New Zealand Cinema has been hailed by Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro, who will be producing The Hobbit film duology alongside Peter Jackson, as "Hollywood the way God intended it" . Peter Jackson has produced in New Zealand four of the highest grossing movies of all time, with The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003) and King Kong (2005).
With this Act the New Zealand Film industry became more stabilised. Article 18 “Content of Films” New Zealand Film Commission Act (1978) would serve to define which aspects a film had to have in order for it to be labeled as a New Zealand Film. To qualify as a New Zealand film all the aspects listed below must be of New Zealand in origin;
These defining aspects have in recent years caused debate on whether films like The Frighteners and the Lord of the Rings qualify as New Zealand Films. The impact of the New Zealand Film Commission on the industry was in getting films made, coming to a definition of NZ Film, and helping establish a Screen Industry in New Zealand.
Most New Zealand films are made by independent filmmakers, often on a low budget and with sponsorship from public funds. Relatively few New Zealand-made films have been specifically commissioned for the international market by international film distributors.
Recently, international film companies have become more aware of the skills of New Zealand filmmakers, and have increasingly used the New Zealand film industry as a base to shoot and also sometimes finish their feature films.
Private funding for New Zealand films has often been in short supply, although for a period in the early eighties tax-breaks resulted in a rush of money and a production boom. Although the trend seems to be changing for the better, some New Zealand directors and actors have been ignored in large part by their own country, despite success overseas, and often had to work in the USA,Australia, and the UK as a result.
The first screening of a colour film (colour process, not just a colourised black and white film) was on Christmas Eve in 1911. It was a simutaneous showing at the Globe Picture Theatre, Queen Street and the Kings Theatre, Upper Pitt Street (now Mercury Lane).
The first filmmaker in New Zealand was Alfred Whitehouse, who made ten films between 1898 and mid-1900. The oldest surviving New Zealand film is Whitehouse's The Departure of the Second Contingent for the Boer War (1900).
However, during this period, most New Zealand-made films were documentaries. The National Film Unit was a government-funded producer of short films, documentaries, and publicity material. This is New Zealand, a short film made for the World Expo in 1970 was extremely popular there and subsequently screened in New Zealand cinemas, to much public acclaim. It used three projectors onto a wide screen, and was restored in 2004-05 and later rereleased.
One of the first New Zealand films to attract largescale audiences at home - and also see release in the United States - was Sleeping Dogs, directed by Roger Donaldson in 1977. A dark political action thriller that portrays the reaction of one man to the formation of a totalitarian government, and subsequent guerrilla war in New Zealand, it introduced Sam Neill as a leading actor. While its local images of large scale civil conflict and government repression were unfamiliar to most viewers, they became a reference point after the 1981 Springbok Tour protests and police response, just a few years later.
1981 saw the release of the road movie Goodbye Pork Pie, which made NZ$1.5 million (a figure comparable with major Hollywood blockbusters of the time like Star Wars or Jaws). Director Geoff Murphy accepted movie offers from Hollywood.
The release of Goodbye Pork Pie is considered to be the coming-of-age of New Zealand cinema, as it showed that New Zealanders could make successful films about New Zealand. Before Murphy was lured away by Hollywood, he made two other key New Zealand films, Utu, (1983), about the land wars of the 1860s, and The Quiet Earth (1985) a science fiction film. Both films featured Bruno Lawrence, who became a local movie star. In 1987 Barry Barclay's film Ngati was released to critical acclaim and some box-office success. 'Ngati' is recognised as the first feature film to be written and directed by a member of a minority indigenous population (in this case Maori) anywhere in the world.
Key examples of these are: The Lounge Bar (1989) (Directed by Don McGlashan and Harry Sinclair as The Front Lawn), 12 Min, 35 mm, colour; Kitchen Sink (1989) (Alison McLean), 14 minutes, 35 mm, b/w; A Little Death: A Modern Day Fairytale (1994) (Simon Perkins and Paul Swadel), 11 minutes, 16 mm, colour & b/w; Stroke (1994) (Christine Jeffs) 8 Min, 35 mm, colour; La Vie En Rose (1994) (Anna Reeves), 7 Min, colour; A Game With No Rules (1994) (Scott Reynolds), 16.30 Min, colour; Eau de la vie (1993) (Simon Baré), 13 Min, colour.
