When I saw that two hours were set aside in the SPADA conference programme for their awards ceremony, I did wonder for a moment. But in contrast to the two-hour duration of the AFTA Craft ceremony earlier in the day, when 24 awards were presented, the SPADA ceremony was commendably brief – no doubt aided by the fact that this time there were only three presentations to be made.
The first, for the New Film-maker of the Year, was given to Zoe McIntosh, best known for her documentary about Rob Moodie, the ex-cop who appeared in court to argue a case dressed as Alice in Wonderland as a satirical comment on the nature of NZ’s justice system. Lost in Wonderland won the NZ on Air Best Popular Documentary and Best Cinematography prizes at the Qantas Film and Television Awards. Zoe has also won pitching awards at both SPADA and DocNZ (now DocEdge).
In her acceptance speech, Zoe paid tribute to her longtime colleague and mentor Costa Botes, producer of Lost in Wonderland, now garnering lots of attention of his own for his recent documentaries Daytime Tiger and The Last Dogs of Winter.
Longtime Wellingtonian McIntosh has recently relocated to Auckland, another example of a trend amongst screen production people not involved in the Peter Jackson production empire that reflects the lack of alternative opportunity in Wellywood at the present time.
The second award, for the Independent Producer of the Year, went to first-time feature producer Catherine Fitzgerald, fresh from interviewing the Australian guest producer David Jowsey in the hour prior. Presenter of her award Richard Fletcher, after commenting that “In the present financial climate, the prospect of raising money is a terrifying one!”, praised not only her work on the recently-released The Orator, the first ever feature made entirely in the Samoan language, but also her work as a mentor for many a young film-maker.
In her acceptance speech, Fitzgerald paid tribute to her mentors, including Larry Parr. When she asked him if she was about to do the right thing, he replied, “I don’t know – but if it’s wrong you’ll have to think of something else bloody fast!”
The final presentation was made to this year’s SPADA / ONFILM Industry Champion – Greenstone’s John Harris. The 13th recipient of this lifetime achievement award described his love-hate relationship with the industry, in which one had to be obsessive to survive. He also spoke of how, like so many others, he’d come through the great training ground of TVNZ, and how we should fight in the trenches to preserve it. A shame that if the National party government is re-elected that cause would appear to be lost. But nevertheless, Harris reassured us that, despite this award, he was still crazy enough to want to continue in the industry for a few more years yet.