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Last updated 05:00 08/01/2014
FILM BUFF: Lawyer Alan Sorrell becomes a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film.

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Behind the scenes legal work which helped kickstart big budget films in New Zealand has earned Auckland lawyer Alan Sorrell a prestigious award.

Mr Sorrell is one of several creative central Auckland residents, including fashion designers Karen Walker and WORLD's Francis Hooper, to gain New Year honours this year.

The Herne Bay resident was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film.

, Mr Sorrell has been a lawyer for 40 years and was chairman of the New Zealand Film Commission from 1996 to 2002.

He was instrumental in setting up the New Zealand Film Production Trust which provided funding for large budget films such as Whale Rider and The World's Fastest Indian.

"There was a shortage of funding for large films and we evolved that scheme with the government," he says.

"I led a very good team.

"It was an amazing team of people and the government was receptive to the idea."

Mr Sorrell says he was asked to be on the Film Commission board after doing legal work for film-makers.

He was involved in making several films a year, enabling him to rub shoulders with the likes of Peter Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, who was on the Film Commission board with him.

He has chatted to actor Sam Neill and even met models Claudia Schiffer and Jerry Hall.

Mr Sorrell was reluctant to name a favourite film, despite being so involved in the industry.

"Everyone has their favourite but I like all my children equally," he says.

"Some are good for financial reasons and some are good for creative reasons and some are good for starting people's careers."

He encouraged young people to get involved in creative organisations.

"Those who don't have great creative skills themselves do have an opportunity to contribute through roles in organisations such as the Film Commission and I have been lucky enough to have that," he says.

"There's a shortage of young people with business skills putting their hands up for roles in creative organisations."

Mr Sorrell has been chairman of the Creative New Zealand arts board since 2007 and is the director of Auckland Film Studios Limited.

Other central Auckland residents who earned honours were: Alison Mae, Alistair Carruthers, Karen Walker, Francis Hooper from WORLD and William Smale.

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