Loving life through the camera lens   25 Jan 2005

For television director and film-maker Paul Oremland getting paid to pursue your passion is as easy as saying “action”.

Trying to pick a highlight from the huge body of work that is the career of Kiwi director Paul Oremland was an enormous and seemingly impossible task.

"There’s been so many programmes … actually, yes, making my film was the highlight of my life."

As television director at Fulcrum TV in London, Oremland has compiled an impressive list of programmes and series’ including work for the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the BBC and Channel 4.

His film work is a separate venture but comes under the umbrella of Fulcrum, which provides invaluable support, he said.

He got into the industry through sheer determination and said while film and television is perceived as tough to break into, "if you’re serious you can do it".

It was that attitude and his love for film and television that led him to make "student" films during high school and university in Auckland – he quit university after a year to make films and landed an editing job in the industry.

He left New Zealand about 20 years ago and arrived in London to what he described as an "isolating" experience, where he wasn’t part of any Kiwi community.

Ironically, 10 years later he directed TVNZ’s popular Big OE series, which followed the often alcohol-fuelled antics of young Kiwis discovering the world.

He has been at Fulcrum for 10 years now and has managed to travel extensively for his projects.

The company backed him during the four years it took to develop and make his feature film Like It Is – a gay love story that received critical acclaim and has been released in the UK and US on DVD.

The film – released in 1998 – starred Roger Daltrey from The Who fame.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Oremland to get his dream on to the big screen – he described developing the script and working with writers as "pain and agony", going through several writers before reaching the final product.

"The key to drama is a good script – you can’t make a good movie with a bad script." His current project is a five-part series for the History Channel about the "momentous" year 1945 and how it shaped the world.

"One of the reasons why I love working in TV – most of the time you get paid – you meet very interesting people and get to think about the world.

"You meet some fantastic people. You’re engaging in a huge range of things."

During his time at Fulcrum he has made a huge variety of telelvision programmes, both stand-alone pieces and whole series. He has looked at such topics as the Holy Grail, Ibiza club culture and science fiction.

Of all the interesting and high-profile people he’s interviewed, he said Robert Wise – who directed The Sound of Music and Westside Story and edited Citizen Kane – as one of the more memorable.

"He was fantastic to interview, he’s still so passionate about it."

He described his directing style as more "authored" rather than the "jobbing" directors on shows such as Changing Rooms.

He said he aims to be "both entertaining and intelligent … [I’m] constantly trying to explore new territory".

Which is what he’s aiming for with his next feature film, due to be shot this year. He said the New Zealand film industry is much more than the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

"There are genuine Kiwi films being made. Once Were Warriors was a masterpiece, and Whale Rider – I’m pleased it was made.

"There’s exciting stuff coming out of New Zealand. It’s reinvented itself as a Pacific nation. "It has an identity – there’s a lot more going for it."

He won "some award for something" for his television work but that’s not what it’s all about for Oremland.

"What’s more rewarding is if someone has your DVD in their collection – it’s a thrill." At the San Francisco screening at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival of Like It Is the film got a standing ovation.

One member of the audience, whose partner had died several years earlier, approached Oremland afterwards and said the film had inspire him to go out there and find someone new.

"It made the struggle all worthwhile."

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