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  • Panel to look at future of NZ Documentary Filmmaking

    By Stephanie Fawcett

    The future of documentary film making in New Zealand will be discussed at Wintec’s Spark festival of media arts this month.


    A panel of contemporary New Zealand film makers will talk about their experiences at a forum at Hamilton’s Lido Cinema on August 13. Filmmakers Kay Ellmers, Jane Reeves and Jim Marbrook will discuss the challenges in making documentaries at a time when funding is tight.

     Film maker and Wintec moving image tutor John Mandelberg says it is a great opportunity to hear about experiences in the industry. “Essentially, it’s a freelance world and it is very difficult in New Zealand to earn a full time wage from film making.”

    Mandelberg hopes that the forum will help inject a little bit of reality into the fantasy of film making.

    “Most New Zealand film makers have other jobs on the side,” he says. “I teach, Jim Marbrook teaches at AUT, Vincent Ward, who directed River Queen, works in Australia making commercials.”

    Panelist Kay Ellmers, who is head of Tūmanako Productions, says one of the biggest issues facing documentary making is funding.

    “In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, both TVNZ and TV3 were commissioning and showing some great New Zealand-made documentaries, but in the last few years that’s pretty much ended,” she says. “Really, the only true ‘public service’ documentaries are now made by Maori TV.”

    Filmmaker Jane Reeves who collaborated with Ellmers on the acclaimed documentary Canvassing the Treaty agrees that funding is hard to get for documentaries.

    “There are few opportunities to make documentaries and there’s not much commissioning going on,” she said.  “Most of the work I’ve done in recent years has been for Maori TV – thank goodness they exist!”

    Mandelberg says the documentaries shown on TVNZ tend to be sensationalist and made overseas.

    “I call them ‘disease of the week’ documentaries, ‘The Boy with Two Heads’, that sort of thing,” he says. “But Maori viagra suisse sans ordonnance TV tends to screen really high quality documentaries made by New Zealand film makers and a lot of people actually prefer to watch Maori TV for that sort of content.”

    The film forum will be held at the Lido Cinema on Friday August 13 at 2.30pm. It is open to the public and free, although seating is limited to cinema capacity.