Danny Mulheron has come at comedy from almost every angle: as a writer, as a director, as co-creator of the politically-incorrect Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, and from inside a hippo suit. But laughter is not the whole story. Mulheron has also acted in Close to Home and Roche, presented for car programme AA Torque Show, and directed everything from documentaries (The Third Richard) to Rage, a tele-movie on the 1981 tour. Read the full biography
Directing is all about connecting with people. In some ways I don’t think of directing as being any different from acting or writing: you’re working with a group of people to tell a story.
This feature dramatises an ill-fated offensive that New Zealand soldiers undertook during World War I’s Gallipoli campaign. On 8 August 1915 the Wellington Battalion briefly seized Chunuk Bair, a pivotal peak overlooking the Dardanelles; they suffered huge losses. The film pitches the attack as a formative NZ nationhood moment, with Kiwi guts and resilience countered by inept, careless British generals, as much as their Turkish foes. Filmed on an Avalon set and on the Wainuiomata coast, the story was based on Maurice Shadbolt’s classic play, Once On Chunuk Bair.
This sex in the capital city series centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who has shed a corporate legal career to set up a male strip revue. The Gibson Group-produced show married the fretful modern woman protagonist of Ally McBeal with the hen's night appeal of Ladies Night; it screened for two series on TV3. In this episode from the first series Melissa enjoys her towel-clad new flatmate Adam (Robbie Magasiva), while her copper boyfriend Shane (Stephen Lovatt) doesn't. And Mel's teenage daughter contemplates 'the first time'.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that ran for four series from 1993 - 1997. This selection of excerpts contains sketches from the final season of the Gibson Group satirical show famous for its broad, take-no-prisoners humour and memorable characters and catch phrases. The wacky Semisi family and their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspire mirth and groans in equal measure and filmmaker Sima Urale is enjoyably ludicrous as the terrifying Aunty Mele. Jemaine (Flight of the Conchords) Clement and members of the Bro' Town posse also feature.
Reluctant Revolutionary mines a wealth of then-new interviews to trace David Lange's rise from pudgy doctor's son to lawyer, to Prime Minister leading the country through radical change. Along the way writer/director Tom Scott asks how a man as gifted as Lange allowed his Government to collapse around him after only five years in office. The film includes rare input from National leader Jim McLay (who praises Lange's wit at university), Rogernomics architect Roger Douglas, and the first ever TV interview with Lange's second wife Margaret Pope.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.
Made for a TVNZ arts show, this revealing documentary looks at how the strings were pulled to make Peter Jackson's low-budget sophomore feature, Meet the Feebles. An old Wellington railway shed fizzes with energy and imagination as a team peppered with future Oscar-winners — Selkirk, Taylor and co — craft the gleefully subversive Muppets parody. Jackson muses on his influences, processes and propensity for "savage humour" in a fascinating interview. Included is footage of his childhood films — war movies and stop motion animation made with his first 8mm camera.
Director Danny Mulheron has fun with the subversive character of Mr Gormsby in this irreverently funny series. In desperation, the Tepapawai High School principal has hired paragon of old school values Mr Gormsby (David McPhail) after yet another relief teacher walks out. Forming an instant dislike for fellow teacher 'Steve from Guidance' and frustrated that his trusty cane has been taken from him, Gormsby comes up a unique form of discipline which manages to offend pretty much everyone. Nominated for Best Script and Best Comedy at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.
Director Peter Jackson's second feature, Meet the Feebles picks up where Bad Taste left off. It is an irreverent, outlandish, part-musical satire on showbiz — and while it is populated almost entirely by puppets, it’s by no means cute. The motley creatures are all members of a variety show that’s working up to a major performance. They include Bletch the two-timing pornographer walrus, an obese hippo femme fatale, a drug-dealing rat, a heroin-addicted frog, a poo-eating tabloid journalist fly — in other words, something to offend everyone.
Inspired by the British series Spitting Image, Gibson Group's Public Eye features latex puppets based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor. Highlights from the first episode include a boxing match between former finance minister Ruth Richardson and Winston Peters; Helen Clark's attempts to convince a bunch of labour party ministers to enforce a ban on pornography; and cricketer Richard Hadlee's failure to promote a life insurance company while being interviewed by Keith Quinn.
The debut feature from writer-director Glenn Standring, The Irrefutable Truth about Demons sees anthropologist Harry Ballard (Karl Urban) threatened by a sinister cult. With the help of beautifully bizarre Bennie (Katie Wolfe) he endures a terrifying night as his friends are killed by demons. Or are they? Hounded by the memory of his dead brother, Harry suffers beatings, heart surgery and assault by cockroaches. Variety said Demons "conjures a creepy, brooding atmosphere and enough thrills to keep young horror enthusiasts glued." The film sold to more than 45 countries.
