The ‘Moneyless Economy’ for Video Production
Video clips shot at Avalon might have suffered from budget and time restrictions, and there was very little funding available for TVNZ employees shooting on location, but independently produced music videos were typically made entirely for free. Bands called in favours from filmmaking friends, who in turn bartered and borrowed equipment, crew, and access to facilities to get clips completed. In the absence of proper funding for videos, a “moneyless economy” emerged, a loose infrastructure that enabled directors access to what they needed. Bands often approached film students, who could use their school’s equipment and facilities, and who were willing to work for free for the benefit of the experience. Other directors were on the dole or only partially employed, with time on their hands and affiliations with their local music and filmmaking scenes. A lot of film – through various informal networks – made its way out of TVNZ news cans and into the hands of filmmakers, and equipment and facilities were also made available to filmmakers by long-running film co-operative Alternative Cinema, as well as TVNZ.
Keith Tannock: A full roll of film was 400ft, 10 minutes. So [in TVNZ news] you might shoot half of that on a news story. So sometimes [music video directors] got ends of films; they had to beg, borrow and steal to get it. Most of what TVNZ shot back in those days was on a CP16, similar to the Bolex. Everyone used them in the 1970s and early 1980s. They were developed for the Vietnam War, solid, shoulder-held, mobile, heavy but pretty rough and pretty tough.
Stuart Page: My mother had met this young chap when she was working at Ballantynes [in Christchurch] and somehow, she introduced him to me because he was a camera guy at TVNZ doing news and Country Calendar. In those days they used to shoot everything on 16mm reversal film and I got to meet him and told him that I was going to do this music video and he said, “come up to the thing”. I went up there and they had these rooms where they would load their magazines and stuff. I walked in and he said, “go into that room over there and there is a whole stack of cans of short ends. Pick them up and walk out and don’t tell anybody.” If they shot 200 feet they could cut the 200 feet off and put it in the can and they never used it again. They couldn’t afford to have a fuck up – like if someone would fog it accidentally and the other guy didn’t know or whatever – you can’t go out and shoot this news story with the fogged film – they always used a new can. All those short ends would just build up and then they turfed them. So I had this unlimited supply of film. I can’t even remember his name but I am indebted to him – there was almost too much film there in a way.
John Chrisstoffels: If you hung around the cameraman, you could get short ends. You’d have to pay $20-30 for a bit of film otherwise through Kodak up north. So short ends were the lifeblood of the [independent video producer].
Stuart Page: I wasn’t really into filmmaking at first, cos it just seemed like you needed a whole army to do it. I preferred working alone. It seemed like an amazing thing that other people did and was always really impressive. I have always loved films and it really came about because once I started playing music with the AXEMEN and we did that recording in the State Trinity, Easter 1985, which became The Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions double album on Flying Nun. Which only really happened because Hamish Kilgour was working there, and he pushed Roger [Shepherd] to do it – Roger wasn’t a big fan of the AXEMEN. And then everyone was making music videos for Radio With Pictures at the time so I thought, “okay we should have a music video and I suppose I had better make it”. And then there was an outfit in Christchurch at the time called Alternative Cinema. I think they were somehow housed in the Art Centre somewhere. I didn’t actually belong or anything, but you could rent. They had like a cricket bag with a whole lot of light stands and redheads – you know those 800 watt tungsten lamps and a Bolex – a windup Bolex with a few lenses. 16mm. So I knew that you could get that for $20 a week or something.
Peter Janes (TVNZ Dunedin cameraman): I’m sure The Neighbours used some of our stuff, they were shooting something in Blackball. My wife of the day went up there for some reason, she was mates with them all, and they said, “would you bring some film?” So I just gave her a whole lot of rolls, so they would have got footage from us. Nobody really counted exactly how much we shot and where it all went. Chris Knox would have got stuff, because he was shooting on the Bolex, and I would have given him film.
Brent Hansen: You could throw Chris Knox three rolls of reversal film – that would get you nowhere mostly – and he’d come back with a little masterpiece that would be hand-drawn frame-by-frame and scratched, very much in the Len Lye tradition ... I was gobsmacked at that.
