Paper Boat

Moments in the life of a book

Alex Mitcalfe Wilson charts the journey a book follows when it is published today, telling a story of creativity and commitment through the words of those who carry a text through each step of that path: writers, editors, designers, printers, binders, booksellers and librarians.

PAPER BOAT was filmed on location in Auckland and Piha. It features thoughts and reflections from writer Gregory Kan; Auckland University Press editor Anna Hodge; Index Design co-founder Amy Yalland; Image Centre print and binding specialists Rob Girdwood and Kevin Devane; Time Out Books manager and Young Book Retailer of the Year, Jenna Todd; and Carla Gullichsen, formerly of Wellington City Libraries.

Director’s Statement

Paper Boat presents a visual narrative built from the unique personal histories and fascinations of these people, whose work as writers, editors and book professionals continues to change the way in which New Zealanders read, think and dream. This is a documentary that unspools their stories into a rich tapestry of dreamlike image and sound, illustrates the many worlds of contemporary reading and writing, and maps territory as diverse as the way writing can give voice to the weight of life, the role of libraries in raising children, and how everyone’s mother seems to own the same cookbooks.

Alex Mitcalfe Wilson is a writer from Wellington who has previously published with Artspace Auckland, Art New Zealand, the Horoeka Reading Grants, Pie Paper and The Pantograph Punch. He is currently undertaking postgraduate study at Elam Art School. Having worked in bookstores and libraries for many years, Alex considers this first directorial effort something of a labour of love.

This Paper Boat

PAPER BOAT features the poetry of Gregory Kan, whose first collection of poems, This Paper Boat (Auckland University Press, NZ$24.99), also inspired the film’s title. Tracing his own history through the lives and written fragments of Iris Wilkinson (aka Robin Hyde), of his parents and their parents, Kan explores old territories of Hyde’s still dripping with the past—the tide pool at Island Bay with its shrimp and driftwood, the garden at Laloma with its crushed lemon leaves. He listens to the stories of his parents and their parents, the eels and milk, frangipani trees, drains and barbed wire of their childhoods. He remembers a jungle of his own; he searches for ghosts in the water. And while stumbling across irreparable fractures between worlds, he uncovers the permission to have beautiful and imperfect plans.

Looking down at my boots I couldn’t tell whether I was Singapore, New Zealand, Thailand or Brunei. All dirt tracks look the same to me, at night. The gradual accumulation of sediment. Crouched beside the track, I ate biscuits to try to stay awake. When we began moving again I watched one of my platoon-mates stumble off the track, in sleep. The sediment is compacted as more and more material is deposited on top. Walking through Wilton’s Bush a few days ago I was disoriented when I cut my hand on a thorny, overhanging branch. I realised I had no gloves. No camoulage paint on my, no quipment vest, no rifle around my neck, no ammunition, no water, no signal set, no platoon, no rank. Eventually the underlying sediment becomes so dense it is essentially rock.

Extract from “This Paper Boat” by Gregory Kan (pg.5)


    Gregory Kan
    Anna Hodge
    Amy Yalland
    Rob Girdwood
    Kevin Devane
    Jenna Todd
    Carla Gullichsen


  • Directed by Alex Mitcalfe Wilson
    Produced by Melinda Jackson
  • Director of Photography: Sean Wallace
    Editor: Alexander Gandar
  • Art Director: Selina Ershadi
  • Sound Design: Jackson Hobbs
    Music composed by Luke Benge, Francesca Mountford
  • Colourist: Candlelit Pictures
  • Publicist: Rebecca McMillan
    Series Producer: Tim Wong
    With thanks to the staff of Auckland University Press; Index Design; the staff of Image Centre & Designbind; the staff and customers of Time Out Books; the staff and readers of Auckland City Libraries; New Zealand Society of Authors.
    1 September 2015 (World+Online Premiere)
  • The Lumière Reader presents
    in association with NZ On Air
    “Paper Boat”
  • © Lumière Industries 2015. All Rights Reserved.