The early 1990s saw New Zealand film gain international recognition, most obviously with Jane Campion's The Piano (1993), which won four Academy Awards. Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures (1994) and Lee Tamahori's Once Were Warriors also gained international critical acclaim and high grosses in a number of countries. The first two examples showed an increasing tendency for New Zealand films to be partially or completely overseas-funded, and also star non-New Zealand actors (Holly Hunter and Harvey Keitel in The Piano and Kate Winslet in Heavenly Creatures). This did not stop the migration of New Zealand talent to the United States: Tamahori, Melanie Lynskey of Heavenly Creatures and Canadian-born Piano star Anna Paquin are now all primarily based in America, and some of the Warriors cast also found work there.
A notable exception to the migration tendency is Peter Jackson, who has continued to make films in New Zealand. Jackson's career began with low-budget horror movies, such as Bad Taste (1987). He gradually became noticed by Hollywood, and directed the phenomenally successful Lord of the Rings films. Although made with mainly American money (and some from the New Zealand government) and a primarily international cast, Jackson filmed the movies in New Zealand, using a largely Kiwi production crew, helping create an enormous skill base in the New Zealand film industry.
This has led to a number of prominent Hollywood films being made in New Zealand, with major international productions not only filming there but also using the various post-production facilities and special effects companies on offer. The resulting films include The Last Samurai and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. While the funding for these movies is largely American, it has helped New Zealand film studios and filmmakers develop their skills and improve their facilities.
However, some industry figures claim that having large international productions employ New Zealanders has its downside. One New Zealand filmmaker recently highlighted how difficult it was to employ cameramen when working on a low-budget New Zealand film, as cameramen are now used to receiving large wages Other film makers find that the opposite is true, and argue that the greater number of local professionals may actually have driven wages down from the relative heights of the 1980s. Another alleged downside is that the big-budget internal productions swallow up any funding New Zealand has available, making it far more difficult for local productions to find money.
Despite this, local content has also significantly increased with notable films including In My Father's Den (directed by Brad McGann - 2004) and The World's Fastest Indian (directed by Roger Donaldson - 2005). Both films have done very well at the New Zealand box-office, most notably The World's Fastest Indian, which beat the record held by Once Were Warriors to become the highest grossing New Zealand film at the domestic box-office, taking in over $6.5 million.
The latter part of this decade saw the expansion of Peter Jackson's filmmaking empire with Jackson optioning the rights to The Lovely Bones, Halo, Dambusters and the fantasy dragon series Temeraire. Major productions such as James Cameron's Avatar and the 2007 summer blockbuster The Waterhorse are also utilizing Jackson's Wellington studios and enlisting special effects giant Weta Digital.
An important and accessible retrospective of New Zealand film, Sam Neill's Cinema of Unease was made in 1995. The film presented the history of New Zealand film from the personal perspective of Sam Neil.
Much of the early cinema film made in New Zealand has been lost, as it was printed on unstable nitrate film base. In 1992, when film enthusiasts and the New Zealand Film Archive realised how much of New Zealand's film heritage was being lost, they mounted the Last Film Search and found 7,000 significant films, both in New Zealand and around the world.
