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  • 02 Jun 2016 12:20 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    Since since 1 June, you may have noticed that NZCS is charging GST on all invoices. This is a good sign, because it shows that our society is growing to the point where the Inland Revenue Department insists that we become GST registered. The NZCS Awards planned for 15th of October 2016, are enough to push us into the compulsory GST realm.

    Luckily, the majority of our members are registered for GST so will be able to claim it back.

  • 16 May 2016 3:17 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    A generous host and an engaging speaker combined to make an informative and enjoyable evening at Metro Films new facility in Auckland in early May.

    Leica image showing skin tones

    A Leica still image illustrating smooth focus fall off

    A generous host and an engaging speaker combined to make an informative and enjoyable evening at Metro Films new facility in Auckland in early May.

    Rainer Hercher from CW Sonderoptic, who make Leica cine lenses, explained the philosophy behind the Summilux and Summicron lenses and what they lenses designers aim to achieve and the trade-offs they have to make between weight, complexity, manufacturing processes and cost.

    CW Sonderoptic was started in 2008 as an offshoot of Leica, and the cine lenses picked up a Technical Academy Award in 2015, for Ian Neill’s optical design. This is more than a little unusual as this is the same optical guru who years ago also won a Technical Academy Award for the original Panavision Primo lenses.

    Hercher’s talk was illustrated largely with still images.

    “Movement always distracts your eye from the other elements and individual frames are softer,” he says.

    First he showed how dioptres can be used on both long lenses where they reduce the minimum focus depth, which can provide additional foreground/background separation. He says all lenses designers approach design in a slightly different way and in Leica’s case they consider

    • Bokeh and focus fall off,
    • Creamy sharpness
    • Skin tone and skin texture
    • Natural colour rendition
    • Color temperature

    Creamy sharpeness, was a term many hadn’t heard before and Herscher explained picked it up from a Spanish DP customer who used it to describe the seeming contradiction of providing sharp detail around the eyes yet a smoothness across the skin.

    Finally the evening wrapped up with a frank talk about how CW Sonderoptic balance the importance of matched speed and performance across a range of prime lenses, and the difficulties inherent in producing economically viable lenses at the wider and longer end.

    There are a lot of questions in the future of lenses, and Hercher acknowledged the sigh of relief of rental houses thankful that there wasn’t another round of new equipment imperatives at NAB this year. He says there has to be some reasonable chance to recoup investments for the industry to prosper, and in that context, 35 mm spherical lenses will remain the workhorse for a good while yet.

  • 10 May 2016 11:43 AM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    When you watch a film at the cinema, you can tell the film industry people. They are the ones who make their partners stay behind for the entire credits, even as everyone else heads for the light and the loos.

    Murray Milne, NZCS, in Iceland on Toa Fraser’s upcoming doco  Welcome to the Thrill

    When you watch a film at the cinema, you can tell the film industry people. They are the ones who make their partners stay behind for the entire credits, even as everyone else heads for the light and the loos.

    When camera people watch credits roll, they look for letters like ASC, ACS, CSC, BCS, and NZCS. These letters sometimes appear after the director of photography’s name and they have special meaning in the camera world.

    These acronyms represent accreditation by the American, Australian, Canadian, British, and New Zealand cinematographers’ societies. Accreditation by one of these societies is acknowledgement that you are a master cinematographer who has a consistently high quality body of work to your name, and that you have earned the recognition and acknowledgement of the profession.

    Although details vary around the world, cinematographers’ societies accredit members in ways similar to other professional associations. After an appropriate qualifying period as a full member, if they feel ready, a cinematographer may apply for accreditation by submitting a range of projects. Their application is assessed by an accreditation panel and, if successful, they earn the exclusive right to use the society’s acronym after their name – in our case NZCS for New Zealand Cinematographers Society.

    Full membership of NZCS is itself recognition of professional standing and something to be proud of. It requires that cinematographers have worked as directors of photography for at least five years. But until you earn accreditation, you can’t put those crucial letters after your name.

    Of course, these days NZCS is not just composed of cinematographers. About half of the society are associate members who are not yet eligible for full membership, are other professional camera crew, or work with cameras and images in other ways.

