Bill Gavin in Cannes in 1988 (Photo credit: © Richard Blanshard).

Former producer, exhibitor and sales agent Bill Gavin has died in Auckland after a short illness, aged 83.

“Bill Gavin’s long career touched on almost every aspect of the screen industry and he was great friend to the many filmmakers whose careers benefited from his touch,” the New Zealand Film Commission said.

A former journalist who covered motor racing in Auckland and internationally, his entrée into filmmaking came when he wrote the narration for John Frankenheimer’s sports drama Grand Prix, which starred James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Brian Bedford and Jessica Walter, in 1966.

In the early 1970s he moved into the music business, joining GTO in the UK where he managed a number of acts including Sweet and The New Seekers.

At GTO he helped set up GTO Films to make movies promoting its musical acts and later into distribution, handling the UK release of Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock among others.

In 1978 he quit GTO to move to Australia where he became the general manager of Hoyts Theatres and led the company’s diversification into distribution and financing local productions.

Later he moved back to London to join Lew Grade’s ITC Films, pre-selling such films as The Dark Crystal, Sophie’s Choice and On Golden Pond.

In 1984 he launched his own banner, Gavin Film, before being appointed head of sales at Goldcrest Films.

After leaving Goldcrest he reactivated Gavin Film, focusing on pre-selling and financing a slate of mostly British independent films including Alex Cox’s Sid And Nancy, Peter Greenaway’s Belly Of An Architect, Stephen Frears’ Sammy And Rosie Get Laid and Prick Up Your Ears, Bill Douglas’ Comrades as well as Whit Stillman’s debut film Metropolis.

Gavin Film also handled international sales for New Zealand films including Shaker Run, Came a Hot Friday, Constance and Bridge to Nowhere.

In the early 90s he returned to New Zealand where he co-produced The Last Tattoo . For two years he was a development consultant for the NZFC.

He then joined John Barnett’s South Pacific Pictures as head of features, where he produced Michael Hurst’s Jubilee and Ian Mune’s Once Were Warriors sequel What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?.

In addition he helped raise the finance for SPP’s production of Niki Caro’s Whale Rider, which launched her international career. In recent years he mentored many emerging filmmakers and Māori filmmakers.

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