The National Film Unit's New Fairway Drive Studios

American Cinematographer, March 1979 | Go to article overview
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The National Film Unit's New Fairway Drive Studios

Actually a small city complete within itself, this splendid new complex, offering every facility and service necessary to create motion pictures, is set like a gem in the midst of lush countryside

The new National Film Unit complex, total area, 191,000 square feet, erected on a 6-acre site at Fairway Drive, Lower Hutt, constitutes one of the more advanced and comprehensive film production facilities in the world.

Film-making in New Zealand is a growing industry, and the Fairway Drive Studios with their sophisticated plant represent a considerable government investment.

The estimated total cost of this highly specialised complex of 17 building units is $10,345,000 and at a rate of $54 per square foot compares favourably with the cost of other public buildings at present under construction, such as the Beehive and Defence buildings in Wellington. The new Film Unit is considered to be an outstanding investment for the future.

Financed through the Tourist & Publicity Department, of which it is a division, the National Film Unit is a public enterprise. But it co-operates with private film-makers.

When not required by the NFU, production facilities at the Fairway Studios will be available to other professional producers. These include editing and dubbing suites, production offices and viewing theatres.

The National Film Unit, as well as being responsible for Government film productions, operates on a revenuemaking basis and can now offer greatly increased facilities for motion picture production and processing to other agencies. These agencies include television, New Zealand film companies and overseas film companies wishing to undertake productions in the country.

One of the viewing theatres is a miniature cinema, with raked seating for 165 people. It is suitable for trade and VIP screenings.

The NFU's laboratory services are already used by other film-makers. More than half of the film processed by its laboratories is for commercial companies and the TV services.

Demand for these services is increasing. Consequently film processing arrangements at the Fairway Studios are designed to cope with increases in workload. Likewise, sound-recording and film and sound-editing facilities are designed to cater for growth in production.

Their purpose suggested by windows shaped like film sprocket holes, the studios comprise a complex of buildings which includes a three-storey and basement Administration and Production Block (30,059 sq. ft.) including conference rooms and reception foyer; a 3-storey Sound section and Production Editing Block (31,020 sq. ft.) including graphic design and titling facilities; a 2-storey and basement Laboratory Block (49,380 sq. ft.) including film vaults, film processing and testing facilities; eight individual theatres (13,882 sq. ft.) including theatres for sound mixing, music scoring, sound effects, production editing, laboratory test viewing and a main theatre seating 165 with access from the reception foyer for audience viewing of finished productions; a single-storey and basement Workshop Block (33,121 sq. ft.) including facilities for storage, camera repairs, electronic, electrical and laboratory plant maintenance, vehicle parking and actors' changing accommodation; a 40-foot-high Sound Stage (26,945 sq. ft.) including property workshops, property storage and facilities to stage large-scale productions; a Vehicle Maintenance Garage (946 sq. ft.); a Staff Canteen (2,659 sq. ft.) and a Power House (2,988 sq. ft.) with gas-fired total energy plant which generates electricity and uses waste heat from the gas engines to heat the buildings and the 40,000 gallons of stored water required for film processing. A 374-foot-long tunnel at basement level carries the main building services. Parking is provided for 90 vehicles.

The complex was designed and supervised by the Architectural Division of the Ministry of Works and Development.

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