Local documentaries.

Time Out

A dramatised documentary about a police hunt for an escaped prisoner in Wellington featuring Bruno Lawrence screened 05/08/1970.

Search for a Sheepstealer

From the NZ Listener. April 12, 1971.

Ove shingle face up yo 6000 feet, cameras stowed in a helicopter, or down in the crackling-dry air of the tussocky Mackenzie Basin... The exercise: a search for James Mackenzie, sheepstealer.

James McNeish, who has written a novel about the man, calls Mackenzie the New Zealander’s ideal folk figure. As script-writer and narrator of the first Survey documentary of the year he tells the story of the Mackenzie he now knows.

Producer Ian Johnstone describes the result as part fiction, part History and part legend. One of the most fascinating things about the Mckenzie episode, he says, is that the only undisputed recorded fact in all the stories about him is that once, about a hundred years ago, some Sheep were stolen from a place called Taiko. Survey takes this as its starting point.

The film crew travelled to Lyttelton, the Mackenzie Basin, the Upper Rangitata River and North Otago and back, ranging over 3000 miles in a hectic two and a half weeks. Special film was shot in Scotland for some of the sequences.

Part of the documentary presentation will be a ballad, Mackenzie and His Bitch, commissioned from Australian grazier David Campbell and sung by Glen Tomasitu.

... Travelling west
Through a world unknown
To all but Mackenzie
Silence and snow
In hunger and thirst
In midnight darkness
Mackenzie enters
The land of sagas...

The Survey team eventually found his spirit in the high country shepherds. There is no character playing the part of Mackenzie in the film because as McNeish conceives him he is elemental, a will-o-the-wisp.

Small knots of sheep
Driven towards the snow
Saddle and ride,
And you'll find no-one.

Also filmed on location is War In the North, last of the first series for 1971. Following last year’s Survey profile on Baron de Thierry there was a large audience response. War in the North is a further development along these historical documentary lines, this time featuring Hone Heke’s rebellion — an almost classic clash of cultures, according to executive producer Mike Scott- Smith.

The British soldiers came UP against unfamiliar battle tactics such as the Maoris’ trench warfare and strategic withdrawal, later used in European wars.

The script has made use of hitherto unpublished diaries. With Peter Coates as producer and Peter Read as front man, this experimental TV film will screen on May 12. Ian Johnstone says the team regards it as important for at least one the programmes in each series to “break new ground”. For series one, it’s War in the North.

Survey’s task of looking into New Zealand attitudes and aspirations will also take it to the present. In the second programme Ian Johnstone asks a wide cross-section of the public what gives them most satisfaction about our society now and what they fear most about the future.

The team tries to canvass the widest possible field, and they are delighted to discover that although New Zealanders add up to an easy-going and fairly tolerant group they are not apathetic.

Producer Bill Saunders, now on leave from the NZBC, went on location in Auckland and Samoa to make the third programme. By showing the way of life in Samoa Survey hopes to pin-point the problem areas for Samoans who migrate to New Zealand. This documentary also asks the Islanders to describe their preconceptions of this country, and to complete the study it “comes” to New Zealand with them to see us through Samoan eyes.

Fourth in the present series will be a programme on Sex education, produced by Ian Johnstone. He says that apart from the what, where and when of sex education, it will examine basic attitudes towards sexual matters. The team plans to take a non-sensational line, “taking it out of gaudy wrappers”. It is still in early stages of production.

Survey works with a permanent nucleus team under Mike Scott-Smith, using other personnel for individual projects. Lined up for future programmes — some already beyond the planning stage — are two Christchurch NZBC producers and John O'Shea of Pacific Films. There are hopes of using an expatriate New Zealander to make a programme in Britain. With two more full series coming up later this year Mike Scott-Smith anticipates that his staff will be increased by two or three. Already there are two researchers on the job and some of next year’s programmes are being planned.

LOCATION' work has also been done for the musical show An Invitation to a Musical at Monsieur Cauliflower's. As yet unscheduled for screening, this lighthearted piece of fun is being produced with members of the New Zealand Opera Company.

Producer Murray Hutchinson (Note for Note) wanted locations suitable for the Offenbach-1ian tone of the opera — colonnades, aspidistras and croquet-lawns — and found them in and around Wellington. One old mansion (like something out of Gone with the Wind), now a home for boys, was discovered.

Some of the filming was done at the Wellington residence of th British High Commissioner, who provided a summer house and butler — not to mention a croquet-lawn.

Shirley Jacobs, production secrectary, says Monsieur Cauliflower's is amusing in a sophisticated sort of way.

The principal singers are Emily Mair, George Metcalfe and Grant Dickson, with Ken Blackburn taking the part of Offenbach — the “front man”. They head a some- what straightlaced cast of 20. (The females among them struggled into authentic Edwardian corsets, after helpers-at-home had been instructed to pull the strings just a little bit tighter every day.)

The horse in the cast had to practise one and a half hours a day, and was rewarded in the end by being allowed to harness up to a handsome Park Phaeton someone had found in Levin. Closing sequences in Wellington's Botanical Gardens were shot in the style of jerky old movies.

SURVEY begins all channels, Wednesday, April 14 (1971), 9.06 p.m., approx.

They call it Decidaphobia

The Listener, April 17, 1972

When a small town seems unable to get together to decide on how to eradicate a problem, one man decides to try higher powers who have authority to make decisions. But he discovers. in a city full of people making decisions, that power and authority don’t necessarily mean decisions will be made. Decision-making is a human dilemma which involves change and the future and though individuals make certain kinds of decisions every day, society at large tends to avoid certain group decisions. The more people involved. the harder it is to reach a decision.

Such is the theme if “Deciding” the Survey programme screening on Central Television on April 19. Director of “Deciding” is Tony Williams. the man behind two of last year’s Survey programmes — “Getting Together” and The Day we landed on the most perfect planet in the Universe. A television and film director at Pacific Films. Tony Williams says this 1aest effort was the hardest film he has made. Although enthusiastic about making semi-dramatised documentaries, he found it difficult in ‘Deciding' to produce an almost current affairs programme in an abstract way. He didn’t want viewers getting it confused with a Gallery programme doing a probe on human problems.

The original idea was his. “I wanted to make a programme the opposite to the one on clubs and getting together and I thought of one about strong individuals, the decision-makers. But I discovered that decision-making is such a human dilemma it would be better to make a film on those unable to make decisions and the fact that society can’t come to grips with decision making.”

Quoted in the programme is Princeton University philosopher Watte Kaufmans, who says that an old but hitherto unrecognised fear that is nearly universal is “decidaphobia” - the dread of making hateful decisions.

The programme, made in Wellington. took two weeks to film and another week to edit. But before this the director and actor spent time actually going round government departments looking, in vain, for someone to make some kind of definite decision. So the film isn’t entirely fictitious and those participating in it don’t really need to act.

Peter Fyfe, in his first performance, plays the “Everyman” in search of a decision. Graeme Wisken is the cameraman, Ian John is editor and the programme is produced by Michael Scott-Smith.

SURVEY: DECIDING: Central Television, Wednesday April 19, 9.14 p.m.; Northen Television, April 26; CHTV4, DNTV-2 on May 10.

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