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RIP: Ian Turtill

Camera operator and co-founder of the Queen­stown Cam­era Com­pany Ian Turtill passed away on Saturday 19 April. A service to celebrate his life will take place in Auckland on Saturday 26.

Usually known as Turtz (“Only my mother calls me Ian”), Turtill formed the Queenstown Camera Company in 2003 with Brett Mills. He’s fondly remembered in comments on the NZ Cine facebook page and, following the notice of his passing, on the NZ Herald, in their Condolences page.

NZ Cine’s chair, Simon Reira, took time to remember Turtz.

I spent a fair bit of my early camera life loading on commercials for Turtz .

He was one of those people you meet along the way who you will always remember. Partly because as a freshly minted loader he could scare the life out of you, but mainly because he was one of a kind. A career focus-puller. He was present at the birth of professional camera-assisting in NZ.

Before him it wasn’t a career. While the rest of us saw assisting as a way to get where we wanted to go, Turtz was already there.

It was Turtz that taught our generation that being in the camera department was a serious business. Thanks to people like him, today’s assistants embrace the discipline required to work in the motion picture camera department and strive towards being superlative technicians. He was a tough task master but when you finally started to become the useful assistant he wanted you to be then he let you know.

I remember at the end of one grueling commercial, he turned to me as he was leaving and said, “You did alright.”  What more could a young loader ask for?!

On behalf of the New Zealand Cinematographers Society and those of us who were lucky enough to know him, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Turtz’s family — our thoughts are with you through this difficult time.

Ian Turtill: pic from Queenstown Camera Co

Ian Turtill: pic from Queenstown Camera Co

Turtill had credits on features including Roger Donaldson’s Smash Palace and Alison Maclean’s Palme d’Or nominee Crush and a couple of the Hercules telemovies.

Fellow NZCS member, Australian James Bartle, who worked on plenty of NZ projects including Patu! and worked with Turtill on Hercules and Geoff Murphy’s The Quiet Earth.

Bartle also recalled his time working with Turtill.

It was about 1976 and I had helped set up Vidcom and was frequently back there freelancing. Ian … asked me how he could become a Camera Assistant and should he go to the Australian film school in Sydney. My answer was ‘Yes, at the very least you will learn how much you know’.

He returned with stories of students opening the exposed magazine on the set to put the film back in the can … but it set his course to becoming one of our finest professional Camera Assistants.

I cannot tell you how many commercials and feature films we did together, but there was always his wicked sense of humour to keep us balanced when things were going wobbly on set. Like the time he sent a clapper loader off with a jammed magazine, telling him to save the exposed stock. It exploded in the dark room once the lid was removed, surrounding the loader with several hundred feet of unretrievable crumpled footage. Eventually, on returning to set, he realized he’d been set-up.

Ian’s skills had a profound effect on the productions he worked on and the people he worked with over the past forty years.

We will miss him.

Turtill died at home on 19 April 2014. A service to celebrate his life will be held at St Matthew-in-the-City, Auckland on Saturday 26 April at 2.00pm. The family has asked for donations to Mercy Hospice Auckland in lieu of flowers.

Film Otago Southland’s KJ Jennings (@KJFilm) has tweeted that there’ll be a farewell in Queenstown at 4pm Tuesday, 29 April, at Kappa – 36 The Mall.

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