Chris Knox: It was just absolutely fortuitous that at the time Alternative Cinema was going strong in Auckland, which was something that was built by Geoff Murphy, Geoff Steven, and Merata Mita. They had this wonderful communistic attitude whereby anybody who wanted could go and use their gear for free. They’d give you a Bolex and some film that they’d got from TVNZ, short-ends or whatever. And they would process it for you, and you could use their flatbeds to edit it. It was just fantastic. It was this wonderful gift that just happened to be there at this time. I somehow glommed onto them, I can’t remember how, and made the clip for ‘Nothing’s Going to Happen’.
Stuart Page: When I was up north, I used to do all my off-lines at Merata Mita’s – a Māori director who has passed away now. She was very sweet, her partner was Geoff Murphy and he was working in Hollywood making a couple of big action films over there about 1990 [like Young Guns II], and some film with Mick Jagger in it [Freejack]. He was getting stuff that I guess they bought for a production and then at the end of it he would bring it to Auckland and give it to her. So they had these amazing computers and they had a thing called the LightWorks offline editing. The first one in town I think – so it was a digital non-linear editing machine. It was below broadcast but it was frame accurate, and everything else I had been using wasn’t.
Paul Kean (Toy Love, The Bats): TVNZ were willing to give film to the bands and process it for us, because it was a cheap way to do it, and it was stuff they couldn’t use for TV, it was basically what they used for quick turnaround for news stuff. But it always looked a little bit milky and cloudy, and you didn’t really have any post-production for tweaking it, so we just were happy enough to be able to get a hand with the film and get the processing done. Simon Morris was one we contacted quite often for that, and I know we did go to visit them when we were in Wellington once. I used to send media releases out and add little lollies, you know jelly bats and things like that, like they would always be on my list of people to send them to, because they were great people to know.
¶ TVNZ also offered their post-production facilities at Avalon to independent directors to complete editing of music videos, to the extent that they would fly directors up to Wellington, which was more economical than flying the entire band up to shoot a video at Avalon.
John Chrisstoffels: The Bats had just done a tour, and they were just about to come back, and they wanted the video [for ‘North by North’] to be some kind of promotional video, which I think was unusual. Up to that point, video releases were less coordinated. I went up to Wellington, courtesy of Radio With Pictures, and Dick Driver. They paid for me to go up there, the Bats still on tour, so it was just me. I basically sat there with my edits and put them into the one-inch reel-to-reels. Back then, Avalon was a state-of-the-art place. When Dick Driver was showing it, he was very proud of it, because obviously he’d put his energy into it as well. You get an idea of how Radio With Pictures was really proud of promoting New Zealand music, so I think that’s a really important thing to see.
Submitting to RWP
Once clips were completed, they were sent up to Radio With Pictures, where they would be scrutinised by a panel of staff. Most clips passed muster, as long as they met the technical standards.
John Chrisstoffels: I’d send a video up to them, and then suddenly must have got a letter or a phone call or something, saying “yeah it’s going to be screened this Sunday” or something like that.
Stuart Page: We [The AXEMEN] did a recording in 1985 but 86 was when I made the [first] video. I am not too sure when it came out, but I think we may have edited it at the [University of Canterbury] art school film department. Then I bundled it all up and sent it off to TVNZ and Radio With Pictures in Wellington and I was pretty sure they did the transfer for us. It might have got played once on Radio With Pictures. It wasn’t one of their most popular ones, it wasn’t on high rotate or anything. But that was sort of how it went in those days before NZ On Air – you were pretty much making stuff for nothing. There was no budget. I don’t think its quality was the reason that it didn’t get played much, but I just think it was so badly made. Not really badly made but there was stuff of the film slipping through the gate and stuff shot without a colour correction filter and the sort of technical things that those TV guys get really upset about.
