Art of Recovery

Peter Young
Art of Recovery, Coralie Winn and Dr Ryan Reynolds the Co-Founders of Gap Filler on the Dance-o-Mat
Art of Recovery: Emma Wilson watches on as husband Wongi gets ready to paint.
Art of Recovery: Blue lady by Sebastian Humphries on Calendar Girls, Christchurch.
Art of Recovery: C1 Garden provides colour amongst the ruins.
Art of Recovery: Coralie Winn at The Commons, the former Crowne Plaza site, corner Kilmore and Durham St, Christchurch.
Art of Recovery: Johnny Moore stands in front of Smash Palace street art.
Art-of-Recovery: Pete-Majendie, Artist behind 185 Empty Chairs.
Art of Recovery: Street Art team BMD help turn the Central Christchurch into a giant canvas of creativity.
Peter Young's documentary The Art of Recovery was inspired by artists and entrepreneurs bringing life back to Christchurch streets and explores how we build our cities.


Peter Young’s latest documentary The Art of Recovery was initially inspired by the artists and entrepreneurs bringing life back to the broken streets of Christchurch through street art, public events and community projects.

“Post-quake Christchurch was a bit of a frontier town. Life was fairly chaotic and it didn’t have the rules and regulations of normal society, there was a freedom and opportunity associated with this and creativity flourished."

Filmed over several years, it offers a fresh perspective on Christchurch, documenting one of the most dynamic and contentious times in the city’s history. Projects like Gap Filler’s Dance-O-Mat, the think differently book exchange and Pallet Pavilion; Peter Mejendie’s 185 Empty chairs; and the Rise Street Art Festival have become iconic symbols of post-quake era and are just some examples of how the people of Christchurch responded creatively to the chaos – in many cases creating world leading transitional architectural solutions.

Peter, in Christchurch at the time of the earthquakes, tells us how the story broadened into more universal themes about how we live together and should build our cities.

The Art of Recovery debuted in Christchurch in August as part of the NZ International Film Festival. It is now open in cinemas, in Auckland from November 5 and Wellington from November 19.

During what hours of the day do you feel most inspired?

Early morning 6am – 10am

How would a good friend describe your aesthetic or style?

Relaxed, with something always on the go.

What aspect of your creative practice gives you the biggest thrill?

Knowing that my film has moved someone in some way, made people think and contributed to society.

How does your environment affect your work? 

Hugely, having a horizon to look at gives me the space to think.

Do you like to look at the big picture or focus on the details?

Mostly big picture but with filmmaking you constantly jump between both - the overarching narrative and the detail of every word and every frame. 

What's your number one business tip for surviving (and thriving) in the creative industries?

Believe in your gut instinct and act on it (that often takes courage). And be nice to people along the way. 

Which of your projects to date has given you the most satisfaction?

My two feature documentaries - The Last Ocean and The Art of Recovery.

Who or what has inspired you recently?

My partner Tracy who raises our kids, runs our house and continues to support the films and other projects that find their way into our lives. 
Tell us a bit about your background.

A boy from Taranaki who ventured South to the mountains, spending 10 years working on the land – shepherding, shearing, fencing, before finding film making. Since then I’ve spent most of my career making documentaries.

I particularly like the arts, the environment, I relate to people with their feet firmly on the ground. I enjoy shooting for other people just as much as I do making my own docos.

Tell us a bit about The Art of Recovery – when/why did you start it. How did it evolve?

Post-quake Christchurch was a bit of a frontier town. Life was fairly chaotic and it didn’t have the rules and regulations of normal society, there was a freedom and opportunity associated with this and creativity flourished.

I was initially attracted to the story by the artists and entrepreneurs bringing life back to the broken streets of Christchurch through street art, public events and community projects.

These people were responding to earthquakes in their own individual way – but the result was that collectively they created strong, interesting and dynamic community that slowly began to reclaim the Central City.

When Central Government arrived with a plan that was driven primarily by big business and imposed it on the  people, there was a strong feeling of disconnection and the story broadened into more universal themes about how we live together and how we should build our cities.

Who did you collaborate with?

I’ve been working with Gaylene Barnes for many years, she has a great sense of story so I brought her in as my main editor, Gaylene Preston added her wisdom and advice as executive producer, Tracy Roe – my partner and collaborator, Tom McLeod did a wonderful job on the score and Chris Sinclaire did the audio post production. Then there is the ensemble of characters in ChCh that make this documentary so inspiring.

How has it been received by artists in Christchurch?

The response on the ground in ChCh was awesome. The film received a standing ovation at the premiere at the Theatre Royal. It  was one of the most special and proudest moments in my career.

What do you hope the audience takes away from it?

An understanding of the good that came from the Earthquake.

If you could go back and choose a completely different career path to the one you've chosen, what would it be?

This one is pretty well perfect for me – but if I had to choose, I would be an organic farmer.

What place is always with you, wherever you go?

The place of my four children wherever they are.

What's the best way to listen to music, and why?

Loud, at home while cooking dinner for friends or family –  it’s my happy place. 

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?

The first thing that comes to mind is a flag – but I don’t think I would make one… 

What's the best stress relief advice you've ever been given?

To walk while you talk on the phone.

What’s great about today?

We won the rugby world cup 

What’s your big idea for 2016?

To settle in to our new community and life up North and then create the space for the next Big Idea to find me.

Art of Recovery Promo V1 from Peter Young on Vimeo.

Peter Young, Director/Producer/Cinematographer

Peter Young is a director, cameraman and producer with a strong connection to the land and the people who and live and work on it. He recently completed and released the feature documentary Art of Recovery (2015), and before that The Last Ocean (2012), a film project that spanned seven years and developed into a successful international environmental campaign promoting the protection of the Ross Sea in Antarctica.

In 2012 Peter was named New Zealand Independent Screen Producer of the Year. He has credits in well over a hundred documentaries, among them BBC’s Blue Planet Series, The Quest for the Giant Squid for Discovery, and acclaimed TVNZ series Country Calendar and Explorers. Peter shot and produced the TVNZ prime-time series Hunger for the Wild, Coasters and Get Fresh with Al Brown

He has won many awards for his skills and creativity both shooting and directing, but it's the opportunity to work with great teams and tell great stories that keeps him in the business.

Fisheye Films is a film and television production company based in Christchurch. Established in 1997 by Peter Young, Fisheye Films produces high quality feature and television documentaries, as well as commercials and corporate videos for the national and international market.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

4 Nov 2015

The Big Idea Editor

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