Accolades flow for film-maker

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 08:38 29/10/2013
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ROBERT CHARLES

Anthony Powell and wife Christine.

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It took 10 years to make and threw up challenges few movie-makers would have had to endure.

Filming can be a bit tricky when the temperature falls to -40 degrees Celsius.

Anthony Powell, from Hawera, spent more than 100 months in Antarctica and has made a documentary feature film - Antarctica: A Year On Ice - about the frozen continent.

Looking through a camera view finder can be hazardous when the cameraman has ice built up on his face and eyelashes, because the eyelashes can freeze to the camera view, he says.

"And in the more extreme cold you cannot take your gloves off at all to operate the small buttons on the cameras, so it means keeping something like a pair of pliers in your pocket at all times so you have something to press the buttons and operate the small levers with."

But filming in icy conditions had its advantages, Powell would often have curious penguins waddle right up to him to see what he was doing.

The wildlife in Antarctica have no natural land-based predators and are not afraid of humans if they move calmly, he says.

But people are not allowed to interfere with the wildlife, so if he was filming animals he avoided getting any closer than about 10 metres. Antarctica: A Year On The Ice will have three screenings in New Plymouth at Event Cinema, starting on Friday. "It follows if you went down at the start of summer in October and stayed there for a full 12 months," Powell says. "It is half visual and half interviews with people."

He is currently in North America on the film festival circuit and the film is winning awards wherever it goes.

A couple of weeks ago it beat the latest Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts film, August: Ostage County, to win best film at the Scottsdale Film Festival in Arizona.

It was great to have a documentary film win best picture for the whole festival, he says.

"It is not often a documentary will beat out the narrative features."

As a self-taught film-maker it feels great to beat the professionals.

"I'm still a bit blown away by it all. I always knew it was going to be something special, as nothing like this has ever been seen on film before, but I still haven't really let it sink in."

It is such an incredible experience being on the ice, and to finally be able to share it is extremely rewarding, he says.

"It's a great feeling to see that people are getting to finally experience and really enjoy what has been such an amazing part of our lives for so long now." Powell's journey from taking photos as a hobby to award winning film-maker started when he was working as a Telecom technician in Hawera and got an internal posting to work at Scott Base for a year.

While there, he met his American born wife Christine.

Powell has spent nine winters at Antarctica, his wife eight. Then for two years they just went down for the summer.

Leaving a camera out overnight occasionally sometimes resulted in having to dig the camera out of a snow bank in the morning after a storm.

"On another occasion, despite the camera being well wrapped up, the compact flash, battery, and camera electronics were packed solid with snow that had been driven inside the camera from the force of the storm." The longest time-lapse sequence in the film took almost five months to film, which involved hiking out into the ice pressure ridges near Scott Base every three days to swap the camera batteries and memory cards.

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Antarctica:A Year On Ice won't be his last film, Powell says.

"I already have plans in place for a collaborative follow-up feature that covers all seven continents."

He doesn't know whether the documentary will be eligible for the Oscars as the Academy Awards has complicated rules, he says.

"I'll have to look into that."

Next month he has another six film festivals lined up in the United States as well as its Australia premiere at the Brisbane Festival.

Antarctica: A Year On Ice will be on in New Plymouth on Friday November 1, 4pm, Saturday, November 2, at 11am and Sunday November 3, at 5.30pm at Event Cinema.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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