Train enthusiast David Sims captured the dying days of steam trains in this 1968 National Film Unit short. It features arresting images of a Kb class locomotive billowing steam as it tackles the Southern Alps, en route from Canterbury to the West Coast. Kb Country was released in Kiwi cinemas in January 1968, just months before the steam locomotives working the Midland Line were replaced by diesel-electrics. Sims earned his directing stripes with the film. As he writes in this background piece, making it involved a mixture of snow, joy and at least two moments of complete terror.
After stints in the merchant navy and the British film industry, Steve Locker-Lampson began a new life in New Zealand in the 60s, heading the camera department at indie production house Pacific Films. The following decade he forged a reputation as one of the country's pioneer aerial cameramen, and worked behind the scenes on movies Solo and Smash Palace. Locker-Lampson passed away in October 2012.
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
Television experience with the BBC helped David Pumphrey win a job in Kiwi television, soon after he returned to New Zealand in 1959. He went on to produce children's shows, live broadcasts, and Montage — forerunner to magazine show Town and Around. Pumphrey also worked on the first TV broadcasts by celebrity cook Graham Kerr, and directed for high profile current affairs shows Compass and Gallery.
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.
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).
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.
Remembered by his colleagues as “the leader in capturing New Zealand scenery on film from 1923 to 1954”, Bert Bridgman began his career as a cameraman in the days of silent film, and later directed the Centennial film One Hundred Crowded Years. He served as a war correspondent in the Pacific for the National Film Unit and was chief colour cameraman at the time of his death.
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.
As writer and presenter of The World Around Us, and producer of Looking at New Zealand, Conon Fraser was an early television celebrity. He joined the National Film Unit in 1969 and continued to make films documenting his adopted country’s landscape and history, and New Zealanders’ way of life. Fraser died on 17 June 2014, aged 84.