As the final manager of the National Film Unit, Doug Eckhoff had the unenviable task of presiding over its demise as the government’s film production agency, and the sale of its assets. Earlier he was a key figure in television news, from the days of the NZ Broadcasting Corporation through to the birth of Television New Zealand. He was also a long-serving trustee of the New Zealand Film Archive (now Ngā Taonga).
The long career of Stan Wemyss ranged from South Pacific skirmishes to Māori legends, and gleaming refrigerators. Winner of an MBE after getting caught up in combat in Bougainville as a National Film Unit cameraman, Wemyss later spent many years with commercials company Peach Wemyss. He also produced pioneering te reo TV drama Uenuku.
Geoffrey Scott, MBE and OBE, oversaw the Government's National Film Unit for over 20 years, until his retirement in 1973. Scott began his film career playing piano over silent movies. During his command of the unit, the organisation won 141 awards.
Cyril Morton's career began in the 1920s, during New Zealand's first sustained burst of filmmaking. Morton helped create Government filmmaking body the National Film Unit. The former cameraman was later second-in-command at the Unit for 13 years, until retiring in 1963. Morton passed away in 1986.
Described by author Emma Jean Kelly as a flamboyant "champion of New Zealand culture", Jonathan Dennis was the founding director of The Film Archive in 1981 and led the organisation into a bicultural era. Dennis, who headed the Film Archive for nine years, was praised for making films more accessible. He also made documentaries (Mouth Wide Open, Mana Waka) and presented Radio New Zealand's Film Show.
A pioneer of the commercial use of 16mm film in post-war New Zealand, Robert Steele is arguably a lost name in the local screen industry. A portrait photographer who was making amateur films in 1930, he spent several years in his native Australia before returning to NZ for good in 1937. Steele screened his films at workplaces and trade fairs, and was a major producer of commercials in the first decade of Kiwi television.
New Zealand’s first left-wing documentary filmmaker, Cecil Holmes achieved notoriety in the late 1940s through the highly publicised exposure of his communist activity as a Public Service Association (PSA) delegate in the National Film Unit. He went on to become a significant film director in Australia.Image credit: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-023573; F (detail)
National Film Unit staffer Ron Bowie was a dedicated and cosmopolitan filmmaker, who overcame obstacles (including five years internment for his pacifist convictions) to pursue his chosen career. Among dozens of NFU films he contributed to, Bowie directed award-winning tourist romance Amazing New Zealand!, helped produce beloved Expo epic This is New Zealand, and edited the Oscar-nominated One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World.
The late Margaret Thomson is arguably the first New Zealand woman to have directed films. Thomson spent much of her film career working in England, plus two years back in New Zealand at the National Film Unit. Her NFU short Railway Worker (1948) is regarded as a classic.
Starting with the National Film Unit in 1943, Bob Allen’s career as a motion picture sound recordist covered six decades. Based in the UK from 1953, he worked with well-known directors including Fred Zinnemann (Allen's work on The Day of the Jackal was BAFTA-nominated). He returned to his homeland to share his knowledge and experience as New Zealand feature filmmaking blossomed; and later to retire.