For films in prior years, see: List of New Zealand feature films
|The Last Samurai||Edward Zwick||Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe||Co-production with the USA|
|The Locals||Greg Page||Kate Elliot, Dwayne Cameron|
|Perfect Strangers||Gaylene Preston||Sam Neill, Rachael Blake|
|The Return of the King||Peter Jackson||Viggo Mortensen, Karl Urban||Academy Award winner for Best Picture And Best Director 2003|
|Fracture||Larry Parr||Kate Elliot, John Noble|
|In My Father's Den||Brad McGann||Emily Barclay, Matthew Macfadyen||Released internationally|
|Spooked||Geoff Murphy||Ian Mune, Cliff Curtis|
|Without a Paddle||Steven Brill||Seth Green, Burt Reynolds||New Zealand locations|
|50 Ways of Saying Fabulous||Stewart Main||Andrew Patterson, Jay Collins|
|Boogeyman||Stephen Kay||Barry Watson, Lucy Lawless||Co-production with the USA|
|The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe||Andrew Adamson||Liam Neeson, Tilda Swinton||Made with American funding|
|King Kong||Peter Jackson||Naomi Watts, Jack Black||Academy Award winner For Best Acheivement In Visual Effects 2005|
|Memories of Tomorrow (NZ Film)||Amit Tripuraneni||Richard Thompson, Rachel Gilchrist, Ray Trickitt||Independent Film|
|River Queen||Vincent Ward||Samantha Morton, Kiefer Sutherland|
|The World's Fastest Indian||Roger Donaldson||Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Cauffiel||Highest grossing NZ film|
|Sione's Wedding||Chris Graham||Robbie Magasiva, Nathaniel Lees||(or Samoan Wedding)|
|No. 2||Toa Fraser||Ruby Dee, Nathaniel Lees||Audience Award winner at Sundance|
|Out of the Blue||Robert Sarkies||Karl Urban, Paul Glover||Based on a true story|
|Meet Me in Miami||Iren Koster||Carlos Ponce, Tara Leniston||Independent film|
|Black Sheep||Jonathan King||Oliver Driver, Peter Feeney||Best Reviewed New Zealand Horror Film|
|Bridge to Terabithia||Gabor Csupo||Robert Patrick, Zooey Deschanel||Filmed in Auckland|
|Eagle vs Shark||Taika Waititi||Jemaine Clement, Craig Hall|
|Perfect Creature||Glenn Standring||Saffron Burrows, Dougray Scott|
|The Tattooist||Peter Burger||Jason Behr, Michael Hurst|
|The Devil Dared Me To||Chris Stapp||Chris Stapp, Matt Heath|
|The Ferryman||Chris Graham||Amber Sainsbury, John Rhys-Davies, Kerry Fox|
|Men Shouldn't Sing||Michael Bell||2007|
|The Lovely Bones||Peter Jackson||Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg||2009|
|Tintin||Peter Jackson||Andy Serkis||2009|
|Untitled Charles Upham biopic||2008|
|Untitled Bruce McLaren biopic||2009|
|10,000 BC||Roland Emmerich||Steven Strait, Camilla Belle||Queenstown|
|Avatar||James Cameron||Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldaña||Wellington|
|The Waterhorse||Jay Russell||Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin||Wellington|
|Underworld: Rise of the Lycans||Patrick Tatopoulos||Rhona Mitra||Auckland|
|Wolverine||Gavin Hood||Hugh Jackman|
|Andrew Adamson||Shrek 1 and 2, The Narnia film series||Academy Award-winner|
|Martin Campbell||Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro, GoldenEye||BAFTA-winner|
|Jane Campion||The Piano||Academy Award-winner, Golden Palm-nominee|
|Niki Caro||Whale Rider, North Country||BAFTA- winner|
|Roger Donaldson||Dante's Peak, Cocktail, The Recruit||Golden Palm-nominee|
|Ellory Elkayem||Eight Legged Freaks|
|Peter Jackson||Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong||Three-time Academy Award-winner|
|Geoff Murphy||Goodbye Pork Pie, Young Guns II|
|Andrew Niccol||Lord of War, Gattaca, The Truman Show (writer)||BAFTA-winner, Academy Award-nominee|
|Lee Tamahori||Die Another Day, Along Came a Spider, Once Were Warriors|
|Taika Waititi||Eagle vs. Shark, Two Cars, One Night||Academy Award-nominee|
|Vincent Ward||River Queen, What Dreams May Come||Two-time time Golden Palm nominee|
|Keisha Castle-Hughes||Whale Rider, The Nativity Story||Academy Award nominee|
|Russell Crowe||Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind||Academy Award winner|
|Marton Csokas||The Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven|
|Cliff Curtis||Runaway Jury, Collateral Damage|
|Alan Dale||Ugly Betty, The OC||SAG nominee|
|Daniel Gillies||Spider-Man 2 and 3|
|Martin Henderson||The Ring, Flyboys, Torque|
|Lucy Lawless||Xena Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica|
|Melanie Lynskey||Flags of Our Fathers, Two and a Half Men, Heavenly Creatures|
|Temuera Morrison||Once Were Warriors, Speed 2, Star Wars Episode II|
|Sam Neill||Jurassic Park 1 and 3, The Piano||Emmy, Golden Globe nominee|
|Anna Paquin||X-Men film series, The Piano||Academy Award winner|
|Jessica Rose||I Know Who Killed Me, Lonelygirl15||Gained fame on YouTube|
|Karl Urban||Doom, The Bourne Supremacy, The Lord of the Rings|