by Lindsay Shelton
I met Nigel Hutchinson in 1979 when he was producing Geoff Murphy’s soon-to-be-successful Goodbye Pork Pie. In my new marketing job at the Film Commission, I wanted to take the completed film to the Cannes Film Festival – it would be the first time New Zealand had participated.
Geoff needed some persuading to speed up post-production, but he wasn’t available to bring the film to France. So Nigel accepted his responsibility as producer and in May 1980 he hand-carried the first 35mm print from Wellington to Cannes, for New Zealand’s first official screenings at the world’s leading film festival.
At that time I didn’t know that he’d already had another film career. Before he came to New Zealand, he’d been press officer for Walt Disney Productions in London, where his responsibilities had included dealing the the British press when the great man died.
Nigel had decided to leave London after a meeting in 1970 with his future wife Sue, whose OE had brought her to a nursing career in the UK. Also in the London nursing world was Linda, the wife of cinematographer Graeme Cowley. As the couples planned their new lives in Wellington, the two men decided to challenge the state monopoly on hiring film equipment. They found a priceless stock of equipment at the BBC, and back in Wellington in 1974 they set up Motion Pictures and successfully started making the equipment available to the small group of independent filmmakers.
The equipment played a key part in enabling the making of Pork Pie – with Nigel as producer. The film became a local blockbuster, seen by a record number of 600,000 New Zealanders. At Cannes in that first year we sold it to 20 countries – for audiences round the world, it would be the first New Zealand film they’d ever seen. For everyone at Cannes, Nigel was the first New Zealand producer they’d ever met.
Following Goodbye Pork Pie, Hutchinson and Cowley went their separate ways, with Graeme establishing Film Facilities, while Nigel focused on producing and directing commercials for Motion Pictures, winning many awards. But he didn’t give up movies altogether – his last feature film was his friend (and former Mt Victoria neighbour) Gaylene Preston’s Home By Christmas on which he acted as Executive Producer in 2010.
Nigel and Sue became involved with me in the Wellington lobby group Waterfront Watch, Sue as secretary and Nigel as our representative on some of the endless committees that were trying to agree on how the newly opened spaces on the harbour should be developed. When they later moved to live in the Marlborough Sounds, Nigel became involved in a similar group that became influential in remaking the Picton waterfront.
At his funeral held in a vineyard outside Blenheim, Graeme spoke about the years in London, Gaylene recalled her shock when the Hutchinsons decided to move from Mt Victoria to the Sounds, and Nigel’s daughter Katie spoke with affection of her father’s love and support. Nigel’s vintage Jaguar was in prime position as friends and family arrived for the service. We also remembered his vintage launch, in which so many of us had been ferried from Picton to visit the Hutchinsons’ house at Double Cove.