Chapter Eight – After the Boom: The Second Half of the 1980s

By Frank Stark. Summary by Jakki Galloway

The Navigator (Vincent Ward, 1988)

When the investment funds ran out the Labour Government didn't provide the relief that the film industry needed. It became clear that the best hope for funding was the New Zealand Film Commission. In May 1985, the Film Commission was given an extra $3.4 million to invest in production. “In an industry where budgets and methods were still based on Hollywood models, the amount of money the Commission had to invest in production was not going to meet expectations. Other approaches to filmmaking were needed.” p 212, New Zealand Film: An Illustrated History

By 1986, New Zealand was seeing a reduced output in films. The one feature-length film produced was Footrot Flats: The Dog's Tale (1986) by John Barnett. Audiences for this film were huge in both New Zealand and Australia.

A group of Auckland filmmakers called “New Film Group” with connections to the University of Auckland and the Alternative Cinema co-operative were also emerging. They mainly worked with 8 mm and 16 mm films, with support from the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (later Creative New Zealand).

In 1985, the Arts Council formed a partnership with the Film Commission to establish the Creative Film and Video Fund. This same year John Maynard produced the About Face series, giving writers and directors more experience. Those who worked on the production included Peter Wells, Stewart Main, Shereen Maloney, Gregor Nicholas, Costa Botes, Greg Stitt and Alison Maclean.

1985 saw Pacific Films produce Ngati. It was Barry Barclay’s first feature-length drama and the first film to be conceived, directed, produced and acted by Māori.

In 1988 The Navigator made a huge impact. The science-fiction project was directed by Vincent Ward. It was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. The world’s perception of New Zealand cinema was changing, and the narrative was becoming more varied.

In 1989, Peter Jackson’s short splatter/science fiction film Braindead was made by a team of friends who mainly worked for Wellington’s daily newspaper, The Evening Post. They made the film during their weekends on no budget. Jim Booth, Director of the Film Commission at the time, encouraged the Commission to support the project. In 1988, after Booth’s departure from the Film Commission, Judith McCann took over. By this point the film industry was in recession.

In March 1990, the National Film Unit was sold for only $2.5 million.


Activity 21: Goodbye Pork Pie – Close read a cartoon.

Activity 22: Support the filmmaking industry – Write a letter to the Minister.

Activity 23: Mark II – Re-design the poster.

Activity 24: Sir Peter Jackson – Interview your classmate.


FORWARD to Chapter Nine – New Currents in the Mainstream: The 1990s

BACK to Chapter Seven – Boom Times: The Early 1980s

BACK to Our Film History

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