After deregulation of New Zealand’s television industry in the late 1980s spelled the end of a thriving TV drama production sector, Kiwi native Philippa Campbell ankled her job as inhouse head of TVNZ’s script department — and thus began her producing career.
“I had a ball,” she says of those early days going it alone. One telepic and four movies later — all with tyro directors — she’s demonstrated a knack for choosing the right projects. And for honing in on new faces: “You get people when their talent is at their sharpest.”
Along with Tim White and Lydia Livingstone, Campbell produced “Number 2,” which won the World Cinema dramatic jury prize at Sundance this year and the audience vote at the Brisbane Film Festival in August, ahead of its Pacific Rim release via BVI in October. The first pic from helmer Toa Fraser tells the story of a mischievous matriarch and her dynamic mixed race Fijian-New Zealand family.
Campbell’s first feature was “Via Satellite,” a comedy about twin sisters, one who makes the Olympics swim team while the other is a dropout.
But Campbell really hit her stride with her sophomore effort, Christine Jeff’s “Rain,” which established the helmer’s career and screened in Directors Fortnight at Cannes. The film, about two kids left to their own devices at the beach one summer while their parents drink and cavort, was a hit on the fest circuit.
Campbell recalls seeing long lines for a screening at Cannes and wondering what they were going to see. She was awestruck when she realized it was “Rain.”
“Collaborations are rewarding, but to see queues outside cinemas where your film is playing, that’s wonderful,” she says.
Campbell’s “Black Sheep” — for which special effects were completed at Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop — is having its world premiere at Toronto as a Midnight section entry.
On Campbell’s slate is an adaptation of Nikki Gemmell’s Antarctic adventure/romance novel “Shiver,” to be penned and helmed by Christina Andreef and co-produced with her “Soft Fruit” collaborator Helen Bowden. Also on the slate is “Calm Nights,” written and directed by Rachel Davies, which Campbell will produce with “Lord of the Rings” editor John Gilbert.
Base: Auckland, New Zealand
Model producers: Jim Booth (“Heavenly Creatures”), Jan Chapman (“The Piano”)
Hard lesson: “Delegation. When I started out I did everything, I learned that you really need to maintain the big picture.”
Now playing: Toronto pic “Black Sheep,” a comedy horror pic in which a genetic engineering experiment goes awry, from tyro scribe-helmer Jonathan King.