Sir Peter Jackson
After a family friend gave the Jacksons a Super 8 cine-camera with Peter in mind, he began making short films with his friends. When he was 16 years old, Jackson dropped out of school and worked as a photo-engraver for a newspaper. Living at home with his parents, he saved his money to buy film equipment. His Oscar-award winning company, Weta Digital, is a digital visual effects company based in Wellington founded in 1993 to produce special effects for Jackson’s first film, the psychological drama Heavenly Creatures.
What is it about New Zealanders that makes them so bloody innovative?
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy may have boosted New Zealand’s reputation for innovation, but it reinforced what Kiwis – both Indigenous Māori as well as Pākehā (European New Zealanders) – already knew about themselves as being ‘bloody innovative’. It became known as ‘Lord of the Rings Innovation’. Values such as resourcefulness, inventiveness, hard work and respect have always been part of what defines Kiwis – from the cow-cocky (dairy farmer) to the modern Waikato biotechnologist. It is no accident that New Zealanders were the first to climb Mt Everest and to split the atom. Sir Edmund Hillary’s ‘We knocked the bastard off’ and Sir Ernest Rutherford’s ‘We haven’t the money so we must think’ are part of Kiwi innovation lore.
European settlers developed a culture of innovation that stemmed from their remoteness from sources of tools and manufactured goods. In the 19th century they had only a few of the tools necessary to carry on their trades as farmers and foresters. They had to be innovative or starve. They took up the challenge by modifying and adapting what little equipment could be imported from their remote homelands on an eight-month journey across the globe by sea. The conversion of New Zealand bush into farms created the need for a great many fences. The preferred wire was known as ‘Number 8 gauge’, but it was also put to so many other uses that the ‘Number 8 wire’ mentality now represents Kiwi ingenuity, a quality that was born out of isolation and lack of infrastructure in New Zealand’s early history.
Māori, New Zealand’s Indigenous Polynesian inhabitants, also have a history of entrepreneurship and enterprise upon which to draw. The Māori Land Wars of 1860–66 were fuelled not only by the settlers’ hunger for land but also because Māori had become such successful entrepreneurs that they controlled a large share of the commerce throughout the country. Māori exported to Australia and various other countries and to some degree Māori entrepreneurial abilities were the subject of envy by Pākehā. Māori were also fervent adopters of technology. Best known is the Māori use of the muskets to the great cost of the settler forces. Less well known is the history of Māori adaptation of European agriculture and shipping methods as well as their rapid adoption of books and use of publishing.
(Lord of the Rings, the one ring. Photo by erik_stein. Photo via Good Free Photos)