John Chrisstoffels: To get broadcast it had to be shot on 16mm film or one-inch video, or broadcast standard video, but 16mm film was a thing that could be done at an art school. At that point, television still had rules about how many seconds a shot had to last for, or pans and things, so it couldn’t be so quick. Remember your TV at the time had vertical hold; if you can remember back to having an old black and white TV, you’ll remember that sometimes if the reception was bad it would start to shake, or the vertical hold would shift. They couldn’t show something that purposely had those things on it, because people would start complaining. You know, imagine they’ve just spent half their year’s income on a colour TV, and suddenly you’re wanting to show them something that’s got the colour running, or it’s black and white, and flicks to colour and black and white, it’s got static through it. There were things that couldn’t be shown for fear they’d have people complaining that their TV wasn’t working properly or that there was some reception problem, but some of my videos pushed the line, as part of that lo-fi thing. Of course, I can’t say I’m the first one there. I mean, Chris Knox would have been pushing that envelope, with his Bolex animations and things too.
Andrew Fagan (The Mockers): But [independently made videos] also were on Super 8. The other schism was that you’ve got Super 8, which did not look like video with its horrible crystal-clear brutally too-real look. So you had the two, and for years the problem was that people thought that Super 8 videos just weren’t broadcast quality, in much the same way that they thought that four-track recordings weren’t broadcast quality for FM radio.
Brent Hansen: Sometimes I had a problem on a Monday night – if I was taking an old two-inch tape into a suite to put into an A or B roll, then sometimes the technical directors said, “it is not good enough quality and you can’t put that on there”. And I would invariably dub it to the B roll of the A roll because the source material might have faults in it but the actual tape would be clean so you would be able to play a clean piece of tape. As my time came to an end before I moved to the UK [in 1986], we were seeing a lot more people wanting to do their own videos which [had] varying degrees of quality.
Stuart Page: I did know that they had turned down some clips that had been shot on video because they had these specialists and they had got all these certain things that you have to pass. They actually put your video into these things and check on the scopes and all that sort of carry on. Back then we had no idea what the hell that was all about and so we would be cranking up the chroma and all that sort of shit and they were going, “no, that’s illegal levels!” We didn’t know what they were talking about – we had never seen a scope. For ‘AFFCO’ [by the Skeptics], they were really pushing the colour in that one – the green and the red. So I was aware of it. In fact, it was really the post-production places that would alert you – too strobie and someone might have a fit. Of course, we would always try and push everything and see what we could get away with.
¶ Several clips were rejected on technical grounds, but fewer independently produced videos were rejected because of their content. One of those was ‘Writing On The Wall’ by Wellington punk unit Riot 111, which, inspired by the 1981 Springbok tour, depicted police and citizens in skirmishes.
Peter Blake: There were technical standards, so clips like all broadcast content were vetted by TV’s technical people. There may have been a rejection or two. Obviously content was important as in if there was anything a bit dicey that would prevent it going on. Censorship was far more stringent in those days. One example here was a Wellington band named Riot 111 who had submitted a video. It portrayed violence against police, and I made the decision not to screen it. The band responded by demonstrating outside of Avalon television complex. There was an entourage of media and associated friends gathered for the occasion. They parked outside my office on the second floor and spent the afternoon performing on the back of a truck in between loud-hailer obscenities. Of course, that was the best publicity they could ever get [laughs]. I think we might have had a camera down there as well as the 6.30 news.
¶ Another clip rejected because of its content was ‘AFFCO’ by the Skeptics. By late 1987, a different production team was running Radio With Pictures, headed by Gary Ryan and hosted by Dick Driver, but they reached a similar decision: the video, partly set at a freezing works and showing the slaughter of sheep, was a step too far for the public broadcaster.
