Matt Henley first came across the cave as a 10-year-old and has returned with co-producer Michelle Savill to create the short documentary.
The documentary on “New Zealand’s answer to Disneyland” is one of 10 short documentaries created through Loading Docs, an initiative aimed at collating a range of diverse film styles and subjects.
Henley said the cave was not only one of a kind because of its location, but also because of the attractions.
“It’s rural New Zealand, rather than urban. It’s more personal,” Henley said.
The cave is different to attractions like Rainbow’s End as it was built over time, he said.
Started as a Santa Cave, the Fantasy Cave grew and about 100 volunteers have kept it alive for over 25 years.
“People just keep joining and keeping it alive. We were attracted to the community aspect of this place and the artworks,” co-producer Savill said.
Savill toured the cave for the first time late last year and said the crafts and DIY aspects of the cave were attractive to her. The documentary would show why the volunteers, or Cave Dwellers, kept the place running, she said.
Savill has written, directed and produced short films, one of which won an award at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
Henley is traditionally a cinematographer and has worked on television advertisements for NZTA and music videos.
The duo are co-producing and co-directing the three-minute documentary this weekend. “This is sort of new for us,” Savill said.
“[We will] make it a little more cinematic. It’s such a visual place.”
Savill said her favourite part of the cave was the space area, while Henley liked the giant mushrooms.
Ten-year volunteer John Hart said almost everything in the cave was custom-made, from the ocean scene to the space exhibit.
He said he had not been volunteering long, and some had been part of the attraction since it started.
The volunteers came up with all the ideas in the kitchen, he said.
“[We] sit around the table and magic happens.”
The cave faced closure in 2011 when its host ANZ decided not to renew its lease on the company that owns the building. There was no written agreements between ANZ and the Fantasy Cave. For more than 20 years the Fantasy Cave operated free of charge.
NZCU Baywide sponsored the cave in 2012, keeping it open and expanding it further.
Hart said thousands experienced the cave last year and 172 people had already visited this month.
– Manawatu Standard