In a world…

NZTECHO Summer 2016 Wide Angle Issue 71

Waka Attewell NZCS attends this year’s first ever NZCS Awards ceremony in Auckland and finds much to celebrate and wonders whether we are finally asking ourselves the right questions.

Go on, do the voice.

In a world… of too much rain, too much darkness … and not enough smoke (damn it, art department). In a world of endless ¾ backlight and moody shadows, god rays and rainbows.

Cut to: men gathering to feast and bellow their pride. Oh heck, not another awards show?

The weekend starts with cinematographer Tom Stern ASC, AFC, describing himself as a failed electrician. The guy that can name drop Conrad Hall and Clint in the same sentence. Yeah, that Clint. Regaling us with shaggy tales from the Hollywood front line, spiritual endeavours from the Russian tundra and art projects with heart and soul with European connections.

A man who lives in France and works in Hollywood… we immediately like him for his sensible choices. The chat conducted by Simon Riera is well mic’ed, well attended and most appreciated for the insights to the movie shooting process where Tom, beautifully, describes craft as a way of life.

I wonder what life would be like doing two Eastwood movies back to back? He speaks of luck and hard work. The lighting technician who got the call from Clint to tell him that he was shooting his next picture; a guy who hadn’t thought of being a DP. It pays to turn up early and pay attention to the details, eh? Opportunity – she’s our petulant mistress.

The men dispersed into the forest to gather their finery for the forthcoming feasting. A few of the rabble head next door and kick the tyres of the new 8K box from RED. Awe and wonderment and the question on everyone’s lips – 8k? When will enough be enough? At first, the men crowded down the end with the camera and then someone found the free beer and the decibel levels climbed – thank you Claude Dasan of Portsmouth.

Head-count: 84 plus 170 (+ or -) entries to the awards. It must be official. There are now more cinematographers in Auckland than there are train drivers. Partly due to this fact, and housing prices in the north, newly accredited James Cowley NZCS has even moved out of Auckland. Lookout Hawke’s Bay.

What could be more invigorating than being trapped in a room for nine hours with a bunch of men talking about themselves? I head into the fading light to find my suit and prepare.


It’s the inaugural awards for the Cinematographers Society. Suits aplenty and pomp ensues. Look at that – they all got dressed (up) for the occasion. It’s amazing what the threat of a photo opportunity will do. We jam into the lifts and make our way to the back corner of the hotel. Kubrick’s The Shining springs to mind. The music builds, the lights dim, the spotlight finds… finds… FINDS. Aw heck!  What’s this? Who invited her? Did someone bring his sister?

Luckily, Antonia Prebble is a great MC. The men finally grunt their appreciation as they tear at the food and guzzle the wine. If any fighting broke out it wasn’t around my fire… mainly due to the fact that the Grips had fallen for the old trick of ‘you wait for us at the Shakespeare and we’ll pick you up in the bus as we swing by’. Could’ve been the wine, could’ve been the company, probably the testosterone – whatever – the appreciation rose to a mini-climax as show time is made up and the main feasting occurs as scheduled. Old rule, always feed the crew on time.

The concept of the bronze and silver with the occasional gold (and occasional speech) sort of takes the urgency off the proceedings. I like this format for an awards show a lot.

Peter Parnham finally looks a little more settled and has stopped jumping from foot to foot. The evening progresses seamlessly. Thanks Peter and the NZCS organising committee – no small task indeed.

The room glows with appreciation, filling the stomach and corners of the venue… an appreciation of a three hour lighting set up of a car TVC, or that burger with the right amount of appetite appeal; the backlit music clip, documentary, TV drama, full on respect for that shot of the albatross that would’ve taken three months, possibly three years to get… An evening of respect and celebration.

Esteemed guests speak from across the Tasman. You know, the usual – underarm bowling joke, All Blacks, and sheep shagging innuendo – gosh, is that the time already?

…and then love fills the clearing, Weta Digital and a tribute to Andrew Lesnie RIP. A hush falls across the place. What respect. I love this business. I love these people.

A room full of egos, over-inflated importance and stories bold and sometimes true. A room full of plumbers and builders we are not; rumour had it there are Christians, Buddhists and even Freemasons present, bureaucrats and managers from the corporate world. What is this great backdrop trick that Rosco has done with the Murray Milne NZCS stills of Auckland? SoftDrop is amazing. Tom Swartz from Rosco was present, a great product folks.

Around about pudding time I am surprised by a great man hug from Lee Tamahori (Mahana, Once Were Warriors) and an even better man-hug from Louise Baker. We share banter about lesbians and cross-dressing… oh yeah, you had to have been there.

Tom Stern gives the second best speech of the evening. He warns of the technology:  holding up a 4K Hero in one hand a cell phone in the other. Yeah, I feel sick. Size is a relative thing – I mean what could go wrong? Everyone with a cell phone is now a cinematographer. As I said, 8K? When is enough, enough?

It was about now it occurred to me ‘was it still illegal to yell FIRE in a crowded cinema?’

But then the show kicks off again.

And the winner of the prestige, whoa, all-in-winner-takes-all award goes to New Zealand Cinematographer of the Year … drum roll … Ginny Loane. Oh no, a bloody girl!

How did that happen?

The men grunt their approval… but a standing ovation? Now, that’s just going too far!

Here’s the best speech of the evening:


Gin’s Speech (abridged):

It’s a privilege to accept this award.

I want to thank the wonderful Lee Tamahori for giving me the opportunity to work on Mahana.

I also want to acknowledge the wonderful actors and crew who made the film a total pleasure to work on.

As a woman cinematographer I have been lucky. I’ve had support and encouragement from some wonderful men in this room and I’m grateful for that.

I’m just one woman DP of only a handful in this country. It’s a problem … We need to do more.

If we want our industry to be more interesting and diverse, to reflect the actual society that we live in, then we have to make room for it.

It’s up to those of us in positions of privilege to take the risks and reach in and pull forward those people who may not fit the preconception of what a cinematographer looks like.

If we want more diversity, we DP’s have to start giving space to people who don’t remind us of ourselves. We have to challenge our own thinking and choices and take risks.

It starts here in this room.

(Spontaneous applause!)

I, and hopefully many other women, will take it as encouragement. Thank you.

(More applause!)