Stuart Page: What happened was I used to see the Skeptics play and whenever ‘AFFCO’ came on I was like – “fuck, this is so intense”. To me it was like this industrial nightmare kind of a sound ... “whaaaaaaa”. I used to love it but it was like, “Jesus!” So I was like I want to make a video for ‘AFFCO’ – that song is incredible. They didn’t even say they were going to do it or anything, I just said “I want to do it”. They hadn’t even recorded it when we started filming it, they had just been playing it live. So I went and saw them play at The Gluepot and took my ghetto blaster along and recorded it. So I was playing back a cassette of the live concert version of ‘AFFCO’ when David was miming to it, so that is possibly why it is not perfectly in sync but it doesn’t really matter. That’s what we used for playback because they didn’t record it until much later. I didn’t script it or anything. I never really do scripting that much, I just get a feeling and think, “yeah, and we need some of that and a bit of that”. I thought, “we want to get some footage of animals getting slaughtered. Let’s just go to the freezing works and ask them if we can do it”. There are guys standing waist deep in these big tanks of blood, just ripping open animals and shit’s pouring out of them. There was another guy whose job it was to put a chain around the skin at the back of the cattle’s neck, and the chain would go flying up and the skin would just come pouring off in one piece, and he only had one arm, cos his arm had got caught in it once. So then I thought “I had better get some sheep,” so I was thinking, “where do I have to get sheep that I don’t have to go too far?” And there are some right in Auckland by One Tree Hill. I went over there on the motorbike and took the Bolex and had this amazing 150mm lens, meaning I didn’t have to get too close to the sheep to get a full frame. But as soon as I started the camera it goes “brrrrr” – and the sheep are going “what the fuck is that?” and looking around at me like “what are you doing?” The David D’Ath scene came out of him just taking his shirt off and doing all this stuff like a muscle man sort of thing because he used to do swimming a lot. He was quite well built. Then I thought we should grease him up like one of those shoots they do with those muscle guys. We went down to the kitchen and we had some glycerine or something, maybe baby oil. We did that and I was thinking, “I wonder if we can take it a bit further”. And I had this flatmate who worked in a plastic factory and he had this roll of cling film and it was massive. We had been using it for all sorts of stuff so I said, “why don’t we wrap you up like meat?” David was like, “mate! I am putty in your hands”. If you didn’t get it played on Radio With Pictures, no one would see it. So I got a one-inch dub made of it, sent it off – TVNZ had an overnight bag you could chuck it in.
Dick Driver: We sat in the viewing room and locked ourselves in, put it in. It sounded like the Skeptics right away. There was this lovely image of sheep eating, but the music was quite ominous and quite dark. And we thought, “this is fine”. Then suddenly, within about 12 seconds of this playing, there were images of sheep being stunned on the killing line. They’re being stunned to knock them out obviously, as a humane form of killing them. And we thought, “that’s a bit harsh”. And I could feel the tension in the room. And then another 10 seconds down the line, they’re getting their throats slit. This was quite, you know, “we’ve never had a video like this before”.
Stuart Page: Then I get a letter about a week later saying that the graphic scenes of animal slaughter are too horrific for their programme. It might be something that happens in everyday life, but it’s not necessarily good viewing for a TV programme.
Dick Driver: There was a little bit of a kerfuffle about it, which made everybody feel pretty uncomfortable. The decision came down to Gary Ryan, the producer. He made the call, from my memory, that we’d talk to Stuart Page, we’d see if we could edit this, because he didn’t want to play it in that version. It was too raw.
Karyn Hay: I always thought it was very amusing because it was all to do with the freezing works, and I thought, “jeez, if you’re going to have something banned in New Zealand, why would it be about the freezing works?” It’s seriously wrong, isn’t it? And it never struck me as that horrendous or bad, that clip.
Stuart Page: I was editing something else at the time, and I said to this guy there, “oh fuck they aren’t going to play [‘AFFCO’] because of those murder scenes”. And I said, “I would really like to do that mosaic thing that they put on criminal faces and all that sort of stuff,” and he was like, “yeah – we can do that here”. He had all these flash edit suites. So we did all that and sent it back to Gary Ryan at Radio With Pictures and he just sent it back with a letter saying, “look, it is even worse than it was before,” which is pretty funny. It is pretty rare I suppose, not many people censor their own shit [laughs] and even then, it was so funny that the censored stuff is more offensive! I guess a lot of it is what you can’t see is in your mind or something. People got interested in seeing it after it was censored, so we did these public screenings in Auckland and the word got out. I also started selling VHS copies of it. I had these 10-minute VHS tapes, and it had the original and then the censored version as well and I sold a few of them. I put an ad in Rip It Up and sold them that way. It was in a bright lime green case, so it was like the grass and it had all these pictures of bloody things on it, so it was all conceptual. And then inside when you opened it up there was a bit of cling film with a photocopy of the whole story of what happened. So it was an actual artwork. I was pretty pissed off with Radio With Pictures for them not sticking their neck out, though.
