And it's lights, drone, action!

New Zealand Mountain Film Festival adventure film school student Ben Kirsche (right), of Germany,...
New Zealand Mountain Film Festival adventure film school student Ben Kirsche (right), of Germany, demonstrates his drone-mounted camera to (from left) tutor Hugh Barnard, of Wanaka, and Mount Aspiring College pupils Callum Rennie (15), Claire Liggins (17) and Maggie Little (13) at the Wanaka skate park yesterday. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
A drone-mounted GoPro camera hovering over the Wanaka skate park yesterday marked the start of the action at the town's 12th annual New Zealand Mountain Film Festival.

The flying filming device belonged to German backpacker Ben Kirsche who was one of a group of students in the festival's two-day adventure film school.

Mr Kirsche bought the drone in New Zealand for about $1700 as a replacement for his first model, which crash-landed.

Wanaka's skateboarders were the subjects of the footage captured from the remote-controlled drone, which film school tutor Hugh Barnard said was a commonly used tool in action and adventure film-making.

Among the budding film-makers were six Otago secondary school pupils who received scholarships to attend the school from the NZ Mountain Film Festival Charitable Trust.

The festival has its official opening tonight at the Lake Wanaka Centre, featuring live music, the festival awards announcements and a sample screening of the festival's film programme.

Organiser Mark Sedon said in terms of reputation and quality, the festival sat on the world stage alongside Canada's Banff and the UK's Kendal mountain film festivals, albeit on a smaller scale.

''We draw similar films, but ours is actually eight months ahead of the others, so we get newer films for our New Zealand viewers. Lucky us.''

There are a record number of films being shown this year and tickets were being snapped up quicker than previously, with tomorrow night and Monday night's session nearly sold out and others filling up fast.

The stronger focus on youth programmes, a wide range of workshops and two scientific talks had helped attract a wider audience, Mr Sedon said.

The festival had evolved into a complete adventure ''package'' for the audience and covered all aspects of outdoor New Zealand, ''from looking after it to enjoying it''.

Although there were usually about 4000 people attending throughout the festival, it was difficult to know exact figures as many people went to multiple shows.

About 500 or 600 of the festival-goers travel from outside the district to take part - including large numbers from the North Island and a handful from Australia.

Finalists in the best New Zealand-made film category will be screened during the next few days and the winner announced at the last Wanaka show on Tuesday evening, along with the winners of a new photography competition and the popular film editing competition. A trade show and art exhibition also feature as part of the festival.

Festival screenings and talks will take place in Queenstown and Cromwell later next week.


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