Tucked away in Papatowai in the Catlins, enigmatic
inventor Blair Somerville has created the ultimate tribute to
DIY wizardry - a collection of interactive artworks he calls
the Lost Gypsy Caravan. Dunedin film-maker Joey Bania's short
film Lost and Found invites viewers down the
rabbit hole to experience Blair's world in all its homemade
glory. Helena de Reus talks to Bania about his film, and how he
came across the Lost Gypsy Caravan.
Dunedin film-maker Joey Bania films inside Blair
Somerville's Lost Gypsy Caravan in Papatowai. Photo by
Helena de Reus.
For Dunedin film-maker Joey Bania (25), a trip to the Catlins
three years ago provided the inspiration for his short film
Lost and Found.
Mr Bania came across the Lost Gypsy Caravan and inventor
Blair Somerville while on a road trip with friends. The
creativity of Mr Somerville's designs intrigued him and Mr
Bania jumped at the chance to document his treasures.
"I think back to the first time I came here and played with
all of Blair's designs. There's so much joy in what he's
With only eight days to shoot his short film, Mr Bania stayed
on site in a caravan in Papatowai.
"Blair didn't know me from a bar of soap, but he's been
really accommodating. Living with him has been great to get a
sense of what he is about. I've picked a very interesting
character. He's a very talented guy and a nice guy - he's
In an old Leyland bus, the main part of the Lost Gypsy
Caravan is packed to the brim with weird and wonderful
They range from a "pleasant nose pincher" and shells that
gurgle, to wind-up rope drawings and even a cycle-powered
television although this is not kept inside the old bus.
"I just love this place. There are so many cool and quirky
Old posters, coins, notes, and photographs line the caravan's
walls, while each shelf, bench, and ledge is crowded with
carvings, figurines, with even a model train travelling
around the walls.
"Blair's designs are quite complex but seem simple.
"The end result is something beautifully simple. I admire his
engineering - a lot of his pieces have very natural
Outside the caravan, nestled among the trees and shrubs are
many sculptures. A mailbox shaped like a whale from discarded
metal stands at the entrance of Mr Somerville's property,
while nearby hidden in the garden is a temptation button -
push it and find out what happens next.
"I like that pretty much everything is made from recycled,
human-made material, or what he's found on the beach or in
With no cellphone coverage and limited access to the
internet, Mr Bania faced a few challenges when things went
"I'm a part of a small film-making community in Dunedin, so
when I had a few technical issues I had great support from
individuals and companies through the lending of gear,
experience, and loads of advice."
When not filming in the middle of the Catlins, Mr Bania is
home in Dunedin where he is establishing himself as a
The self-confessed "cinemaphile" experimented in making films
during his last year in high school, before throwing himself
into the art while studying politics and then science
communication at the University of Otago.
Advances in technology of the past few years made it possible
for Mr Bania to try both documentary and narrative forms of
He plans to continue in a wide range of filming from music
videos to documentaries.
• The New Zealand Young Producer Shorts series
begins on December 3 and concludes on December 6 on BBC
Knowledge. Joey Bania's Lost and Found screens
on December 4 at 9.35pm.