    Accreditation is different from a prize or award. Awards are for a particular project, and deserve lots of applause, but accreditation is awarded to the cinematographer for their body of work, requiring a level of experience and consistency that you don’t get from an individual award. Winning awards adds gloss to your CV and some NZCS members seem to have a pretty good run of awards by entering in the Australian ACS. In other countries awards are considered helpful in leading up to accreditation, but in the past there was no dedicated NZCS cinematography awards. However, this year planning is well advanced on our own new and exciting NZCS awards to be held in October.

    These days NZCS, like other cinematography societies around the world, has a pretty broad definition of cinematography encompassing the full gamut of genres and formats, that involve lighting, composition and processing of moving images. This means accreditation it not just about feature films but is open to cinematographers who might specialise in areas like commercials, reality, or documentaries, all of which have their own challenges.

    So as 2016 applications for NZCS accreditation are accepted, a look at some of the 18 current NZCS accredited members reveals cinematographers who have accreditations not just with NZCS, but also with Australian, Canadian, and US cinematographers’ societies. This shows NZCS accreditation is valued in the international camera world, and is worth watching for next time you watch those credits roll.

  • 08 Apr 2016 2:20 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    NZCS members Marc Swadel and Leon Narbey NZCS write in memory of his brother, who was well known in the New Zealand screen industry as a director, producer, and educator. 

    On 18 March 2016, my brother Paul lost his hard-fought battle with dementia. He was 47. He went in his sleep, surrounded by his family in his home town of Christchurch. At that moment, we all lost a great bloke and a true force for good in film and TV.

    Paul crammed a lot in to his short life. He was a director and producer of Cannes-nominated, award-winning arts documentaries, music videos, features, commercials and short films. As an executive producer and development executive, he had an impressive track record of mentoring new talent with the NZ Film Commission, and as a teacher and inspiration to hundreds of students at Waikato Polytech, The Media Design School, and the Elam School of Fine Arts.

    There would not be many people in film in NZ who had not known, or worked with Paul in some way.

    I was amazingly lucky to be able to work as a co-director, DP, soundie and collaborator with my brother over the last 20 years. Paul came from a fine arts/painting background, and ‘got’ the art and language of cinematography, which is a rare gift in a producer or director, especially in TV.

    Paul’s big grin and dark humour will be missed.

    A celebration of Paul’s life and work, with a showing on 35mm, will be held at the Hollywood Cinema, 20 St Georges Rd, Avondale, at 7:30 pm this Sunday 10 April. Feel free to BYO and toast to the memory of Swad.

    Marc Swadel, April 2016

    Leon Narbey NZCS relates his time working with Paul

    ‘I was fortunate to collaborate with Paul Swadel on two productions that he directed: Colin McCahon: I Am 2004, and The Big Picture series 2007.

    Late at night in a London budget hotel, I had to deliver and exchange cloned HD rushes with Paul. The door opened and I was greeted with his smiling jet-lagged sleep deprived eyes, while in the dark background surrounding his face was a pool of laptops running with that day’s rushes amongst a tangle of cables, flashing drives and clones.

    His face and his expression in this context will always stay with me.

    Paul was the most hands on director I have ever worked with. He wanted to know everything about cameras, especially film cameras. He was more versant and cognizant of the new digital formats than I was at that time.

    We shot Colin McCahon: I Am in four formats: super 8mm B&W, hand cranked and single frame 16mm, and two digital formats. Paul wanted this blunt conjunction of grain and texture with the pulse and fluctuation of exposure giving it a painterly or even kinetic bounce; a subjective attempt at projecting McCahon back into a filmic landscape.

    On The Big Picture we wanted a small kit for international travel and for Paul it had to be a small 1080 HD capture camera (which was the ultimate in that day).

    At that time, your recording duration was very limited and we knew Hamish Keith was going to deliver long complex voice to cameras pieces and the last thing we needed was a run out just when he was peaking. Paul sorted it by devising auxiliary 1 GB external hard drives (then larger than a pack of butter) and attaching them to the camera.

    But Paul was more than just a technician.

