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RIP: Michael Firth

Writer and director Michael Firth, whose 1976 Off the Edge was the first NZ title nominated for the feature documentary Oscar, has died aged 68.

Firth’s first feature, created from his own love of winter sports and his ability to bring some North American skiers to the South Island, was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm only once the footage enabled him to raise additional finance.

The film was released locally by Barrie Everard, who later produced Firth’s winter sports feature The Leading Edge.

Firth’s second feature, released some seven years after Off the Edge, was drama Heart of the Stag. The film offered some early career opportunities for several now senior members of the industry. The camera crew included Alan Bollinger, Stuart Dryburgh and John Toon.

Peter Bell, Bridget Bourne and Sue May all worked on the production.

A year after Stag Firth brought many many of the crew together again for Sylvia. The film’s subject, educator Sylvia Ashton-Warner, was part of the project during development but died before it was completed.

After a successful release for Sylvia, Firth made another ski-focused feature The Leading Edge and Vulcan Lane with now expat actor Marton Csokas before concentrating on extreme sports shows and commercial work.

Following an illness, Michael Firth died on Sunday 9 October 2016.

A service to celebrate his life will be held St Marys in Holy Trinity, St Stephens Ave/Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland on Thursday 20th October 2016 at 11.00am. All welcome, as per Mikes wishes, bright colours should be worn in his memory. 

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