¶ Radio With Pictures considered submissions from anybody, but there weren’t too many surprises in the vein of ‘AFFCO’. They often had a reasonably good idea of what was about to arrive.
Brent Hansen: We had people out there like Peter Janes in Dunedin and several people who would do stuff and send footage in. Chris Knox, I think, was given film from us somehow to do it because we trusted him. You have seen those videos – they are mighty, actually mighty. When I look at them now, I think if I was asked to put together a compilation of best music videos from my long career – I would have a Chris Knox one in there tomorrow. Some of them were right up there with the Len Lyes of the world – they were actually brilliant. So very important, I think. We knew those ones were coming. We also would hear that there was something from Sneaky Feelings, maybe ‘Husband House’ would turn up which was on the border technically. Not a particularly great video I don’t think, but a fabulous song and good on him for making it. In my mind I thought, “if they want to do their own thing it is a lot less compromising for the artist to do that though the risk is that the resources will be so meagre that there may be a bottom line in quality”. And that is just the risk. I was more than happy for that personally – I didn’t feel jealous [as an Avalon video director] about that, as long as the best quality material was made available. The show was the most important thing to me, it wasn’t making the videos. Despite my relatively high-flying career, it is all about the music for me. Even through the end of my days at MTV it was about making sure that we could get away with someone interesting like The Cramps being on as well as Madonna. It was always about finding someone good and interesting and providing that opportunity for that rock and roll end of the world to infiltrate rather than the industry world dominating. I didn’t care, as long as we got it.
Selected independently-produced videos
Great Unwashed, “Neck of the Woods,” 1984, dir. Greg Rood
Stuart Page: I think that must have been around ’84 because The Great Unwashed were about to do a tour, the Great Outdoors tour, which I did the poster for actually. David Merritt the street poet was the tour manager on that one. They shot that video, so it was all about the same time that the poster was getting made and they were getting ready to tour. Peter Gutteridge wasn’t in town and they were like, “oh shit, we are going to do this video with Greg Rood in the Miss New Zealand set at TVNZ”. And he was really cool that guy, he shot it all and edited it on the trot, so it was all basically finished on the day. It was like a full TV production, live mixing and all that kind of stuff. Anyway I said, “I will just pretend to be Peter – I don’t know anything about bass guitar but who cares?” And of course, I had my AXEMEN T-shirt on so I could push the AXEMEN, and Ronnie Van Hout made the mask. I think there were probably a few days involved in the whole thing, but to be honest back then stuff just happened. If something needed to be done, someone did it and it was a really great community vibe down there – it really was an incredible time. The 80s in Christchurch for me is still just the most incredible time – there was so much going on and everyone was involved in everything – music, film, posters, art, street theatre, busking – it was a really cool time.
The Narcs ‘Diamonds on China’, 1985, dir. Fane Flaws
Liam Ryan (The Narcs): I just love what Fane did with that. I remember it being all done in one day. I just remember walking in and Fane had some cool ideas like I’m wearing a tiki around my neck and the outline of the tiki he’d done it in white so it shot up in the camera. They had that girl with the diamond in her mouth. It was very much Fane’s thing cos Fane had done the graphics as you probably know for Radio With Pictures so we really felt we were connected at that point right to the centre of the New Zealand rock industry, if there was such a thing.
Pat O’Neill: The hand with the moon, the animated hand time-lapse thing – that’s on my back veranda in Manly [Sydney]. A lot of those things were done in another friend of Fane’s – Jonathan Clouston had a sort of warehouse place over in Redfern that was almost on the brink of being demolished, just an empty industrial space that we turned into a studio, and we made quite a few clips there.
The Bats ‘By Night’, 1984, dir. Peter Bannan
Paul Kean (The Bats): Peter Bannan – yeah so he was a photographer, and wanted to get involved in doing film, and was a Bats fan and we connected with him through Jeanette didn’t we? Is that right? Another friend, they were together at the time, yeah and something again I think I might have storyboarded that one, in terms of the idea of locations.
Kaye Woodward (The Bats): It starts in front of someone’s house. We chose it because it was pink and close by, on Montrose St just around the corner. We asked for permission to walk out their gate.