    His relationship with Hamish was casual and yet firm; always able to ignite and project glowing performances from Hamish. At the National Archives in The Hague, Paul’s charm secured us the use of service trollies, making one into a make shift camera-dolly which allowed us to move with Hamish as he walked and talked amongst the many aisles of collated material, ending with Tasman’s journals. I will always remember being with Paul on our knees closely examining Isaac Gilseman’s drawings of Tasman’s encounter at Murderers Bay in 1642. It was just us in a treasure store, with a magnified lens on the camera only millimetres from the surface, capturing the marks someone else had made all those years ago.

    I will very much miss Paul’s vitality, verve, and energy.

    Leon Narbey, April 2016

  • 06 Apr 2016 2:21 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    ScreenSafe is running a roadshow to explain what you need to know, and what you need to do, now that the new health and safety legislation is in force.

    ScreenSafe’s website shows the new downloadable screen industry Health and Safety Guidelines, which replace the old safety Code of Practice. 

    These plain English guidelines are designed to help you to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety Work Act 2015, which cames into effect on 4 April. 

    ScreenSafe Chair David Strong says the message from the new Act is that everybody in the screen is now responsible for health and safety. 

    “It’s up to everyone, no matter the scale of production, from those running the show to those working on it, to support a safe and healthy production. With the launch of the website, we will have one central and free location for everyone to learn and understand our obligations under the Act,” he says.

    “We’ll be holding presentations in Wellington, Auckland and Queenstown, to provide clarity on the new legislation and answer questions as best we can. The bottom line is that we want what everyone wants, that the New Zealand screen sector is a safe, healthy and successful industry for all of us.”


    To download the new safety guides go to

    ScreenSafe's new safety Act cheat sheet 

    Roadshow Flyer

    Register to attend

    The roadshow dates


    Wednesday 20 April 6.30pm
    Hospitality Suite 1st Floor
    St James Theatre


    Thursday 21 April 6.30pm
    Ellerslie Event Centre
    Guineas Room
    1 Ellerslie Racecourse
    80 Ascot Ave, Remuera

    • Webinar available for this event


    Wednesday 27 April
    6.30pm Manata Room Mercure Queenstown Resort

    About ScreenSafe

    An initiative of The Techos' Guild, ScreenSafe is an industry-wide collaborative effort with backing from the NZFC, NZ On Air and SPADA along with other guilds, industry bodies and regional film offices. As part of this piece of work, ScreenSafe has engaged MinterEllisonRuddWatts to provide legal guidance on the interpretation of the Act.
  • 21 Mar 2016 3:16 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)

    In February cinematographers Dave Garbett and John Cavill related their experiences on the 2015 Ash vs Evil Dead shoot to an audience of NZCS members and guests.  The event was held at Spoon, while they were prepping their 2016 shoot.

    To kick things off NZCS members and new faces were treated to an episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, which set the tone of the evening and stimulated lots of questions for Garbett and Cavill.

    In 2015 Dave Garbett stepped into the franchise and shot the first episode of the 2015 series, establishing the look and feel for the series. He says it is a stylised look, harking back to the B grade movie style of the original 1981 cabin-in-the-woods horror.

    “It captured peoples imagination,” says Garbett. “We don’t want it to be B-grade by doing a bad job of it, but by pushing it into a stylised arena. It’s embellished real life, but trying to make it real enough that it is still believable as a story.”

    He means believable in the sense of visually convincing, because this is not real life, it is an unapologetic horror, with skewered-torso, severed-head splatter.

    “It makes for quite a lot of interesting conversations as you are faced with more and more bizarre situations as the episode progresses,” he adds.

    The shoot came with plenty of challenges, and pretty much the whole thing is inside a studio – including the forest, which was shot at Kelly Park. They try do to as much as they can in camera, digital EFX augmenting what they have shot when necessary. One example was the sequence where the hero fights his own  doppelganger imposter.

    “Ninety 90 percent of it was done in camera, with some CGI face to face shots to sell the sequence,” says Garbett. “They did a really amazing job. In the old days it would have been split screen or motion control, but nowadays they can do a face replacement.”

    Another in-camera sequences was a car chase with an fight inside a car, which was completed using back projection plates and exteriors shot by the second unit.

    Cavill explains that they needed three back projection screens: rear, side, and overhead suspended just a few inches above the roof to put reflections onto the windscreen.

