From Fellowship of the Ring, film career goes full circle

Tim Sanders
NZ-based film producer Tim Sanders, who completed a BA at Flinders in 1976, came home to Adelaide for the launch of Flinders 50 Creatives exhibition at Adelaide Festival Theatre.

The film and television industry in Australia and New Zealand is worth fighting for, and is a rich source of stories, talent and potential, says independent producer and Flinders graduate Tim Sanders.

The Adelaide born and educated co-producer of Peter Jackson’s award-winning The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – who features in the Flinders 50 Creatives exhibition at the Adelaide Festival Centre this month – is happy to focus on domestic projects.

After more than three years working on the first part of the epic Hollywood Ring series 15 years ago, Tim has formed an independent film company, Field Theory, based in Auckland and worked extensively across the Tasman.

“After about 35 years (in film-making) I am putting my energies into our own audiences,” he says.

“It’s wall-to-wall pressure on those big Hollywood film projects, where it’s a tough business machine and very much about the dollar.

“Here in Australia, I’ve seen the industry grow from about 400 people in the 1980s to an industry of 40,000 – an impressive growth rate.”

One of his newest projects is bringing to life the heart-warming story of Australia’s first Aboriginal brass band, which formed in 1901. The band reformed in 2013 and now plays an annual concert at Yarrabah in Queensland as a means of bringing the community together and resolving past injustices.

Raised in the western suburbs of Adelaide, 60-year-old Sanders studied film as part of an arts degree at Flinders in the 1970s. After working in industrial relations after graduating, he got his first insights into the global movie industry, at France’s Cannes Film Festival, while on a backpacking tour of Europe.

“It was at the height of Australia’s success with (director Gillian Armstrong’s) My Brilliant Career and I was excited to become unit manager on a film project.”

Admitting that involved managing “parking and Portaloos”, Tim’s career went from strength to strength, propelled by the tax haven-funded heyday of successful Australian films in the 1980s and inspired by directors such as Peter Weir.

He has worked in the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal, Thailand, India, Israel, Fiji and Rarotonga, to name just a few exotic locations.

His home-grown feature film Whale Rider, in fact, drew attention from audiences around the world, winning the BAFTA Best Children’s Film and other accolades in 2003.

More recent projects include the recent NZ television series, Consent, based on the true story of a woman’s rape charges against police, episodes of Lawless, High Country Rescue and This Is Not My Life, and feature films Kiwi Flyer, The Insatiable Moon and Perfect Creature.

He is also working on a feature based on the life of renegade World War Two surgeon Archie McIndoe, who transformed the bodies – “and more importantly the souls” – of injured airmen, in the soon-to-be-released The Guinea Pig Club.

Back in Adelaide last month, he was on the lookout for new opportunities, meeting with the SA Film Corp and other outlets.

“It can take several years for projects to get off the ground, so it doesn’t hurt to have a few irons in the fire at any one time,” he says.

The Flinders 50 Creatives banner exhibition are on show at the Adelaide Festival Theatre and Dunstan Playhouse. The 50 graduates featured in the creative industries’ exhibition can be viewed at the Flinders University 50th anniversary website here.


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