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TheBeginnings

Page history last edited by David Lindsay 4 months, 1 week ago

[The first stirrings of a film society movement in New Zealand occurred in the 1930s. First in Auckland, though it does not appear to have screened any films, concentrating instead in providing a series of articles to an Auckland newspaper. By 1933 film societies were formed in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, which all, individually, imported films to screen to its members. Supply of film was one problem. Censorship another. Wellington closed in 1936, and as the Second World War approached the others ceased as well.]

 

The Film Society movement we know today was founded in Wellington in 1945 as a result of the great interest in film appreciation aroused by the writings and lectures of Gordon Mirams, whose weekly film page in the NZ Listener had set a high standard of intelligent film criticism, and whose book, Speaking Candidly: films and people in New Zealand, was published that year. The final impetus came from a series of lectures given by Mr Mirams under the auspices of the Workers' Educational Association. No society for the serious study of the cinema as an art was then in existence, and in the discussions following Mr Mirams' talks it was suggested that one be formed.

 

Accordingly, a public meeting was called in Wellington on October 26,1945, and it was resolved

"That a Wellington Film Centre (or Society, or Institute) be set up for the purpose of providing regular screenings to members of worthwhile 16 mm films; for the purpose of making reliable information about current cinema entertainment available; for the general purpose of encouraging higher standards in the motion picture; and for conducting such other allied activities as the Executive may from time to time see fit."

 

An interim Committee, presided over by Mr Mirams, was instructed to draft a constitution for the new society, and at a second meeting on November 28 the proposed constitution was approved, and the name, Wellington Film Institute, adopted.

 

At a third meeting on December 13, the first Executive Committee was elected:

President: Mr Gordon Mirams

Vice-President: Miss Irene Wilson

Committee: Mr Richard Griffin

Mr Cecil Holmes

Mr Walter Scott

Mr Tahu Shankland

Miss Edna Rutter

 

At the first meeting of this Executive Committee a few days later, Mr Holmes was appointed Secretary and Miss Rutter Treasurer. Miss Wilson resigned the following April, Mr Scott being then appointed Vice-President, and Mr T H Qualter was elected to fill the vacancy on the Executive. At the first Annual General Meeting on October 21,1946, the Executive as it was then composed was re-elected for a further term, with the addition of Mr John O'Shea as Associate Editor of the Bulletin.

 

Mr Mirams guided the affairs of the Society for its first two years, resigning in November 1947 to take up a post with UNESCO. In 1949, by one of those strokes of genius of which even a government may sometimes be capable, he was appointed Censor of Cinematograph Films and filled that office with distinction. Mr O'Shea was appointed Assistant Censor. It is of interest to note that two members of the early Executive became professional filmmakers, Mr Cecil Holmes in Australia and Mr John O'Shea in New Zealand.

 

The objects of the Society were set out in more detail in the constitution as:

 

 

To promote and foster interest in the motion picture from the point of view of art, entertainment and education;

To encourage higher public standards in the motion picture and to protect the interest of the 'consumer' (i.e. the average picturegoer);

To provide screenings of films, especially those not normally available;

To provide reliable information about current cinema entertainment;

To promote or undertake public screenings of special films;

 

together with a number of machinery clauses.

This statement of the Society's objects has remained substantially unchanged in subsequent revisions of the constitution.

 

At the first Annual General Meeting, the President was able to report: "We have done several of the things we set out to do when we launched ourselves at the end of 1945", and "We close the year with a membership just two or three short of the 300 mark." The first year's subscription was 10/-, but this was raised to 15/- for the following year.

 

Shortly after the foundation of the Wellington Film Institute, several similar societies were set up in other cities. For the first year, these societies operated independently and imported their own films, but it was soon realized that their interests could be better served by pooling their resources, and a resolution to this effect was passed at a general meeting of the Wellington society in April 1946. Accordingly, the Wellington Film Institute invited representatives of the other societies to meet in Wellington on February 1, 1947, and delegates from Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, and Invercargill attended. A report on this meeting appeared in Wellington's Monthly Film Bulletin February 1947. At this meeting a new body, the New Zealand Film Institute, was set up, to act as a parent body of the individual societies and to do all the work connected with the importation of films.

 

The Wellington Film Institute then changed its name to the Wellington Film Society at its exective meeting of 9 May 1947, and a month or so later became incorporated under the Incorporated Societies Act. Some years later, in 1962, the New Zealand Film Institute changed its name to the New Zealand Federation of Film Societies, as better expressing its function.   

 

Adapted from a special issue of Sequence, December 1966, edited by Laurie Lee.

 

For more on the NZ Federation of Film Societies, see ParentBody

 

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