    “We picked a piece of road about a kilometre and a half long and changed the street lamps to daylight, “ says Cavill.  The car was towing an enormous trailer – an American style caravan.

    “Back in the studio the biggest challenge was that that you see the street lights going over the trailer,” Cavill says. At the speed they were going Cavill timed the intervals between streetlights as six seconds, which he duplicated for the car by synchronising  and programming Color Source 72 LED battens, to give the same effect.

    They had to introduce sufficient random camera and car shakes, and reflections, to make the whole thing look convincing, a feat the audience make clear that they had pulled off successfully. 

    The evening too was judged a success, thanks in large part to the willingness of Garbett and Cavill to talk openly. 

    Special thanks to Spoon for the venue.

  • 26 Jan 2016 3:27 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)
    Representing NZCS on the selection panel for the inaugural Cinefem scholarship caused cinematographer Mairi Gunn to reflect on her own career. It’s a story involving focus pulling, shooting while pregnant, balancing family life and winning awards, intertwined with the history of camerawomen in New Zealand.

    Womens’ Series (1976) L-R Lorraine Engelbretson (sound recordist), Margaret Moth (camera), Julie Thomson (research) and Deidre McCartin (director). Deborah Shepard from Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (Auckland: Harper Collins, 2000: 52)

    In 1932 Hilda Hayward, Rudall Hayward’s first wife, picked up her camera and went to film the Auckland riots in Queen Street. It was a courageous move that made her New Zealand’s first known camerawoman and paved the way for women who have been working with movie cameras in New Zealand ever since. Hayward had previously collaborated with her husband as an editor but went on to shoot doco and drama footage with, and without him.

    Later, Ramai Hayward, Rudall Hayward’s second wife, and Margaret Moth became icons for aspiring women cinematographers. Ramai is credited as the first Maori camerawoman. She was a stills photographer with her own photographic studio in Devonport before she met Rudall. Margaret left New Zealand after shooting The Women’s Series in 1976 and became a renowned CNN news and current affairs shooter. Both have since passed away.

    Only one other woman

    Despite this history, in 1984, after four years in the cutting room, I joined the camera department in the New Zealand freelance film and television industry. There was only one other female camera assistant working on drama shoots. Her name was Moi Cameron and she later became a firewoman.

    It is quite surreal being the only one of something. It defies reason and the isolation is problematic for a collaborative person. Thankfully, in 1988, Merata Mita invited me to a wānanga with her filmmaking buddies such as Annie Collins. It was to support Sharon Hawke and others to fulfil their roles on the upcoming Manuka series with the legendary Don Selwyn. Subsequently Josie Harbutt was working on film shoots in the 1990s and I was on Black Beauty with Rewa Harré on Kirsten Green’s first day as a loader. There was Rachel Baird, Rachel Douglas, Amanda Clark, Freddie, Tara Landry and many more stalwart women loading and pulling focus after I moved from fiction to the documentary genre. And there were still more talented women who chose not to go on become cinematographers for a myriad of reasons.

    Too hard

    I meet women everywhere, often behind desks, or as editors, who say they wanted to become a camerawomen but it had seemed too hard. They had the impression it might be too physically taxing, which was a perception at the time, or too psychologically challenging due to impending torment from some careless cowboys – the men who could sway attitudes and atmospheres on set. Others identified unsupportive attitudes within the female dominated production office as a potential drag on their emotional resources. This was a pity because the right mentors can provide crucial support to overcome perceived and real obstacles.

    Back then I was operating with film cameras – Super 8, 16mm Bolex, Aaton or ARRI 16BL – using no more than a couple of lights or a ship’s flare and often working almost alone with a director, although Chris Plummer reminded me that he held a lamp for me while filming in the bombed out Rainbow Warrior in 1985.

    This was my shooting life in parallel to the mainstream industry where I was a camera assistant. I loved the physicality of being an assistant, along with the banter, the precision, the travel and adventures (even though the pressure was sometimes untenable and the osteopath became a friend).

    Just me

    I did it for ten years until my mother suggested I stop serving others and just shoot. That was in 1995, and she gave me that advice the year she died. My main mentor was gone. I was not one of a filmmaking dynasty or part of any other team – I was just me. I had been shooting since about 1980 – around twenty short films, a bunch of music videos, some docos and one 16mm feature film, Gravity and Grace. It was about time to call myself a cinematographer.

