Filmo’s top take


A Queenstowner won two gongs at the inaugural New Zealand Cinematographers Society awards last weekend.

Filmo Ben Ruffell, who specialises in directing car TV commercials, won gold (Flying South) and bronze (Mad Mike Conquers Highlands) at the awards, held in Auckland.

Veteran Queenstown cinematographer John Mahaffie also won gold, for his work as second unit director for the Hollywood blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Ruffell says: “For me, it was really quite amazing, as 20 years ago John Mahaffie gave me my first break into the film industry, and to be winning a gold alongside him is really special.”

Ruffell and Joshua Dunn own local company Overview, the only company in the region, and perhaps the South Island, flying digital cinema cameras on drones.

They use the top kit available – SHOTOVER Camera Systems, Red Dragon cameras and Arri Alexa mini cameras. They’ve just added an ALTA 8 heavy-lifting drone to their fleet.

It’s a big investment – when it’s kitted out, the ALTA 8 is $120,000 in the air.

Mad Mike Conquers Highlands from Ben Ruffell on Vimeo.

Much of Overview’s work is unknown, as it’s done for international clients and is played overseas. Ruffell estimates 80 per cent of his work is for Japanese companies, especially car companies.

Many clients are looking for “opposite season” work – winter ads shot in the northern hemisphere summer, for example, to roll out near Christmas.

One notable exception is a recent Westpac bank ad featuring Richie McCaw – with the catchphrase ‘It’s Time’.

Ruffell describes his work as an amazing blend of being very technical and also being quite artistic at the same time.

“We can get shots I only ever dreamed of, years ago.

“We can do things like skim over the surface of a lake at dawn and not get the water rippling. We can fly reasonably close to trees and people and things like that to get really dynamic, interesting shots.

“These are things that you couldn’t achieve any other way. And that’s why we got into it – to get amazing shots.”