The producer began his film career by founding and serving as Executive Director of the New Zealand Film Commission where he was responsible for sweeping changes within the New Zealand film industry, as well as the shepherding of 27 feature film productions between the 1983 and 1988.
Holding a Diploma in Public Administration from Victoria University in Christchurch, Booth had a multi-faceted career in public arts administration before entering the film industry. As Deputy Director of the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council, he oversaw a wide range of cultural and community arts programs, and was responsible for a five-fold budgetary increase in public arts funding. During his tenure as Executive Officer in the Department of Internal Affairs, Booth founded the Children's Writers Bursary, a literary award set up by the New Zealand Literary Fund to encourage children to read and write. His experiences with the children's fund led to his keen interest in seeing the true-life story of teenagers Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme brought to the silver screen in "Heavenly Creatures".
Sadly, Jim Booth passed away in early 1994 after a long illness. Peter Jackson comments, ""Heavenly Creatures" is the greatest film experience I have ever had, and I hope it is a great tribute to my friend Jim Booth. His sense of fun and excitement, and his tremendous courage were an inspiration to everyone who worked on the film."
Over the past five years, Booth produced three films directed by Peter Jackson: "Meet the Feebles," "Braindead" and the yet-to-be-released "Heavenly Creatures." These films have achieved international commercial and creative success, with strong box-office returns and many awards to their credit. "Jim's commitment to New Zealand cinema was total," said Peter Jackson. "He was first and foremost a friend, and was wonderful to work with. The movies we made helped a lot of people wake up to the fact that New Zealand is producing original, uncompromising and highly-professional entertainment."
Booth was highly regarded by his peers and colleagues, and tributes to his work and character have poured into his office in Wellington, where post-production on "Heavenly Creatures" continues. "Jim was a remarkable man, full of quick, lively ideas, always alert to what might be possible," said David Gasgoine, former Chairman of the NZFC. "He was an encourager, carrying people forward on a wave of enthusiasm and good humour." Executive Director of NZ on Air, Ruth Harley, said, "His energy, integrity, vision and subversive sense of fun made him a pleasure to work with and a delightful friend."
"Jim Booth's work in the film industry was the culmination of a long career in the arts field. In 1977, he was one of the people instrumental in setting up the Film Commission, and was its first interim Director.
Booth then took up the position of Deputy Director of the Arts Council, where he was responsible for the development of community Arts programmes. In 1983, he was appointed Executive Director of the NZFC, a position he held till 1988. During this time, some 27 feature films were produced in New Zealand and sweeping changes were made to both the production and financial environment in which the film industry operated. The Short Film Fund was established, including the programme of Bonzai epics. Training schemes, the PODS development programme, script and project development were introduced.
In 1987, Booth by-passed the cautious NZFC beaurocracy and ensured that a young filmmaker, Peter Jackson, was given financial support to complete his first film, "Bad Taste." Booth's risk paid off when the film went to Cannes, created a stir, and made a profit within three days of Cannes sales. The following year Booth left the NZFC and began the partnership with Peter Jackson that created the controversial cult films "Meet the Feebles" and "Braindead." Their latest collaboration is "Heavenly Creatures," due to be released in New Zealand in July. It is already a commercial success, having been acquired for international distribution by the major U.S. company, Miramax. "Jim and I have created an internationally well-known filmmaking team, which will continue to benefit the New Zealand film industry for many years to come," comments Jackson. "As a producer, Jim was in his element as a kind of beaurocratic pirate, working eithin the system, but always prepared to take risks and subvert it. His influence on me was so great, i know that for the rest of my life, every professional decision I make will be prefaced with the thought, 'What would Jim do now?'"
Jim spent his last days at the Mary Potter Hospice, attended by his partner, Sue Rogers, his sons Nick and Simon, Sue's children and close friends. Filmography as Producer:
Meet the Feebles (1989)
Dead Alive (1992) (aka Braindead (1992))
Heavenly Creatures (1994)