    I joined WIFT for collegial support and access to an international arena because there was no cinematographer’s society back then. I didn't know I'd have to wait 12 years to become a foundation member of the NZCS.

    Roaring success

    It was twenty years after I joined the industry that I met my first female cinematographer, Australian Jan Kenny, and organised a WIFT weekend cinematography workshop with her. The weekend was a roaring success. Camerawomen Sharon Hawke and Ginny Loane were there. Ginny had been working in the lighting department and was a rising star then, while today she is a role model for the new generation of aspiring female cinematographers.

    Since then, Jac Fitzgerald appeared on the scene and has been shooting drama and TV commercials. So, there were only a handful of us who had come up through the celluloid years. Strangely that was perceived by some as an entire platoon, commenting ‘There are lots of you now, aren’t there!’. Yet in reality there were so few women out of more than a hundred shooters. It was a matter of perception. The few stood out in high relief.

    Operating on Timetrap (1990) with Erin O'Leary, Therese Mangos, Rick Allender and Sally Smith (director/writer)

    Shooting pregnant

    I’d shot the 16mm feature Gravity and Grace (1994) in Auckland and NY before I met my partner Mike on a Wellington production to do with domestic violence (it won me the ITVA camera award in 1995). Some productions are extra lucky. Mike and I shot and recorded my second feature, Harold Brodie’s Reality Show then we went to Ireland while I was pregnant to shoot and sound record Shirley Grace’s Erin’s Exiled Daughters. Bridie was born in 1997. After that, there were about five more short films including Felicity Morgan Rhind’s Donuts for Breakfast which screened at the New York Film Festival, amongst others.

    I felt that I really needed to establish myself as a cinematographer before I had a baby. I sensed that a baby would change things and I was right. Short form drama and docos were just manageable but not the big drama shoots. I didn’t want to put stress on my daughter. I remember throwing my breast milk out the window of a moving car on the way to a recce in Piha because my baby wasn’t around to relieve the pressure naturally!

    Some shoots, like Donuts for Breakfast, Bridie attended because Mike could stay with us on location. She was sick during Moby’s Island so considerate crew members carried her along the beach to keep her within eyeshot. She had her own wee department. Since I have no family close by, a change of schedule always necessitated some domestic production management on my part. I only recently learned that there is an aversion to hiring mothers in key roles because of our changed priorities.


    I waited and waited to shoot a TV drama like so many of the great ones I had pulled focus on. However, there was about an eight-year drought. Bummer. Then when Mike and I were filming a doco in the US in 2001, I was able to accompany Donuts for Breakfast to Sundance. I was embraced by the doco community there and gravitated to the House of Docs, a space for panel discussions and screenings that was dedicated to documentaries. What a relief to see that the inclusive Errol Morris had his entire Interrotron crew on the podium beside him, explaining their shooting process to the audience. It was a revelation to discover a world where ideas and real people matter more than cool, career, or celebrity. I was converted. My work with factual storytelling has since led me into the field of video installation, where computers and digital imagery reign – a brave new world with almost unlimited potential.

    Shedding trucks

    In the past the scale of the equipment generally involved trucks. But now working with the newer, lighter weight digital cameras we are shedding the trucks and the budget! The arrival of DSLRs has democratised the medium and helped to increase the number of female shooters.

    Coupled with that is the proliferation of cameras throughout almost every aspect of our lives plus the proclivity for content that many students and 48 hour pundits are happy to supply at low cost or gratis. Working in the gift economy requires optimism and energy. That’s something our young women have in spades. In addition to developing their craft, they practice their sports, build their own companies, go to art school – or go to Brazil and shoot thrilling dance movies as one of the Cinefem Scholarship applicants did. And women from all over the world have come to us. Maybe it is the worldwide fame of Weta that attracts them, or our reputation as a liberal, green society that first gave women the vote.

    Power of diversity

    I believe strongly in the power of diversity to enrich our ways of being and working in the world, and initiated the informal Slow Film Movement as a counterpoint to the dollar-driven, slavish, six or seven-day week. Now owning our own gear is within our reach it means that we can be more flexible. We can avoid the costs of equipment hire, the time pressure and inhuman work schedules. Women can and are devising new ways of working. These new approaches impact on the kind of films that can be made and the stories that can be told.

