Roger Donaldson recounts final conversation with Geoff Murphy

Geoff Murphy's name is synonymous with the iconic yellow mini in Goodbye Pork Pie.

That 1980 film tapped straight into the anarchic cultural zeitgeist and became the first Kiwi film to gain blockbuster status at the New Zealand box office.

His blood-soaked colonial epic Utu became the second local film officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 1983 and was second only to Goodbye Pork Pie at the box office.

Rounding off his '80s cinematic triptych - again with his long-time collaborator and friend Bruno Lawrence - was Murphy's cult sci-fi A Quiet Earth.

His pioneering spirit helped light the fires of the '70s Kiwi film renaissance, alongside other fellow filmmaking legends including Roger Donaldson.

"Without Geoff, I don't know if I could have made Sleeping Dogs," Donaldson told Newshub.

"He came up with so many clever solutions to problems that seemed so insurmountable at the time.

"I knew him well from the late '60s until he died. Ingenuity was his middle name - he was a total lateral thinker. If ever there was a problem to be solved, Geoff really did come up with the goods."

Murphy celebrated his 80th birthday just last month - but his health was failing fast.

"I'd hoped to see him at his birthday and I couldn't make it down there," said Donaldson.

"We had a good old chuckle about times past. I said 'well I'll try and drop by around Christmas time', and he said 'I don't think I'll make that Rog'.

"That was the last time I spoke to him."

So the news of his death - while not unexpected - came as a big shock.

"I've spent a lot of time on the phone today with friends just reminiscing about Geoff," said Donaldson.

"He'll be missed, you know. I know you don't live forever, but Geoff was a special guy, and he was definitely a big part of my filmmaking career."

Ruby and Rata filmmaker Gaylene Preston has also shared a tribute to Murphy, recounting just how hard it was making movies in Aotearoa back in his day.

"I think it's really hard to grasp how extreme the situation was. There was no funding to speak of, but there they were, making feature films," she told Newshub.

"When Goodbye Pork Pie blasted across the country and took New Zealand by storm. New Zealand audiences could really celebrate"

Preston said Murphy was an "iconoclastic filmmaker".

"He didn't capture the zeitgeist - he was the zeitgeist," she said.

Murphy's legacy is generational and continues as he leaves behind him a family of filmmakers.

With his father's blessing, Murphy's son Matt boarded his own yellow mini - albeit a later model - for a new generation last year in Pork Pie.

Hepi Mita, the son of Murphy and iconic Māori filmmaker Merata Mita, has directed a documentary about his mother which has just been accepted into Sundance.

Murphy spent much of the '80s based with Mita in Los Angeles, where he directed films like Young Guns II and Under Siege 2.

He also worked alongside Sir Peter Jackson as his second unit director for Lord of the Rings.

Murphy was 80 years old when he died.