A legendary Queenstown chopper pilot involved with heaps of films and TV commercials has been recognised by New Zealand’s screen production industry.
At the NZ Cinematographers Society awards in Auckland last Saturday, Alfie Speight won — totally to his surprise — the ‘Turtz Award for contribution to cinematography’.
The award’s sponsored by Queenstown Camera Company owner Brett Mills and is named after his original business partner, the late Ian Turtill.
However, it was chosen by the industry itself, including directors of photography (DoPs) from around the country.
‘‘I’ve asked DoPs all over what makes Alfie special,’’ Mills says, ‘‘and they just say ‘he gets it’, he puts the helicopter right where they want it, and they don’t even have to ask him.’’
Speight’s credits, going back to about 1990, include The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, King Kong, Vertical Limit, Wolverine and, more recently, Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout.
He’s also been on untold numbers of commercials including the Barry Crump Toyota ads and the current Air NZ safety video.
His boss, Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters GM Pat West, says ‘‘it’s great to see him being recognised for his skills and the time and effort he’s put in’’.
He considers Speight to be amongst the world’s three or four best film pilots.
‘‘He’s worked with those DoPs and film crews for a very long time, and understands their requirements and some of the issues they have when filming a big shoot.
‘‘It doesn’t have to be explained to him, he knows how to go about just delivering the product.
‘‘You’re dealing with a lot of different types of people and they’ve got all different sorts of demands, and you’re trying to be helpful through the process and just getting them to see the best and most efficient way to get the shots done.’’
West says Speight also gets involved in a lot of admin and health and safety work behind the scenes.
‘‘Even though it looks like on the big screen this guy’s been hanging off the side of an aircraft by his teeth, in reality there’s a lot of safety and protocols sitting in behind it.’’
Ever modest, Speight says a lot of camera operators and DOPs have helped him out.
‘‘It’s not just me, it’s a team effort.’’