Paul Kean: It’s not pink anymore, and we borrowed the car, the lovely old Vauxhall. I had the idea we’d just be going on a bit of a journey, and as we went it would become night. I went over and did some video testing with the ship leaving and timing it with the light, and what the background would be, and sharing that with Peter. I asked for permission to film on their wharf, and things like that and Peter brought down some tracks to do panning, like those dolly shots and things like that. It was great, good fun, good memories and we were going to get the guys to let us know when the boat was going so we could start filming just at the right moment, but of course the boat was starting to move and we’re saying “come on, Peter, go!” and Peter’s glasses had fogged up! I think we only just got it in time. It was supposed to be this big mystery reveal, you know, you see The Bats playing against this orange backdrop, and then you ...
Kaye Woodward: It’s surprising how fast it happened, once the boat started moving it’s actually quite fast. It was a bit darker that night than we were expecting it to be, so it ended up being a smaller proportion of the video than we’d originally planned.
The Bats ‘Claudine’, 1985, dir. Paul Kean
Paul Kean: Video was starting to raise its head a bit more around then, portable cameras that you could take out. Then we worked in with some guys who did a job on the cheap, after hours for us, because they borrowed equipment I think from Shipley’s hire or something and did the U-matic ‘Claudine’ video.
Kaye Woodward: It was actually the day that Wayne Elsey (Bored Games, The Stones, Doublehappys) got killed. We just got the news. There was a bad vibe in the room. We were setting up when we heard, because we were in the Flying Nun offices, and we had pushed all the desks against the windows to stand on so we could be in front of the windows. But it was getting a bit dark.
Paul Kean: And to be honest the U-matic video didn’t really handle it.
Kaye Woodward: It was meant to be a view over the square.
Paul Kean: Right, because it starts off videoing a TV screen and then pans up. I did the videoing of the film that was on the TV, which was Bob and Donna at the …
Kaye Woodward: Roley’s Bar in Gloucester or Armagh St, it used to be like a milk bar, near the Theatre Royal. It was just like a 1950s American style milk bar.
Paul Kean: Yeah, just sort of like a bit of a throwback to the 50s, because that song’s a wee bit 50s feel to it, “Oh Claudine”.
The Bats ‘Made Up in Blue’, 1986, dir. Jonathan Ogilvie
Paul Kean: We were staying with Johnny Ogilvie, and he was living over in London and working on Full Metal Jacket, as a crew member on that. So he was all amped up and wanted to do these sort of special effects things.
Kaye Woodward: And he had like smoke bombs and stuff, that he got off the set. And he put one inside our friend’s Citroen, our other friend’s Citroen, which I think is it the end of the video.
Paul Kean: And it was blue, the blue smoke pouring out of the car, and us evacuating rather rapidly to get the hell out of it.
Kaye Woodward: He was into explosions, we didn’t have many but, and I remember him in his backyard in London, blowing things up, apples, showing us his explosions, so that’s where he got that stuff from.
Paul Kean: Yeah, and he had access to one of those community access places, where artists could go and use editing equipment or their cameras or whatever. So I don’t know where we got the film from for that, but he had a clockwork Bolex for that.
Kaye Woodward: He got glass that you can smash, so he’d squiggled paint on it, and then held it in front of our faces.
Paul Kean: We were writing on it, we all did. We lined it up so we were drawing what was in the background, of course we didn’t think that we were all on different angles, and drawing different perspectives, so that bit didn’t work. But the interesting thing that kind of worked from a happy accident, in fact mistake, was that the film slipped in the gate, and you got that strange strobe sort of thing going on. I remember when Johnny first told me about it, he said “oh I’m really disappointed”. Then we had a look at it and we said, “we can use this, this looks great!” So we threw that stuff in, but we did a lot of time-lapse stuff of getting the band to stand still in crowds in Soho and Leicester Square.
The Bats ‘Miss These Things’, 1986, dir. Pat O’Neill
Pat O’Neill: ‘Miss These Things’ was shot at Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward’s house. I did a long shot where I walk through and they’re playing in the lounge, and there’s clothing blowing on a clothesline outside, and we went to the sewage ponds in South Brighton. It’s a Bob vocal, a lovely song, and Bob’s lying there on his side so that the shot is he’s sideways singing.