    Recently, I have detected a sea change for women with cameras. This was very evident at a recent WIFT/NZCS evening at Panavision. Women pretty much ran the show. It was an historical moment. Aliesha Staples held the floor as she introduced various drones and gimbals to an audience that included old hands and newbies, both male and female. The evening was electric.


    In April of this year, I was invited to film a series of interviews of our women filmmakers for a New Zealand Film Commission initiative supported by Jane Campion. Jane’s comments about the woeful lack of women in film internationally – she is still the only woman to have won the coveted Cannes Palme d’Or – have galvanised the Film Commission into positive action. Together they devised the Cinefem Scholarship as a way of supporting women filmmakers and New Zealand film culture in general. The first scholarship focused on cinematography, and Ginny Loane and I represented NZCS on the selection panel along with Richard Bluck. I was struck by the combined experience of the applicants, the quality and diversity of the work and the high standard. We were keenly aware that there were very few Maori and Polynesian applicants, but were pleased that pregnant women and mothers applied for this cinematographers’ scholarship.

    I believe there is an abundance of talent and commitment in New Zealand and that as a group, women in film have a great deal to offer. I am encouraged by the possibilities offered by the new media and by the passion of the younger generations and their work ethic. It is a world of talent and opportunity that the pioneers Hilda Hayward, Ramai Hayward and Margaret Moth would probably find difficult to believe and I think it should give us cause for optimism about the future.

    Maria Ines Manchego wins cinematography opportunity

  • 26 Jan 2016 3:23 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)
    First Camera Pathways trainee Jamieson Montgomery, being introduced to the big bad world of Television Cinematography! Well done to Jamieson, and also to Kevin Riley for a useful scheme. Having a formal framework to employ and train was very useful, and I am sure will improve quality and outcomes for production and the students.

    Jamieson Montgomery (L) and Guy Quartermain (R)

  • 26 Jan 2016 3:19 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)
    Michael Engelbrecht recounts a new experience while shooting

    Along with Dan, the DoP,  I was in the front passenger seat as we drove across Mount Wellington in the early hours of Sunday morning recently to shoot a music video. As 1st AC, I held a Ronin on my lap fully rigged and ready to go. Our director Tim was in the van ahead of us as we followed in convoy to our location, an empty office building. 

    Along with Dan, the DoP,  I was in the front passenger seat as we drove across Mount Wellington in the early hours of Sunday morning recently to shoot a music video. As 1st AC, I held a Ronin on my lap fully rigged and ready to go. Our director Tim was in the van ahead of us as we followed in convoy to our location, an empty office building. 

    There were no other cars on the road at that time so it was easy to see the unmarked police car quite blatantly tailing us. Thinking it just must be a quiet night for them, we didn't read too much into it and pretty soon we arrived at our location and the cop car disappeared.

    About 15 minutes later, the sun was just starting to come up and a light rain had started falling on us. Tim and I were outside unloading the van and Dan was inside setting up when we amazed to hear, ‘Turn around and put your hands in the air!'    
    I turned around to see, just like on an episode of cops, a bunch of police officers popping into view with their guns drawn and pointed directly at us. My first reaction was, obviously, terror (the first time anyone has pointed a gun at me before, let alone multiple guns).

    Pretty soon, after seeing the uniforms and connecting that to the cop tailing us earlier, the thought ran through my head: 'It’s OK, it's just the cops and they've just made a massive stuff up, I'm probably not going to get shot'.

    Very quickly, Tim and I found ourselves on the ground in puddles with officers standing over us, while the rest of them looked inside for Dan and this mysterious 'firearm' that I had been spotted holding in the front seat. Judging from the all of the camera/lighting gear and the lack of any weapons, they realized pretty quickly that we were as we said we were and, as if not wanting to admit they were in the wrong, sheepishly said we could stand up and relax. 

    The one officer that did admit to the mistake was the one in the unmarked car who had called it in, and he was clearly apologetic and very embarrassed by the whole thing. 

