Geoffrey Cawthorn has directed drama and documentary for over 15 years in both New Zealand and Australia. His passion is for telling strong stories and bringing characters to life on screen. Whether for film or television, drama or documentary for Cawthorn what is most important is to engage to viewer in a strong, visually compelling way.
Born in Putaruru, New Zealand in the age when small towns still had cinemas Cawthorn’s fascination with the power of film began with Saturday afternoon matinee screenings of the Sergio Leonie spagetti westerns. Later moving to Auckland he discovered the wonderful world of international cinema and a love of films by great directors such as Bertollucci, Fellini and Polanski.
After majoring in Social Anthropology at Auckland University he gravitated towards the visual medium, he completing a Diploma in Broadcast Communication. This lead to a job at TVNZ in the documentary department where he learnt every aspect of filmmaking – from shooting and editing on film to multicam techniques. Magazine shows like Crimewatch were a perfect training ground!
Cawthorn then relocated to Sydney Australia in 1989 where he worked at SBS TV as a director and editor on The Movie Show and later the Front up, an off the cuff interview show which became one of the network’s longest running series. Cawthorn then crossed over into drama, directing many Australian series such as Home and Away and All Saints and gained a reputation for gritty urban crime dramas with series such as Murder Call and Stingers. His work on the ABC/BBC childrens series Eugenie Sandler PI brought an AFI nomination.
Cawthorn continued to work in New Zealand throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s . His 1999 short film Philosophy won Best Short Film at the NZ Film Awards and screen in festivals workdwide. A chilling black comedy, Philosophy, showcased Cawthorn’s directorial skill with a tight script , two characters and a hearse set in the stunning landscape of the central north island.
In NZ he helming the telemovie Lawless, starring Kevin Smith and directed the pilot episodes of both Mercy Peak and Rude Awakenings. He was nominated for best drama director for his work on Mercy Peak. Other series include the childrens fantasy adventure Maddigan’s Quest and The Amazing Extraordinary Friends where he could help create fantastic and visually exciting worlds.
Recently Cawthorn has helmed episodes of the US fantasy- adventure series Legend of the Seeker which combines strong character focus with visual flair. Cawthorn also continues to have an ongoing connection with NZ’s long-running series, Shortland Street and ventured into the world of Norse Gods in The Almighty Johnsons.
Cawthorn was heavily involved in the groundbreaking series The Market, set entirely on location in urban Otara and focusing on a Maori and Polynesian families at war. Asked to mentor two novice directors he ended up directing 4 episodes. It was, for a him, an invigorating challenge, working with a small guerilla team and small cameras but great passion.
Alongside his drama career Cawthorn has continued to indulge his passion for documentaries. He’s tackled the difficult subjects of crime and punishment in Blind Justice and immigration in Instant Kiwis but his strongest interest is in music. Cawthorn is a composer and musician himself he has made several films with musical subjects. Mike Nock – A jazz Life profiled on of NZ’s best jazz musicians and too him back to New York. The Sydney Morning Herald called this” an exceptionally well filmed biography that sensibly approaches the man through his music”
Ten Guitars was a vibrant and affectionate take on one of NZ’s favourite songs and featured versions of the song by the lies of Tim and Neil Finn, Dalvanius, Mika and many more. His film Architect of Dreams about architect Ian Athfield was nominated for best NZ film at the 2009 DOCNZ awards. Geoff also composed and performed the music for the film. His most recent film View from Olympus tells the story international composer John Psathas.
Cawthorn has several feature film projects in development and hopes to bring his own brand of visual story telling to the big screen soon!