Paul Kean: A lot of cutaway shots of each of the band playing, just some close-up stuff of us with our instruments, and Bob lying by the poo ponds.
Kaye Woodward: We went out to the sewage farm out at Bromley. I don’t know why.
Paul Kean: Just lying back in the grass with his eyes closed singing, and there was quite a bit of close-up stuff on his head, so it’s like, “I’m missing these things” – he’s dreaming about the past. It’s one of my favourites, I think.
The Bats ‘North by North’, 1987, dir. Paul Kean, Alister Parker & John Chrisstoffels
John Chrisstoffels: The Bats were saying “let’s do a video for ‘North By North’.” The plan was that Alister Parker would shoot it and I assisted him with lighting and camera dollying.
Paul Kean: I knew Alister was doing a lot of photography work, and he was a big purist and he loved working with great light, so I saw him as a DOP. I just got on reasonably well with him. He played with me way back in a band called The Basket Cases, before Toy Love or The Bats, and then he went with The Gordons and Bailter Space. I storyboarded it all, and I thought it would be great to work with John Chrisstoffels as well, who had connections with film school. So we could use the film school studio, some of their lighting and things like that, for some of the inside shots, and then the outside shots were just ideas, for me for doing the reverse shots of throwing stuff out the window, so you reverse it and it makes it look like everything’s sucking in. It was filmed down Buchanans Road [Christchurch]. We thought it was an isolated country road, and unfortunately cars kept coming past, we had to wait.
Kaye Woodward: The object being burned was a guitar. When we got home from that shoot, we just had the neck left and Robert threw it up in the air, and it went into a massive tree that used to be outside our house. When we finally cut it down, we found the tree had grown around the guitar neck; it was stuck in the tree.
Paul Kean: It was a pretty shit guitar, and we stuffed it full of paper and petrol to make it burn. It was a group collaborative creative process; Alister was coming up with ideas, and John was coming up with ideas, everyone was, and we did the big splatter backdrop for it, the big Jackson Pollock backdrop.
John Chrisstoffels: That was filmed here [Canterbury University] at the studio in Fine Arts. The band had made a Jackson Pollock kind of backdrop on a big bit canvas, just splattered paint on, and it was quite effective.
Paul Kean: John was under time constraints because I think we were heading overseas and we wanted to get it on TV, to get it to coincide with our tour on the way back. And I think I had to leave him with the editing. John was flown up to Avalon to finish it off, to do the editing and the processing and all that kind of thing. When we saw the results, these digital effects, we thought it ruined it.
Kaye Woodward: I don’t think it would have been anything to do with John either. I think it was the post production people who thought of it.
Paul Kean: “Hey you could do this John?” “Why don’t we do this? New effects! Digital!” Just a step away from that horrible sort of shadowy thing that you get. Looked good at the time but ...
Look Blue Go Purple ‘Cactus Cat’, 1986, dir. Pat O’Neill
Pat O’Neill: I can vaguely remember where the edit desk was, in Neutral Bay in Sydney, and it had a motel room sort of thing, and I taped strips of the film to the window, and with a craft knife just did little marks on the film. It was quite intuitive, it wasn’t conceptualised. It was just scratching, probably Len Lye was an influence in the back, because I was definitely aware of Len Lye, but there’s lots of other scratchers around. It wasn’t an artistic statement, just trying to make it look slightly different, and to animate what were quite still objects, the cactuses and that just to give it a little bit pizzazz I suppose. [On special effects on the beach, walking forward/backwards] That would have been conceived there and then. Bob Scott from The Bats is also playing on the beach with a beach ball. There are a few Flying Nun band people there, that was just, “let’s go to the beach”. It wasn’t greatly mapped out, that’s why it’s pretty hard to recall exactly the circumstances of a lot of these things, but yeah, fond memories. Oh, they were very, very easy to work with yeah, I mean because they were all so nice and bright and happy, they were more open, “we’re all in this together, let’s drive up the peninsula”. It was direction by committee.
