Blame McEntyre’s Hill. Deciding he needed an e-bike to climb the steep hill towards Arrowtown, Dave Gibson then developed an obsession over electric bikes to the extent he’s now organising New Zealand’s first e-bike festival. He talks to PHILIP CHANDLER about his new event, and earlier productions in the TV and film world

So many Whakatipu events are spawned by people semi-retiring here after successful careers elsewhere (think Sir Michael Hill and violin competitions and the late Sir Eion Edgar and Winter Games).

The latest example is NZ’s first e-bike festival, Cyclorama, devised by one of NZ’s most successful former TV and film producers, Dave Gibson.

Running today and tomorrow, sees almost 300 riders, mostly out-of-towners, going on up to six unique bike tours, while a festival village at Arrowtown’s Butlers Green features e-bike retailers and workshops, Queenstown Funk Orchestra performances and food trucks.

You might suggest Cyclorama’s just Gibson’s latest production, but it’s very different from the 69-year-old’s former ‘reel’ life.

Having grown up in the Wairarapa and gone to boarding school in Wellington, he got sidetracked into film production while studying education and English at Victoria University.

‘‘I just started taking a few still photos and then I bought a little Super 8 [film] camera and an old Bolex [film] camera and I was just shooting stuff and then someone said, ‘oh, I know someone who wants a little movie made and they’ve got a little bit of money’, and I started doing that.’’

He also made little movies for the former Department of Education.

‘‘Slowly I started not turning up at university quite so much, and going off and shooting things.’’

Still self-taught, aged 21 he set up The Gibson Group (then Gibson Films), which he ran for almost 40 years, and is NZ’s oldest independent production company.

Early on, he produced documentaries, then got quite a name for TV comedies like Public Eye and The Insider’s Guide to Happiness and dramas like Duggan.

He also produced feature films The Silent One, The Irrefutable Truth about Demons — ‘‘that was a bit of a boomer’’ — and Fresh Meat.

‘‘It was a good living, it’s a good lifestyle because you get to travel and you’re always meeting new, interesting people.’’

After selling the company to business partners in 2013, Gibson spent four years as CEO of the NZ Film Commission (NZFC) — ‘‘I thought it might just be interesting if there was a filmmaker [running it]’’.

A year before the NZFC job, he was made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit — about then, too, he met Whakatipu-based TV commercial producer, Batch Film’s Iris Weber.

Gibson then semi-retired here in 2018, he and Weber buying a property near Arrowtown — ‘‘she had a couple of horses and cats and they didn’t really fit in my Wellington apartment’’.

Biking into Arrowtown, he used to find it a push going up McEntyre’s Hill, so he bought an e-bike and thought, ‘‘this is great’’.

Mucking around on the web, he then found there were e-bike festivals in Europe and one in Verbier, Switzerland ‘‘that I thought looked really cool, it just had this sort of really fun festival feeling’’.

Gibson decided to launch his own version last November, getting the name, ‘Cyclorama’, from a mate — ironically, it’s also the name for a type of background screen used in the film industry.

Covid crowd restrictions, however, claimed last year’s event — he’d also sold a lot of tickets to Aucklanders who couldn’t come due to the lockdown there.

The postponement cost him some coin, but he realises events are a risky business.

‘‘We won’t crack even this year, either, but I think the concept is really good, I think the e-bike thing is growing, particularly in the summer, in this area.’’

He was further inspired by going to a newish e-bike fest in Flachau, Austria, this year, a sister event to Verbier’s.

About 80% of this weekend’s riders are coming from out of town, though Gibson points out the special rides offer venues and experiences even locals can’t access.

They include ‘Tour de Gourmet’, featuring four chef-catered meals at different stops, ‘Ginology’, where riders end up making their own gin, and an ‘Awake with the Birds’ bird-watching tour around Lake Hayes.

He’s enjoying organising a very different sort of production where there’s not the gap between himself and the audience there is in film and TV.

‘‘And funnily enough, my mother, who’s 92, she thinks it’s an excellent idea as it keeps me busy.’’

Share with friends