    Before they had even left, his colleagues had already begun teasing him about it, and no doubt they will for a long time yet. 

    As ridiculous as it was, it could have turned out much worse than it did. I got a great story out of it, and that is one cop who won’t make the same mistake again. It’s just a shame we weren’t rolling. 


  • 26 Jan 2016 3:08 PM | Peter Parnham (Administrator)
    When you go on the Universal Studio tour, you know perfectly well that you are not seeing the real thing, unless you count the backs of distant trucks down studio side alleys. You can understand why – extra people on a film set is a hassle they can do without.

    This is why it was such a coup when ...

    Dave Cameron explains his shoot from within the main set 

    When you go on the Universal Studio tour, you know perfectly well that you are not seeing the real thing, unless you count the backs of distant trucks down studio side alleys. You can understand why – extra people on a film set is a hassle they can do without.

    This is why it was such a coup when Dave Cameron ACS, NZCS vice-president and DoP on Filthy Rich, convinced the show’s producers to allow him to open the set and show NZCS members how he was approaching the shoot.

    This was never going to be an ordinary lecture where a cinematographer shows a few clips and talks about his work. This time, NZCS members would be able to sit in the East Tamaki warehouse sets, watch selected scenes and have Cameron actually show them how the shots were achieved.

    Nor was this a sanitised tour, as Cameron related the pressures and compromises he faced, and how he tried to turn them into positives and advantages.

    To give a taste of what belonging to NZCS offers, the event was opened to non-members, and this proved to be a winner. People who are filmmakers and camera operators, but not on full-sized drama productions took full advantage of the invitation. Corporate members too, used the opportunity for staff who don’t normally get onto sets.

    The evening began after the day’s wrap, when the visitors – once they’d signed confidentiality agreements and had a drink – were ushered into the main set. 


    Cameron showed a trailer for the show, and talked about how he was challenged to make dollars go further. Even though it is publicised as New Zealand on Air’s biggest budget TV series to date, it is a 20-episode show, and for Cameron that meant stretching each dollar further than before.

    He says within the budget he couldn’t afford the 10K lights that would normally be used to simulate daylight streaming in from windows on the sets. This left him with a three-way trade off between illumination levels, lens speed, and acceptable camera ISO.

    His solution was to use the more expensive ARRI Zeiss Master primes which reach T1.3 wide open, ARRI Amira cameras set at 1280 ISO, and 5K fixtures outside the windows. This was the most cost-effective combination and Cameron is happy with that images came from a set that until now, would probably be regarded as under-lit.

    Not afraid

    To take advantage of the lens speed means shooting wide open, and what’s more Cameron was not afraid to use long primes, revealing a high level of confidence in his focus pullers, Sam Matthews and Dave Steel. They seemed remarkably cheerful and relaxed about the whole thing, nearly always pulling remotely from monitors in another room.

    The lighting was inventive in more ways than one, with home-made soft light boxes overhead in some sets, fluro strips built into others, and the edge taken off LED panels with a variety of soft boxes and egg crates rigged up by gaffer Grant McKinnon – a character who completely understates his insane ability to simultaneously hold the position of gaffer, builder of one-off lighting fixtures, and B camera operator. To top it all, he sometimes steps up to DoP if Cameron is called away.


    After showing selected scenes, and running through his approach, Cameron took his visitors on a tour of the sets, surprising many with his talents for making the set look far more expansive on screen than in real life. 

    The evening wrapped with a chance to meet and greet the crew who had set up the gear, and had stayed behind to explain their part in the shoot.

    NZCS is indebted to producer Steven Zanoski and line producer Nikki Baigent for their generosity in allowing this event, and the crew (see below) who stayed behind to help make it happen.


    Sam Matthews Focus Puller
    David Steel Focus Puller
    Daniela Conforte Camera assistant
    Johnathan Guest        Data Wrangler/Video split
    Grant McKinnon Gaffer / camera operator
    James Young Best Boy 
    Matthew Thomas Lighting assistant
    Alex Young  Lighting assistant
    Alex Jenkins  Generator operator
    Jeremy Osborn Key grip
    Rajiv Raj Grip assistant
    Jack Potter Grip trainee

    Filthy Rich is due to air on TV2 in Autumn 2016.

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