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Simon Baumfield


Cinematographer Simon Baumfield learnt his craft on music videos. He has gone on to shoot two feature films and a variety of TV dramas and commercials, as well as directing segments for arts show The Living Room.

Baumfield was born in Wellington, and grew up in New Zealand, Australia and England. He still has memories of visiting the tobacco-stained Fleet Street office of his father, one-time NZPA correspondent David Baumfield. Simon would grow up to continue the globetrotting tradition, with location shoots in Africa, Japan and the Pacific Islands.

Baumfield cut his teeth shooting music videos, including clips that showcased Shihad, King Kapisi and Emulsifier. In 1993 the kapa haka-influenced video for Maree Sheehan (Fatally Cool) won him his first NZ Music Video Award, and in 1999 he won another, for Kapisi's Subcranium Feelings.

Inbetween the two award ceremonies, Baumfield's career was taking off. He was director of photography on the first 26 episodes of sketch show Skitz, which kickstarted a long association between Baumfield and Wellington production company Gibson Group. He was also in the thick of it on Gibson Group drama Cover Story, operating the camera to capture the film's distinctively fluid, handheld style.

In the last half of the 90s, Baumfield moved another step up the ladder, when he took charge of camera duties on three tele-movies: Share the Dream, Street Legal and Tom Scott police tale Tiger Country. Share the Dream was a Sunday Theatre anti-romance set on an assembly line, starring Joel Tobeck. Baumfield's work on the show saw him sharing a television award for best camera with legendary Kiwi cinematographer Leon Narbey

In 2000 Baumfield made his feature debut with his stylish work on horror piece The Irrefutable Truth about Demons. It was the first feature directed by Glenn Standring, who Baumfield had collaborated with while making Skitz. Demons follows the experiences of a sceptic (Karl Urban) who starts to worry whether to trust his senses, while on the run from members of a satanic cult. The demanding shoot involved extensive winter night shoots around Wellington.

The following year Baumfield took on director of photography duties for his second feature, No One Can Hear You. Written by two Australians, directed by New Zealander John Laing, and featuring a cast that mixed Americans and Kiwis (Kelly McGillis from Witness, Kiwi Kate Elliott), the thriller followed a suburban family fighting for their lives against an intruder.

When crime show Street Legal beat Tiger Country and won funding to become an ongoing television series, Baumfield came back to handle director of photography duties on a number of episodes. He would continue to work on the show into the third series. He also shot episodes for two Wellington TV dramas, The Strip and Love Bites.

In 2005 The Gibson Group got to work on making a semi-sequel to innovative ensemble drama The Insiders Guide to Happiness. Baumfield was recruited as one of the directors of photography on that new show. His cinematography on The Insiders Guide to Love would win him both a NZ Screen Award and a Qantas Media Award. The following year he scored another Qantas award for TV's The Hothouse, based around the lives of a group of 20-something flatmates. 

More recently Baumfield shot the ambitious tele-movie Aftershock, which dramatised what might occur if an earthquake struck Wellington, and Leanne Pooley docu-drama Shackleton's Captain. His documentary work includes Children of the Migration, and shooting and directing items for arts magazine show The Living Room.

Baumfield has also worked on two short films with director Mark Albiston — both the multi-award-winning Run and 2009's follow-up Six Dollar Fifty Man won selection to compete at the Cannes Film Festival.

Baumfield has shot on a variety of mediums, including high definition, digibeta, and 35mm, 16mm, and 8mm film. His specialist experience includes alpine, aerial and underwater shooting — the latter skill came in useful when operating the camera for surreal 2004 short film Water, in which a house is slowly overcome by water. More recently Baumfield has been filming whales across the Pacific, for feature-length doco Silent Warriors.

Sources include
Simon Baumfield
Boomafilm website. Accessed 19 September 2018