Snapper ‘Buddy’, 1988, dir. Stuart Page
Stuart Page: Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising was obviously an influence. I was probably quite into pushing the copyright thing as far as possible. And then there are clips from Jaws and a 1960s biker film, not Easy Rider but Wild Angels or something. I actually had a motorbike at the time, and I had this really cool Lewis Leathers jacket, a red one. I still have it actually, so we had Peter [Gutteridge] in that. So instead of the Scorpio Rising thing which … there is a girl in Auckland who has just done one of those and a really amazing copy of it. But I just cut the “Buddy” out of some sort of film and stuck it on my jacket. And Peter posed in it. We did some projections of some skulls over his face and filmed them. They were slides and someone had given me these holographic skulls. They were really beautiful and so I think I photographed them onto a slide film and was projecting them onto Peter. I was getting him to move so they all lined up with his face and stuff. I had done a bit of that, even at art school – I had these photos of David Bowie and I had projected them onto these people’s faces that looked like Bowie. I think there has always been a connection with motorbikes and death because if you are out there and you flat door, you are dead. It’s a dangerous way of getting around but it is also really exciting. The idea for the song all came really from Peter. I wasn’t sure if it was Christine or Peter, but I asked her after Peter died because for some reason someone was interviewing me or whatever and she said no, it was all Peter’s idea. The bikers were a group called BRONZ – which is Bikers Rights of New Zealand and they were campaigning for being able to ride without helmets. I don’t know much about them, but they were okay guys to work with. I just remember it being freezing cold – it was the middle of winter and the Taieri Plains – oh my god, so cold. I think some of them knew Snapper already. I rock up with a little 16mm, 100-foot load wind up camera and they are sitting there on their big arse American Harleys and they are like – “whoa – this dude has a little toy camera,” winding it up and they couldn’t believe it. And they were going – “hurry up mate, my bloody bike is overheating. Are you going to be long?” That was while I was doing all the close-ups on the pedals and the speedos and all that stuff. I was freaking out, you know. It was so funny. So, their idea was they probably thought this was going to be a whole big camera truck and the crane and the real deal – but it was just this guy with the toy camera. It was quite funny. But they were cool – we did quite a lot of footage with them really, at night in the city and all sorts of stuff.
Headless Chickens ‘Donka’, 1988, dir. Stuart Page & Grant Fell
Stuart Page: I ran into a bunch of guys that were into projecting films as well and then I guess it really took off, somehow or other, with the Headless Chickens – Grant Fell. I can’t remember how we got involved but he probably saw ‘AFFCO’ or something because Headless Chickens and Skeptics were kind of doing stuff together. He said, “we have to make a video for ‘Donka’ – do you want to give me a hand?” And I was like, “shit yeah”. He ended up moving into my house actually, which was the same house where we shot ‘AFFCO’ and I shot David. And that was where Brilliant Films came from actually – he said, “we should make a film company”. And I said, “If we are going to have a film company – it has to be Brilliant Films.” I had already thought of that because it had to be something that was highly intelligent and also really intensely illuminated and everything else and I thought Brilliant was a great name for a film company. I am still using it. So he moved in and we got really quite carried away and we had all this really cool equipment like a matte box and we could have the title thing on the ‘Donka’ – the film that has been stop motion filmed and I think I filmed some water with the positive side and then some fire with the negative. It was all really mental and cosmic and all that and that was what I was into anyway. And then they had all their whacko ideas with the brain and all that crazy sort of stuff in there. And then Grant and I would go out at night, I don’t know what the hell we were on but there was some sort of speed around and we would be out at night doing time lapse and shit for hours of crazy stuff. Because we had the matte box we could divide the frame up and we were filming these shots that had maybe seven or eight different parts to them and they were all time lapsed. It took us hours of filming to get these little sequences but … I don’t know, it probably took a few months or something. We were on the dole, nothing else to do … we probably went out every night until we got it done.
¶ The final parts will look at Radio With Pictures’ relationship with visiting international musicians, as well as the show’s mid-season production halt caused by the 1986 music video embargo, its eventual cancellation, and subsequent brief resurrection.
Our colleagues at NZ On Screen
Frank Stark, NZ Listener
Michael Higgins (producer), Give It A Whirl TV series
Matthew Bannister, Positively George Street: A personal history of Sneaky Feelings and the Dunedin sound, Reed Books, Auckland, New Zealand