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Collection

Better Safe than Sorry

Curated by NZ On Screen team

Long before Ghost Chips, even before "don't use your back like a crane", life in Godzone was fraught with hazards. This collection shows public safety awareness films spanning from the 50s to the 70s. If there's kitsch enjoyment to be had in the looking back (chimps on bikes?!) the lessons remain timeless. Remember: It's better to be safe than sorry.

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Fatal Fires

Television, 2005 (Full Length)

This full-length documentary recreates three fatal fires to find out the characteristics of a killer fire, and reveal how it goes about its business: how easily fires start, what feeds them, and how ill-prepared most people are to fight a fire. Interviews with survivors — some of them talking publicly for the first time — firefighters, and investigators are interwoven with footage of real (condemned) houses set alight. Fatal Fires screened in TV One's Danger Zone series, which included DIY Disasters and Dangerous Waters

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Pedestrians or Jaywalkers?

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

This NFU public safety film takes a jaunty approach to a serious subject as it shows road crossing dangers via bad examples. Mis-steps include walking off the footpath carelessly, crossing the road at oblique angles, 'dithering', and over-confidence. The humour may be physical and the narration pun-filled, but the lessons remain relevant, as pedestrian accidents on Wellington's and Auckland's 21st Century city bus lanes attest. Despite the big question promise of the title there is no Socratic dialogue about crossing the road or any consideration of chickens.

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Pictorial Parade No. 78

Short Film, 1958 (Full Length)

A salient public safety segment in this edition of the National Film Unit’s long-running magazine series looks at 'prudence at home', and the ways that stoves, jugs and fires can be dangerous to children. Other segments include a visit to a Gisborne health camp where youngsters are finishing their seven week course of dietary and exercise lessons. And a jaunt to Canterbury’s frozen Lake Ida for skating, pies, and ice hockey concludes that ‘winter can be fun’. A car-drawn toboggan looks it — though the ice rescue demonstration will not convince all viewers.

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A Great Day to Go

Short Film, 1971 (Full Length)

Made by the NFU for the NZ Water Safety Council this film enlists shock to provoke punters to consider water safety. On a summer’s day a fisherman, surfer and boatie all reckon it's “a great day for it”. But thoughtlessness results in tragedy. Directed by Hugh Macdonald (This is New Zealand), the disjunct between the jaunty song on the soundtrack and sunken bodies onscreen anticipates the graphic horror of the late 90s/early 00s road safety ads (sharing kinship with 1971 bush safety PSA Such a Stupid Way to Die). Grant Tilly cameos as a radio DJ.

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White for Safety

Short Film, 1952 (Full Length)

This isn't an apartheid manual or minimalist design code, but a 1952 road safety film from the National Film Unit. The film follows 'Mrs White' and 'Mrs Black' leaving their respective homes (on foot) for a bridge evening. Mrs White wears visible clothing and faces the traffic (would a modern colour remake see a Mrs Fluoro?). Mrs Black dresses eponymously and walks with her back to the traffic. Predictable results ensue. Modern viewers who associate such character names with Reservoir Dogs will not be disappointed by the suspenseful denouement.

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Legend (Ghost Chips) - Road Safety

Commercial, 2011 (Full Length)

This 2011 anti-drink driving ad campaign became a Kiwi pop cultural phenomenon, spawning countless parodies, memes, t-shirts and over a million YouTube views; phrases from the ad entered the vernacular (“you know I can’t grab your ghost chips”). Eschewing the usual shock and horror tactics, the Clemenger BBDO campaign for the NZ Transport Agency was targeted at young male Māori drivers, and used humour to get the message across that it was choice to stop a mate from driving drunk. Directed by Steve Ayson, it won a prestigious D&AD Yellow Pencil award in 2012.

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How to Drown

Short Film, 1951 (Full Length)

In colonial times drowning was so rife it was known as 'the New Zealand death'. This jaunty 1951 educational film is an effort to rid our lakes, rivers and seas of the unfortunate tag through cunning reverse psychology, as swimmers, fishermen and skylarking lads learn "how to drown". It eschews the confrontational realism of many a later PSA for the light-hearted approach: mixing lessons on water safety with silent film-style tomfoolery, gallows humour and the odd bit of sexual innuendo. Features footage of surf lifesavers using the now-archaic rope and reel.

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Gliding On - No Smoke Without Fire (First Episode)

Television, 1981 (Full Length Episode)

In an age before Rogernomics, well before The Office, there was the afternoon tea fund, Golden Kiwi, and four o'clock closing: welcome to the early 80s world of the New Zealand Public Service. Gliding On (1981 - 1985) was the first locally-made sitcom to become a bona-fide classic. Inspired by Roger Hall's hit play Glide Time, the award-winning series satirised a paper-pushing working life familiar to many Kiwis. This episode features Beryl's non-smoking campaign, Jim's efforts to kick the habit, office sexual innuendo and a much-debated fire drill. "Morning Jim!"

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Russian Roulette - Drink Driving

Commercial, 1982 (Full Length)

Taken from an unflinching anti-drink driving road safety campaign, this 1982 ad was made for the Ministry of Transport by Kiwi ad company Silverscreen. The concept was inspired by controversially imagined scenes in Oscar-winning 1979 Vietnam movie The Deer Hunter, in which US soldiers are forced to play Russian roulette by their Vietcong captors. The idea of equating the risks of drunk driving with Russian roulette has been repeated many times since, including campaigns by advertising agencies in Thailand and Italy.