91 years ago today, a fun time was had by all at a sporting event at Athletic Park, Wellington. This silent film footage, shot on 6 March 1926, includes scenes showing various sporting events, including: javelin, long and short distance running, hurdles, cycling races and high jump – as well as some slightly less conventional athletic feats, such as the “boys inside tyre race.”
The film also features footage of Randolph Rose, one of New Zealand’s first great distance runners, defeating the American champion at Masterton two days earlier.
The film was produced to a high standard by Joseph Sylvanus Vinsen. The smart intertitles that introduce each event are designed in modern 1920s fonts and feature a graphic of a runner. It would have been screened locally, as a prelude to a longer film feature, allowing people who participated in the event the pleasure of seeing themselves or their friends / family members on screen.
- By Ellen Pullar (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
61 years ago, in February 1956, the design of Scott Base, Antarctica commenced. The project was led by Edmund Hillary. A unique film held in the collections of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, called The Design and Construction of Scott Base Antarctica: 357 Days (Ministry of Works, 1957), follows the progress on Scott Base.
The film’s narrative charts the design and build of the base, the testing of its construction materials, the departure of Hillary and his team by ship on 10 December 1956, through to the men’s activities on the base in Antarctica.
Fortunately, the Wanganella’s passengers were rescued the next day. Rescuing the vessel, however, was not so easy. In spite of several attempts by tugboats to unstick the ship, it remained firmly attached to the reef for 18 days.
The ship was finally freed on 6 February. This film, held in the collections of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, shows tugboats attempting to shift the vessel and eventually succeeding.
Ellen Pullar, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision: Your film, Bodies In The Void, has been selected to screen as the finale to the Wellington Underground Film Festival (WUFF) this Saturday evening. Could you tell us a bit more about the film, and your inspirations making it?
Dan Harris: This film started out as an experiment and just kind of developed over time. I made a few animations and then tried to replicate the animations in real life. Initially it was just a way of exploring form, I wanted to make it hard to differentiate what was filmed and what was 3D rendered. I’m fascinated by technologies that deal with virtual space or detached realities. Oculus Rift, camera drones, Second Life, anything where the line between the real and virtual become blurred. It makes me excited and kind of terrified at the same time.
EP: Each year WUFF attracts hundreds of submissions from around the world. The fact that your films have been selected for three WUFF festivals is very impressive! Festival Director Rosie Rowe tells us your films express a distinctive “style and voice that I would claim should be recognised internationally.” Can you tell me a bit more about your background as a filmmaker – what drew you to film initially? And what draws you to WUFF, in particular?
DH: I started using video when I was about 14-15, just filming my friends skating. I think I liked filming because it took the attention away from me being a lousy skater – ha. I was really into Spike Jonze skate and music videos, they were clever and not super high-production. It kind of opened my eyes to what was possible to make with little or no money. Since then I’ve always appreciated work that was made for cheap, and I’ve always preferred the experience of being in small crews or one-on-one collaborations. WUFF caters a lot to that type of work.
Also, I just want to say the films I’ve submitted to WUFF couldn’t have happened without the music of Cartoon (Ryan Bennett) and Jupiter Phrixos Njörðr – sound is a definite driving force for me. Continue reading →
This week, we chat to Oscar Halberg, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s projectionist, about the ins-and-outs, perks and downfalls of his job. Oscar has a high degree of expertise when it comes to film projection, having been working in the field for over twenty years. His skills are in high demand: as well as working for Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, he has projected films for a number cinemas and festivals in Wellington and elsewhere in New Zealand. Speaking to him, I was struck by the same level of perfectionism that was a feature of the 1915 Motion Picture Handbook: A Guide for Managers and Operators of Picture Theatres, which was the subject of an earlier blog – a precise nature must be a prerequisite to be a projectionist!
Oscar Halberg: As an audience you don’t see the booth, you don’t really think about how that image is put on screen, and how much work does go into that. I can’t tell you the amount of people that used to say to me “what do you do for a job?” and I’d say “I’m a projectionist,” then roll my eyes because typical responses are: “Oh you must get to see all the movies then! What did you think about so-and-so?”, or “you just put a tape in and press play, right?”, thinking it’s like VHS at home, which – of course – it isn’t. And I tell them “It’s a little bit more complicated than that,” and then you have to get into the whole “It’s in 20 minute reels, and you have to join all of those reels together.” You get to see the first five minutes and the end. You always see the end before you see the beginning, which was one of the reasons why I hated Pulp Fiction (1994) for the longest time, because I just couldn’t justify the fact that the opening scene was the same as the closing scene!
Ellen Pullar (Digital Programme Developer, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision): When did you decide to become a projectionist? How long have you been doing it?
Oscar: 23 years. Since 1992, when I started my apprenticeship. I haven’t always worked as a projectionist, but there’s never been more than three or four months where I haven’t had to project a film. Though probably in the last three years I’m doing less and less 35mm work, it’s all digital. The interesting difference between digital and 35mm is clearly it’s not as physical – you’re not lifting film around all the time and carrying prints. But you still do the same sort of work, you just go about doing it differently – so instead of using a splicer, I use a mouse. Though a feature in the digital sense is full and complete. It is assembled in the same way, digital film still has reels. So they’ll have reel one, with visuals and the audio soundtrack, and then they’ll have, reel two and three – but they’re all joint together as what they call a “Digital Cinema Package” or “DCP.”
