Flying high

Last updated 05:00 13/10/2012

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Nelson scenes from the family film Kiwi Flyer remind its photography director David Paul of his childhood in Blenheim.

Home-grown movies help Kiwi kids celebrate New Zealand culture, he says and when he first saw the script for a film about kids' trolley derbies down the streets of Nelson he wanted to help make it.

Growing up in Blenheim in the 1960s-1970s, David has happy memories of the trolley-racing derbies along Wither Rd. It was when fewer people lived in the area, traffic volumes were lighter and Dads were on duty, keeping youngsters safe, he says.

Kiwi Flyer by director Tony Simpson is a pure Kiwi kids-caper comedy. It is a fun, family film with no sort of magic or special effects and 8 to 13 year olds are the target audience.

Two weeks ago David watched Kiwi Flyer at a Wellington cinema and noticed a little boy a few seats away.

"He sat bolt upright, his mouth wide open, mesmerised, talking, reacting to the film. That was the greatest reward."

Too often, David says, New Zealand children are watching foreign kids on TV and film, living in places and doing things they cannot relate to. There is huge scope for more Kiwi films, but they need to be commercially pitched to make money. "There's no bottomless pit of cash . . . but it's important we tell our stories."

Kiwi Flyer is a low-budget film, produced for under $1 million - a salary packet for a single actor in many international films, he rues. Asked how he feels about Prime Minister John Key's visit to Hollywood last week so film-makers there can be lured to New Zealand to create jobs, David says time will tell.

No-one in the film industry was excited in 2010 when the Government granted tax cuts to international film companies and adjusted labour laws so Warner Bros kept filming Peter Jackson's The Hobbit in New Zealand.

"And the majority of large budget American films are often crewed by international film crews . . . [creating jobs] is a bit of an oxymoron," David says.

Last year, however, David worked on The Adventures of Tintin, a film co-produced by Jackson, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg. The latter directed how scenes were to be filmed in New Zealand, albeit remotely.

"He stayed in the States and I was here, we had a big screen . . . and he talked back to us, like a Skype. He's a demanding man, very clever, I learned a lot off him."

David's introduction to camera work came from his father, Blenheim photographer Brian Paul, but it was a Marlborough Boys' College vocational guidance teacher who suggested he could make a career from it.

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"I didn't realise I could be a cameraman. Then I went and saw Mr Knowles and went through the list: No, I didn't want to work in an office, I probably wasn't going to work in a suit . . ."

Asked about his interests, young David showed counsellor Jim Knowles some trick photography he had done, showing impossible acts performed on skateboards. The guidance counsellor asked if he had thought about working for television.

"I didn't think a boy from Blenheim could be on TV but he gave me some contacts and instead of going back to the 7th form [year 13] I was on the ferry, going to Wellington."

Tertiary qualifications are required to get into the industry these days and a new recruit's first job is frequently unpaid, David notes. But if the right impression is made, young people's names will be passed on to other film crews and paid contracts usually follow. And people from Marlborough are still finding their way into the film industry, he says.

He directed photography in Rage, the TV film about the 1981 Spring Bok tour to New Zealand. One scene was shot from a helicopter and three men involved in it were all from Blenheim: the technician who designed the camera rig, the safety officer, and David. Camera work in Rage and another TV feature film he worked on, Tangiwai - Love Story,have earned him nominations for the 2012 New Zealand Film Awards "best cinematography" awards.

- The Marlborough Express

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