Valley of the Stereos is a comic face-off that starts tinny, but gleefully escalates to bass heavy, as a not-so-zen hippy (Danny Mulheron) gets caught up in a vale-blasting battle with the noisy bogan next door (Murray Keane). Made by many key Peter Jackson collaborators, the near-wordless pump up the volume tale was directed by George Port, shortly before he became founding member of Jackson's famed effects-house Weta Digital. Ironically Weta's computer-generated miracles would help render the stop motion imagery seen in the finale largely a thing of the past.
In search of a hideout, gun-totting Gigi (Kate Elliott) and a gang with criminal tendencies end up in hot water after crashing into the lives of a middle class Māori family. To describe the whānau as meat lovers would be euphemistic. Actor/director Danny Mulheron has often gleefully given the finger to political correctness — witness Meet the Feebles, stage farce The Sex Fiend, and TV's Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby. This Gibson Group production marks his in your face cinematic debut. The anarchic result promises cannibalism, comedy — and chef Tem Morrison.
In director Gaylene Preston genre-bending tale, Meg (Heather Bolton) moves from her parents’ place into a flat and buys a stylish old Jaguar in a drive to be more independent. While driving on a country road, she hears screams in the back – but there's no one there. When she picks up a woman in the rain, she recognises her from a dream. She discovers that this woman was the car's previous owner and she's missing... Now her killer might just be stalking Meg too ... Preston and producer Robin Laing rented out city cinemas, in order to prove their first movie had an audience.
Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby was a sharp-witted comedy about an appallingly politically incorrect relief teacher. In this episode, the irreverent Mr Gormsby (artfully played by David McPhail) is the unlikely candidate to teach a Human Relationships class. Later, a used condom is discovered in the wharenui and Gormsby's powers of deduction lead him to the culprit. The "darkly funny" comedy (Sydney Morning Herald) was partly based on a former teacher of director Danny Mulheron and was nominated for Best Script and Best Comedy at the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.
This telefeature imagines the build up to, and aftermath, of an Auckland volcanic eruption. The last big one produced Rangitoto, and scientist Clive de Roo (Mark Mitchinson) is the Cassandra who discovers under the mountain rumblings 600 years later. Citizens are non-plussed until the top pops. Eruption was produced for TV3 by The Gibson Group and was one of the last projects from veteran screenwriter Graeme Tetley (Out of the Blue, Vigil) completed before his 2011 death. Gibson Group also produced 2008 Wellington earthquake ‘what if?’ Aftershock.
Teacher Mr Gormsby believes in brutal honesty - and that the education system has gone all namby-pamby. In desperation, a dysfunctional low-decile school employs him.director/co-creator Danny Mulheron was inspired partly by an old school teacher who wore a military beret, and has irreverent fun with the archaic antics of Mr Gormsby. The Dominion Post compared Gormsby to Fred Dagg and Lyn of Tawa; The Sydney Morning Herald found it "darkly funny". Running two seasons, it was nominated for Best Script and Best Comedy in the 2006 NZ Screen Awards.
Gibson Group production Public Eye was inspired by the British series, Spitting Image. Latex puppets caricature topical personalities, mostly drawn from the world of politics (Ruth Richardson, Helen Clark, Winston Peters etc). Their foibles are duly skewered in fast-moving comic skits such as the 'Ruatoria Rasta' segment, 'The White Way' and 'Honky Tanga'. The wickedly grotesque puppets were based on drawings by cartoonist Trace Hodgson, and built by a team headed by future Weta FX maestro, Richard Taylor.
Skitz was a popular long-running sketch-based comedy that screened for four series. Populated with memorable characters and catch-phrases, and broad, take-no-prisoners humour, it won Best Entertainment Programme at the 1996 NZ TV and Film Awards. A particular favourite in its arsenal of regular characters was the Semisi family with their 'fresh off the boat' antics inspiring mirth and groans in equal measure. Skitz featured seasoned comedians such as Jackie Clarke, as well as new faces at the time, including Jemaine Clement offuture Flight of the Conchords fame.
The Strip centres around 30-something Melissa (Luanne Gordon), who sheds a legal career to set up a male strip revue. Created by Alan Brash, The Strip played to a certain demographic's desire for ogling naked men (warmed up by 1987 play Ladies Night and 1997 film The Full Monty), but with a focus on female characters, as Melissa juggles business with raising a teenage daughter. Taking cues from Ally McBeal (with fantasy sequences to match) the Gibson Group tale of g-strings, feminism and red light romance screened for two series on TV3 and sold internationally.
Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac (who had initially only agreed to make the show on the condition they would get to make The Governor). The popular family saga carved a regular niche for local drama on screen, and the output demands were foundational in developing industry talent.