Welsh-born James Harris played an important role in the founding of the National Film Unit in 1941. A well-educated, versatile filmmaker equally at home behind the camera, operating a splicer or wielding a pen, he spent 26 years with the NFU, mostly as a senior director. Photo credit: Archives New Zealand, reference AAQT 6401 A23,729
As a war correspondent filming the New Zealand forces in Italy and the Middle East, Ron McIntyre played a key role in supplying the raw material for the early films of the National Film Unit. After nearly four years overseas, he returned home and tried his hand at independent filmmaking. McIntyre spent just over seven years with the NFU as a cameraman and director, and also worked briefly for Pacific Films.
Alun Falconer started his film career at the National Film Unit in 1946. Early in 1948 he and cameraman Roger Mirams left the NFU and founded the Pacific Film Unit. A year later he went to China where he worked as a journalist and was an eyewitness to the fall of Shanghai. He left in 1950 for London where he returned to film production and later made his name as a television script writer.
Between getting his start in filmmaking with the National Film Unit, and returning to New Zealand to retire, John Feeney made his name as a director at the National Film Board of Canada; he also spent 40 years filming and photographing in Egypt. Some of his NFU films were considered to be outstanding documentaries, and two of his Canadian films were nominated for Academy Awards.
As an intrepid young cameraman for the National Film Unit, Don Oakley travelled to remote parts of New Zealand and brought to the screen scenes of the recently-rediscovered takahē, Opo the dolphin, and life in the backblocks. In a lengthy career, he also filmed in the studio and overseas, rising to be chief cameraman of the NFU.
An ideas man who campaigned for a Government film body, Stanhope Andrews would become the National Film Unit's first manager. Andrews commanded the Unit for a decade. Along the way he oversaw dramatic expansion, set up regular newsreel Weekly Review, and opened the door to filmmakers of both genders.
Claude Wickstead started working at the Government Film Studios in 1938. After serving in WWll, he joined the National Film Unit’s sound department, where he contributed to the soundtracks of a great many films including the long-running series Weekly Review and Pictorial Parade. He was in charge of the NFU Sound Department from 1951 until his retirement in 1977.
After managing to introduce drama and dance into his post WWII films for the National Film Unit, filmmaker Michael Forlong spent the remainder of his career directing features in Europe. In 1972 he returned to New Zealand to shoot children's tale Rangi's Catch, discovering actor Temuera Morrison in the process.
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.
National Film Unit cameraman John Hutchinson was well known for his films of royal tours and rugby. An early highlight of his 20 years behind the camera was filming the fire that destroyed Ballantyne’s store in Christchurch, but he quite literally reached new heights with his thrilling short film Jetobatics (1959).Image credit: Archives New Zealand, ref AAQT 6401 A39924