Geoff Steven

Geoff Steven

Wellington Film Festival Anniversary

As an enthusiastic advocate for developing a NZ film culture and a fan of all films foreign, the Wellington Film Festival used to be highlighted in my diary as the reason for an annual visit to the windy city. Of particular advantage was being able to squat on the couch at Lindsay Shelton’s place as a privileged “festival friend”.

I was running an Auckland based film co-operative Alternative Cinema at the time, and with the impetus and contacts generated from that  organisation, we eventually embarked on making a local feature film Test Pictures, the countries first [and maybe only] really experimental theatrical feature film. With Lindsay and the Wellington Festival’s support, it was decided that we would aim to premier the film at the 1975 festival. It was to be the first NZ feature ever shown at a local NZ Film Festival and we only had to find the money to order a print to actually screen! Not an easy task for a bunch of commune dwelling alternatives!

Fortunately the Festival stumped up for the release print and on a wet and windy night the festival patrons and a selection of Wellington who’s who, sat and watched--with some obvious confusion and frustration--a local Kiwi “art film”.

 And the reaction? Well the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon snapped “who paid for it?” as he hurried out [I could satisfactorily reply; "A university lecturer" which I knew was one of his least favourite occupations], and at the Q and A after, I was berated by a group of upcoming Wellington film makers who asked ”Why did you make such a niche and alienating picture”, to which I could only say “Because I wanted to... You should go and make the ones you want to.” which as we all know, some went on to do with great success!

Thanks Wellington Film Festival for helping make a cinematic dream finally reach the screen.

by Geoff Steven

May 2011