Interview

Graeme Cowley: Having an eye on the film industry...

Interview, Camera and Editing – Andrew Whiteside

Graeme Cowley is a cinematographer with an impressive line-up of features to his credit including Smash Palace, Utu, and Carry Me Back (which he also produced). Cowley also set up pioneering equipment hire company Film Facilities with Nigel Hutchinson, to bolster the range of camera equipment available to independent filmmakers. He was a prime mover behind the restoration of Utu, Utu Redux.

Illustrious Energy

Film, 1988 (Excerpts)

Illustrious Energy sees Chan and his older mate Kim prospecting for gold in 1890s Otago. Marooned until they can pay off their debts and return to China; they’ve been fruitlessly working their claim for 12 and 27 years respectively. Chan faces racism, isolation, extreme weather, threatening surveyors, opium dens and a circus romance. The renowned feature-directing debut of cinematographer Leon Narbey provides a poetic evocation of the Chinese settler experience; especially vivid are Central’s natural details — desolate schist and tussock lands, rasping crickets.

Cold Snap

Short Film, 2013 (Full Length)

In this 2013 short, a possum-trapping nature boy is challenged when a woman moves into a house on the edge of the bush, looking for a fresh start. Cinematographer Ginny Loane captures the wintry central plateau landscape where the fable of life and death plays out. Director Leo Woodhead co-wrote the script with Paul Stanley Ward; the result followed Woodhead’s short Cargo (2007) to the Venice Film Festival, and won the Jury Prize at the 2014 Hong Kong Film Festival. Director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) called it “a well structured, beautifully shot narrative.” 

Uenuku

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

Geoff Murphy (Utu) directed this freewheeling adaptation of the Māori legend of Uenuku and his affair with mist maiden Hinepūkohurangi. The story of love, betrayal, and redemption was the first Māori myth adapted for TV — and the first TV drama performed entirely in te reo. The Listener softened viewers by printing a translation before it aired. Filmed at the Waimarama base of Murphy and cinematographer Alun Bollinger, Uenuku was produced by company Peach Wemyss Astor for the NZ Broadcasting Corporation — a rare independently produced TV drama in the 1970s. 

Frontseat - Series One, Episode 14

Television, 2004 (Full Length)

In this early, Edinburgh-centric episode of arts show Frontseat, Flight of the Conchords return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a sellout third season — although they argue the new show is “a shambles”. Also present at the fest are an array of Kiwi technicians, performers, and arts programmers. Meanwhile in his Marlborough vineyard, globetrotting cinematographer Michael Seresin critiques Kiwi society and its ugly towns, and calls New Zealand a “lonely, soulless sort of nation”. Also on offer: Artist Phil Dadson in Antarctica, and award-winning dancer Ross McCormack.

Without a Doubt

Che Fu, Music Video, 1998

Che Fu’s influential debut album 2b S.Pacific (1998) melded Pasifika with reggae, soul and hip hop, to create a unique musical home brew. The first single 'Scene III' went to number four on the local charts, and this follow-up (a double A-side, paired with 'Machine Talk') got to the top in October 1998. Cinematographer Duncan Cole (Born to Dance) directs the music video, which sees a pair of Fu personas (street and club?) facing cameras in a film studio, while singing about making "the planet shake". Later Che Fu adds some comedy to a breakdance battle.

Keep Them Waiting

Short Film, 1963 (Full Length)

Shot in black and white (by Terry King and future Harry Potter cinematographer Michael Seresin), this early Tony Williams directorial effort answers its road safety instructional mandate with style. A jazzy soundtrack scores the setting up of a literal ‘lives collide’ plot. Two lovers go rambling; a gallerist in a goatee takes photos on a car trip, a beau takes his girl for a Wellington coastal drive, a musical duo drive from a 2ZB recording session ... all the while emergency room flash-forwards are intercut and the clock ticks as basic road safety lessons are ignored.

Cargo

Short Film, 2007 (Full Length)

In this 2007 short, a young refugee boy is smuggled out of an unnamed European country. When he realises he and his companion are victims of people trafficking, he faces an untenable choice. Cargo was produced as director Leo Woodhead’s graduating film while completing a masters in film at Auckland University. A collaboration with Czech cinematographer Martin Priess led to a student exchange with FAMU in Prague and saw the film shot in the Czech Republic. It premiered at Venice Film Festival, before a successful (London, Tribeca, Telluride) festival run.

Middle Age Spread

Film, 1979 (Excerpts)

An early case of a Kiwi play being adapted for the screen, Middle Age Spread asks whether adultery is inevitable (and whether it can stay secret). Grant Tilly won acclaim as "an antipodian Woody Allen" for his philandering deputy headmaster fearing a future of stress and marital dissatisfaction. Roger Hall's hit comedy was adapted in the first flush of the Kiwi film renaissance. It marks the movie debut of many talents — including Tilly, director John Reid, writer Keith Aberdein, and cinematographer Alun Bollinger. Middle Age Spread was the first Kiwi feature to screen on the BBC.

Loading Docs 2015 - Fantasy Cave

Web, 2015 (Full Length)

The Fantasy Cave is a DIY Disneyland built in the town of Dannevirke. Created by a group of older locals known as ‘Cave Dwellers’ as a Christmas-themed grotto in 1989, the cave has evolved to become a quirky tourist attraction, encompassing animatronics and astral light displays. Directed by Michelle Savill (Ellen is Leaving) and cinematographer Matt Henley, this 2015 Loading Docs short introduces us to the horse-headed retirees and their homespun wonderlands, and the happiness they find in “making stuff”.