Newspaper reports

Film of Pearse 'doctored'

     A claim that Richard Pearse flew before the Wright Brothers was advanced no further after a "fictitious" documentary on television last night.
     The documentary, Forgotten Silver, included film of a Richard Pearse flight, and somebody with a newspaper dated 1903.
     While some people might have been fooled, Gordon Ogilvie - who has long backed the notion of Pearse flying before the Wrights - was not.
     "I was much amused by it. It was a very clever spoof. I thought it was a lot of fun," he said.
     "It made very clever use of Peter Muxlow's drama on Pearse made in 1975."
     Mr Ogilvie said he was present for some of that filming, and the material had since been cleverly doctored.
     "I thought it was quite hilarious.
     "But while it was. very amusing for people who can pick all the deliberate errors all the way through, I don't know what sort of effect it might have upon viewers who don't have any local knowledge."
     Meanwhile, TVNZ said its publicity for the documentary was carefully planned to make sure nobody twigged in advance.
     Spokesman Roger Beaumont said the "documentary" purported to look at the "extraordinary life of Colin McKenzie", a pioneer New Zealand film-maker.
     A feature in The Listener magazine, which was in on the hoax, perpetuated the myth.
     The article explained that the treasure trove of film on which the documentary was based had been stored in a garden shed for 50 years.
     It said the film came to light after film-maker Peter Jackson's mother persuaded him to have a look at it for her friend and neighbour, McKenzie's widow, Hannah.
     Mr Beaumont said it quickly became apparent to viewers that the film was fictitious, "so it's all really a bit of fun".
     The publicity had been set up to take in the maximum number of people.
     "It's all done in good fun. It was just a crazy idea Peter Jackson and (fellow director) Costa Botes came up with and it just developed," Mr Beaumont said.
(Timaru Herald, 30 October, 1995)

Nyah, nyah, nyah we tricked you!

PA, Wellington
     Was it a documentary? Was it a drama? Well no, it was a hoax.
     Forgotten Silver by Wellington film makers Costa Botes and Peter Jackson, which screened on TVNZ's Montana Sunday Theatre last night, has become a national gullibility test - who was fooled and who wasn't.
     It purported to tell the story of how Jackson had unearthed early films made by a pioneer New Zealand film maker Colin McKenzie. Among the film's claims were:
     * Proof that New Zealand aviation pioneer Richard Pearse made the first flight six months before the Wright brothers;
     * Proof that McKenzie made the world's first colour film and the first talking film;
     * The discovery of a lost city on the West Coast, where McKenzie made a Russian, Italian, and American-financed feature film with 15,000 extras.
     The film included glowing tributes to McKenzie from American film critic Leonard Maltin and expatriate New Zealand actor Sam Neill.
     Botes, who co-wrote and directed the film with Jackson, said he had wanted to make such a film since he saw a hoax BBC programme called Alternative Three in the 1960s.
     Botes said he and Jackson had not wanted to make a programme that said, "nyah, nyah, nyah we tricked you.
     "What we both tried to do was make something entertaining in its own right."
     Making it a documentary would get more of a reaction, which seemed to have worked.
     A number of broad hints were given in the programme, he said. It started with Jackson leading the viewers down a garden path. and McKenzie's films were found under a statue of a bull.
     Botes said he would be disappointed if viewers felt cheated and he believed that feeling would fade. He hoped the programme would be released in theatres.
     For many Wellington viewers, proof that the film was a hoax would have come towards the end of the "documentary".
     A scene purporting to be the world premiere of McKenzie's epic film Salome was actually shot during this year's Wellington film festival.
     The opening night audience was told it was being filmed for Peter Jackson's latest film, but was given few other details.
     Acting Listener editor Geoff Chapple defended his decision to go along with the hoax by running of an article by Denis Welch previewing the programme as a documentary.
     He said the Listener's credibility would only have been damaged if it had been taken in by the hoax.
(Oamaru Mail, 30 October, 1995)

