There were times when the career of longtime National Film Unit director David Sims could have been cut short. Having survived close encounters with steam locomotives in mountainous terrain, he narrowly escaped being blown up, drowned and burnt alive at sea. Even filming a planned set-up on location had its hazards, as he found when his call of “action!” sent exploding rocks whistling by perilously close overhead.
A National Film Unit cameraman for 36 years, Brian Cross worked on a large number of films, ranging from royal tours and rugby tours to industrial progress in forestry and electricity transmission, some as cameraman and director. He is particularly remembered for his record of the maiden voyage of HMNZS. Otago, and for his many films of New Zealand railways.Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6421 B18889
Some jobs never make the headlines; in the screen industry, one of those unsung positions is the production manager. After seven years on film sets in Asia, Brian Walden returned home in the mid 70s to production manage the shoots of many classic TV dramas, from Hunter’s Gold to Hanlon. In 1985 he went freelance, keeping a firm hand on shoots involving horses, hospital porters, vampires and underwater aeroplanes.
Tainui Stephens is a television veteran. Since starting work on Koha in 1984, he has bought many Māori stories to the screen, and worked on everything from Waka Huia to the Māori TV version of It's in the Bag. Notable historical stories he has directed include Māori Battalion documentary March to Victory and the award-winning New Zealand Wars. He was also a producer on Vincent Ward's film Rain of the Children.
Natural history and adventure cameraman Mike Single has worked everywhere from Death Valley to Antarctica, and filmed everything from BASE jumping to the birthplace of kung fu. A long association with company NHNZ has scored him a swag of awards, including an International Emmy for his Antarctic film The Crystal Ocean. Single's work has screened on Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
Philadelphia-born, but long calling Aotearoa her home base, Robin Greenberg has directed films about Māori weaving, the Tibetan Government in exile, and educational videos for the United Nations — plus three documentaries inspired by her Christchurch t’ai chi teacher, Huloo. All three won a place in the NZ International Film Festival; the last, 2015's Return of the Free China Junk, continues the story of an old sailing junk which Huloo and friends sailed from Taiwan to the US. Inspired by Aotearoa's first Tibetan emigre, Greenberg's film Team Tibet - Home Away from Home was invited to the NZ Film Festival in 2017.
As manager of the National Film Unit, David Henry Fowler oversaw the organisation's move from Miramar to Lower Hutt. In 35 years of filmmaking he worked in both government and private sectors: writing, directing, and producing memorable films ranging from commercials to features. After his career at the top was cut short by ill-health, he continued to pass on his knowledge and experience in advisory roles. Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6421 B57
During his 34 years as a National Film Unit cameraman, Kell Fowler filmed throughout New Zealand, and travelled as far afield as China and the South Pole. Career highlights included his work as cameraman and director of Oscar-nominated Antarctic film One Hundred and Forty Days Under the World (1964), and the filming of the sweeping three-screen vistas that featured in Expo 70 hit This is New Zealand.