alexander Graham Bell mini-series The Sound and the Silence. In 1991 Reynolds moved to TVNZ as Director of Production and Co-production, with a responsibility for locally produced shows.
During this period Reynolds was one of a trio of executives who worked on overcoming unease within TVNZ about the viability of launching a daily soap opera. The soap was Shortland Street, and Reynolds helped secure a guarantee that the show's primetime slot would remain in place for a year, giving it time to find its footing. Reynolds was aware that soaps often fall in ratings over their first year, before picking up; he argues that if TVNZ had gone with its desired order of 26 episodes, Shortland Street would never have had the chance to take off.
The Shortland Street team took advice on making the programme from Australian soap experts Grundy Television. Later Reynolds moved to London, to work for Grundy as Senior Vice President of Drama. While in London he transferred to an international co-production role with Canada's Atlantis Films (later Alliance Atlantis). Reynolds had worked with the company on Kiwi-Canadian co-production Gold, set during the Central Otago goldrush. The company's output would include an ill-fated TV reimagining of Jules Verne's Mysterious Island, shot down under.
Next Reynolds moved to Sydney, to take up a newly-created position as Head of Programme Production for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The job made him responsible for all ABC production in television, radio and multi-media.
Keen to get more hands on, Reynolds created Sydney-based company Film.Com Pty. In 2002 he joined with commercials veteran Geoff Dixon to run Silverscreen Films. Silverscreen produced three features before the company hit the wall: Geoff Murphy thriller Spooked (both Reynolds and Murphy had shown early interest in source book The Paradise Conspiracy), Australian drama Peaches, and Vincent Ward historical epic River Queen. When news of the later film was unveiled at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Reynolds argued that it was "probably the biggest budget New Zealand story" that had been attempted to date.
'Don Reynolds: Pioneering soundman turned movie producer' (Video Interview) NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside Accessed 23 March 2015. Loaded 23 March 2015
One Network News - 2004 Cannes Film Festival (Television Programme, TVNZ)
The Quiet Earth presskit