Television viewers disappointed by revelation of hoax documentary

by Hans Petrovic
     Many people who were entranced by Sunday night's supposed documentary on Television One about a golden age of pioneering film-making in New Zealand would still like to think it was true.
     The truth was revealed after the screening of "Forgotten Silver" on Montana Sunday Theatre when a TVNZ spokesman, Roger Beaumont, acknowledged that the documentary by Wellington film-makers Peter Jackson and Costa Botes was a hoax.
     Presented in a prime timeslot usually reserved for drama, the programme purported to tell a true story of how Mr Jackson had unearthed early films made by a pioneer New Zealand film-maker, Colin McKenzie.
     Among the claims were proof that New Zealand aviation pioneer Richard Pearse made the first flight six months before the Wright brothers; proof that Colin McKenzie made the world's first colour film and the first talking film; and the discovery of a lost city on the West Coast told in a feature film.
     Mr Beaumont said yesterday that from the reaction he had received, by far the majority of people thought "Forgotten Silver" was wonderful - whether or not they were taken in by the hoax. "Some people were disappointed when they found out it wasn't real because they would like to think it was," he said.
     "We have had many requests for copies of it, or for the show to be repeated. It was a great, light-hearted way to end our season of seven New Zealand dramas. More than anything else. the success of the hoax reflects the brilliance of Peter Jackson's filmmaking," Mr Beaumont said.
     Lindsay Shelton, marketing manager of the New Zealand Film Commission. who was in on the joke and appears in the "documentary" extolling the virtues of Colin McKenzie, said the commission felt justified in financing the production.
     Because "Forgotten Silver" had the name of Peter Jackson associated with it, he believed overseas screening rights for the film would soon be sold, thus recouping the production cost, thought to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. All the supposedly aged footage was specially shot for the film.
     Mr Shelton said he had spoken with Mr Jackson on Friday about the need for an explanatory note at the beginning or end of the programme, but the filmmaker believed there was no need because there were sufficient clues and jokes throughout the show for people to realise it was not to be taken seriously.
     Keith Hill, visiting lecturer in film at the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts, said yesterday that he found the programme very entertaining and had no qualms about its misleading the public.
     Warren Sellers, tutor at the New Zealand Film and Television Training School, said in Christchurch that he was saddened senior members of the film industry were a party to a programme that mixed fictitious people in a flippant way with real film-making pioneers. The money would have been better spent on making a proper documentary.
(The Press, 31 October, 1995)

Pioneer of film was mythical

TVNZ went along with ruse

By Greg Dixon

     Colin McKenzie - pioneer New Zealand film-maker or phony?
     The gullible may still be guessing, but the "star" of TV One's Sunday programme Forgotten Silver has been revealed as a fake by his creator, the Wellington film-maker Costa Botes.
     He confirmed yesterday that the documentary-style programme he co-wrote and co-directed with the film-maker Peter Jackson was drama, and McKenzie pure fiction.
     Forgotten Silver, which received funding from New Zealand on Air and the New Zealand Film Commission, had purported to tell the story of how Jackson had unearthed the early works of McKenzie, a "New Zealand pioneer filmmaker."
     Among the programme's claims was that McKenzie had shot film footage which proved Richard Pearse had flown six months before the Wright brothers. It also professed proof that McKenzie had made and shot the world's first colour film using berries, and that he had created a city on the West Coast to make foreign-backed films with 15,000 extras.
     The film also included tributes to McKenzie from the American film critic Leonard Maltin and expatriate New Zealand actor Sam Neill, both of whom were in on the ruse.
     TV One's programmer, Glenn Usmar, said yesterday that TVNZ had received about 20 calls on Sunday night, more than half of which were questioning whether Forgotten Silver was true.
     Mr Usmar said TVNZ had agreed to play along with the ruse and bill it as a documentary to "keep the drama of it going."
     "The effect of the programme if it had been said it was a fictional work would not have been as strong. So the game would have been up, it would have pointless."
     He said it was in the tradition of the infamous Country Calendar documentary which featured turkeys in gumboots.
     Botes said that although his programme had deceived viewers "someone should surely twig somewhere along the line."
     There had been clues at the very beginning of the film, he said. Jackson had led viewers up a garden path, and McKenzie's film had been found in a sarcophagus with a bull carved in the lid.
     Botes said he did not believe Forgotten Silver was a hoax, despite some news reports picking up on the show's claims.
     "To my mind a hoax is something you keep up and we never had any intention of never coming clean. We thought the next day it would all come out. And it's actually come out with very little help from us."
     Botes said his programme had been designed to create a "buzz," and the reaction he had received had been "overwhelmingly positive, tinged with regret almost that it wasn't true."
     "Everyone said they enjoyed it, but at the same time there's been a palpable sense of loss that this great hero that has been dragged out of the mists of time isn't in fact a real person."
(NZ Herald, 31 October, 1995)

Callers angry over film-maker spoof

     Not everyone chuckled at TVNZ's spoof documentary on Sunday night. It drew an angry response from some viewers.
     A source at the network said close to 100 people had called the network yesterday or on Monday after the screening of Forgotten Silver, which purported to be a documentary on "pioneer New Zealand film-maker Colin McKenzie." The programme was an elaborate work of fiction.
     "Some callers were very, very angry and bitter. They said they would never trust us [TVNZ] again, and never believe our news again.
     "Because they were fooled, they seemed to think that everyone at TVNZ was laughing at the rest of New Zealand
     "Not all the callers were angry - some really enjoyed the joke, and others were curious over whether it was a joke. But those who were upset were very upset."
(NZ Herald, 1 November, 1995)