Ray Collins feels privileged to have spent more than 35 years as “part of an industry I love: I can’t think of a single career I’d choose over mine. I was very lucky to know from such an early age what I wanted to do. From there, it was just a matter of acquiring some skills and waiting for opportunity to knock. I’m extremely fortunate it did.”
Collins' path to becoming a cameraman began early, thanks to experiments with an old Russian-made 8mm camera and movie projector that his father had traded for some carpentry work.
In his teens, Collins emigrated from hometown Luton (50 kilometres from London) to New Zealand. He was working in a Hamilton camera shop when senior BCNZ cameraman Dave Drinkwater, impressed by his photographs, offered Collins a job as a television cameraman on the spot. He was shooting items for the main evening news his first morning on the job.
Based in Wellington and Dunedin for much of the 15 years Collins spent with the state broadcaster, he honed his craft skills working on news and current affairs in Wellington during the turbulent Robert Muldoon era. His filming diet included trade union marches and rallies, and long stake-outs at parliament, chasing MPs down corridors.
Collins later progressed to filming for a wide variety of shows including Fair Go, Country Calendar, Spot On, junior nature show Wildtrack and science show Fast Forward. He also directed a number of music videos for Radio With Pictures and was director of photography on Jayashree Panjabi-directed documentary Philippine Affair — about an elderly Kiwi man setting off to marry a young 'mail order bride'. At the 1990 Hawaii International Film Festival, the documentary was named one of the 10 best documentaries of the decade.
Collins left TVNZ in 1990 and started his own video production company in Dunedin, working mainly with corporate and tourism clients. Now trading as Ray Collins Enterprises, Collins continues to work on a wide range of projects from his Dunedin base, where he offers a one stop shop in shooting, directing and completing projects.