What was it like to own a movie theatre in 1915? How were films projected 100 years ago? In today’s rush to embrace digital cinema projection, the act and ritual of handling physical film during projection is becoming something of a lost art (fortunately though, film archives around the world remain dedicated to projecting on film – the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision cinema is equipped to project both 35mm and DCP – Digital Cinema Package). Call me nostalgic, but for me there’s nothing like watching a film that by its very tangibility evokes its conditions of production and exhibition – the “cigarette burns” that mark where one reel of film is about to run out, or usage scratch marks that testify to the enjoyment of the film by the audiences of a previous generation. The third edition of F. H. Richardson’s Motion Picture Handbook: A Guide for Managers and Operators of Picture Theatres, suggests that the craft of film projection had already developed to a high level of sophistication by 1915, when this edition was prepared.
This handbook is housed in the Jonathan Dennis research library, accessible by appointment at Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Wellington, where it sits alongside a diverse range of books relating to film and television production, exhibition and reception, dating back to the late 1800s. I immensely enjoyed reading the Motion Picture Handbook, even though some of the detailed electrical, scientific and mathematical information contained within far exceeded my limited comprehension in these fields. The author Richardson’s encyclopedic knowledge of every aspect of film projection and movie theatre ownership is most impressive. He considers everything – electrical wiring, amperage, rheostats, how to avoid short circuits, alternating currents, arc rectifiers, the pros and cons of different kinds of lenses, the science of light reflection, persistence of vision, how to care for a range of different brands of film projection equipment / tools / electrical equipment, how to look after and repair film, making your own advertising slides, the colour and intensity of projection lamps, ways of laying out and furnishing cinemas, the ideal dimension of the space between rows of seating, cinema lighting schemes, what type of neighbourhood to build your cinema in, what sort of personages to hire as staff, and a lot more in-between. Continue reading →
- By Ellen Pullar, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Communications Advisor
It has been a cracker of a summer so far! If you’re anything like us you’ll have been flocking to the corner dairy or soft serve truck for icy treats to stay cool (conveniently there are two dairies and a gelato stall on Taranaki St, on the same block as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision Wellington, but I digress…). Ice cream has been a quintessential part of the kiwi summer for generations — it’s up there with jandals and stubbies. And, did you know, according to the wise and wonderful Aunt Daisy, it’s good for your health?
A few items from the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision collections that document our nation’s longstanding adoration of ice cream follow.
A Sporting Topical (1928)
This newsreel was made by Lawrie Inkster. The Greymouth-based Lawrie Inkster and his wife Hilda were prolific makers of home movies and newsreels. Their films document family and social life, leisure activities and public events in the region during the 1920s through the 1940s, with much warmth and energy. Here we see a group of young women, smartly dressed in the flapper style then current (including cloche hats and stylish headbands) perched on a sand dune, enjoying their ice creams.Continue reading →
At 5.50pm on the 16th of October 1936, Rotorua-born aviator Jean Batten landed in Auckland– she’d successfully completed the first ever direct flight from England to New Zealand.
Although Batten broke world flying records several times over, this was the longest of all of her journeys. Always a solo flyer, her long-distance flights were incredible feats of mental and physical endurance. Her flight from England to Auckland flight covered 14,000 miles, including 1,300 miles over the Tasman Sea – a leg of the trip that was believed to be particularly dangerous, with media commentators criticising the risk she was taking [Te Ara]. This leg of the trip alone took her ten and half hours [NZEDGE.COM]. She flew in a small Percival Gull monoplane. She left England at 3.30am on the 5th of October and landed in Auckland eleven days later, on the evening of October 16.
Last week Reel Life in Rural New Zealand - a screening tour organised as part of a partnership between the Film Archive and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust - won the Most Innovative Public Programme category in Museums Aotearoa’s 2014 New Zealand Museum Awards. Jane Paul (NZFA Outreach Screenings Manager) and Zoe Roland (NZHPT Canterbury/West Coast Area Coordinator) were thrilled to accept the shiny trophy at the awards ceremony.
Watch a video from the Reel Life in Rural New Zealand tour:
In March 2013 Film Archive and NZHPT staff toured the Reel Life in Rural New Zealand programme of films made in the Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay regions around five NZHPT registered heritage woolsheds from Maraekakaho to Tinui. The films featured farming history, shearing gangs, kiwi inventions dating back to 1913, and some of the unique rituals of country life.
At the awards ceremony Museums Aotearoa announced that the Reel Life programme won the Public Programmes category by “capturing a strong feeling of nostalgia and authenticity”, and “playing an active part in those rural communities.”
The Film Archive regularly takes films on the road as part of the Travelling Film Show initiative, which takes films from the collections to towns and cities across New Zealand – frequently to the places where the films were made. The Reel Life in Rural New Zealand tour was unique though – this was the first time we had screened films in woolsheds!
The King’s Theatre in Wellington was the first permanent and purpose-built movie theatre in New Zealand. It opened with much fanfare on 16 March 1910. Prior to the construction of customised movie theatres films had been screened in buildings built for stage productions, or other available and spacious venues such as adapted hotels and town halls – even old churches. A reporter for the Dominion recalled of an older Wellington theatre:
“His Majesty’s Theatre was not always a theatre. It was erected for the United Methodist Free Church and did faithful duty for many years. Then things happened and the church was converted into a music hall by Messrs Fuller and Sons and permanent vaudeville considerably altered its purpose in the world” (Dominion, 15 March 1910, p. 6).
This same church-cum-vaudeville-house was then leased to the Royal Picture Syndicate for film screenings. Given the venues that had been previously used for screenings, the opening of the new King’s Theatre was quite the exciting event, with the theatre being billed as “the most up-to-date picture theatre in Australasia” (Free Lance, 19 March 1910, p. 9).